Top Ten Interfaith Posts on This Blog

Interfaith Collage by Robin Allen

Pausing for reflection at the end of the year, I thought I would reveal the most popular posts from this blog on interfaith identity, interfaith parenting, interfaith children, interfaith families, and interfaith life. Below is a list of the top ten most-viewed posts since this blog began in 2009. In the comments, let me know which posts were your personal favorites of all time, and what topics you would like to see covered in the year to come.

  1. Ten Reasons to Teach Interfaith Children Both Religions. It seems fitting that the number-one post on this site is devoted to explaining the benefits of exploring both family religions with dual-faith children.
  2. Advent, Christmas, Hanukkah, Welcome Yule! Interfaith Families Doing the Most. This post includes vignettes from my family celebrating each of these holidays. It was selected by WordPress for their “Freshly Pressed” feature. It also benefited from traffic based on the provocative public letter addressed to me by a blogger for the Jewish Daily Forward who objects to intermarriage.
  3. Welcome Walker Diggs, Interfaith Child. Fans of intermarried Broadway and television stars Idina Menzel (Jewish and white) and Taye Diggs (Christian and black) have kept this post at the top of the hit list. When their baby son Walker was born, I wondered in this post how they would choose to raise him in terms of religion. The last I read, the couple is still figuring out their religious pathway for Walker.
  4. Interfaith Marriage: A Love Story. The post describing the long and happy marriage of my Jewish father to my Christian mother has become a perennial favorite on this blog. When they celebrated their 50th anniversary, I wrote about how their successful interfaith marriage has made it impossible for me to feel that intermarriage is a bad idea. Readers are scouring the internet, looking for signs of happy interfaith couples. The popularity of this post inspired me to start a whole series on successful interfaith marriages.
  5. Muslim and Jewish: Interfaith on “Shahs of Sunset.” Okay, so this post is popular because of a trashy reality TV series, featuring wealthy Jews and Muslims of Persian (Iranian) descent misbehaving in Los Angeles. Fans trying to figure out which character is Muslim, which is Jewish (and which is from an interfaith Muslim/Jewish family) end up on my blog. Intermarriage between Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians represents the next wave of multi-faith families. So I am glad the interfaith world beyond Judaism and Christianity is represented in my top-ten posts.
  6. Roger Williams, My Bat Mitzvah, and the “Lively Experiment.” I adore the fact that this tribute to a 17th-century religious rebel in New England remains a top post on my site. Roger Williams founded what would eventually become Rhode Island as a refuge for Quakers, Jews, Anabaptists, and anyone fleeing the religious oppression of Massachusetts Puritans. Williams himself ended up becoming a very early example of the “religious nones,” without institutional religious affiliation.
  7. Black and Jewish, Interfaith and Interracial, Hilarious and Offensive. A parody music video created by two pop culture stars who are black and Jewish inspired this post. It represents a pushback against the idea that Jews are by definition white, and a reminder of the rise of racial and religious intermarriage in our increasingly multicultural world.
  8. Successful Interfaith Marriages Ignored Once Again. This post critiques a Washington Post opinion piece that described interfaith marriages as doomed to frequent failure. The author is affiliated with a conservative think tank, and was fired this year from a blogging position at the Chronicle for Higher Education over a post described by some as racist. People searching for news of successful interfaith marriages stumble on this post, and I am glad that responding to an anti-intermarriage piece provided me with an opportunity to connect with more readers and bring them news of happy intermarriages.
  9. Celebrating Martin Luther King: Multiracial, Multifaith in the 21st Century. This post in honor of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday refers to his relationship with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched alongside King. I go on to describe how my community of interfaith families, composed of intermarried Jews and Christians, and intermarried blacks and whites, celebrates King’s birthday holiday and the Civil Rights movement.
  10. Interfaith Children: Born This Way. I wrote this post to respond to the blogger who was dismayed by the idea that my family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. While making reference to Lady Gaga’s anti-bullying campaign and her hit song “Born This Way,” I describe how children from interfaith families benefit from claiming our interfaithness and discovering all that is positive about bridging two religions and two cultures. I am glad the idea that families can and should instill pride rather than shame in their interfaith children, made it into the top ten posts.

Susan Katz Miller’s book, Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family is available now in hardcover and eBook from Beacon Press.

 

Roger Williams, My Bat Mitzvah, and the “Lively Experiment”

 

Sometimes I feel like such an interfaith rebel, I want to run away into the wilderness and start my own colony–a place where people can define their own religious identities as they please. Roger Williams did exactly that back in 1636, when he created the colony that became Rhode Island.

Williams arrived in the Massachusetts Bay colony as a Puritan in 1631, fleeing religious oppression by the Church of England. But his restless spiritual quest, and his vision of complete separation of church and state, led him to bounce from Plymouth to Salem, leave the Puritans and found the first Baptist church in the Americas, and ultimately, to break from any and all religious institutions. In 1635, the Puritans convicted him of sedition and heresy for his “diverse, new and dangerous opinions.”

Williams fled south on foot through the winter snow and threw himself on the mercy of American Indian sachems, who harbored and supported him. Williams learned the Naragansett language (he already spoke French, Dutch, Latin and Hebrew), and eventually wrote the first English book on an American Indian tongue (in 1640, but still in print today). He also defended the rights of Indians to compensation for their lands, and attempted (without sucess) to prevent the slavery of Africans in his visionary colony. Ultimately, the colony Williams founded on the idea of religious freedom and pluralism became the refuge of famed religious dissident Anne Hutchinson and the anabaptists, Quakers, Jews, and any others who chafed under Puritan law.

Last week, I drove into Providence to deliver my teenage daughter to a summer college program, and as the elegant white marble dome of the Rhode Island state capitol rose into view above the city, my thoughts returned to Roger Williams. The dome rests on an inscription from the 1663 charter from England’s King Charles II granting Williams the right “To hold forth a lively experiment that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty in religious concernments.”

As a Bostonian Jew steeped in colonial history, and an interfaith child drawn to “out of the box” religious ideas, I discovered Roger Williams early on. In 1973, as part of my Bat Mitzvah preparation, I visited and wrote a research report on the oldest synagogue in America, the Touro Synagoge, built in Rhode Island in 1763. The synagogue was built by the descendants of fifteen Sephardic Jewish families who heard of Williams and his “lively experiement” and came to Rhode Island in 1658 seeking the opportunity to freely practice their religion.

More than 350 years after Williams ran off to join the Naragansetts, we are still struggling to protect and strengthen what he named the “wall of separation” between church and state. Just this week, I read an interesting perspective on the topic from that very thoughtful Pagan blog, The Wild Hunt. Meanwhile, the progressive Jewish world is filled this morning with expressions of relief that Israel has at least postponed a bill that would put more power into the hands of ultra-Orthodox rabbis to regulate who is considered Jewish under state law.

Five years after my Bat Mitzvah, I ended up moving from Boston to Providence for college. As students exploring our new city, my friends and I would often frolic through Prospect Park, where the statue of Roger Williams overlooks Providence, his hand suspended in the air, blessing the “lively experiment” he created. At the time, I thought it was hilarious when friends scaled the statue to place a yo-yo hanging on a string from the statue’s oustretched hand. Now, in my sentimental middle-age, this prank seems shockingly irreverent. In building communities to welcome and provide refuge to interfaith families, we have few guides and heroes. Roger Williams is surely one of them.

 

Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family by Susan Katz Miller, available now in hardcover and eBook from Beacon Press.