A Place of Rest: Embracing Differences

How have your respective faith communities embraced (or not) your decision?

Carol:  Chris is well known in many faith communities in our county due to his twenty-plus years of interfaith ministry. Actually many people are not fully aware of his non-Christian stance; nevertheless, here in Marin County, where so many people are unchurched anyway, Chris' world-views are hardly unusual. 

Chris:  When I explain my current views (non-theistic, freethinking) to people outside faith traditions they seem very welcoming, though hard-line atheists probably get thrown by my marriage to a minister. Since people in congregations don't seem to pay much attention to non-believers (not a part of the spiritual social scene), I'm mostly left to expressing my views in writing in books and blogs. I don't think anyone ever misses me in churches, but there are no doubt some who would like to see Carol more frequently.

If you have children, how do you raise them within a multi-faith household? How have the kids responded? How do you approach disagreements over child rearing?

Carol: We do not have children together; Chris raised a daughter over twenty years ago.

Chris:  My daughter is 28 and finishing college. She is not religious and for the most part a freethinker like her father. She is a deeply caring, thoughtful young woman who will do well in the social work vocation she has chosen. Our spirituality is not a concern to her and she loves Carol.

Where do you notice your faith "difference" the most? The least?

:  I notice it the most around issues of justice or other pressing issues where I appeal to a sense of God's presence or call to speak about my convictions. I notice it the least in our day-to-day living; we are very free and ourselves about our faith differences. I think our situation is different because Chris was not raised in a different religious tradition; instead, he knows my tradition as well as I do, and in some ways even better.

Chris:  I help Carol stay on the straight and narrow (smile). I am especially concerned about her new homeopathic/yoga/chiropractor/massage religion!  (bigger smile). Since I have some Evangelical and Pentecostal background I have more incisive, passionate criticisms of aspects of Christianity than Carol. Sometimes her tolerance or wide respect is troubling, but when we talk through my critiques she often agrees on some level. At times I can't understand why she still goes to some church functions (like Presbytery) though I know that she has more collegial connections than I.     

How did you blend your religious rituals and customs in your wedding?

: I will let Chris speak more to this; briefly, we agreed that we wanted clergy from several traditions -- Christian, Jewish, and then Buddhist since we were married in a Zen Buddhist setting. I knew that I wanted a Christian scripture read, and together Chris and I chose the text from Matthew 6 where Jesus speaks to the disciples, "Do not be anxious about your life. . ." In addition, we had a reading from Walt Whitman and Chris wrote the "Green Circle Song"to the tune of the "Wedding Song," sung by one of our bridesmaids and the best man! We also had a Wiccan dance as a post-ceremony ritual, which was supposed to have happened outside in the garden; however, due to rain, it was inside. We did not want our wedding to be a hodge-podge, everything but the kitchen sink service . . . instead we weaved it together based on the gifts and skills of our celebrants and participants.

Chris: Pretty much says it. All women clergy! A male rabbi friend couldn't make it. The most spiritual part was being in socks and hearing the frogs, rain, and bagpiper. Lovely moments. 

Have your basic beliefs regarding matters of faith changed since marriage?

Carol:  No; we have been married less than one year!

Chris:  Yes, I am more committed than ever to loving, laughing, and exploring more the diversity that we symbolize and model.

Do you feel that the passion or completeness of your faith has diminished since marriage?

Carol:  No; my work gives me plenty of opportunities for my faith to be tested, challenged, formed, and reformed. My marriage is much more of a place of rest and savoring that which we know and don't know. 

Chris:  Since I actually do not have a "faith" this is hard to answer except to say that I feel faith is not essential to our relationship. I have come to think even more that it is who we are as people and how we live our lives, rather than a religious perspective or creed system, that holds humans together and makes a marriage healthier.  

4/29/2010 4:00:00 AM
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  • Deborah Arca
    About Deborah Arca
    Deborah Arca is the former Director of Content at Patheos. Prior to joining Patheos, Deborah managed the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, including the Program's renowned spiritual direction program and the nationally-renowned Lilly-funded Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music and theatre programs for children and teens, and a music minister. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ church in Englewood, CO.
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