Multi-Religion Families-How to Make it Work
God Bless Everyone
As Tiny Tim said in Dicken's A Christmas Carol, "God bless us. God bless us, every one."
Children Create the Need for a Plan
It’s a big world out there. Lots of people, lots of traditions and rituals, lots of faiths. With the advancements in communications, we are learning about, working with, becoming friends with, and sometimes marrying a wonderful person of a different religion.
You find your partner perfect in every way. Spiritual core and value system is everything one could hope for in a mate. However, the established group or denomination to which he or she belongs is not the same as yours. Often this is not an issue for the couple. Then, a baby is expected. Maybe at this time, one or both of the adults will develop a strong concern for the religious upbringing of the child. For other families, religion does not become an issue until the child is a toddler and preschooler asking those precious questions about the origins and meaning of life. At this point, you choose to be a multi-religion practicing family.
Here are tips on how can we make things smooth with the children we bring into our multi-religion marriage.
There IS Common Ground
Please recognize that nearly every religion discourages indiscriminate murder and stealing. Also, most faiths encourage fair play, kindness over cruelty, and charitable works. Although we humans aren’t perfect, it seems that every culture is led to a set of common ideals. This is a comforting notion (and perhaps one to remind family and in-laws about if they become apoplectic over children in a “mixed” marriage.)
Mom and Dad: Identify Your Individual Belief System
Mom and Dad (or whatever your parenting names will be), on your own, take time to think about two things.
Think about what the religion of your childhood and adulthood teaches. What is its “package” or “platform?” Can you articulate its teachings (whether or not you agree with every one of them)?
Does it have very specific rituals with body motions to learn (examples given: Roman Catholicism’s Sign of the Cross, genuflecting, and taking communion protocol; Islam’s bowing and kneeling; Judaism’s kissing the Tallis to touch the Torah.) To an outsider, these motions may look like secret handshakes or other exclusive club practices. Reflect on whether you feel your children should learn these “moves.” Also, reflect on why. There is no wrong answer to this – but it is good to settle in your own mind how much of it is for group cohesion with your family or ethnic group and how much is faith-related.
Next, reflect on what YOU really believe. I am often amazed at the difference between what an individual who regularly attends a place of worship hears and what she or he believes. Again, there are no wrong answers to these inquiries. The purpose in exploring them is to develop your own growing family’s core belief system.
Talk to Each Other
Now is the time to respectfully share with each other the whats and whys of your personal beliefs. Maybe you were both blissfully non-practicing before the pregnancy or adoption talks occurred. Now, everything is changing. As it should. Being a parent is a catalyst for huge change in many areas: household responsibilities, money-providing, gender roles, among others. Do your religious beliefs include gender differentiations? If they do, you may as well put them out on table now, because they will surface.
Decide and Coalesce
Hopefully, you can come up with a starting plan for what your family will “be” and how you will practice it. Will you call yourselves “Judeo-Christians?” “Protestant and Catholic?” Many religions have rituals and ceremonies to greet a baby coming into the world. Will you have a bris and a baptism? You get to decide. If the congregation in which you were raised cannot handle the combination, rest assured you WILL be able to find one which does. Also, decide on your practices at home: prayers, blessings at mealtimes, and so forth.
Kids Go With the Flow
I speak from experience. Your children will be totally comfortable with whatever you are comfortable with. If you alternate weeks at two places of worship, they will get the system. If you act like it is the most natural thing in the world, they will understand that this is the way your family does things. Furthermore, they will probably be able to explain your family’s religion to others better then you can. You are their world. If the Superpower of Goodness gave you these children and guided you through the multi-religion marriage and parenting, things will work out just fine.
Photo and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.