Yesterday was Sunday, and I have been thinking why a person of faith might be a better American this week than he or she otherwise would be, because of it....
Americans are having an extremely difficult time getting married and staying married right now. One of the effects of divorce is extreme emotional trauma, for the adults involved but most especially for the children. The distress can be large enough in magnitude and duration that it begins to inhibit the development of the child into a happy and contributing member of society.
The above picture captures one reason this young man of faith might be a better American because he attends church than he otherwise would be - if his father (or mother, or both) have fled his life, a sweet duo of love and assistance is shown: his loving grandmother and God, both found in the chapel of this church.
The healing power of our churches, temples, synagogues and mosques helps America better endure the tidal wave of failed marriages until we can figure out how to free ourselves from this plague on our nation.
When Two Traditions Wed
Interfaith marriages have helped spread religious tolerance in society but can present intractable problems for some couples.
Interfaith marriage has never been so visible or so popular in America as it is today. Steve and Cokie Roberts, Larry and Shawn King, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky: Interfaith couples occupy a prominent place on the public stage, not to mention a prominent role in the private lives of Americans. Almost one in two marriages in the U.S. are between people from different faiths, a historic high.
The rise of interfaith marriage can be read as but the latest success story in the continuing American Experiment, wherein differences of all sorts are fused into a single, vibrant polity. As Naomi Schaefer Riley notes in " 'Til Faith Do Us," most Americans see interfaith marriage "as a confirmation of American tolerance, of our progress as a society." To judge by Ms. Riley's engaging and incisive account—combining clear-eyed analysis with polling data and the details of more than a hundred interviews—interfaith marriage has indeed brought about a wider acceptance of America's many religions and religious backgrounds even if, as she shows, it has created a few problems of its own.
Millions of Americans, it is clear, have learned from their own spouses—or from the marriages of friends and family members—about faiths other than the ones they were born into. In doing so, they have come to value or at least understand otherwise alien rituals and doctrines. If differences between religious traditions are no longer a source of serious social division in the United States these days, Ms. Riley argues, one reason appears to be that couples bridge the divide themselves.
As one might expect, there are many reasons for the rise of interfaith marriage. They range from the ever-greater frequency of children going off to college—an experience that brings Americans from diverse backgrounds together—to the growing power of American individualism, which puts a premium on choice over collective identity. In recent years, Ms. Riley notes, what might be called the "soul mate" model of marriage has grown more popular as well, increasing the possibility of people from different faiths choosing to make a life together. According to this model, marriage is primarily an expressive connection rather than an institution that bundles romantic love, children, religious faith and mutual aid (material and social).
Thus many Americans begin their marriages believing that love will conquer all, including religious differences. But when the honeymoon is over, love proves less than omnipotent, and religious differences may reassert themselves, especially after children arrive. "Deciding how to raise children," Ms. Riley writes, "is probably the highest hurdle interfaith parents face."
Are the kids to be raised Muslim or Mormon? Is a Christmas tree appropriate in a half-Jewish home? Should Johnny be sent to both the (evangelical) Young Life group and (Catholic) religious education? One Jewish-Catholic couple interviewed by Ms. Riley (a former member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial-page staff) found themselves arguing over whether to baptize their daughter. Questions like these can "tear at the fabric of a marriage," Ms. Riley says; this particular couple ended up in divorce court because of their religious disagreement about child-rearing. Ms. Riley notes that couples from different faiths would do well, in the courtship phase of their relations, to discuss child-rearing's religious dimensions.
And perhaps life's other religious dimensions. On average, Ms. Riley says, interfaith couples are less likely to be happy in their marriages and—in some combinations—more likely to divorce than couples who share the same faith. There may be a religious cost as well—for the married couple, a loss of steadiness in observance and belief. Meanwhile, the children raised in interfaith homes are more likely than the children of same-faith homes to reject their parents' faiths. " 'Til Faith Do Us Part" finds that the children of interfaith couples, in their early years, are less likely to attend religious services and less likely, as adults, to affiliate themselves with a religious tradition. A record-setting 32% of young adults say that they have no religious affiliation, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The rise of interfaith marriage may well be a cause.
It turns out, then, that interfaith marriage shores up the American Experiment in certain ways, fostering tolerance and reciprocal regard, and yet undermines it in others, weakening the family and the religious ties that have long bound Americans to one another. Religious groups in particular have reason to be concerned, as the chain of belief and affiliation, from one generation to the next, is broken. But what can they do in a society as pluralistic and tolerant as America has become?
Ms. Riley concludes her reporting and analysis by suggesting that religious communities strike a delicate balance in their approach to interfaith marriages and families. On the one hand, they must welcome them if they wish to keep up a connection with the believing spouse and his or her children. But they must also provide a strong sense of community and a gracious but confident expression of their own religious worldview. "Regularly engaging nonmember spouses in conversations about the faith is important," she writes, noting that such engagement, if done with a soft touch, may bring the spouse into the fold. Finally, religious communities must focus more on reaching young adults, giving them a venue where they can engage their religious faith in a new way and meet a "soul mate" who draws them closer to the fold rather than leading them away from it.
—Mr. Wilcox is the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
A version of this article appeared March 23, 2013, on page C6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: When Two Traditions Wed.
Yesterday was Sunday, and I have been thinking why a person of faith might be a better American this week because of it....
Just by speaking with many pastors, priests, bishops...leaders of various places of faith the past three or four years, I think it is fair to say that yesterday millions of church-goers, at least of the Christian faith, promised their Creator that they would obey his commandments for the next six days.One of these surely is to commit no adultery. Now, if all these who made that promise, kept it, our country would have healthier, happier, and more productive husbands, wives, and children. These would then form the shoulders upon which the weighty burdens of America could confidently be placed.
This reminds me of what President Truman said to the Army officer who offered to line him up with a prostitute in post-war Berlin (as found in McCullough's Truman, page 435): " 'Listen, son, I married my sweetheart,' Truman said. 'She doesn't run around on me, and I don't run around on her. I want that understood. Don't ever mention that kind of stuff to me again.' "
Marriage is alive and well
By Kathleen O'Brien
Saturday, November 27, 2010; B02
The headline's a shocker: Nearly four in 10 Americans think marriage is obsolete. As in, over and done with, hold the rice. Holy matrimony has gone the way of the rotary phone, the butter churn and the eight-track tape.
The Pew Research Center's latest survey, released Nov. 18, detected a growing perception of marriage's obsolescence. It neglected, however, to ask people what they thought about it.
It turns out that Americans love marriage. They hope to marry, and most eventually will. Those who called marriage obsolete might be voicing a fear, not expressing a wish, said David Popenoe, a former Rutgers University sociology professor and co-director of the National Marriage Project.
After all, any society whose television menu includes "Say Yes to the Dress," "Four Weddings" and the entire Wedding Channel is hardly disinterested in the institution.
Popenoe has his theories as to why a fair number of people approve of marriage, yet don't actually get married.
"Everybody knows marriage is a weak institution, so they have to be a little more careful in choosing a mate," he said. "Marriage has become so fragile it's a sense of, 'Let's not go through a divorce if we don't have to.' "
The Pew study is titled, "The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families," but Popenoe would change that to "Family Decline."
"There's nothing particularly good about it, in my view," he said. "Strong families are important to a strong society."
The survey chronicles a slow sea change in attitudes toward new and different relationships:
l When it comes to gay marriage and families, the landscape is rapidly shifting. Acceptance of gay couples raising children has jumped in just the past three years, so that now a slight majority says it's a good thing or makes no difference.
l For the first time in 15 years of polling on the issue, less than half of respondents oppose same-sex marriage. Disapproval is waning abruptly, with declines visible year to year.
l Disapproval remains hardened in one area: Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) say it's bad for society when single women have children. At the same time, 29 percent also say it's a bad thing for a woman to never have a child. So, if you're single, there's simply no pleasing them.
There continue to be sharp differences among racial and ethnic groups on the percentage of children being raised by a single (usually never married) parent, with African American rates continuing to be strikingly higher than those of other groups.
However, African Americans are especially disapproving of the trend, with 74 percent viewing it as a bad thing. Popenoe attributes this disapproval to the group's higher level of religiosity and to the fact that its members see the daily effect this family arrangement has on children.
But having parents who are married isn't nearly as important to Americans as simply having that second parent in the home, regardless of the parent's gender or sexual orientation. They voice the identical level of comfort with unmarried couples raising children (53 percent seeing it as a good thing or making no difference) as they do with gay/lesbian couples raising children.
The United States has the highest marriage rates of the Western industrial countries. Americans embrace marriage because the nation is more religious than its European counterparts, Popenoe said.
And in America's highly individualistic and mobile society, marriage might be an important way to forge a connection that transcends community. Yet young Americans are waiting ever longer to get hitched.
Sociologists previously noticed a trend in modern America for college-educated, economically successful people to marry at higher rates than their poorer, less-educated parents. Poorer people "are just as eager to marry," the study said, but they hesitate to get married until they perceive that they can afford it.
All this gloom and doom about marriage doesn't mean people are going through life all by themselves, Popenoe said.
"Most people still couple up - they're not alone," he said. "They're just not married."
- Religion News Service
Gregory Kane: Without church and parents, kids run wild By: Gregory Kane
Examiner Staff WriterApril 19, 2010
Just 7 years old. That's the age of the little girl who was gang-raped in a Trenton, N.J., apartment building a little over two weeks ago.
It's a crime so monstrous, so vile and so despicable that it has to boggle the mind. So far four people -- three juveniles ages 13, 14 and 17, and a 19-year-old adult -- have been arrested in connection with the atrocity. All are male. I refuse to call the 19-year-old a man for a very good reason.
Even a pack of wild dogs wouldn't have done what these males did. According to news reports, at least three other males were involved. This is what happened, according to Trenton police and several news stories.
The 7-year-old had a 15-year-old stepsister. Apparently, the 7-year-old had more good sense than the 15-year-old. The elder stepsister went to a party on the 13th floor of Trenton's Rowan Tower apartment building. The 7-year-old, concerned for her older stepsister's safety, tagged along. According to an April 2 Associated Press story, here's what happened next:
"The 15-year-old sold sex to men in the room, then took money to let them touch the younger girl. Touching turned to forcible sex as at least seven men raped the 7-year-old. The little girl then put her clothes on and left the apartments. That's when two women found her crying and took her home."
Police booked the 15-year-old sister on charges of promoting prostitution, aggravated sexual assault and other charges, according to the AP story.
This crime almost tops the one that occurred three years ago in West Palm Beach, Fla. In that case a bunch of thugs gang-raped a Haitian-American woman, brutally beat her then-12-year-old son and then forced her to perform oral sex on the boy at gunpoint. Juveniles as young as 14 years old were among the assailants.
We should all be wondering just how we reached this point in America, and we are no doubt asking where are the parents in all this.
, exactly, were the parents of the 7-year-old victim and her stepsister? Where were the parents of the 13, 14 and 17-year-old suspects? Where were the parents of the juvenile suspects in the West Palm Beach incident?
Where were those parents, and what kind of values were they giving their children? I'm far from a saint, and not much of a churchgoing man, but I still remember the values my mother -- a single mom, by the way, who had to raise six children alone and refused
to go on welfare -- gave me.
When I was 4 years old, I was in a movie theater watching Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 version of "The Ten Commandments." On Sundays, I was at Mass, and then Sunday school. When school dismissed for the summer, she made sure I made it to the Bible school of the nearest Catholic parish.
All that religious training, at the very minimum, instilled in me some very important values. Like not stealing or lying. Or brutalizing and raping.
Today many Americans openly sneer at religious values. Bill Maher, one of those who sneer at religion most passionately, has his own show on the HBO network. Illusionists Penn and Teller, two more members of the anti-religion brigade, have their own program on the Showtime network.
Today's entertainment industry has no tolerance for religion, while promoting the most gratuitous displays of sex and violence. The answer to the question of where those Trenton and West Palm Beach parents were may be an easy one.
Nowhere to be found, and letting television do the baby-sitting for them. Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.