wakened Living Study Program, Lesson 45: INTERFAITH MARRIAGE

Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is INTERFAITH MARRIAGE. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.

All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD! 

Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world.  The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority. 

Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!

Opening Meditation
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:

O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of mind and body so that we may learn the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. In the name of Love, the Earth and the Universe, Amen.

The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.

Opening Thoughts
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.

Today’s meditation is on interfaith marriages. After the Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's divorce many people believed that interfaith marriages were more likely to end in a divorce than couples who practice the same faith according to an article published by USA Today. What compounds interfaith relationships more is the fact that in the eyes of the religions, the other religion does not even exist. Most if not all the religions have passages in their sacred texts that outright prohibit the union. But if you ignore the teachings of your religion and go ahead with the union in the other person’s religion you have already lost your place in heaven as far as that religion is concerned. On a lighter note some religions also have passages in their sacred texts that indicate that if you married a non-believer the non-believer could be saved because of your faith as long as he or she agrees to convert. However beyond the religious politics are real people including children, men and women who are trying to live normal lives and be happy.  This presentation will attempt to share the faces of interfaith marriages and suggest ways to have lasting relationships.

Famous Quotes
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote.  Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.

1 "A [born-again conservative Christian] believer marrying or intending to marry an unbeliever is clearly going against the expressed commandment of God." J.J. Lim
2 "...unity within diversity adds a richness and beauty to marriage and to life." Rev. Tom Chulak, Unitarian-Universalist minister.
3 The family is more important than any belief system! Dr. Sonari
4 Couples often find, to their surprise, that religious differences have the potential to enrich one another and their relationship. Exploring differences, for example, often leads individuals to learn more about their partner as well as themselves. -----Thus, exploring differences with our partners has the potential to make us more closely examine what we believe and why. This can, in turn, become a catalyst for spiritual growth. Many individuals also learn greater tolerance of others by learning more about their partner's religious background. Lee Williams, Ph.D.
5 Differences, whether or not they are of a religious nature, make us unique from one another. Respecting these differences communicates respect for our partners, and values their uniqueness. Lee Williams, Ph.D.
6 “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being--neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there's no question of integration or intermarriage. It's just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.” Malcolm X
As believers we all have an opportunity and moral obligation to recognize our spiritual common ground; to rise above our differences; to combat prejudice and intolerance." Queen Noor of Jordan
"We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race." Kofi Annan
"We who have been born Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or any other faith can be very comfortable in each others temple's, mosques, and churches, praying or meditating together to create a spiritual mass of consciousness which can overcome our greed, hatred, and illusions." Dr. Ari Ariyaratne
10 It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others' religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty. Mohandas Gandhi

Sacred Texts Quotes
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found. 

1 Borrowed trousers and garments never fit a man well; they are usually either too tight,Or too loose. Proper fitting is achieved when one wears one's own dress. African Relgions.  Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
2 As to marriage, you are allowed to marry the chaste from among the believing women and the chaste from among those who have been given the Book before you (are lawful for you); provided that you have given them their dowries, and live with them in honor, not in fornication, nor taking them as secret concubines.” Islam: Qur’an 5:5
3 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? Christianity, New Testament: 2 Corinthians 6:14
4 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. Judaism: Tanakh: Deuteronomy 7:3-4
5 All a gentleman can do in starting an enterprise is to leave behind a tradition which can be carried on.  Heaven alone can grant success. Confucianism.  Mencius I.B.14
6 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. Christianity, New Testament: 1 Corinthians 7:12-14
7 The mind of the perfect man is like a mirror.  It does not lean forward or backward in its response to things.  It responds to things but conceals nothing of its own.  Therefore it is able to deal with things without injury to [its reality]. Taoism.  Chuang Tzu 7
8 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” Judaism, Tanakh: Genesis 24:3-4
9 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram,[a]to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. Judaism, Tanakh: Genesis 28:1-2
10 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. Judaism, Tanakh: Deuteronomy 20:14

Teaching Story
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?

Our teaching story is the Saffron Cross: The unlikely story of how a Christian minister married a Hindu Monk, a memoir by Southern Baptist minister J. Dana Trent, about her marriage to Fred Eaker, a devout Hindu.

Once upon a time Dana and Fred met through  eHarmony, a Christian online dating site.  Dana and Fred live and breathe theological debate and do not shy away from addressing differences. On a trip to India to gain deeper understanding of her husband’s religion, Dana lives with Fred in a temple compound and struggles through her own doubts, culture shock, and hilarious religious blunders. In the book Dana celebrates the rich texture of the life she creates with Fred, and the joy they experience exploring religion together. One of the secrets to their success is the “no separate worship” rule, which they developed after considering and discarding the rather lonely alternative as the “interfaith version of segregation.” So Fred goes to church with Dana. And Dana goes to temple with Fred. Yes, this requires a lot of time and they each have to compromise, as do any two people in a marriage. But when you agree to study and celebrate and worship together, you grow together, even, and perhaps especially, when studying and celebrating and worshiping in two different religious languages.

Closing Meditation
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study.  The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.

Our closing Meditation is on how to bring success and happiness to our interfaith relationships. But before we do that let us first look at some of the issues that could derail your interfaith marriage.

  1. I will convert my partner: Religion is an intimate part of our nature more so if the religious values were inculcated in our childhood. So it is not something that another person could easily change. Thus trying to do that will spell failure for your marriage. Do not even think about it!
  2. I will use my love to change my partner to my way of thinking: Usually misguided couples use their love as a bargaining chip and give ultimatum to their partners. They would say something like, “either you believe the way I believe or our marriage is over”. And you will get your wish---Your marriage will be over! But is that what you really want?

In an age of Pluralism, God has appeared to all cultures and all the religions are true. We can no longer force our religions on others because we know that we are all blessed and our blessing has nothing to do with our affiliations! Now let us look into the thoughts and practices that could enhance our interfaith marriages:

  1. Educate yourself on the other’s religion: This might involve taking a World Religions Class, but if you want to know more also take a Comparative Religion Class. Do not forget the quote by the German Scholar Max Muller that one who knows one religion does not know any religion at all.
  2. Look for the similarities: The similarities will unite you rather than separate you. Put religious politics aside and actually learn from the spiritual tradition of the other.
  3. Learn from the differences: Symbols, images and interpretations are often different but you could learn from the differences.
  4. Examine conflict areas: What are the conflict areas in your relations as it regards your religious belief? Discuss them and adopt an acceptable position for both of you.
  5. Avoid putting the other religion down: This could sometimes be outside your control when your pastor delights in putting other religions down in his or her sermons. In such cases it is your responsibility to enlighten your pastor or minister that we live in a different age and he or she should wake up to the needs of our time. Pastors and ministers are encouraged to give messages that enhance our spirituality not one that puts one against the other.

On the whole let understanding, respect and the knowledge that we are all blessed irrespective of our affiliations be our guide. Let us seek the happiness of the other in our relationships by affirming their religious beliefs. And if you are a pastor or a minister preach as though you were preaching to the whole world when next you take the podium with love toward all.

Generally we could divide partners into two basic categories with regards to their religious beliefs. The first category includes partners who believe that their religion is only a guide through life. The second category includes partners who believe that their religion is the Guide through life.

Interfaith marriages between partners in the first category will usually succeed.   The belief here is that religion does not have all the answers, they have to provide some of the answers and that could happen through life-long learning, understanding, compassion, unconditional love and personal experiences.

Interfaith marriages between partners of the second category would usually fail in the sense that each of them comes into the relationship with ready made answers (referred to as absolute truths) which could sometimes  be in conflict with the absolute truths of the other religion. For the marriage in this category to succeed each must also consider the other religion as true. Without this initial step you are headed for a divorce!

The funny thing about life is that if you have a problem with your spouse and failed to work it out, the same problem might show up in your next marriage even if you are married to a person of the same faith. Work on your problems and begin to enjoy life because life is too short to argue about anything! Essentially marriage is about giving up 100% of what you have to the marriage and that includes your religious beliefs because your marriage comes first before anything else!

You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.

Closing Prayer
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer.

You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Study Program.

Talent Contribution
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a good time to share some Awakened Living tips for the benefit of the group. 

Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.

There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.

1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods, etc?

1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated, chanted, affirmed or prayed?

1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?

1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?

1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?

1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?

1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?

1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?

1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?

Personal Development
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?

1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How are you reducing pollution?

1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published