Confirmation that those of us “being both” are not some crazy fringe, not outliers, in fact we’re in the vanguard, came from the Pew Research Center this week in a new poll entitled “Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths.” Our interfaith families community even got mentioned in a front-page article in USA Today, reporting on the new poll. Though that article emphasized the more sensational aspects of the poll, such as the fact that Christianity often coexists with New Age practices.
But what thrilled me was the finding that 24% of Americans attend religious services of more than one faith—and this excludes socially-required attendance such as the weddings, Bar Mitzvahs or funerals of friends. They also found that as many as 12% of the people they interviewed participate in the services of three different faiths. For years, I have fought for the idea that being both is possible, and positive. Now we have proof that it’s also popular!
On closer inspection, most of these people are not attending churches and mosques, or synagogues and cathedrals. The researchers categorized different Christian denominations as different “faiths” for the purposes of this study. So for the most part, they’re talking about a Lutheran who also frequents a Methodist church. However, the poll did find that, for instance, five percent of Catholics regularly attend synagogues. That’s a lot of folks doing something that religious institutions have told us repeatedly that we cannot and should not do.
Clearly, interfaith marriages have something to do with breaking down these religious barriers, though credit also goes to the spiritual searching and free-floating open-mindedness in the culture. And a nod of thanks to aging hippies returning to religion but continuing to resist institutions.
The study did look specifically at interfaith families, and found that people in mixed marriages who did attend services at least once a year were more likely than those not in mixed marriages to attend services from more than one faith (40% versus 30%)
Now, if I can find an agent and publisher who understand that this is the new zeitgeist, that a book about fitting into more than one category is marketable, I’d be in business. It’s the marketing part that scares them, though it shouldn’t.
Today, I was listening to an interview with musician Rickie Lee Jones on public radio. (When asked about Biblical imagery in her songs, she said, “I like Jesus…I don’t like Christian religions.” So she’s one of our aging hippie allies.) When asked about how the press had responded to some of her work straddling genres, she gave a concise defense of musical bothness. For me, her words are more than metaphor: “It’s very difficult to market somebody who’s that and also that. We really would prefer you were just that, because it’s really hard to get someone to buy it if you’re both those things, but I am both those things.” Which is why “On Being Both” has appeal beyond interfaith families: our entire culture is engaged with bothness in this moment.