Monday, September 15, 2008

Marrying within your faith isn't bigotry

In several posts, I happened to mention the prohibition for intermarriage for the Jewish people - and every time I did, someone inevitably charged me with both bigotry and racism. At first I simply laughed off such preposterous claims, but after it happened for the umpteenth time, I decided to go ahead and examine both accusations.

Before I begin, let's get the cards on the table: this isn't about my personal quirks. The prohibition of intermarriage is directed by the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:3), and has kept the Jewish people together and intact through many hard centuries. Since I'm not inventing anything new, but simply being frank about our beliefs, the accusations of racism and bigotry cannot be directed at me, but only at Judaism as a whole. However, is it justified?

Let's start with racism. This one is especially ridiculous, because there are Jews of all colors and cultures, and all live side by side and marry each other in Israel. Furthermore, conversion to Judaism, while difficult, is open equally to people of all races. While to my shame I have to admit there have been cases of discrimination towards Jews of different color, they go completely against everything our faith teaches.

As for bigotry, let's check the dictionary. A bigot is defined as someone who "is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own". According to this, Jews should be the last people on earth accused of bigotry, as we never said everyone must be Jewish, and don't try to convert others. But there's a world of difference between respecting other people's beliefs, and seeing them as potential marriage partners!

Strangely enough, it's socially acceptable to say that you can't marry someone who isn't interested in snowboarding, doesn't support your political views, isn't vegetarian like you are, or doesn't match your taste in music. But try and say your beliefs require religious compatibility with the person you marry - and you are a bigot!!

I don't presume to give my own commentary or explanation to the words of the Lord. If He commanded us to do or not to do something, that should be more than enough. However, the prohibition of intermarriage is so strikingly logical, makes such perfect sense, that I wonder how anyone can be surprised by it. The way of life of a committed Jew, and specifically a Jewish marriage, is so unique that it obviously requires partnership from a Jewish spouse. Otherwise, the result is total incompatibility - or eventual alienation of the Jew from his faith, which is precisely what the Lord warns us against: "for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you."

Destruction doesn't have to come in the form of burning lightning. Just see what happens to most families after a couple of generations of intermarriage: loss of all traces of Jewish history. Unnoticeable, non-physical, but nevertheless most effective elimination. This is what has always happened throughout history.

Marrying within your faith isn't bigotry. It's often a crucial component of compatibility and success of married life; and for some of us, it's a matter of survival.

36 comments:

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

If a person is serious about his/her faith, I fail to see how an interfaith marriage can work. What religion will the children be? Where will the family worship each week? Which holidays will be celebrated? Even with the best intentions, you have a situation where neither faith is embraced fully and the children certainly can't take either religion to be the truth because if Mom and Dad appear to support the idea that "all roads lead to Rome", so to speak, then what's to stop that child from discarding both faiths and going a totally different route? Not to mention as you noted, that it is prohibited by Jewish law, which is the main reason why you wouldn't intermarry.

So instead of an interfaith marriage, wht you have is an "interfaithLESS" marriage. Christians are not supposed to marry non-Christians either, by the way.

Coffee Catholic said...

It only makes sense to marry within your own faith ~ this is the best way to have a harmonious and peaceful household! It can't be easy for husband and wife to attend two separate churches (or what have you) and try and raise their kids... Bigotry? I don't think so.

Mrs. G said...

Wow, you never seem to stop amazing with your wisdom at such a young age. I am so encouraged by your posts. I print them off for my daughters to read.
Mrs. G

"Cents"able Momma said...

There's nothing wrong with marrying within your faith. The Bible does command it.

The Bible also commands for Christians not to be "unequally yoked" with non-Christians.

I would imagine that other faiths would have the same viewpoint.

Tracy said...

Absolutely! As a Christian, I'd never marry a non-Christian, and train our children in this area each and every day!

Anonymous said...

While it's true that Christians should not marry non-Christians, it's perhaps even more important for Jews. Statistically, intermarried Jews are far less likely to raise their children in the Jewish faith, and their children are consequently less likely to practice Judaism as adults.

While it's also true that the children of intermarried Christians are less likely to be faithful Christians as adults, let's not forget there are only about 14.1 million Jews in the world today. That's only about .2%of the entire population of the world. By contrast, there are almost 2 billion Christians (about 33% of the world).

The issue of intermarriage is clearly more serious for the survival of Judaism than it is for the survival of Christianity. Also, evangelistic efforts continue to add to the number of Christians, but Jews are forbidden to evangelize. They can convert those who are interested, of course, but a non-Jew has to take the initiative.

God has promised that the Jewish people will survive, so they are in no danger of dying out. Still, Jews are right to preserve the prohibition on intermarriage if they want to preserve their numbers. Also, from a practical standpoint, if spouses are diametrically opposed on religion, how can there be any peace in that household, and what kind of message does that send to their children?

It's not bigotry to only marry within one's faith. It's just common sense.

Mia said...

So true! Those within the same faith should marry. The bible does speak on these subjects! I so appreciate you willingly speaking out about Jewish life, I love the culture. Thank you for posting this :)

-Mia

Dawn said...

Anna,
You handled that very well.
Sometimes it's so hard to get to what you are saying over these crazy computers. I know I have been criticized for somethings I have written and even after I tried explaining myself, they still didn't get it.
Oh well.

It is true, it is easier when both husband and wife are of the same faith.

Hubby and I got married, and a few months later I gave my heart to Jesus and got saved.
My husband is not saved.
This is my 'Cross' I must carry.
There are days when I am weary of constantly praying, days when I beg God to open my husband's eyes and heart to His Word, to put a zeal in his heart for the things of God instead of the things of the world.
But I must persevere and continue on.
I know you don't read the New Testament Anna, but fo us Christians there is a verse in 1 Corinithans 7:13 it reads ' And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him'. And in verse 14 it says the same for unbelieving wives to the hubby's.
Also there is another verse in the New Testament in I Peter 3:1 says ' Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives.

So I have hope. :-)

I hope this new week will be a real blessing for you and your hubby!

Hugs,
Dawn

Bethany Hudson said...

I remember that I used to think this very thing--that is, until I really reclaimed my faith at 18. Before that, I thought my friends who would only date/marry someone of the same religion were being narrow-minded and prejudiced. Now, I understand where they are coming from. When your relationship with God is you #1 priority--then it stands that the person on earth that you are closest with (your spouse) ought to also have God as #1. In addition, it makes marriage so much more harmonious if you both have a similar way of expressing your devotion to God so that you can participate together and will not have many disagreements about how to raise your children in faith. All of these things are certainly true for Jews, but it is even more profound when you consider the passages of Scripture that you cited. If the Jewish people were to "die" out (due to intermarriage that watered down or destroyed much of the culture and faith), how would the world be able to see and understand the chosen people of the Lord? Fortunately, God has promised to always preserve a remnant of the Jewish people, so we don't have to worry excessively, but intermarriage has had a big impact on disseminating Jewish culture in America and elsewhere.
~Bethany

Anonymous said...

I too, Anna, have always been mystified at those who so easily understand differences in hobbies, other interests, & so forth, as acceptable reasons not to marry someone....but raise their eyebrows in a disdainful manner, shake their heads & murmur, "I could never be so exclusive in my thinking, so bigoted," when somebody seeks, requires, that his/her prospective mate be of the same faith. There are many cases, I know, where an intermarried couple has been very happy over the years...a successful couple, you might say. But much is then given up when it comes to passing on one's faith to the children. It can make the children weak, & confused about their place in this world.

Brenda

Laura said...

I came very close to marrying someone that is Catholic. I ended up not doing it for many of the reasons you said. So I get your point. In my opinion it would actually be better to marry someone without religion then to marry someone of a different religion, if that makes any sense.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

I echo Terry's sentiments. If you don't marry someone of the same faith or someone who is journeying towards the same faith as yourself, then how on earth will you truly be able to practice your religion, let alone pass it onto your children? The idea of "Chrismukkah" might have been funny for a television show here in the US but would hardly be funny for "real life"

ladyakofa said...

I believe that God was concerned about the purity of His chosen people as He is today.

Anna T, Race and Faith are 2 different issues, at least to me, although they are sometimes interconnected.

Would I marry someone who skin-colour(race) is different from mine? I don't mind, but I'm less likely to.

Would I marry somebody who is of a different faith? No, No, No and No.

My parents are of different faiths... I don't know how they've been together all these years, maybe because my dad doesn't actively practice his religious beliefs. I can't even gauge what my dad believes or Who he believes in. However, my sister and I have chosen the Christian faith and we plan marrying from the Christian faith.

Marrying within your faith should actually be one of the, if not the principal fundamental key points to consider in the choice of a life partner.

Speaking as a child from an interfaith marriage.

Ruth said...

Hi Anna,
I am a long time reader, first time commenter.

I completely agree with you. How can harmony between a man and his wife be achieved when they are of so different opinions?

People who called you names, unfortunately probably do not understand your point of view.

Ruth
x

Michelle Potter said...

My husband has TWICE married someone outside of his religion. The fact that he had a second chance should have clued him in!

It became clear after we were married that our marriage was part of God's plan to bring me to Him, but I think that's just the exception that proves the rule. Most of the time you can't expect to marry someone and convert them to your faith -- rather they are likely to drag you out of yours.

Julie said...

Anna and Terry and others :0)

You said it first and better than I, but I will join in agreeing.

How can you have a happy and blessed home if you and your husband don't have the same beliefs and values?

When I look at my own marriage - my husband and I are both Christians - there are many things we have to hammer out. We come from different perspectives. (I was raised in a Christian home, he came to faith much later in life.) We have to WORK at these things. I can only imagine the difficulty if we didn't have the same standard to appeal to - God's Word.

That's not bigotry.

And, like Lady Akofa, I would suggest that marrying someone from a different culture (regardless of skin color) can add more challenges, but is not the same as marrying someone of a different faith.

Rock on, Anna :0)

Julie

Ways of Zion said...

We also hold to the same. good post addressing the issues

Millie said...

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been given the same guideline and counsel from our leaders. Ours is a unique culture and it's just easier and better on a marriage if we have at least our faith in common when we marry.

By the way, Anna, you've helped influence me to become a vegetarian. Thank you so much for making it seem "normal" and doable. I appreciate everything you've written about it and look forward to more of your recipes, ideas, and thoughts. Thanks again.

Julia said...

Jewish conversion is a little confusing to me. I remember before you were married you had to go to a council to prove you were Jewish by blood, yet Jews don't have to be Jewish to convert. I understand Christianity where religion and race are two entirely separate things. Where I live I'm surrounded by American evanglical Christians where anyone is welcomed to join with open arms no questions asked. I'm not saying one way is more right that the other, just different. When you're immersed in one culture it's a little hard to understand the other culture. It's very easy to label different as wrong.

This is the part that is a little confusing to me. When you talk about marrying within Judaism do that mean within the religion, race, or both? If I, as a gentile, wanted to convert to Judaism can I do that? Would I be able to marry an orthodox Jew once I converted? I think whoever called your position bigoted might be confused about the same issues.

Luvs2BMommy said...

I really, really think this is common sense and for anyone who actually has READ the Bible, they would get it. However, many people don't read the Bible and common sense isn't common.

Many Blessings :)
Ace

Pearl said...

I have completely the opposite experience to the one you're suggesting, Anna. I'm a Christian, and have spent years dating athiest men, only for the relationships to grind to an invariably painful halt when marriage becomes a serious possiblity. While some of my friends have not understood why religious differences have been such a stumbling block for me, most of my (non-religious) friends have always said that they cannot see me being happy with a man who isn't Christian, and are delighted that I have finally found someone who is. Only one person (sadly it was my brother) has ever suggested that wanting a Christian husband is "bigoted", and I'm surprised to see that the word has cropped up in your comments.

Milena said...

Today marks my 1 year anniversary. I married within a faith I had strayed from and I couldn't be more happy that I did! I was born and raised Catholic, but for many years discarded faith for selfish and ignorant reasons. In fact, my studies of Judaism led me back to Christianity! Go figure.

Anna - I agree with yo 100% Especially this statement,

"Strangely enough, it's socially acceptable to say that you can't marry someone who isn't interested in snowboarding, doesn't support your political views, isn't vegetarian like you are, or doesn't match your taste in music. But try and say your beliefs require religious compatibility with the person you marry - and you are a bigot!!"

Bravo! Thanks for upholding not only the sanctity of marriage, but of faith!

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

As a person who grew up in an interfaith marriage, I truly thank you for this post. It was very difficult for me and my sister growing up as my parents would constantly fight over whose faith should the children be raised in. It was not peaceful, and it took a long time for my Mom to accept the fact that I chose the faith my Dad follows. My sister and I would always feel wary of all the fights, and sadly, in the end it was one of the things that got my parents separated from each other. (No, they are not divorced, but aren't living together, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.)

When I was a child there was no other thing I want more than for my parents to have the same faith. Now I've come to accept that it happened, but I learn a lesson from it as well. I will NOT marry someone from different faith. No, not because I am a bigot, but because I wouldn't want my children to have to go through the same experience I had as a child. (and also because it's God's will,that's a definite given :))

Hope you're staying healthy!

W

Sheri said...

Anna, I agree with Tracy in saying that, "As a Christian, I'd never marry a non-Christian." When your faith is the core of who you are, how could you marry someone of another faith?

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

You're not being racist or bigoted at all; anyone who tells you this is an idiot!

No, marrying within your faith only makes sense, especially when one is COMMITTED to their faith. When one is a conscientious practitioner of their faith, it guides and directs EVERYTHING they do-everything! It only makes sense if both husband and wife are going in the same direction, and if they're both of like mind, heart, and faith, then a good marriage is far more likely.

MarkyMark

Highway Cottage said...

I totally agree with your post, and I'm an Atheist :-) I've noticed the decline myself, my brother married a lovely Jewish girl (he had no religion), and despit my SIL going to Shul on high holy days (a watered down version of Jewish as her father was not Jewish), my niece never goes, and can hardly be called Jewish. Very Sad :-(

Love your blog, I'm enjoying the deep and meaningful posts. Often gives me something to think about for the day.

Analytical Adam said...

Hi Mrs. Anna,

I did want to say that the Passages in Deutoronomy 7 actually do refer to certain nations that Jews should not intermarry with specifically because they engaged in certain extremely immoral behavior which is why G-d was throwing them out of the land of Israel in the first place (after all they did live their first but lost their claim due to their wickedness) and giving it to the children of Israel and G-d was worried our children would be badly influence by them and we would reject our Holy G-d of Israel. Having said that when Jews when into exile Rabbi's did then prohibit intermarriage (at least for men although I agree most who intermarried likely won't remain Jewish) for obvious survival purposes being that they would be a minority and I would think also some of these cultures (just as these 7 nations were involved in this) did engage in certain idol worship that G-d wanted us to stay away from and not have a potential father or mother that could teach a child false belief's about G-d.

Regardless though, the claim of bigotry is certainlly not true as Jewish people are suppose to share many of the idea's of Judaism that apply to all nations with others and not think they are better then those not Jewish although we don't believe everyon has to follow all the obligation G-d put on the Jewish people.. We have certain obligation because G-d saved our ancestor's from the Egyptian's (and we owe a little bit more to G-d then other nations since G-d did these miracles for us without which we wouldn't be here) and because of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs but G-d wants a relation with all people on a certain level and we as Jews are suppose to share those idea's. Being Jewish is a responsibility and the one's that go around that they are better then others really are misrepresenting Judaism.

Also regarding skin color the talmud does actually say TOO SMALL PEOPLE OR TOO VERY LARGE PEOPLE SHOULDN'T MARRY EACH OTHER or something to this effect. (I apologize I don't have the source.) Being of extreme appearence in any way far from the medium is likely very hard on a person. So maybe very dark skinned people should marry lighter skinned people so their offspinger aren't as dark skinned.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Julia, you asked:

"When you talk about marrying within Judaism do that mean within the religion, race, or both? If I, as a gentile, wanted to convert to Judaism can I do that? Would I be able to marry an orthodox Jew once I converted?"

To eliminate all confusion, there are two ways a person can be Jewish:

1. be born to a Jewish mother.
2. go through a VALID, committed conversion - anyone can do it if they truly wish, but it's difficult.

Once one of these conditions is true, the person is a Jew. A Jewish convert can certainly marry someone who is Jew by birth. Race makes no difference whatsoever. I would have had no preference in marrying a Jew by birth or a convert.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I am a Catholic and I married a Catholic, although I didn't specifically seek out a Catholic man.

Both of us being Catholic benefits our marriage in ways too numerous to count.

Now that we have children, I can't imagine how I could ever have married someone who wasn't Catholic. It could have happened, because I was not in tune to such matters, but God had a brilliant plan for me, even in my silly days of youth.

Anonymous said...

Julia,

I can understand your confusion because it can be confusing. As you remembered, Anna had to go through a rabbinical court when she was getting married to prove that she was a Jew. This allowed/will allow her to be married and buried according to Jewish rituals, and assures that her children would automatically be considered Jewish (since Jewishness is passed down through the maternal line).

If the court had decided Anna was not Jewish by birth, I am sure that she could have gone through a conversion process and then married Mr. T, unless of course Mr. T is a kohen (a direct male descendant of Aaron). Kohanim are prohibited from marrying converts, former prostitutes, divorced women, and (controversially) some victims of sexual abuse. However, even if Mr. T is not a kohen (I honestly have no idea either way), the process of conversion could have significantly delayed their marriage due to the requirements of conversion.

Jews (except kohanim) are not prohibited from marrying converts to Judaism, and a marriage between a religious Jew and a non-religious ethnic Jew would be considered an intermarriage, at least in the circles I run in. Religious Jews are expected to marry other religious Jews; it has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but instead with the person’s relationship to God. The goal is not to preserve the Jewish ethnicity, but the Jewish faith.

And yes, if you converted to Orthodox Judaism, you would be allowed to marry an Orthodox Jew (provided he was not a kohen). Conversions to other denominations of Judaism, especially the Reform movement, may be viewed with suspicion in Orthodoxy, and a convert to Reform Judaism might be required to undergo an Orthodox conversion to be considered a Jew by the Orthodox movement. The question of who is a Jew, as you can see, is far from simple. :)

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon: I could never have married a kohen, because my father isn't Jewish. I always knew it and specifically found that out about every potential suitor.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

Suzanne, the verse in Corinthians that you referenced is addressed to Christians who converted to Christianity as a person already married. For example supposing that both were nonbelievers, and one became a Christian. Paul is admonishing the new believer to remain married to the unbeliever if the unbeliever is willing to stay in the marriage. Single Christians are NOT to marry unbelievers.
2 Corinthians 6:14 reads as follows:
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?"
So Christians are not to marry nonchristians.

Anonymous said...

Anna - It hadn't occurred to me that your father might be a Gentile, but of course now it makes sense. I imagine that made the search for a spouse that much harder, especially in Israel. But in His wisdom, the Lord provided you with a wonderful husband, the one He had planned for you all along!

It just occurred to me that there are possibly other reasons that you wouldn't be permitted to a kohen, too. I hadn't really thought about it that much. You know why?: because honestly, Anna, your personality, your life, your words come across as so pure, so loving of the Lord. God's grace has been with you, dear sister, and it is hard to imagine that you ever lived your life in a way that wasn't consistent with God's instruction.

May you always continue to walk the path you're walking now - in love, in purity, in holiness, and in the blessings of the Almighty. Yours is a true story of redemption, and I'm so glad you're willing to share it with us in blogland! Let your light shine. I know you usually aren't on much past Thursday, so Shabbat Shalom!

Lady Violet said...

I honestly do not understand why anyone would consider this bigotry or racism. If I watned to marry someone who was tall, would anyone object? No, they wouldn't object over this trivial ideal but yet they over this, they take issue? I am not seeing the logic. I personally married a man without faith and that in itself is difficult. I cannot imagine being married to someone who felt as strongly about their faith as I do but didn't share the same faith. It seems to me that being Orthodox would take cooperation on the part of both partners. I don't see how one partner could be Orthodox and the other not. Even simple daily life would be complicated by the difference of faith.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I am forced to remind my visitors that I will not - I repeat, NOT - host religious debates on this blog. While fascinating, I have seen time and time again how they can escalate. Those who feel there are questions on religious matters I might be helpful with, are welcome to email me.