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The following exchange is excerpted from a dialogue group assembled in late August to "test" the small group dialogue software developed for this site.

1. Religion
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 5:09 PM/EST
smallone59

My name is Maria Copeland. I married my husband, Lincoln, four years ago. I dated him for five years to the day that we were married. Four of the fives years with him (before we were married) were spent trying to figure out how I was going to cope with his religious choice. He and his family are JW's (Jehovah Witnesses).

Lincoln, strayed away from the Kingdom Hall (JW's place of worship) when he was in his late teens. He told me that he was unable to cope with the strict rules that the JW's lived by. However, his family had a strong influence on him and he never really stopped being a JW. He still went to the memorials every year and occasionally went to meetings with his mother.

Prior to our wedding, Lincoln expressed an interest in joining the Catholic Church. He said that he enjoyed celebrating the holidays with my family and that he felt very comfortable in my church. When it came down to where to get married, Lincoln, without hesitation, said the he wanted to convert to Catholicism. I was very excited for him, of course for my own selfish reason of wanting to get married in my hometown church. The wedding took place one month after he was baptized. His parents did not learn of his conversion until after the wedding. To say the least, they were very hurt and angry.

What are you view points on bi-religious marriages? Are you in one? How do you cope?

2. Bi-Racial Religion ??
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 5:30 PM/EST
falcon

Maria Copeland,

I don't feel I'm qualified to advise in this matter at all because spiritual belief is such a personal thing and it plays a major role or should play a major role in people's lives. My only comment would be "the focus of one's belief should come from their heart and not from tradition."


3. Question and answer time?
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 5:57 PM/EST
Lynn

You seem to be doing some substantial adjustments as I remember your other notes. Isn't your marriage also biracial and haven't you moved into the south?

Would you please, please talk about where you get the resources for dealing with so many adjustments and how it shapes your thinking?

Are you finding a common ground for shared spiritual life beyond the "church"? Will he talk about it or do your friends share in the discussion?

4. Inner Spirituality
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 10:03 PM/EST
smallone59

Falcon,
I too believe that spirituality should come from one's heart and not tradition. You are a wise person. I have to admit I came to this conclusion only in the past year or so. Religion/spirituality is something that has driven me to focus on every bit of my inner self. I remember crying endlessly at the foot of my bed hoping that Jesus would walk into my room and tell me which religious group to follow.

Guess what, it did not happen.

Since that faithful night, I decided that I would worship my God the way I saw it fit for myself. Yes, I still go to the Catholic Church and yes it is for traditional purposes. But, I enjoy going. More importantly, I take my 81 year old Grandmother. She can not get around by herself. Until I moved down to SC (2 months ago), she had not gone to church for months, almost a year. It makes her happy to go. It makes me happy that I can go with her. My husband goes with us sometimes. He is as confused as I was as far as which religion to follow. I hope that he finds the inner spirituality that I am so grateful to have found.

5. Just A Matter Of Time
Fri, Aug 20, 1999 - 11:56 PM/EST
falcon

smallone59,

God does things in his own time not ours, if you haven't received your answer yet it could be God isn't ready to give it to. I remember Moses out in the desert, banished by rulers of Eypt but it was a way for God to prepare his people for freedom. He allow Moses to learn where to go and how to live in the desert so when God's people were freed they would have a place to go and a way to survive there. God could being saying your training is not yet over.

6. How we make it work
Sat, Aug 21, 1999 - 1:12 PM/EST
tmolsen

My husband, Jeff, and I firmly believe spirituality and religious preference comes from within. Although his is an extremely devout Mormon, he would never expect me to believe or practice what he does.

When we first married, my friends thought I was nuts for marrying someone from such a "different" religion. I explained to them that our core beliefs were the same: God, Jesus, the bible, faith, prayer, etc. Jeff just happens to have an addendum to his belief system, the Book of Mormon.

Ironically, the LDS religion was founded by Joseph Smith who went into the woods to pray about which religious affiliation he should join. According to their doctrine, an angel appreared and told him all other religions were not true. He was told to form the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the restored original church.

I, too have wondered about which religion is "true". I do not believe any religion is "true" or "right". I think religious choice has to come from within - through prayer and faith.

I could go on and on, but I'm rambling...

7. religion vs. tradition
Sun, Aug 22, 1999 - 5:40 AM/EST
christelh

It fascinates me that I just got home from a night out with a group of friends who were discussing this very issue. The crux of the conversation dealt with how important it was to marry someone of your own faith. The issue seemed further complicated by what we ended up terming the idea of being "culturally jewish" [or insert the religion of your choice here], versus being spiritually jewish.

For most people, it came down to an issue of examing how much of their faith centered on traditions or what they had always been told by their parents to be the right viewpoints, and what parts of the religion were significant to them because they found it to be a deeply important part of their personal relationship with God [or any other deity to be inserted here].

Many people agreed that they felt awkward dating outside of the faith NOT because they felt that those who didn't believe in the same religion were somehow inferior or unenlightened, but more because they feared the reaction of their parents and families when they met that person. Either that, or from the moment they started feeling serious about the person, they envisioned the challenge that planning an interfaith marriage or family can be.

Being a young adult, I'm wondering what preconceived notions, if any, the parents in our discussion group have about the people their children date? To put it bluntly, is there any category or group of people that you would be shocked/dismayed/confused/concerned to have your child bring home to meet the family? I'm particularly interested in how this is affected (or not affected) by your own family's reaction to your choice of mates. My parents always subscribed to the "if she's happy, we're happy" philosophy, but judging from my experiences with other families, they may be the exception to the rule.

8. Lost friendships
Sun, Aug 22, 1999 - 12:53 PM/EST
tmolsen

In my case, my parents also share same philosphy as christelh. They didn't care what religion my husband belonged to as long as he was a decent human being and treated me well.

However, I was a little nervous to introduce Jeff to my friends. I once shared their narrow-minded view of Mormons. I literally stood on my soapbox on many occassions denouncing the LDS faith.

Although I was raised in a Catholic family, I was reared in the Bible Belt which is predominantely Southern Baptist. My Baptist friends were shocked and dismayed when I announced I was marrying a Mormon. I admit I'm as much to blame for how many of my friends negatively viewed Mormons. As a result, to some I appeared as a hypocrite. I ended up losing (Baptist) friends over my marriage.

9. In response to Lynn, #3
Mon, Aug 23, 1999 - 7:46 PM/EST
smallone59

In response to your questions for me:
Where do I get the resources for dealing with so many adjustments and how has it shaped my thinking?

Resources: My family
I am so truly blessed to have such a strong support system. My father married a women who was married to a multiracial man; Chinese, Jamaican, African American, Caucasian – the list goes on. My stepmother is culturally grounded. She helped my father see that love knows no color.
I can also say that the community I lived in and the support from my family prepared me for this cruel world. I am no stronger than the next person in a bi-racial relationship. However I am armed with the knowledge needed to get through the toughest of storms.

My husband and I don’t talk about our spirituality as often as I would like. As I said in response #4 to Falcon, I hope that my husband will someday find his inner spirituality. He is so confused. My heart aches for him. I honestly don’t know what I can do to help him.

A couple of weeks ago, he said to me, “I admire how peaceful you are.” I was so honored that he thought that of me. We talked about how to gain peace in one’s life; I told him that the first thing he had to do was be honest about his role as a Jehovah Witness. I don’t know if I explained earlier, but he is torn between the JWs and the Catholics. His family is encouraging him to attend the meetings at the Kingdom Hall while I stand silent in the background wishing that he muster the strength to go wherever he wants and be whoever he wants. Essentially find the spirituality within him.

Hey, I think I will tell him that tonight… :o)

10. The Jewish Perspective
Mon, Aug 23, 1999 - 10:28 PM/EST
Kresel

BS"D

In the Jewish religion, it is impossible for a couple to function if they are of different religions. Our religion encompasses every second of our lives. When we wake up, we say a short prayer thanking G-d for restoring and envigorating our souls. In recognition of this restoration of the soul, we perform a hand-washing ritual. We are not supposed to step out of bed without doing it. Every action we take is imbued with spiritual consciousness.

Now, I picked only a small thing - getting out of bed. But it is no exaggeration to say that we are supposed to recognize G-d with every second of our lives. Now, marriage is the biggest thing in our lives. It is our closest human relationship; our spouses are our partners for living. So if you are going to live spiritually, it is impossible to live with someone whose spiritual approach and goals are different to yours. A married couple should be a united team, and spirituality is the most important sphere in which they should strive together.

11. spirituality in relationships
Wed, Aug 25, 1999 - 3:12 PM/EST
christelh

Kresel, I can't thank you enough for helping me understand this perspective so much better. When I was in High School, my most serious relationship was with an Israeli born Jew (I'm Lutheran). As teenagers, we gave more thought to the prom than to the idea of marriage, and probably any discussions we did have dealt with the less spiritual and more traditional aspects, like family events or what to name our kids.

However, his parents were apparently giving the marriage possibility a lot more thought than we were (I think I was the most serious girlfriend he had ever had). They went out of their way to make it clear that they didn't approve of me (for example, at a family barbecue they would start speaking to me in Hebrew and then say "Oh, that's right, you don't SPEAK Hebrew, do you?"). Ultimately he and I broke up but remained friends, but I still met with disapproval, to the point that his mother threatened to have me arrested if I called him on the phone.

I think he was either at a loss to explain his parents' actions or just too embarrassed by them to want to talk about it. Needless to say, the whole thing was very stressful and something that I took very personally. I didn't understand clearly (until now) what their objections were based upon, and that in their own way they thought they were doing the right thing for their son by keeping him from a relationship their faith told them could never work.

I've spent 10 years trying to figure this out, and your explanation of faith and spirituality's role in relationships and everyday life has done wonders in helping me understand. Thank you!

12. To Christeh
Wed, Aug 25, 1999 - 4:25 PM/EST
Kresel

BS"D

It seems to me that the parents' approach was wrong. Ideally, they should have raised their son to date Jewish girls only so that situations like yours wouldn't happen in the first place. It would have saved everyone a lot of heartache.

But I'm glad to know that I cleared things up. Thank you so much for saying so.

13. Dating Jewish men
Wed, Aug 25, 1999 - 6:01 PM/EST
joanpi

Your latest conversation reminds me of the first guy I got serious about, senior year college. His parents were immigrants, and though they were not Orthodox Jews, their religion was very important to them. My family were very "American", not fitting the Jewish stereotype in most ways. They were tall, modern, not religious and very liberal. My boyfriend's parents were convinced on meeting me that I wasn't Jewish, even though that is my background. His father traveled from upper NY to Chicago to meet my parents to check us out. I don't know how the visit effected him, but I do know, much to my amusement, he rode to the airport with my paternal grandfather (married to a Lutheran 3rd wife). He regaled this poor guy with talk of Christmas plans, so by the time he returned to NY, I was even "less Jewish" than he'd already thought! I have little in common with truly observant Jews, yet identify myself as a Jew. There is a wide range of differences among those in that community, particularly in this country.

14. Two different types of Jews
Thu, Aug 26, 1999 - 4:28 PM/EST
gt

I am not Jewish, but married to a Jewish man.

It is my experience that many Jewish people will regard themself as Religious or secular, or a mixture of this. However, I have experienced that even if I were to embrace Judaism the Religion, I would still be an outsider. To truely be a Jew, one must be born a Jew. I would be an outsider to secular and religious alike.

Christelh, your ex-boyfriend's parents were unbelievably rude. You are lucky to be rid of them. I believe they should have worked through their son to change his behaviour. Not so hateful towards you.

15. To "gt"
Thu, Aug 26, 1999 - 11:58 PM/EST
Kresel

"However, I have experienced that even if I were to embrace Judaism the Religion, I would still be an outsider. To truely be a Jew, one must be born a Jew. "

That is a common misconception. It IS possible to convert to Judaism, and I know many people who have done it. As a matter of fact, for a while, I was active on a list for converts and converts-in-process. There are also articles on the Web on this subject, as well as many books, including some interesting personal accounts. If anyone wants more details, post to or email me.

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