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Compromise is the key to making interfaith marriages work

December 8th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

By Seili Lewis

The morning of her wedding a bride woke up feeling nervous enough because it was her wedding day. She didn’t feel like eating anything, she had that slight stomach upset that comes with nerves. The night before, the bride’s mother had a slight fit about the bride’s decision to marry outside of her faith.
Puffy-eyed and feeling tired, the bride was ushered into her father’s car where her mother already waited, and the three set off to oversee the set up of chairs, tables and tents at the wedding venue.

That’s when the bride’s mother decided to tell her that she was so unhappy with the bride’s decision that she was not going to come to the wedding at all.
The bride was upset by the news but couldn’t argue with her mother over the issue. Thankfully the bride’s father had the idea to get the bride and her mother massages at the local day spa, and everyone felt better and the bride and her mother made amends before the ceremony.

Wedding days are usually a stressful event because of all the weeks of preparation and trying to make everything look perfect. Some wedding days are stressful because the happy couple has the extra complication of being from two different religions. Parents, bishops, priests and the like take issue with the difference of religious beliefs. The couple also has to make decisions such as which religion to raise children, who will perform the ceremony and other aspects of joining two religions in one household.

When two people get married they are not just combining furniture but families, traditions and faith. When it comes to raising children the choice may not be simple.

“The Catholic Church used to require those who were not Catholic to sign a document promising that the children would be raised Catholic,” according to A Catholic priest’s perspective on interfaith marriage by Reverend Walter H. Cuenin. “That is no longer the case. Canon Law today requires that the Catholic parties promise that they will not give up their faith due to the marriage and that they will do “what is in their power” to share the Catholic faith with their children.”

Natalie Stark and her fiancé Christopher Lee have just gotten engaged. Along with many conversations on wedding colors and flowers, their relationship is now peppered with conversations about their religious beliefs. She is an atheist and he’s a Latter-day Saint. One topic they have already discussed was how their children would be raised.

“As an anthropologist I want to introduce my kids to all kinds of religions anyway, and I’m sure that since I was raised LDS I don’t mind letting them be raised mostly Mormon,” Stark said.

Lee and Stark will also have to address issues like who will perform the ceremony, where they will have a ceremony and the like.

“For the Catholic, the ceremony can take place in a non-religious setting, and a priest is not even required. It is even possible for the marriage to be done simply by a civil minister, and the church will still recognize it as a valid marriage. This is not the same for the Jewish faith. While there are some rabbis who will celebrate a joint ceremony, most rabbis of local congregations will not,” Cuenin said in his article.

“Since our ceremony is more of a civil ceremony an LDS bishop sounds logical, but we’re not too fond of the bishop we were thinking of asking to do the ceremony. Whatever Natalie wants to do it sounds good to me,” said Lee.

When you are in an interfaith relationship you have to make a lot of hard decisions regarding which way you will believe and weather your religion is important to you or not. “You cannot be a Jew and a Christian at the same time.” Cuenin said in his article. “You can be open to the other faith and appreciative of its values and traditions, but you cannot be both.”

There have to be many compromises to make the relationship work.

“The main issue, which is kind of ridiculous from an atheist point of view,” said stark “is the fact that our marriage will not be an eternal one.” Members of the LDS faith believe that they need to be married in one of their many temples in order to have an eternal marriage that extends beyond life. “The way we’ve resolved the issue is that if I die and find that the church was true I’d find the Mormon missionaries and join the church so that our temple work can be done after we are dead.”

Many interfaith marriages are not meant to last, according to the Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.”

It all depends on compromise whether or not a relationship can work out. It also helps if one party is not as strong in their beliefs as the other party because it’s easier to deal with one religion rather than two.

The puffy-eyed bride whose mother didn’t want to attend her wedding was me. Even though I know that my mother loves me it was hard to deal with. the idea that because of the differences in our religions. I’m LDS and my husband is Catholic, we will face many problems throughout our married life.


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  1. One Response to “Compromise is the key to making interfaith marriages work”

  2. By Amanda on Dec 23, 2009

    I’m LDS, and my husband is Jewish. We’ve been married for 9 months, and so far, we’ve faced very few problems, partly because we’ve decided to do everything together. Whenever I go to church (every week), my husband joins me for the first two meetings. Whenever he goes to synagogue (which isn’t often), I join him for the service. Neither one of us is trying to get the other to change religion, but it’s nice that we experience the meetings together, and we can talk about the people we’re meeting, and the differences we both see between the two religions, and those kinds of things. Perhaps there will be challenges if we have children, but so far, it’s been OK; much better than my first marriage, where my ex-husband joined the LDS church when we were dating, and then left five years later, saying he didn’t believe in it. Thank goodness in this marriage we’re both being honest about our beliefs, and we both know where we stand. I know an LDS man who married a woman who is a methodist minister. She suggested that they attend their services together, alternating each week. He said no, and he regrets that decision still, 27 years later.

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