I launched this blog almost a year ago, and the approaching anniversary has put me in a contemplative mood. This seems like an appropriate moment to pause and consider why I’m blogging. And since I’m tackling that question today, I thought I would also answer the top five curious, impertinent, or bewildered questions people ask about On Being Both.
1. Why write an interfaith blog?
When I decided to launch this blog, I assumed I would be joining a whole community of blogs by adult interfaith children. My blogging mentor Diane MacEachern had told me about blog “carnivals,” in which a group of bloggers decide to write on a shared topic on the same day, offering up many perspectives on one idea. I thought I’d be organizing blog carnivals on interfaith identity, or interfaith community. I thought I would have a blog roll listing a dozen blogs by adult interfaith children. Instead, I discovered that there are only a handful of blogs by or about interfaith children, and that interfaith blogs created to encourage “Jewish choices” will pointedly ignore my blog.
So instead of joining a community of bloggers, I have often had the satisfaction of being the first or only blogger to write about being part of an interfaith families community, of being the first or only blogger to write about seeing the world simultaneously through Jewish and Christian lenses. I still believe that as interfaith children become the majority of Jewish descendants, more interfaith voices will join me in the blogosphere.
2. Who reads On Being Both?
This blog has a core audience of parents involved in raising children with both Judaism and Christianity, in Washington, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Denver, San Francisco, or overseas. Other readers include parents in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon or other interfaith families, and parents from “interchurch” families (such as Catholic and Presbyterian) who relate to the idea of sharing both traditions with children. These readers are joined by adult interfaith children committed to Judaism, Christianity, or a “third way” such as Buddhism…no matter what their religious choice, they often share the interfaith perspective, by virtue of their bireligious heritage. I also have regular readers from the biracial and multicultural worlds interested in the common experiences of “mixedness.” I have regular readers who are clergy of every stripe, interested in helping interfaith couples and interfaith children, or simply interested in religious culture and history. And finally, I have many readers who do not appear, on paper, to have any connection to “interfaithness,” but who subscribe to my theory that every family is somewhere on the “interfaith spectrum” because no two human beings share identical spiritual experiences.
3. Do you ever run out of ideas? Haven’t you thoroughly covered being an interfaith child by now?
I guess I’m a compulsive writer, but no! Sometimes I react to a news event, giving an interfaith perspective on something I have read. I could probably do that every day. Sometimes I give an interfaith perspective on a Jewish or Christian holiday–I could probably do that every day. Sometimes I write about prominent interfaith children. Sometimes I chronicle the happenings at our interfaith families community. And sometimes I write about my own interfaith family, since my children are pioneering second-generation-interfaith kids. My son’s “interfaith coming-of-age” process is about to begin, so that will be a frequent subject in the year to come.
4. What have been your most popular posts?
Well, it is somewhat emabarassing to admit this, but the post that has gotten far and away the most traffic is “Welcome Walker Diggs, Interfaith Child.” Is this because folks are looking for positive spin on the interfaith baby boom? No, it’s because this interfaith baby was born to Broadway stars Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs, of Rent and Wicked fame, and Menzel (who is Jewish) and Diggs (an African-American raised Christian) have huge fan followings. I like to think that some of those fans will take a general interest in On Being Both.
Other top posts include “Ten Things I Love About Judaism” followed closely by “Ten Things I Love About Christianity.” I can see why these posts have broad appeal. The very personal “Interfaith Marriage: A Love Story” about my parents’ 50th anniversary is also a perennial favorite. I imagine that young interfaith couples continue to scour the net, looking for encouragement, and I love the idea that my parents are providing that reassurance via this blog. I am also greatly uplifted by the huge number of hits to my post touching on the relationship between Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
5. What’s next?
Dear readers, I invite your guidance on where this blog should head next. More commentary on interfaith families in the news? More description of the nuts and bolts of raising interfaith children? More coverage of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other types of interfaith families? Do you want to see guest bloggers on this site? More book reviews? More consideration of great religious and philosophical thinkers? More coverage of other interfaith communities across the country? As we move together into Year Two of On Being Both, I invite you also to take a moment to post a little bit about yourself: on who you are, and why you read this blog. Thank you for reading, and contributing!
9 Replies to “Why Write an Interfaith Blog? Top Five Questions About “On Being Both.””
Off the top of my head:
1. Many families consider themselves “both” but do not belong to any faith community (as in membership to a church or synagogue)–what happens to these children when they are teens/adults? What is the research here? Are there not advantages to being members of faith community, rather than being “both’ at home only?
2. Something that affirms the fact that even though many of us feel comfortable, enriched, satisfied, even proud in our “interfaith” identities, membership to IFFP, etc. etc. we are always having to EXPLAIN who we are to the “average” person. Do we avoid saying where we go on Sunday because we do not want to have to “explain” it? How do we handle the “oh, that sounds interesting” with all the various tones (weird, strange, disapproving, interesting, impressed, curious).
3. More from kids–how does it feel to go to your cousin’s First Holy Communion and feel you missed out (Catherine). Or feeling proud that count your self as Jewish when you are with a Jewish group of friends, but feeling fine with Jesus with your Catholic friends (Maria).
4. I think your blogs are more about the wonderfulness of “being both” — rather than what we lose, but I could be wrong!
Anne Stewart (IFFP Member)
“On Being Both” is beautifully written and always thought-provoking. Here’s our story: my husband and my marriage was initially interfaith (otherwise known as “no faith”), but during the application process to adopt our first child, we decided we’d be a Jewish family. Here was our thinking: adoption plunges a child into the most extreme case of “being both” — the individual is both the child of his or her birth parents and the child of his or her adoptive parents. We figured that was sufficient bothness for one child, that it might be a favor to our future children to give them an unambiguous religious identity. Has it worked? Well, we have two children, so let’s just say, “Yes and no.” But it does raise the question: Is it possible to have too many boths, bi’s, multi’s and inter’s? Does a person sometimes just want to have one unbifurcated identity?
Anne–Lots of food for blogging there, thank you! I certainly know what you mean about having to explain. Part of my response to that is that interfaith children have to explain themselves, no matter what decision parents make for them. I grew up having to defend my Jewish identity, even though my parents chose a Jewish pathway with all the trimmings and rites of passage for us.
Chris–Your story proves that there is no single solution that fits every family. My own sister made the same decision, to raise unequivocally Jewish children, perhaps in part because she has an adopted child. I am very interested in the question of finding the tipping point where the drawbacks of ambiguity outweigh the benefits of full exposure to both religions. I am certain that the tipping point is different for different families, based on personality, the chemistry of the adult partnership, background, extended family, geographic proximity to an interfaith families community, and many other factors. We have quite a few adopted children, some of them in multicultural and multiracial families, thriving in our interfaith families community, so I can’t say that choosing one religion is the right choice for all families with adopted children. But it’s obviously the right choice for some of them!
I’m an adult “interfaith child” who’s spent much of my life in Buddhist communities (the only place where no one needed me to be either Christian or Jewish), and now work at a Unitarian Universalist Church. What I love most are the personal accounts of how you “do interfaith” in your family, and I LOVE the accounts of how IFFP “does interfaith” as a community.
Oh, and for those who get tired of explaining themselves, yes, Sue, I’m with you – those of us who are interfaith have had to explain ourselves as long as we could talk: “so what ARE you?” This is also a trait shared by many Unitarian Universalists, particularly here in the Southeast (I’m in Birmingham, Alabama). “You’re a WHAT?”
I’d love to hear more about the Interfaith Rites of Passage that IFFP and other groups have created, and now that there are a number of “graduates” from DC’s IFFP and other cities’ groups, I’d love to hear some of the stories of their post-interfaith community experiences. Where and how are they finding meaning now? How does their lived experience of having been raised in an interfaith community inform their lives now?
I’m so happy to have found your blog today! Congratulations on your 1st anniversary. Keep writing! As the Admin. Asst. here at Tree of Life Interfaith Temple, I’m constantly looking for online resources about interfaith. You’re right! There are very few bloggers on the subject. Good for you for being a trail blazer!
Our temple also offers spiritual studies courses as well as a 2 year seminary program – As the Crow Flies: Discover Your Direct Path To God. Graduates of this program are ordained by our church as Interfaith Ministers. Perhaps you could research more ways for people to submerge themselves in becoming interfaith ministers. I’d be happy to speak with you more about our program.
Keep on blogging Sue! Your blog is always music to my ears and heart and mind. We need your wisdom, passion, joy, fun, family stories and what you stir up in us. I’d like to hear more stories from other interfaith families/kids. Maybe part of your blog you could interview interfaith families to see what their struggles, joys and learnings are. Maybe you could also interview the burgeoning interfaith groups now in Boston, Long Island, Denver, etc.
Love you SKM!
I think many families require assistance with life junctions and special events and their ability to create new expressions of their religious identity. Many people need moral support may they be christian Jewish or any other faith. This is my experience and I can assist.
Great blog, please keep it going Sue! I just discovered it today and as mother who’s raising an interfaith son, I really appreciate your efforts. As this world grows smaller and families bring more complex mixes of backgrounds to the dinner table each night, discussion and awareness are vital. If you ever decide to stage that carnival, please invite me — I’d love to spin a few plates in this direction.
I’ve recently started a new blog, Traveling Prayers (http://travelingprayers.wordpress.com) exploring the prayers and meditations of people of all beliefs as they journey through life. As someone who has delved into many different religions through the years, I believe that revealing the underlying similarities of our belief systems helps us find a deeper and truer understanding of one another.
Marina–Welcome to the blogosphere. I love the idea of Traveling Prayers. In the last year, I feel like the interfaith conversation is really deepening and broadening to include those of us from interfaith families. I am thrilled by the new bloggers in this field. Almost time for that carnival. –Susan