Successful Hindu and Christian Interfaith Marriage: Saffron Cross

The Saffron Cross

What the world needs now is inspiring models for interfaith families. Because love is essential, but not sufficient. This month sees the publication of my book Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family. But I am thrilled to be sharing my publication month with two other books on interfaith families (our books were featured together recently in Publishers Weekly). Rabbi Michal Woll and Catholic writer Jon M. Sweeney are publishing Mixed-Up Love (I look forward to appearing on a panel with them in the spring). And today is the publication day for Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk, a memoir by Southern Baptist minister J. Dana Trent, about her marriage to Fred Eaker, a devout Hindu.

A lively read, Saffron Cross describes how the couple met through the Christian online dating site eHarmony. We then follow Dana as she and Fred attempt to figure out how to fit their religious lives into one marriage. The couple is determined not to “water down” their respective traditions in order to find common ground. Dana and Fred live and breathe theological debate and do not shy away from addressing differences. On a trip to India to gain deeper understanding of her husband’s religion, Dana lives with Fred in a temple compound and struggles through her own doubts, culture shock, and hilarious religious blunders. She proves a humble and charming guide, even when at times she is gripped by insecurity and tears.

But the point of this book is not how hard it is to be in an interfaith marriage. Unlike books warning couples away from intermarriage, Dana celebrates the rich texture of the life she creates with Fred, and the joy they experience exploring religion together. One of the secrets to their success is the “no separate worship” rule, which they developed after considering and discarding the rather lonely alternative as the “interfaith version of segregation.” So Fred goes to church with Dana. And Dana goes to temple with Fred. Yes, this requires a lot of time and they each have to compromise, as do any two people in a marriage. But when you agree to study and celebrate and worship together, you grow together, even, and perhaps especially, when studying and celebrating and worshiping in two different religious languages. This couple is new and young, their interfaith journey just beginning. Someday, I hope Dana and Fred will write a sequel on raising their (future) interfaith children. But for now, I am grateful for a new book celebrating one of the infinite possibilities for successful interfaith marriage.

 

Susan Katz Miller is the author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, from Beacon Press. She works as an interfaith families consultant, speaker, and coach. Follow her on twitter @susankatzmiller.

Raising Interfaith Children: Search for Online Support

One of the goals of this blog is to support couples raising children with two religions. Based on the internet search terms people use to arrive here, I feel encouraged that people who are seeking reassurance and specific examples of success are finding their way to onbeingboth.com.

Some of the most common of these search terms include, not surprisingly, “raising interfaith children,” “raising children with two religions,” and “successful interfaith marriages.”

Other search terms document the fact that it is not only Jews and Christians who are intermarrying or claiming two religions these days. In the past month alone, people searching for information on how to celebrate the Muslim/Christian, Catholic/Buddhist, Muslim/Jewish, Hindu/Christian, Buddhist/Jewish and Muslim/Yoruba religions simultaneously, or raise children in both of these religions, all surfed here. Even though my own family grew from Jewish and Christian roots, I think many of the posts on educating children in two religions, and claiming an identity drawing on more than one religion, will be relevant to them. And I hope that these visitors discover the right-hand column of the main page of this blog, listing links to sites addressing many of these religious combinations.

Some search terms remind me that, while my interfaith families community experiences great joy and fulfillment on our interfaith pathway, many families still struggle with the disapproval of family and institutions when they intermarry. In the past month, people arrived at this blog searching for help with the terms “jewish parents giving up sons over interfaith marriage,” “opposition of interdenominational marriage,” and “jewish why gay marriage okay but not interfaith.”

Other online seekers this month asked the questions, “can you be jewish if you’re mixed race?” “can babies have a baptism and a bris,” “can my child be taught two religions,” and “can a child have two religions?” I hope they found the answers they were clearly seeking on this blog: yes, yes, yes and yes.