Most interfaith parents worry about their interfaith children. Will they be secure? Confused? Happy?
I’m a happy interfaith child and parent, but I don’t pretend to have all the answers about how to raise interfaith children. Each pathway has benefits and drawbacks. Each family needs to choose a pathway based on their own situation.
What I do strongly advocate is talking to your children about their identity, about the way the world is going to see them, about being strong in their own beliefs no matter what negativity they encounter about their identity.
There is an entire literature on this subject, not for interfaith families, but for mixed race families. I realize that biracial or multiracial children have a different, and often much larger, set of challenges. In a white American context, multiracial children stand out in a way that interfaith children usually do not. Nevertheless, and in large part because of the persistent tribal/racial/ethnic/cultural aspects of Judaism that make it more than just a private belief system, I find the mixed race identity literature compelling and relevant for interfaith children.
In this spirit, I give you the “Bill of Rights for Interfaith People,” a manifesto I adapted from Dr. Maria P.P. Root’s “Bill of Rights for Mixed Race People.”
Bill of Rights for Interfaith People
I HAVE THE RIGHT…
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the religions separate within me.
Not to justify my religious legitimacy.
Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with my religious ambiguity.
I HAVE THE RIGHT…
To identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify.
To identify myself differently than how my parents identify me.
To identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters.
To identify myself differently in different situations.
I HAVE THE RIGHT…
To create a vocabulary to communicate about being interfaith.
To change my identity over my lifetime–and more than once.
To have loyalties and identification with more than one group of people.
To freely choose whom I befriend and love.
(Adapted by Susan Katz Miller, with permission, from the Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Race, copyright Maria P.P. Root, PhD, 1993, 1994)
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.
One Reply to “Bill of Rights for Interfaith People”
I like that this statement makes no negative comparison whatsoever with other religious identifications (much as mixed race children are not meant to disparage people, including perhaps their own parents, who identify with a single race). There are no claims of being more tolerant, more righteous, or more special here– just stating that this kind of identification merits the basic dignity afforded to others.
We need to teach ourselves (and for me, I say this as one trying to be a Christian) over and over again– not hating yourself does not entail hating others, however much hatred (which can possess any of us at any time) insists otherwise. When our hatred opposes an assertion of dignity– when we feel someone who does not look down on themselves must be looking down on us– we must help each other not to surrender to it. Jesus did not disparage his people by raising up a Samaritan as a legitimate neighbor.
I ask for prayers for that effort, as I fall short on that score plenty of times. Someone is confident and I resent it– who are they not to be insecure? Why can’t they be humble? But the truth is I’m not asking for real humility– I want them to feel bad like I do. The truth is a lot of humble folk in the scripture I read, when they are truly humble, stop talking themselves down and do what’s right. And even though they are hated for it, they keep going.