Growing up, my parents used to joke that as a liberal Baptist and a somewhat High Church Episcopalian, they were about as interfaith as a marriage could handle. (Joke explanation for those that didn’t grow up on pink church punch: on the formality and theology scale, Baptist and Episcopal are as far away as you can get from each other, while still staying Protestant.) Of course, I did them one better when I got together with David. Liberal Baptist meets Jew, what do we do? The first few years of our relationship were an intense exploration into religion. I took him to church, he took me to shul. We took classes together (Difficult Texts, co-taught by two female Rabbis and two female pastors, for the curious). We read books. We talked a lot. We tried to figure out if we both could find a way to make a bridge between our two different and important religious traditions.
In short: we have and we haven’t. I converted, but I’m still a WASP, culturally. I wrote our children’s Bris and naming liturgies, but after swearing we’d never do it, our kids have had Christmas Trees for all of their lives so far. Life is long, religious and cultural history is complicated, and we’ll probably never figure it out, though we’ll die trying.
But over the years, some of the most important conversations we’ve had about religion haven’t been the interfaith ones. They’ve been the personal ones, the conversations about our individual belief systems. The best one I can remember is when we talked about prayer (we both knew that the other believed in God, so that bit was out of the way). That day, David found out that I regularly made personal petitionary prayers to God: “What, like you ask God for things? You think that works?” And I found out he didn’t, “Wait, so what are you doing when you pray in synagogue? You just find it meditative? You’re kidding.”
Today, in the spirit of encouraging each of you to go home and ask your partner questions about their personal belief system, I wanted to talk about religion and marriage. What are your struggles? What are your triumphs? What are you proud of, and what are you figuring out?
Are you interfaith? Atheist? Faith and no faith? The same faith? How does religion, or lack thereof, play out in your relationship?
This post originally ran on APW in a slightly different format in September 2013.