In my conversations with Kate, over at Momopoly, I’ve been thinking a great deal about mixed marriage, about living the life divided. I’ve blogged about it before, here and here and here if you’d like to read my journey.
Just defining mixed marriage can be somewhat of a challenge, and depends on your perspective (as with many things). Online definitions as well as the layman on the street would likely define it as a marriage between two races or cultures, i.e., black+ white, Indian + Chinese. In the most general terms, “mixed marriage” refers to a union of two very disparate things: apples and oranges, so to speak. Something that works, but only just. And if it works, it’s a miracle that it does.
Speaking from a faith standpoint, the picture changes- the term can refer to, depending on the authority, anything from Catholic+non-Catholic to Jewish+Christian. For clarity’s sake, I would refer to these unions as “interfaith” rather than “mixed”. The Catholic Encyclopedia adequately expresses the viewpoint of the Church (warning to Protestants, not a pretty picture), noting that the term has been used for both Catholic+Christian and Catholic+”infidel”. This site also decries the danger of “perversion” when the couple is Catholic+Protestant. Yikes.
While certainly it might be easier to marry someone of the same ilk, it doesn’t obviate the need for information and guidance for those of us who find ourselves in the situation. I’m seeing a huge gap in both Catholic and Protestant resources and teachings on the issue…where are the books, the websites, where is the counsel for the mixed couple? Better yet, where is the unbiased information of this kind? I can understand the gap in Catholic teaching (after all, we’re probably easier to ignore), but even in Protestant circles I see very little engagement with the issue. While “unequally yoked” may be the cry for future couples, it doesn’t deal with the situation for those of us who are already here. And in an increasingly global culture, we may want to start dealing with the issue.
I mentioned this to my dad, who’s a pastor. His response was, “who would publish books like that?” And he has a point. Certainly not the Catholic church. The advice of both priests we consulted was “convert her”. Maybe an Evangelical in collaboration with a Catholic could write something useful? I would love to see that book. If it exists, let me know.
What I want to explore is how to live when you both have strong belief systems. What happens when you are equally yoked- equally convinced that your tradition is correct, equally strong in your faith convictions, equally intelligent and educated? It seems to be a tightrope act quite difficult to manage. Even when you have the talent for tolerance, it’s a struggle. It’s a daily openness to hearing their side, without feeling attacked. A daily conversation, not only about differences, but about the points of commonality. A daily leaning on each other, on what holds you together, on the love you share and the family you build. And that’s not too different from a non-mixed marriage, is it now?