Interfaith Couples: Anthony and Jennifer

To celebrate Interfaith Week, we’ll be publishing a series of interviews with couples from Tampa Bay (and beyond) in the coming month to raise awareness about the importance of interfaith and inter-religious dialogue – especially within the family.

First up, Anthony and Jennifer.

UPDATE: Since Anthony and Jennifer met in an anonymous recovery program, their names have been changed to protect their identities. In fact, this is not a photo of Anthony and Jennifer. However, we assure you, Anthony and Jennifer are a real couple, living in the Tampa Bay Area. 

happy-young-couple-590

What is your full name?

Anthony M.

What is your occupation?

Freelance marketing geek.

How did you meet your partner?

We became friends in an anonymous recovery group.

Are you married?

A boy can dream.

With what religion or faith do you identify?

I’m atheist.

On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the least), how seriously do you take your personal faith or philosophy?

Four.

Has your relationship been tested by your partner having a different set of values or beliefs than your own? Can you give examples?

Only speaking for myself, the relationship really hasn’t been tested on that basis.

How has your relationship been made stronger by your partner having a different set of values or beliefs than your own?

Yes, I think it has. I have a deep respect for her beliefs and she is highly committed to honoring the God that she believes in. This commitment of hers and the multiple daily prayers that accompany it are a reminder to me of her strong foundation, her insanely rich capacity for empathy and her will to do what is right.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I am so completely and stupidly in love with her.

Have you incorporated any of your partner’s beliefs into your own?
Can you give any examples?

Prayer is interesting…

Have you had to reconcile any dogmatic or creedal religious teachings (heaven/hell, reincarnation, the trinity, karma, etc.) with those of your partner? Can you provide examples of how you accomplished this?

We’ve a discrepancy on luck/fate. She seemingly believes there are no coincidences while I bank on them. I don’t believe in any of the things listed above, while she certainly incorporates a few, but have we had to ‘reconcile’ these? No, we’re not linked at the cortex, we’re two people. We’re aware of our tendencies to assimilate, and neither of us really need to go there very badly. Additionally, the differences between us are often a good check on my own moral compass.

Do you have any children? If so, how do your values or beliefs influence how you raise them?

Nope.

In what ways do you worship, celebrate or express your spirituality together as a family?

So, here’s the guts of what I got for you; We have prayed together, and we have also prayed in a group with others. Now what’s an atheist doing praying and dating a non-atheist?

A large part of the program we’re involved in incorporates the concept of a higher power. For most of my life, I did not have one of these and when I tried to understand the teachings of this recovery program, it simply did not make sense or work for me. When I tried to adopt the religions of others and have a faith that I fundamentally, literally, did not believe in, the program worked but only for a little while. For me, a higher power is an immensely personal thing, in that if you do not believe in it, you should not even try. Pretending or ‘posing’ as someone who does believe is one of the things that led me to slip and nearly got me killed. When I came back, I instead started to look at what I do believe in instead of trying to adopt something I didn’t. In that introspection, I found a higher power that is very real, all encompassing, and explains everything that needs explaining to this alcoholic. I no longer need to be envious of a Christian, or Muslim, or condescendingly look at religion as simplistic. I can believe in the universe, and have faith in the unseen and unknown. I can use that.

In this program that I am involved in, we pray at the beginning and ending of every meeting, Christian prayers. For some time I would sit that part out, and still do… not out of protest, but because of the personal danger that I have seen in my nature to acquiesce my moral foundation. I worried that if I prayed with them, my own understanding of higher power might disappear. Over time though, as I grow more confident in my own spirituality, I find myself praying with them anyway for several reasons. To take that time to meditate with my own higher power, to remind myself that I am not very important, and sometimes to, simply with a removal of my hat, pray in a church out of respect.

Do you have any advice for couples that are questioning whether an interfaith relationship may be right for them?

Yes, don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Common ground can not only be found in the similarities of religions but in the mere purpose behind your seeking/practicing them. Mostly, all of us want to do what’s right, and would like a little direction. Most of the people in the world have a religion that has been determined merely by the location of their birth, because most of those religions have doctrines that proclaim disbelief a sin punishable by eternal damnation. Yet these religions all preach the commonality of love, do good, be good.. Take a step back and look at it like a god (God? I don’t know) might. If you’re true to yourself and are living a spiritually positive life then what just God would punish you, and why would he do that, sans a low self-esteem issue? I prefer to live it out like He’s not there and be one of the good guys, regardless. If that doesn’t make God proud of me, then he is nothing but gravitation, and sleep is the golden goal.

 


What is your full name?  

Jennifer M.

What is your occupation?  

Vice President of Operations for a financial services firm.

How did you meet your partner?

In a recovery program.

Are you married?

No.

With what religion or faith do you identify?

Christian.

On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the least), how seriously do you take your personal faith or philosophy?

Four.

Has your relationship been tested by your partner having a different set of values or beliefs than your own? Can you give examples?  

I would say that my partner and I share many of the same values (principles, ethics, morals, code of behavior) but different beliefs (I believe in God and he is an Atheist).  Fundamentally, we would not be in a relationship if our values did not align, and so far there have been no signs of that. Our religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are very personal to each of us. We respect that about ourselves and each other. We are both pretty tolerant of the differences in people, and we talk about that a lot. The answer is no, our relationship has not been tested by these factors.

How has your relationship been made stronger by your partner having a different set of values or beliefs than your own?  

My own faith has been made stronger by my ability to keep it very personal, without a lot of outside influence from others. My stronger faith allows me to be a better person, and in turn, a better partner.

Have you incorporated any of your partner’s beliefs into your own?
Can you give any examples?  

We practice similar principles that we live by. Some of those principles rely heavily on personal faith or beliefs which are private. We discuss the principles extensively, and when it comes to the part of the principles that rely on our faith, we share our thoughts and that’s pretty much where it ends.

Have you had to reconcile any dogmatic or creedal religious teachings (heaven/hell, reincarnation, the trinity, karma, etc.) with those of your partner? Can you provide examples of how you accomplished this?  

We share our thoughts on these things, rather I share my thoughts and beliefs from about heaven, God, God’s plan for me, that there are no coincidences, faith, etc.. He is very respectful of my beliefs and allows me to express them without challenging them. We openly discuss his previous experience with

Christian and Catholic practices, and how they have formed his current Atheist beliefs. I listen with respect and little challenge, other than to share my own experiences. The answer so far is no, we have not had to reconcile any dogmatic or creedal religious teachings.

Do you have any children? If so, how do your values or beliefs influence how you raise them?  

No.

In what ways do you worship, celebrate or express your spirituality together as a family?  

He knows that I pray in the morning and before bed. I know that he has his own rituals, but I don’t know exactly what they are. We do not worship together, but we talk about the principles that we live by quite often (which is different than our religious beliefs or worship practices).

Do you have any advice for couples that are questioning whether an interfaith relationship may be right for them?  

You have to be comfortable with your own beliefs, yet respectful and open-minded of the fact that they are not the beliefs of others. You can’t allow your own insecurities to be the gateway for others to test your faith, even your partner. And at the same time, you can’t have the type of ego that insists that you influence or change the beliefs of your partner. If you are comfortable with these things and you truly care about the other person, then go for it. But certainly talk about it early on so that you aren’t caught in a precarious situation when it’s too late to amicably pull out without hurt feelings.

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About Joran Slane Oppelt

Author, Musician, Interfaith Minister, Chaplain, Public Speaker, Event Producer, Marketing Professional, Husband, Father - Not necessarily in that order. Follow me on Twitter @joranslane. View all posts by Joran Slane Oppelt

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