In Defense of My Interfaith Marriage

In Defense of My Interfaith Marriage April 10, 2013

A guest post from Magin LaSov Gregg: 

One day in 2004, I was chatting away with my best friend. During a conversational lull she said — in her most well meaning way — “You would be a perfect candidate for Jews for Jesus.”

She had a point. At 24, I’d fallen in love with a Baptist minister, much to the surprise of my Jewish family and friends. They envisioned a Bible-thumping Jerry Falwell type, complete with potbelly and televangelist hair. No one was more surprised than me that Carl didn’t fit within these tired tropes.

Until I met him, most of what I knew about Christianity came from the holy roller stereotypes of television and film, none of which are particularly kind to Baptists.

And yet when we married at my family’s synagogue, beneath a chuppah, my sister (who keeps kosher) held back tears of joy.

I didn’t convert. Neither did Carl. Somehow, in our eight years together, we’ve never argued about religion. That’s not to say we haven’t had problems, nor felt the stressors that weigh on all families.

We bicker about the usual things. How many times I have to call him away from his laptop before dinner gets cold. How my inability to say “No” is a form of crazy-making, the most recent iteration being a rescue puppy who ate through our sofa.

But religion? We’ve always been able to agree there. Our treaty goes something like this: I respect his search for truth and meaning. He respects mine. As symbols of our religious accord, the chalice from his ordination sits on a shelf beside our chanukiah. 

Christmas trees have never been a deal breaker, either. We have three cats whose nocturnal urges can’t handle the temptation of pine needles.

But this year we bought an artificial tree at Costco to appease me. I’ll take all the glitz I can get in December, and stand firm in my belief that there’s no better wintry glitter bomb than a Christmas tree — these days little more than a totem to American capitalism.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the subject of this blog: the recent Internet banter about Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book on interfaith marriage.

I am sympathetic to Stanley Fish’s reading of Riley, her book, and her points that interfaith couples should think carefully about cultural divides that can rend the fabric of any marriage.

And while it troubles me that Riley’s research has found higher rates of divorce among interfaith couples, I believe these numbers provide stronger incentive to work harder against the odds.

Couples in mixed marriages now have more ammunition to scale hurdles together — with compassion, openness, and honesty. There may be fights. Hurt feelings. Lots of eye rolling. But that’s true for any partnership between two loving adults.

What I’d tell interfaith couples getting cold feet in the face of such sobering statistics is that marrying out was the leap of faith I needed to cure my cultural myopia and well worth the risk.

Love is never all you need. It is enough to give your mixed marriage a chance to bloom.

Magin LaSov Gregg lives, writes, and teaches in Frederick, Maryland. She holds degrees from Syracuse University and Louisiana Tech University. This August she’ll graduate with her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. She can’t wait. Follow her on Twitter (@MaginLaSovGregg).


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