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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Article and a Close Encounter

Speaking of marriages, I discovered this fascinating paper about various kinds of mixed-religion marriages in the U.S. (all of them have one partner who is Christian).

It was also interesting to see the graph of religions in America. Apparently Hindus make up only 0.4% I had no idea the number was that low!

The odd thing for me is that in my future relationships I will, almost no matter what, be either in an inter-racial relationship or an inter-religious one.

If I am in an inter-racial relationship, it will not be inter-religious and vice versa. In reading more of these blogs of people in inter-racial relationships, I am curious to see how many of them have different religions and how many of them have partners who had previously converted to the religion. I'm sure the assumption is that the white partner converted to their spouse's religion, but I would like to find out if there are relationships where the white partner was already a convert previous to meeting the spouse. I think that this is the case in many of the Muslim white/non-white marriages that I've read about.

(Please write and tell me about it if you are in such a situation, by the way!)

I almost got myself into a situation that would have made me mad. I was on my way to my Hindi class. When I got out of the subway, there was a young man passing out cards about beer tasting and theology talk.

Now, I don't ever drink, but I love to talk about theology and I've been meaning to be more social and expand my circle of friends. So, I took a card from him.

As I continued to walk toward class I suddenly realized that "theology discussion" might be code for "we want to talk you into converting to Christianity." Sure enough, when I found their website in tiny letters, the word "Christ" was in there.

I didn't go.

I love to talk about theology, but only in truly open-minded company. I want my ideas to be respected and I have no interest in telling people about Hinduism if their only purpose is to find loopholes in it and try to make Christianity sound better.


  1. I'm in an inter-racial, but not inter-religious marriage. My DH is Indian, but is not (and never has been) Hindu. He's Christian, as am I. We do often get comments/questions from other Indians about why or when he converted and if it was because of me. We try to politely tell them that he never converted from being Hindu, and that technically he's been Christian longer than I have (since he's older). They seem to think it would be ok for me to become Hindu, but not for him to be Christian. It is interesting how people react to racial or religious differences and perceived conversions.
    (I'm from the south asian crafters group on ravelry btw)

  2. My relationship is not inter-religious. My boyfriend, while his family is Hindu, is more or less Athiest. I was raised LDS (Mormon) but have not followed it in almost 10 years. I am more Agnostic and sometimes go to a non-demoninational Christian church when I need a little spiritual rejuvination.

    An intercultural relationship can be difficult to begin with, but throw in two very relgiious people and I honestly do not see how it would work. If my boyfriend still practiced Hinduism and if I was still following the LDS church, I know we would not be together anymore.

  3. Am I reading the third paragraph wrong?

    It seems like you are saying either or... what about the third option of another western Hindu?

  4. This is a very big issue with my husband and me lately. He's Indian, I'm not. I've been a Christian, very committed, my whole life. His family is Hindu, but he converted to Christianity himself several years before we even met, and when we got married it was just assumed that that was how it was going to be, and we'd raise kids to be Christian, etc. Recently, in the last couple of months, things have changed in a big way. My husband decided he wasn't a Christian anymore, more of a universalist/agnostic. Our whole future is now in serious jeopardy now because it seems my faith is almost intolerable to him. I don't even know what will happen. We don't have kids yet, and he no longer would want to raise them as we had previously planned. He barely talks to me at all these days.

    I'm heartbroken. I don't know what to do.


  5. " Anonymous said...
    This is a very big issue with my husband and me lately. He's Indian "

    what is the real problrm though? He was a former hindu now turned into agnostic or an atheist or Nastik. Whats your fear? If you are not a christian that you will end up in Hell? No pun intended. Iam serious. My kids get gifts during christmas (because every kid gets),and almost all their friends are christians, but we do think they respect hinduism by thier own choice, they are not devout. Most white hindus are far more devout than the browns like us, living in USA. What part of your life you miss in this change of heart of your spouse, I dont get it. Explain..Surya.

  6. Geeze anonymous, that is a very difficult situation. I pray it resolves in the best way for you.

    Aamba: I converted to Islam 6 years before my marriage to a Muslim. My parents are interreligiously married, mom Catholic and dad Jewish (neither practicing, but dad is very culturally Ashkenazi-American Jewish) so I was aware of the issues of intermarriage before I ever sought a partner. In Muslim circles, there are some convert couples, but often converts seek born Muslims as marriage partners for some complicated reasons. (too complex to discuss here without writing a long post). I think you shouldn't rule out a white (or other converted) Hindu partner. You also shouldn't rule out a partner of another faith as long as this person is compatible. I realize that Hinduism is very diverse in practice, and isn't necessarily a cohesive faith with a main authoritative body, like say, Catholicism, so I know better than to ask "What does Hinduism say about X" but I am curious as to what your particular understanding of Hinduism teaches about interfaith couplings?

    Also, I am a fellow South Asia-phile, tried and true, I became very interested in Indo-Pakistani culture after converting to Islam, as my surrounding community was mostly South Asian...I could have married an Arab or a Turk or Indonesian or a white or African American Muslim, but I ended up with a Pakistani husband and I am very happy. In terms of culture, I love that having a South Asian, Pakistani husband means that I have an excuse to be close to his culture. It is a really fascinating region of the world with never ending stuff to learn, great food, etc. So if you marry a South Asian Hindu, you will have that. But there is no reason that you couldn't share those things with anyone you happened to fall in love with.

  7. I am in an inter-religious interracial relationship as well and each poses its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage for me is being with someone I care about and whose company I enjoy but also someone who challenges me in the way I see the world. The disadvantages are having to let go with how you saw your future before meeting that partner. I am a former Catholic (did you know there are more former Catholics in the US than Jews and Muslims combined?) and sort of going to way of Unitarian Universalism and he is Pakistani Muslim. He believes in his faith but isn't the strictest adherer. I think if we were both very strong believers in our religion it might not work.

  8. Good point, Desiree P! I have a friend in the same situation, her husband is Indian and his family has been Catholic for many generations.

    Kayla, it's true, I consider myself a very religious person and it's hard for me to see how people of different religions make it work in their relationships. Certainly, both being non-practicing or atheist works! Not having religion be the center of your life probably makes it do-able too.

    Kodanda, you're right, I left out the possibility of another white Hindu because it seems extremely unlikely! But it is possible.

  9. Anonymous, my heart breaks for you. I didn't think about that possibility either, but people do change their minds sometimes. And once you're already married, what a terrible shock that is to the partner! I wish I had a solution for you, that sounds really difficult. From what you've written it is sounding to me like he is having trouble with you remaining Christian? Did something major happen to make him dislike Christianity? *If you need to talk about it, I'm available, please send me an email at*

  10. LuckyFatima, thank you for sharing your story, that is interesting. I'm not surprised that converts would be interested in born-into-the-faith partners, even if just for some legitimacy, kind of stabilizing the family line. Not that that's all there is to it, of course!

    I am not ruling out any partner at this point. I'm trying to learn to surrender and be open to all the possibilities in life. I'll just see what comes. As I said to Kodanda, I think it's unlikely that I will find and marry another white convert just because there's so few of them!

    I'm also glad I'm not the only one fascinated by culture and wanting to be close to Indian culture. That's a large part of what this blog is about. I'm very certain in my religious beliefs for the most part, but I'm quite confused culturally speaking.

  11. Myusalife, it's good to see you here! I've been enjoying your blog very much and reading back through it.

    I'm not surprised to hear that there are more former Catholics in the U.S. than Jews and Muslims combined. I know a whole bunch of them myself!

    Since I am not in a relationship at the moment, this is all pondering and philosophical wondering, but I do find it interesting and encouraging that there are so many relationships mixed in both race and religion in some combination.

    The thing that makes me nervous about an inter-religious marriage for myself is children. I feel like I would be okay with my spouse being something else, but then once we had children I would want them raised only Hindu and I know a lot of people get more religious once they have children, so what if my spouse of another religion suddenly decided he wanted the children raised in his? Pure speculation, but something that I worry over (I'm good at worrying).

  12. Knowing that you want to raise your children Hindu is something that can pose problems in your future relationships if the person is not Hindu or does not want to practice it. That is why I really believe it is so crucial that couples, prior to even getting engaged, talk about these things. It is also important that you know what you want and also if it is something you are willing to sacrifice or compromise or not. If not, then it may not be even worth dating someone who does not share your same beliefs.

    I have a friend who is going through a divorce right now because she and her husband completely disagree on what religion their children will be raised in. Though my heart breaks for her, it was kind of expected since they didn't really discuss religion until they got married and talked about having children.

  13. Eeek, that is scary. I agree, it's an important thing to discuss before marriage. But even then, minds can change. I have a Jewish friend whose boyfriend always agreed they would raise their children Jewish, but once they were married and trying for children, he realized how much Christmas meant to him and he wanted to do it with the kids. She was furious.

  14. I find that if one is a Hindu,it is easy to accommodate other teachings/festivals that are comparable/compatible in message along with it. But the reverse,is difficult as most religions that are based on a Single all powerful[but easily provokable to vengence/anger Deity,with emphasise on the scripture/s[especially literal application] is difficult as they cannot accomodate another view of "God". As a Hindu studying in a Christian school, I had no problem in participating when Christmas,or Easter or other Feast Days for saints were celebrated[singing the Hymns did not make me feel less Hindu,[or even joining in prayers]. But I don't know about the reverse as few people of other faiths put their children in Hindu -Run schools as
    1) they are self financed and hence higher fees,unlike Minority institutions(in India).
    2) Why do they need to go to other faith schools when they have their own faith institutions ,which are more in number. While many don't object, there have been instances reported, of them protesting the singing of the Saraswathi Vandana or even Vande Mataram.
    As long as your child won't get "your mother is not a ________ hammered into his/her head every Sunday/Friday/any other day,if your partner is a regular, observing cum holyplace going person and doesn't object to you or your children going to temples and Balavihar classes.

  15. Correction to the above post.What I had meant to type was :
    As long as your child won't get "your mother is not a ________ and therefore will suffer in Hell hammered into his/her head every Sunday/Friday/any other day.
    Further,there is also ridicule for some practices that are not understood.It will not come out initially,but later as the relationship grows and would need a great deal of compromise from both couples ,to maintain the relationship.
    While there may be people of these faith who are tolerant there may also be those who are/become intolerant. This fact must be considered before entering a inter-religious relationship,especially if one is a Hindu.
    The other factors such as food and dress are more inter-cultural than religious.It happens here even amongst Hindu marriages when the partners come from different states of India ;or different castes.[even arranged marriages]

  16. Excellent information, Sita! I appreciate you weighing in on this issue.

    I suppose with all relationships there will always be compromise and differences that have to be reconciled.

    How that works depends a lot on the individuals in the relationship.

  17. Surya, the hard thing is that we were both of the same faith when we married, and had plans to raise our children in that tradition. But then he later rejected that notion, after marriage, and doesn't even want to have kids with me anymore as long as I still want what I've always wanted... he hasn't just rejected his faith, he's rejected me along with it. That's what's so hard.

    Aamba, thank you so much for your kind words. I've been keeping all of this inside. I've been scared to bring it up with any friends or family. I don't even think there was anything in particular that set off this change in him... it just seemed to come out of the blue. I honestly never thought I'd have to deal with something like this.

  18. Anonymous,

    The important Question you may want to ask yourself is, Are you carrying the flag for your religious team or are you carrying the flag for your family and love?

  19. Anonymous, I would really recommend talking to a therapist, a marriage counselor, even on your own, just to get their opinion. Someone who is trained in this would be able to guide you better.

    I'm going to go check my email in case you sent something, I'm terrible about checking it regularly!