Rod Dreher

Naomi Schaefer Riley:

The Reyes-Shapiro divorce is about as ugly as the end of a marriage can get. Some of the sparring is an example of the bad ways people act when a union unravels. But the fight over Ela’s religion illustrates the particular hardships and poor track record of interfaith marriages: They fail at higher rates than same-faith marriages. But couples don’t want to hear that, and no one really wants to tell them.
Figuring out how to raise the kids in a mixed-faith household is difficult. Religions, if taken seriously, are often mutually exclusive (not withstanding the argument of Reyes’s lawyer, who told me that taking Ela to church was not a violation of the court order because Jesus was a rabbi and “there is no sharp line between Judaism and Christianity”).


[I]t is an open secret among academics that tsk-tsking grandmothers may be right. According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.
In a paper published in 1993, Evelyn Lehrer, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40 percent chance of being divorced in five years.
More recent research concludes that even differing degrees of religious belief and observance can cause trouble. For instance, in a 2009 paper, scholars Margaret Vaaler, Christopher Ellison and Daniel Powers of the University of Texas at Austin found higher rates of divorce when a husband attends religious services more frequently than his wife, as well as when a wife is more theologically conservative than her husband.

This isn’t so hard to figure out, is it? If you take it seriously, religion is not merely a good thing you do on Sunday morning (or Saturday, or Friday). It is a way of seeing reality that conditions your interpretation of nearly everything. I became a serious Christian when I was 25, and I knew that my dating life — which is to say, my search for a marriage partner — would have to change greatly because of that fact. I simply could not allow myself to get involved with someone who didn’t share my religion. Because I was religiously observant, it wasn’t that difficult; religion was so important to me that I couldn’t imagine falling for someone who didn’t share my faith. But there were times when I was really attracted to a woman who was either not religious, or not of my religion — and in those times, I made a clear decision not to pursue a relationship.
When I met Julie, she was a convinced Presbyterian, and I was a convinced Catholic. We both strongly believed that God had called us to be together, but we worried over how we were going to manage the Catholic-Protestant thing. As it turned out, Julie read herself into the Catholic Church, which solved that problem. But years later, as we were both struggling with our Catholic faith, we found ourselves in different places with it, and this became a bit of a problem — one thankfully resolved, though. Had one of us gone to Orthodoxy and the other remained Catholic, I suppose we could have managed, because the traditions are so close, but the lack of religious unity in our household would have been painful.
I don’t intend this as a criticism of interfaith couples, but I don’t see how they do it — or rather, I don’t see how they do it if religion is important to one or both of them. Intuitively, it only makes sense to me if religion is not especially important to either one, except perhaps as a cultural and communal thing whose doctrines mean nothing. A refusal to enter into an interfaith marriage is not an expression of disdain for other religions, but in fact a sign of respect. Anyway, the social science data provide empirical evidence that interfaith marriage is a bad idea.
(H/T: Get Religion)

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