A Fresh Look at Gay Interfaith Marriages
|by Drew Plant|
|Because I was raised as a Christian, it naturally was Christmas-time that made me more seriously consider the actions and reactions of non-Christians during the season of winter holidays.
Still, the topic of Jewish-Christian differences has really been much in my mind during the last year and a half as I dated, committed to, moved in with and eventually bought a home with my new partner. You see, he is Jewish. (If you are a true Southerner, you'll whisper that last word.)
I suppose I have always kept it tucked in the back of my mind that interfaith relationships were less of a concern in same-sex scenarios. And they are, to some degree. We don't as automatically think about "bringing up baby," baptism, bar mitzvahs and schooling. Culture in this country won't let us legally wed, so "church or synagogue?" is not such an immediate question.
But the questions of religion, faith and values are nonetheless there. Worthy of awareness, introspection and discussion, if not resolution. It's that last part that bothers me, because we don't sit comfortably with diversity in our culture, no matter what lip service we try to pay to it.
For my part, because I care about Bill, I want to protect him from bullies and bigots and such. So, early in our relationship I would be sure to work the fact that he is Jewish into conversations so new acquaintances didn't inadvertently offend him. What a way to fight prejudiceby helping warn those who might offend!
Ironically, it was Bill's father whoalso inadvertentlygave me a great nugget of wisdom on this when he shared with me the writings of Alfred Connable, who was speaking about religion and about Algernon Black, the founder of the Ethical Culture Society. Mr. Connable, pondering Black's own writings and views, said, "I much prefer that people of unconscious prejudice air their fears, however hostile or jocular the manner."
My grandmother thought she had committed a grave social faux pas by asking Bill, "What faith are you?" In a follow-up phone call to my mother, she said, "I knew he was Jewish, but it slipped my mind and I asked him!" Well, I'm glad it slipped her mindbecause Bill is the Bill who loves me whether or not he is Jewish. And what's wrong with asking what faith someone is? She's a Baptist lady and we were visiting her on her Sabbath and we had been discussing religion a bit. Natural enough.
I'll continue to see and hear and ponder Christian/Jewish differences, and I am glad for the new awareness.
I keep remembering something else Mr. Connable noted in his writings that Bill's Dad shared: He said the Jewish community gained convertshe and the children he would eventually have with his Jewish wife-to-bewhen it welcomed their interfaith marriage more than the Christian community seemed to.
I thought about this at Christmas when Bill and I visited my sister and her family. How would Bill feel at Christmas Eve church services? Why did my sister have to ask if he ate ham? (I suppose she thought he might keep kosher?) Would my opinionated, oft-prejudiced father say something against Jewish people?
Whatever is said or done, I'm not going to walk on eggshells around Bill. But I will continue to be fascinated by both the similarities and differences of Jewishness.
Especially by the fact that in the United States (and most probably elsewhere), Jewish people live day to day in a superimposed Christian culture. Their core beliefs are often treated as "alternate." Being gay, I can empathize a bit with anyone who has been made to feel like an outsider.
Again, it was Bill's father who unwittingly offered wisdom on the subject when during our Thanksgiving visit he shared a 30-page textthe account of his Eastern European immigrant great aunt, as told to her daughter in 1961.
Anuta's life story seemed fraught with forced change and mandatory adaptation. Still, her telling is uncharacteristically adaptive, strong and positive. It is insightful wisdom from someone who came halfway around the worldalbeit because of religious persecutionto escape to a world that was truly foreign.
Bill's ancestor came to a place that didn't quite have a nice, clean, even, comfortable spot for her. But she didn't need absolute resolution. Anuta survived and flourished and made her place her own. Her story brought wonderful lessons for me, at just the right time. And I hope Bill's presence will always bring such great lessons. I am thinking our commitment ceremony will include aspects of many cultures and religions. We are together, and that's all the resolution I need.
B. Andrew Plant is an Atlanta-based writer who works in public relations for an insurance company. He is happy to be in the midst of his last marriage. He can be reached at AtlantaWriter@mindspring.com. Copyright 2003, B. Andrew Plant.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 13, No. 1, February 7, 2003