The Potentials and Pitfalls of Interfaith Marriages

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The Potentials and Pitfalls of Interfaith Marriages

As more Americans enter the cultural melting pot and cross ethnic and social barriers, the rate of interfaith marriages has increased, not because persons are less committed to their faith traditions, but because there is a new reality in which old barriers are breaking down. In the western hemisphere the issue of interfaith marriage is widely debated among all religious traditions. Many conservative denominations believe that, "A believer marrying or intending to marry an unbeliever is clearly going against the expressed commandment of God" (J.J. Lim) . Other religious denominations view intermarriages as, "The unity within diversity that adds a richness and beauty to marriage and to life" (Rev. Tom Chulak) . Regardless of one's religious denomination, a person's religion comprises the framework of meaning and the source of his or her values. When two people marry they bring with them their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, and their religious dimension that plays a significant role in their relationship, decisions and responses to each other. For this reason, many issues and challenges arise within interfaith marriages that require accommodations by each person including how the couple will deal with their religious difference, what religion they will teach to their children, and how their respective religious communities will respond to interfaith marriages. No two couples manage the adjustments that need to be made within an interfaith marriage in the same way. This is because there is no standard or typical Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. Their knowledge, commitment, practice and attachment to the respective religious traditions, and their knowledge of, attitude and affinity toward the religious tradition of their spouses are so different that no two couples have the same experience.

There are a number of factors that influence the rate of persons marrying outside of their religion, which are pertinent to all denominations and religions. The number of eligible marriage partners who are of the same faith group is limited and therefore it is more likely for individuals to look outside of their faith group for a spouse. Increasing enrollment at colleges and universities puts more young people of different faiths away from home and into social contact. Movement from ethnic neighborhoods into the more heterogeneous suburbs lowers barriers to interfaith dating. As secular influences gain strength and church attendance rates fall, young people are being increasingly raised in homes that have little religious commitment, which has been shown to increase the rate of interfaith marriages.

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