We approach this subject of interfaith relationships with a specific goal in mind. The goal is to help you find genuine spiritual harmony, whereby each partner can experience true spiritual satisfaction, without abandoning each one’s core identity. If you are in an interfaith relationship and this goal resonates with you, we trust our Congregation can be of help to you. Please feel free to contact us – we would like to be of help to you with encouragement, guidance and resources that have come through years of experience.
In 1972 there was tv sitcom called “Bridget Loves Bernie”, about the life of a Jewish husband and a Gentile wife. Believe it or not, the show was cancelled after one season because the intermarriage theme was considered too controversial. As an interesting sidenote, the stars of the show, Meredith Baxter (Gentile) and David Birney (Jewish) caused a further stir when they actually got married the following year, in 1973. Sadly, all too often, Jewish intermarriages brought about disappointment, and, even shame to either the bride or groom’s family. But, why was this so? Intermarriage was commonly viewed as a threat to Jewish survival. This was especially so for the parents and children of the generation who lived during the Holocaust of World War II. Back then, nearly every Jewish person experienced the loss of family or knew of other family members who had perished in the Holocaust. Therefore, to keep peace in the family and not be accused of undermining Jewish survival and Judaism, it was commonplace for Gentile spouses to convert to Judaism prior to intermarriage.
For the most part, today’s perception of intermarriage has changed greatly since the decades of the 40’s, 50’s, and even the early 70’s with the adverse reaction to the “Bridget Loves Bernie” sitcom. The intermarriage rate increased since 1960 to the point that almost one third of American Jewish spouses were Gentiles. And, since 1985, just over half of all Jewish people married in the United States took Gentile spouses.
Today, being Jewish and intermarried is actually the norm in American Jewish life. Along with these changes, Jewish cultural attitudes towards intermarriage have also changed. An Annual Jewish Opinion Survey of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) taken in 2000 revealed that a majority of American Jewish families were no longer troubled at the prospect of family members marrying a Gentile.
What are the most pressing challenges that interfaith couples face today in achieving genuine spiritual harmony? First, many couples described some degree of confusion over core identity differences. As an example, the Jewish and Gentile partners are often confused by each other’s basic perceptions of “what is Jewish”, “what is Judaism”, “what is Gentile” and “what is Christian”. Some of the conflict seems to come from current cultural perception versus the scriptural/historical reality of being Jewish, being Gentile, as well as Judaism and Christianity. If you experience any of this confusion, we believe that our Congregation can be of help to you, so please do feel free to contact us.
Many couples also describe some degree of tension over religious differences. One challenge for Jewish partners is the name and person of Yeshua (Jesus), for good reason (not to be addressed here). At the same time, more Gentile partners tend to be willing to learn about Judaism than Jewish partners were to find out the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. The tension generally increases over time for the interfaith couple, beginning with the interfaith marriage ceremony, various family holiday celebrations, and, especially when they begin having children. If you experience any of these tensions, we believe that our Congregation can be of help to you. Sadly, each partner generally experiences times of own inner longings at not being able to fully share spiritually with one another and, surely, with their children. If you experience any of these longings, we believe that our Congregation can be of help to you, so please do feel free to contact us.
THE MESSIANIC ANSWER
Our Messianic Congregation honors the rich heritage of the Jewish faith in God, as well as the rich heritage of the Gentile Christian faith in God. Thus, each partner is able to embrace and maintain their cultural integrity, while sharing their heritages within one congregation where spiritual intimacy is experienced through a mutually satisfying faith in God. According to Scripture in Genesis chapter two, marriage was intended to be a relationship of intimacy: “….a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; they shall become one flesh”. Thousands of Jewish-Gentile couples that share a common faith in Israel’s promised Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) have discovered wonderful, creative ways to integrate cultural traditions from both of their heritages. They have experienced spiritual intimacy through prayer, worship and life together in Messianic congregations where the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob is at the center of their marriage and family. Studies have shown that marital satisfaction increases and marital stability significantly is strengthened when both partners share a common faith. This is why we believe that our Congregation can be of help to you, so please do feel free to contact us.
We want to begin being of help to you right away by suggesting two resources we can make available to you when you contact us.
First, an excellent book by David Rudolph which focuses on Messianic congregations as the answer for interfaith couples in Growing Your Olive Tree Marriage: A Guide For Couples From Two Traditions (Baltimore: Lederer Books, 2003). David maintains that Messianic congregations provide a rich, spiritually satisfying, bi-cultural setting for interfaith couples.
Our second resource is the dvd “Joined Together.” This video is a collaborative effort with Scott Brown, a congregational leader of a Messianic Congregation, along with producer Nikki H. and Chosen People ministries. “Joined Together,” which is in documentary style, showcases the experiences of several interfaith couples that have found spiritual harmony within the context of a Messianic Congregation. We think you will find “Joined Together” an excellent resource as it presents the serious issues that interfaith couples in an honest and, at times, humorous manner to be very worthwhile.