As a young professional engaged in interfaith, I often wonder how many interfaith relationships we engage in at a romantic level. I know, I am getting a bit personal, it is not my intention to offend, but I would like to talk for a moment about relationships. For the purposes of this article I am speaking about romantic relationships. I must also disclose that I have a very limited experience with interfaith dating. In fact, I think that the only experience I could even claim would be my dates that had little or no discussion about faith whatsoever. I am fascinated by those that do engage in interfaith relationships, especially those that turn into marriages or life-long commitments.
We in the interfaith world have come to engage one another based on the differences that come with our religions, and engage in conversations based on those differences, but can those same types of conversations carry into a romantic setting? The obstacles that come with choosing a life partner already seem tremendous. How much more difficult is a relationship if you fundamentally disagree about the nature of God? I do not want to seem like I don’t think it can be done, but some suggest that if such a relationship is to be successful, one or both of the individuals must not be very religious. (See the article written by one of my favorite religious writers, Stephen Prothero, for Oprah) So for those of us who are deeply engaged in our beliefs or philosophies, as well as engagement in interfaith action, do interfaith relationships work? Did you ever start dating someone you met at an interfaith event?
Fundamentally, I am asking if dating someone of another faith can be a lasting prospect. The exercise Prothero suggests is celebrating the differences of traditions. I’ve seen this happen successfully over cups of coffee in a local café. I’ve seen major social injustices addressed by interfaith councils. I’ve seen homeless shelters built and food banks filled while celebrating the traditions of service found within differing religions. But do those types of social justice events translate into an enduring relationship? I just do not know if it is possible with a partner that you will make decisions about children, money, church…
What are your testimonies of how interfaith relationship work? I know that this is not a new question, but to those of us in the interfaith field, did you meet your significant other at an interfaith event? How long have you been in the relationship? How do you have the difficult conversations? Do you celebrate each other’s holidays? Do you attend each other’s religious services on a regular basis, or only on major holidays? Logistically, how does it work? How did your families react to your relationship? I am genuinely interested in how one’s own devotion is deepened within interbelief relationships.
Love is the most powerful force on Earth, and when harnessed by the spiritual can accomplish many wonderful things. In relationships, however, I have found that contrary to the 1967 Beetles hit, you do need more than love alone. Finally, I would love to know the tools and tactics successful couples use to make those relationships work. I know plenty of books have been written on the subject, but I am more interested in personal testimonial. If the relationship did not last, what did you try? Consequently, can we use those methods to deepen our larger interfaith dialogues? What do interfaith couples know that the rest of us have not figured out, yet?