Recently, out of the blue, our 12-year-old daughter declared: “I’m going to marry either a Greek or a Jew.”
The obvious “Why?” response brought a simple explanation. Festive weddings of those traditions that she has seen in movies or on television make the ones she has attended look pale in scope, drama and extravagance.
It was the big celebration, not any potential mates that had captured her imagination. My hope is that additional criteria for marriage will emerge through the years — until I give her away at the proper age of 36.
However, interfaith marriages are much more common today and more commonly accepted. The recent wedding of Chelsea Clinton, a United Methodist, to Marc Mezvinsky, a Conservative Jew, is an example.
There have been times and places where even the marriage of her Baptist daddy and Methodist mama would have been considered “unequally yoked.” But the trend toward religious intermarriage is clearly growing.
In a major work on what has changed in American religion over the past half century, Robert Putnam and David Campbell devote a good bit of attention to this trend. (Their book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, is due out in October from Simon & Schuster.)
From the latest available research, Putnam and Campbell conclude that “roughly half” of all married Americans today are married to someone who came originally from a different religious tradition. And, in some cases, neither partner converts to the faith of the other — nor does the couple agree to join a third shared faith tradition.
Therefore, nearly one-third of American marriages remain religiously mix. Those numbers jump by an additional 10 percent if persons of different denominations within broader groups such as Protestants or Evangelicals are considered as intermarriage.
The writers consider this high and growing rate of intermarriage to have so many important implications that the subject is discussed throughout their massive book.
USA Today digs into this issue as well in an article about the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding.
For church leaders, there are many considerations related to this subject that deserve attention. But perhaps the first step is to have a greater awareness of this trend.
Of course, that is probably already happening. The growing trend is often obvious whenever a couple walks the aisle asking for church membership.
No longer does the minister ask: “Are you coming for baptism or by letter from a sister Baptist church?”
It’s usually a lot more complicated than that. And most church membership policies were established well before this trend got traction.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.