Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk

While the rest of America digested fried turkey, I sat at a computer in the apartment I shared with my mother and checked several hundred boxes describing my temperament and habits. I pored over endless squares indicating my desires in a partner: values, physical attributes, nature, habits, spirituality, religion, or lack thereof. I worked hard to spare myself from a psychopathic, balding smoker with a TV addiction and moved onto more sacred matters.The eHarmony television commercials had been enticing: a silver-haired Dr. Neil Clark Warren boasted that, for the price of new shoes, his lengthy questionnaire would help me meet the love of my life...

Dr. Warren was a clever devil. His dating service set itself apart from the competition with this dissertation-length survey that included the added component of faith not limited to Christianity. "What faith(s) would you accept in a partner?" The eHarmony algorithms inquired.

My dating history had been insularly Christian, save for the nonpracticing Muslim law student I dated briefly while at Salem College. What would I accept? Tolerate? I ticked off "Christian" and "Jewish" without hesitation and narrowed the field. The Jewish bit was no surprise; I felt kinship with my Hebrew brothers and sisters and had had a lifelong infatuation with Adam Levine lookalikes. But the remaining traditions? I bit my lip and wondered. How did I feel about "Muslim," "Buddhist," "Hindu," "Spiritual, but not religious," "Agnostic," and "Atheist"?

The last two were out; it would be difficult to bridge the gap between a Christian minister and someone who wasn’t, at the very least, seeking God. The global traditions remained. I looked out the window in search of an answer... My pool of suitors was shrinking, and as far as I was concerned, I was one inch closer to turning 45 and having 27 cats. I needn’t decrease my chances further by being picky about the ways in which a future beau approaches God.

"All remaining world religions? Sure."

I ticked them off one at a time, while whispering this mantra: "The possibility that I’d get matched
with anyone who wasn’t a Christian is minute, anyway, right?"

"Right," God giggled.

—From Chapter 2: eHarmony

Saffron Cross in the News

“I had become complacent in my Christianity,” said Trent, an ordained Baptist minister. “Now my religion and spirituality have become much more integrated in my life.”

Baptist-Hindu Couple Write How-To Book on Interfaith Marriage
Religion News Service, Bob Smietana, October 25, 2013

Q: How do you reconcile your church's teachings on heaven, hell, and the afterlife with your husband's very different beliefs? Do you hope/pray for his conversion to Christianity?

A: I have accepted Jesus as my personal savior and Christianity as my individual spiritual path. But I have also learned—in the most humble of ways—through mistakes, seminary, program ministries, chaplain and nonprofit work—that Jesus is not everyone’s chosen savior.

Ask an Interfaith Couple: Questions and Responses
Rachel Held Evans, October 1, 2013 and October 8, 2013

20 New Religious Books to Give This Holiday Season
Huffington Post, C. Christopher Smith, December, 3, 2013

Mentioned in: Children of a Not So Lesser God
Wall Street Journal, Naomi Schaefer Riley, November, 28 2013

The Love Story of an Unlikely Pair
Beliefnet, Angela Guzman, November 7, 2013

Love Conquers Faith (Video)
WRAL, Bill Leslie, October 4, 2013

“It's difficult for me to deny the validity of the global traditions—given their rich history, scripture and most importantly their results,” she said. “The essential discernment is: does the faith path deepen the individual's experience and relationship with God and their fellow humans? For me, that is the ultimate truth of religion.”

New Book Details Baptist/Hindu Marriage
Associated Baptist Press, Bob Allen, October 28, 2013

Dana is most in her theological element when she has ostensibly stepped outside of it. Her deepest insights into her relationship with God (and Fred) almost spring up underfoot as she moves, serves, and worships her way around the 20-acre Hindu monastery in northern California where Fred lived for two years as a celibate priest and student.

Review: Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk
Harmonist, Gopal dasa, October 1, 2013

“We are very fortunate to belong to two faith communities that are extremely progressive,” Trent said. “My church has welcomed Fred—he teaches Sunday School, we had our book opening there. The Hindu community has welcomed me, and we’ve had the support of our faith communities and families, surprisingly.”

Divinity School Grad Presents Memoir on Interfaith Marriage
Duke University Chronicle, Katie Becker, October 16, 2013

Trent’s book describes how she—a Baptist minister—met and fell in love with Fred Eaker, a practicing Hindu. The rapid increase in interfaith marriage poses a significant pastoral challenge for the Christian church. It’s important to remember that this is not the first time in which the Christian church has had to engage in pastoral and theological reflection on the nature of marriage and of marriage to those who are outside the household of faith.

A Hindu Monk and a Baptist Preacher Got Married
Juicy Ecumenism, Jeff Gissing, November 29, 2013

One of the most positive changes for me was that being married to a Hindu has actually enriched my Christian tradition. Faith and life are so integrated in Hinduism, and being married to Fred has forced me to do that more. One of the main ways has been vegetarianism. One of the main misconceptions about interfaith marriage has been that people will lose their own faith. I’ve found that the opposite is actually true. Being with Fred has made me ask more questions about my faith and it has deepened my spiritual journey. Vegetarianism is something that I do all day, every day, so it’s made me more mindful both of food and consumption in general.

So I Married a Hindu: A Q&A about “Saffron Cross”
Flunking Sainthood, Jana Riess, October 2, 2013

An Interview with Dana Trent and Fred Eaker on "Saffron Cross" and interfaith marriage (podcast)
Foundation on Religious Diplomacy, John W. Morehead, October 28, 2013

Saffron Cross invites us to reflect upon what it takes for love to thrive in an interfaith marriage, and one brave and devoted couple’s commitment to showing how the love between a husband and wife has an amazing potential to deepen love of God.

A Sexless Honeymoon?
Elephant Journal, Catherine Ghosh, December 20, 2013

Endorsements

As a multi-racial democracy, America is only a teenager. As a multi-faith society, we're just a toddler. I'm deeply grateful for my Baptist sister Dana, who loves Jesus with all her heart and also loves her Hindu husband. We need stories like this one to help us imagine who we might become. The good news of this book is the hope that Christians can know Jesus better by loving the spiritual stranger next door.Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door

J. Dana Trent's remarkable memoir is a compelling exploration of love at the edge of spirit. This story points toward a revolution in brand-name religion that may be a hallmark of America's religious landscape in the not-too-distant future. I heartily recommend you read this book.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, award winning author, poet, essayist, and educator

Dana Trent puts a human, and often humorous, face on the growing reality of interfaith marriage. From her struggles to become a vegetarian to her Hindu husband's efforts to understand prayer, Trent's account reveals an east-meets-west partnership that succeeds in mutual respect and love.Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood and The Twible

J. Dana Trent takes an exceptional story and makes it somehow universal. By turns funny, endearing, challenging and illuminating, Saffron Cross describes the interfaith future of our global village.Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family.

J. Dana Trent’s Saffron Cross carries on in the spirit of Klaus Klostermeier’s Hindu and Christian in Vrindavan; Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain; Hayagriva Dasa’s Vrindavan Days: Memories of an Indian Holy Town; David Haberman’s Journey Through the Twelve Forests: An Encounter with Krishna; and Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Home. An articulate, seasoned author, her writing style is engaging and her memoir descriptive. On almost every page, one finds deep truths colorfully and effortlessly conveyed through everyday adventures. This makes the book a pleasure to read. It is also significant for its interreligious content: Here is a person who really understands the nonsectarian and pluralistic component of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, not merely on an intellectual level but through real life experience. Trent’s work is a gift that will be cherished for generations.”
Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), author of Christ and Krishna: Where the Jordan Meets the Ganges, and editor, Journal of Vaishnava Studies

The timing of Saffron Cross is important. The cultural diversity in our country is changing rapidly, and so, there are likely to be many couples who are going to risk an interfaith marriage. Saffron Cross will give them courage and also concludes that each partner to the marriage can enrich the devotional life of the other.Dr. Robert Seymour, Author, Activist, and Pastor Emeritus of the Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church

Narrated with passion and charming humor, Saffron Cross provides an honest and inspiring glimpse into the attractions and challenges of interfaith marriage.  Trent gives the reader a candid and insightful account of the psychological and religious obstacles encountered in her marriage to a devout adherent of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. She also shows how two different faith traditions can freely move in the shared and sacred space of love and marital commitment, a movement that for Trent facilitated a beautiful deepening of her marital bond and spiritual development as a Christian. Dr. Michael Sudduth, Department of Philosophy, San Francisco State University

Saffron Cross is a heartfelt, beautiful story of an already faithful Christian being pulled closer to Christ through the most unlikely teacher. This book has the capacity to make you yearn for a life in which Jesus really is at the center as you journey through a budding romance, the crowded streets of India, and a nearby temple where you may find yourself bowing to a strange (but faithful) altar, as well.The Rev. Dr. Donna Claycomb Sokol, Blogger and Pastor, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church

This is a memoir not just for those already involved in interfaith relationships or ministries, but all of us who want to understand how to grow in faith alongside all our neighbors. Because, as Saffron Cross shows us, we are indeed more alike than we are different in our desire for God—we just have to do the work to see it for ourselves.The Rev. Elizabeth Evans Hagan, Minister and creator of Preacher on the Plaza

In Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk ordained Baptist minister J Dana Trent engagingly uses her own experience (including both eHarmony and spirituality) to inform and enrich the lives of others. This is a wonderful lesson for living!Lucy Daniels, PhD, psychologist, author, and Guggenheim Fellow

Saffron Cross was a stimulating, and joyous adventure that I could barely put down. I devoured its tasty contents in two sittings and wanted more. It is truly a sincere, painfully honest, account that is sure to charm readers. Considering Dana’s background as a Baptist minister I found her encounter with Gaudiya Vaishnava theology and practice especially courageous, proving that by love, sincerity, and intense prayer, we can understand that which is beyond both material reasoning and religious formularies. Like every good story Dana’s journey with her husband to find spiritual unity in diversity was a struggle, and yet their success together in honoring both faith traditions demonstrates the grace of God, the Pilgrim’s Journey. This book can encourage others who embark on an interfaith marriage, revealing the universality of the One Power and God of all, reminding us that we will notice what we focus on with faith, either disparities or harmony.Karnamrita Das, bhakti practitioner, spiritual teacher, hope broker, and author of Give to Live