Are there successful interfaith marriages?

Interreligious (Christian-Islamic) marriage in theory and practice - Zehra, Michael, tell us!

Religious scholars can be religious, but do not have to be. Many are expressly not - my doctoral supervisor Prof. Günter Kehrer, for example, is a well-known critic of religion. For scientific work, however, this diversity is rather attractive: Because like other empirical sciences, we do not start from beliefs, but from facts that can be checked independently of religion or worldview (for example, the higher number of children on average among religious people). Therefore, I also feel most comfortable and secure when I can simply report factually informative about the diverse findings of religious studies and the topics of my books (because like every author I am happy about every reader).

But of course it happens again and again that people also want to know how I “actually myself” feel about believing and praying. "Are you actually religious yourself, Mr. Blume?" - “Is it true that you are married to a Muslim woman?” - “Can that work with two religions?” - “Are your children baptized?” - “What does your wife say about Easter?” - “Aren't you both afraid of one of you going to hell?”

Because, of course: For most people, “religion” is not something abstract (“objective”), but something very personal (“subjective”). Many - such as young couples or religious officials - also really need to find out what has proven itself and what has not. So my wife and I finally decided to answer honestly and appropriately questions honestly and politely.

It is true that we only allow journalists into our private lives in exceptional cases. But when Vanessa Fetchenhauer-Köneke, a dear friend and honorary editor at “Wegweiser”, the members' magazine of the Evangelical Church Community Cologne-Klettenberg, recently asked for a short, “personal experience report” from our marriage for the “Faith in Dialogue” issue, said we finally agree after internal consultation. Especially in view of terrorism, extremism and racism, we want to make it clear that love is possible across differences and can be stronger than fear and hatred. We don't see ourselves as a “showcase couple”, but simply as one of thousands and thousands of married couples in liberal Germany.

The short article is available for free download (pdf) here:

Blume, M. (2016): Interfaith Marriage. A personal experience report. In: Wegweiser April 2016, pp. 8 - 9, Cologne

Young freed, (so far) never regretted. A wedding photo from 1997. Michael Blume (then Lance Corporal in the German Armed Forces)

Which Tips we give inquiring, interreligious couples?

1. An interfaith marriage can succeed. Religious communities that do not accept serious love affairs are not worth your membership. For example, the NT Bible says 1 Corinthians 13:13:

But now there remains faith, hope, love, these three; but love is the greatest of them.

Of course, the problem is often not the religious communities but traditional families - not infrequently with a mixture of religious and racist prejudices. But whoever submits to such “family rules” can under certain circumstances suffer a whole life from missing or wrong relationships. Of course, an interreligious marriage can also fail - but then it was at least a serious attempt by two self-determined people.

2. Conversely, however, it is important to discuss and agree religion-related issues before marriage, as long as "the sky is still full of violins".

Because even if religion in youth and in the exuberance of new love perhaps hardly plays a role at first, it can of course in every life Crises occur and also children join in. If the couple has not agreed on basic rules, it may be too late and conflicts may escalate. Classic basic questions, ideally to be clarified at the beginning, are:

a) Can everyone live their own religious identity in marriage or does one or the other have to submit to or even convert?

(It was completely clear to us that we would both keep and cultivate our faith instead of feigning a conversion. A voluntary conversion would have been okay, but it did not happen for us. Sometimes a religious subordination enforced by a family, for example, can also be a problem create dangerous imbalance in the marriage as a whole. So it is clear to us that there is no pork in our household out of consideration for Zehra. Instead, alcohol - in moderation - is allowed. Etc.)

b) How are the children raised religiously? Are they committed to a religion from birth or are they allowed to make their own decisions from youth?

(We have decided to organize a blessing celebration with families and friends for each of our children, at which they will each be blessed Christian and Islamic. The boy circumcision was also carried out with Jesus, so it was not a problem for me as a Christian, but in the first Weeks of life, medical and without a festival. Conversely, the children at the elementary school could attend Protestant religious instruction. We educate them in both religions, pray with them individually and together (e.g. at table), celebrate the festivals and visit places of worship. From the age of 12 Years they can then decide for themselves whether and which church or religious community they want to join. We congratulate them together if they find a suitable faith and meaning in life for themselves.)

c) Marriage not only connects individuals, but also families, groups of friends and communities. How do we deal with possible pressure and attempts at influence from communities or families?

(It was clear to us that we each wanted to love and honor our parents - but that this should not mean that we should be turned against each other. In case of doubt, each of us had a common position towards our own family, friends or To represent the community. Also thanks to the love and tolerance of our families that worked out very well; we are now even living in a multigenerational house.)

3. A interfaith marriage means more challenges and efforts, but definitely also opportunities. Exchanging identities, religious influences and future issues early on in the relationship is not at all "annoying" in times of fresh love, but makes sense and can help clarify "how serious the matter is". And those who have learned to exchange ideas about deep feelings, terms, symbols and rituals are often more capable of dialogue in other areas of life.

For example, the Bible describes the physical fulfillment of love between Adam and Eve as "Detect" (Genesis 4.1), because ideally it is about a holistic encounter. Almost everyone can “talk about sex” somehow, but real, interpersonal dialogue means a lot more.

The Immerse yourself in the different traditions and beliefs of the spouses is also for many relatives and friends very interesting. For example, many non-Christians would like to celebrate “really” Christmas, many non-Muslims would be guests at an Iftar on Ramadan, many non-Jews would celebrate Passover, etc. Through appropriate invitations and visits, interreligious couples can also build bridges for others and thus not only have joy and spread knowledge, but also understanding and peace. Curiosity is something beautiful and people often ask and laugh a lot at colorful festivals!

Valentine's Day 2016: 19 years after the wedding together on their way to the Berlin Cathedral. Photo: Michael Blume

Which Tips we give inquiring religious officials?

1. In a liberal and urban (urban) society can be Do not prevent interreligious love relationships. They can only be largely avoided by very strict partitioning off in their own settlements and neighborhoods, such as the Old Oder Amish or the strictly Orthodox Jews. With the departure from their villages, however, this was no longer possible in the past, even in the past, strictly endogamous (only marrying among each other) communities such as the Alevis and Yezidi. Here, on the other hand, the "Traditionalism trap”Also demographically: Anyone who continues to forbid honest love relationships to young people due to outdated traditions causes suffering and shame, forces them to“ unofficial ”relationships and ultimately to postpone or even give up starting a family - and to quietly withdraw from the religious community.

2. Very much It is therefore more philanthropic, more credible and, in the long run, more successful to welcome interfaith couples and their children to the communityto accompany and involve them. In many cases this will help to keep the ties to the religious community alive or even renew them, often over the generations.

3. In every free society, migration, conversions and the large number of children of religious families inevitably increase religious diversity. Interreligious couples can build true-to-life bridges between communities and cultures so that demarcations and prejudices can be counteracted and commonalities reinforced. So they can be viewed not only as a “problem”, but also as a potential. The fact that today Catholic and Protestant Christians work together peacefully and well has to do with the thousands and thousands of “mixed families” who often had a difficult time at the beginning ...

Ultimately, married couples - completely regardless of their religious affiliation - are ideally also lovers and then often loving parents. Those who mean it really well with them and with our society as a whole also shape religious traditions in such a way that they do not stifle love, but promote it.

So, that was a very personal, subjective and exceptionally long blog post. A happy Easter or Purim festival or just a nice and relaxing weekend to everyone who is celebrating it!

I'll give you back to the homepage, the author's page and evolution research around religion (s) ...

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  • Keywords: Christian-Islamic dialogue, faith, hope, interreligious marriage, love, Michael Blume, objectivity, religion and demography, religions, religious diversity, subjectivity, traditionalism trap, Zehra Blume

Dr. Michael Blume studied religious and political science and did his doctorate on religion in brain and evolutionary research. University lecturer, science blogger & Christian-Islamic family man, author, among others "Islam in the Crisis" (2017), "Why Anti-Semitism Threats Us All" (2019) & "Conspiracy Myths". Has also experienced and survived a lot in crisis regions, representative of the state government BW against anti-Semitism. For many years he has blogged weekly on "Nature of Faith" in order to make religious studies accessible and open to discussion.