Are Interfaith Children the Key to Interfaith Dialogue?

I would never have had the chutzpah (a word famously mispronounced by Michele Bachmann this week) to posit that interfaith children are actually THE key to interfaith dialogue. This week, I wrote an essay for Huffington Post and gave it the more modest title  “Why Include Interfaith Children in Interfaith Dialogue.” I made the case that interfaith families, and in particular, adult interfaith children, are “natural experts” in bridging cultures and religions, and that it would benefit the interfaith dialogue movement to reach out to interfaith families, rather than avoiding them. Huffington Post then tweeted a link to my essay, asking if interfaith children are the key to interfaith dialogue. Who knows? We won’t know until they are invited to participate. It’s certainly a grand vision. But my more modest point was to urge the organizers of interfaith conferences and programs to at least begin to include, rather than fear, interfaith families and children.

I have written before about the awkward semantic overlap of “interfaith families” and “interfaith dialogue,” and the way the word “interfaith” describes two independent concepts. But are they so different, really? On Huffington this week, I gave in to the classic bridge-building urge of many interfaith children, and attempted to span the gap between the interfaith families movement and the interfaith dialogue movement.

After posting to Huffington, I had an email conversation with religion (emeritus) professor Ned Rosenbaum, co-author (with wife Mary Helene Rosenbaum) of the ground-breaking book Celebrating Our Differences: Living Two Faiths in One Marriage. He has also noticed the uneasy relationship between interfaith dialogue and interfaith families. He describes the speakers at many interfaith dialogue conferences as like “parallel lines in Euclidean geometry, never meeting.” And adds,  “If they ever wanted to see what happens when interfaith paths cross like strands of DNA” he and Mary are available. And so are the adult interfaith children who embody those intertwined strands.

Journalist Susan Katz Miller is an interfaith families speaker, consultant, and coach, and author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family (2015), and The Interfaith Family Journal (2019). Follow her on twitter @susankatzmiller.

4 Replies to “Are Interfaith Children the Key to Interfaith Dialogue?”

  1. Susan – we routinely refer to our family as “interfaith” in an answer to what religion we are raising our children with. It’s a new thing. It’s a concept more than a religion. It’s absolutely impossible to explain or jusify what the means to people – it just IS. maybe it’s not the ideal that people want to hear – but what is? what’s more important is that our children grow up feeling accepted and with the information on how to live their religious lives (if at all).

  2. Interfaith Dad–Any path chosen by an interfaith family is going to provoke somebody (Why did you abandon Judaism and pick Christianity? Your kids aren’t really Jewish, why are you telling them they are? Why are you telling your kids they are both, or interfaith, when there’s no such religion? Why did you abandon religion and pick humanism? etc etc etc). But each pathway also has specific benefits, and the fact of being born into an interfaith family, no matter which path is chosen, has specific benefits (as well as drawbacks). Our role, as I see it, is to keep pointing out the benefits.

  3. Children make us cross the bridge from theory to reality, and I think many thinkers fear the way reality challenges their preferences. I agree that including interfaith children in our discussions could bring them to a whole new level.

  4. Sue, I think you that you, Professor Rosenbaum and commentator Evan Moffic all hit the nail squarely on the head!

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