Synopses & Reviews
In the last decade, 45% of all marriages in the U.S. were between people of different faiths. The rapidly growing number of mixed-faith families has become a source of hope, encouraging openness and tolerance among religious communities that historically have been insular and suspicious of other faiths.
Yet as Naomi Schaefer Riley demonstrates in 'Til Faith Do Us Part, what is good for society as a whole often proves difficult for individual families: interfaith couples, Riley shows, are less happy than others and certain combinations of religions are more likely to lead to divorce. Drawing on in-depth interviews with married and once-married couples, clergy, counselors, sociologists, and others, Riley shows that many people enter into interfaith marriages without much consideration of the fundamental spiritual, doctrinal, and practical issues that divide them. Couples tend to marry in their twenties and thirties, a time when religion diminishes in importance, only to return to faith as they grow older and raise children, suffer the loss of a parent, or experience other major life challenges. Riley suggests that a devotion to diversity as well as to a romantic ideal blinds many interfaith couples to potential future problems. Even when they recognize deeply held differences, couples believe that love conquers all. As a result, they fail to ask the necessary questions about how they will reconcile their divergent worldviews-about raising children, celebrating holidays, interacting with extended families, and more. An obsession with tolerance at all costs, Riley argues, has made discussing the problems of interfaith marriage taboo.
'Til Faith Do Us Part is a fascinating exploration of the promise and peril of interfaith marriage today. It will be required reading not only for interfaith couples or anyone considering interfaith marriage, but for all those interested in learning more about this significant, yet understudied phenomenon and the impact it is having on America.
Interfaith marriage is on the rise in America, from 15% of all marriages in 1988 to 36% in 2010. This is true in every region of the country, for people at every income and educational level, and across religious traditions: evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, and others are increasingly marrying outside the faith.
On the surface, this looks like another triumph of the American melting pot. But that is only part of the story. As Wall Street Journal veteran Naomi Schaefer Riley shows in this provocative book, interfaith marriages are often fraught with peril. People often marry at a time when they have drifted away from their religious roots, and it may seem as if the only relevant question is who will officiate at the wedding. But once couples are married, and especially after they have kids, religious questions reassert themselves. Should we donate to the church? How do we handle holidays? How will we raise the kids? Do we take them to services? Send them to religious schools? These questions, and many others, increase marital tension. Indeed, as Riley shows, interfaith couples report lower levels of marital satisfaction than same-faith couples.
Yet, while an overwhelming majority of Americans claims that religion is important to them, interfaith couples rarely discuss these issues before the wedding. Indeed, many equate religion, the source of their most deeply-held values, with the skin-deep matter of race, believing it bigoted to emphasize shared religious values. As a result, they are often woefully unprepared for the challenges of interfaith marriage.
Drawing on a groundbreaking new national survey of 2,500 Americans and extensive interviews with couples, religious leaders, and marriage counselors, Riley offers readers an intimate look at this sensitive topic that will shape faith and marriage in America for generations to come.
About the Author
Naomi Schaefer Riley
is a former Wall Street Journal
editor and writer whose work focuses on higher education, religion, philanthropy, and culture. She is the author of God on the Quad
and The Faculty Lounges.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Defining Holy Matrimony
Chapter 2: The Road to Marriage
Chapter 3: The Vows We Make
Chapter 4: Passing It On
Chapter 5: The December Dilemma
Chapter 6: Interfaith Divorce
Chapter 7: Muslims in the Melting Pot
Chapter 8: The Welcome Mat
Chapter 9: Jews, Mormons, and the Future of Interfaith Marriage