After the Nuptials: Clergy Encouragement of the Spiritual Practices of Mixed-Faith Couples

Rev_Dale_Osborne
The Rev. W. Dale Osborne, associate pastor of Binkley Baptist Church, offering his support of our interfaith marriage at the Saffron Cross book launch in October 2013. Photo credit: Jim Harris

I’m so grateful for the good folks at the Hindu online magazine, The Harmonist, who have published an article I wrote on clergy encouragement of the spiritual practices of interfaith partners.

Here’s an excerpt:

Observers might use the term “quandary” or “mixed blessing” to describe marriages like mine, which is four years young and comprised of an ordained Baptist minister and a devout Hindu who formerly lived as monk.

Sometimes, “wrong” is the more forceful word in play, a harsh judgment that’s usually followed by a superficial interpretation of Paul’s admonition to the Church at Corinth against being “unequally yoked.”

Fred and I, like many other mixed-faith couples, are careful with whom we share our kind of marriage. A hesitant posture is on always standby, and often we revert to self-identifying as “ordained ministers” without specifying our religions. People make assumptions that we are both Christian clergy and move on, eager to share stories about their children and pets. We are all too relieved to hear them.

Head on over to The Harmonist to check out the rest!

Agree or disagree? Please leave a comment there. They are always up for lively discussion!

 


8 thoughts on “After the Nuptials: Clergy Encouragement of the Spiritual Practices of Mixed-Faith Couples”

  • Hi Dana,

    Came across yr website and read yr book which I found very enlightening and positive.

    My parents were both pastors and raised us in a strict household on Christian values.

    However I am unable to reconcile the religious doctrines even though on the surface, it seems to be similar. My concern here is the issue of pagan idolatry involved which is condemned in both the old & new testament.

    The Baptist missionaries were blessed to not not only save souls but rid nations of the past faith by destroying all their idols and altars, many would say this is extremism & radicalism. But isn’t that what the Prophets and believers did basing in on Biblical instructions, besides if it was wrong I am sure they would refrain from doing so. Moreover it was the contribution of Christians the last 300 yrs which set the foundation for our faith including Christian education.

    I have done missionary work across the globe in the past and prior to that I read books on Baptist missionary (especially the role of female missionaries) work from the distant past till the present era. I personally have personally destroyed many idols, altars, etc which I felt was justified base on the Bible.

    As a fervent Christian yrself, if you had not married a Hindu, would you have done the same, given the opportunity to uphold Biblical teachings to the fullest and what is yr view of the Baptist mission work in the past??

    Thank you for yr views!

    Have a blessed marriage :-))

    • Heather:

      Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate that you’ve shared your story, experiences, and posted this important question.

      First, I hear what you’re saying re: Christians and idol worship. However, the same God who condemned idol worship in Deuteronomy would also not approve of Christians making human-made images of Christ. The Israelites saw “no form” of God in Deuteronomy 4:12 and 4:15, therefore it was forbidden to depict the Divine in any way (Exodus 20:4). Christians, of course, have rejected this law in favor of images of heaven, Christ, the Trinity, and the actual Eucharist, which becomes a physical representation (or transubstantiation if you’re Catholic) of God. Ask any rabbi, and he (or she) will tell you that, according to Jewish tradition, these are significant problems with Christianity.

      In this way, Christians must be careful about citing Deuteronomy (or any OT law) as evidence for “destroying idols.” It’s a case of Matthew 7:3, where we point out the speck in another’s eye when we have a log in our own.

      When it comes to interfaith conversation and circumstances, I try to live by Matthew 7:3, which means that I am consistently evaluating how I can be a better, deeper Christian before critiquing anyone else’s theology or practice.

      But this is a recent revelation for me. Ten years ago, I might not have felt the same.

      My faith journey has shaped me in ways I never imagined possible. Thanks to service as a hospital chaplain, and having met and married Fred, I am much more open to the many ways in which folks approach God. I realize that not everyone is going to jump on board with this openness–and that’s OK. God made us all unique, which means our views are unique, too.

      I wouldn’t feel comfortable physically destroying anything that someone sees as Divine. I’d rather have a conversation about why and how the person came to worship in this way, and what it means to them.

      I hope this helps. Thanks so much for offering up this question and starting this conversation. It gave me an opportunity to refresh myself on the “idol laws.”

      All the best to you in your journey,
      Dana

      • Hi Dana,

        Thanks for responding!

        I agree with what you said above and feel we should reevaluate our actions before doing anything.

        What about abiding by GOD’s instruction to destroy idols?? Which we have read about in Christian history moreover Biblical theology dictates that we interpreted it literally and not give personal opinions.

        Have you done mission work or have friends who shared such stories with you.

        I have a friend who is serving a mission in Vietnam and she is asking me how to get rid of the idols given to her by new converts from Buddhism. Any suggestions?

        Thanks and have a nice day!!

        • Heather,

          The instruction to destroy idols is not the only teaching in the scripture that we should be focused upon.

          When Christ was asked about the greatest commandment, he responded by asking us to love God with our whole being and love our neighbor as ourselves. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:30-31, and Luke 10:27).

          To the extent that we do not have love for God in our hearts, we idolize worldly pursuits, including sense indulgence and wealth. These are the modern day idols that must be overthrown.

          “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)

          “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

          “No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:5)

          It would be better to destroy the idols in our own hearts. Setting a better example is the most powerful way to influence the world.

          “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age …” (Titus 2:11-12)

        • Heather:

          Per God’s instruction to destroy idols, I think it’s important for us to determine what exactly, are the actual idols of 2015.

          For example, I hail from a long line of Southern Baptists, many of whom might say that Orthodox Christian icons are idols. Other Protestant Christians might say Catholics participate in “idol worship” when they venerate statues and crucifixes. Per my last comment, Jews would say that Christians practice idol worship because we use “graven images” of God for use in our sacred spaces (Exodus 20:4).

          Idol worship, therefore, is the in the eye of the beholder. What’s more pressing to me are the modern day “idols” that distract us from worshiping God and following Jesus’ commandments to love our neighbor. They are: selfishness, money, greed, fame, power, material things, and workaholic attitudes.

          I have done significant mission work, mostly through World Changers construction/roofing projects. In that service, I never encountered idols to be destroyed, I only encountered families to serve and love. Per your friend, I encourage her to find a “home” for the Buddhist relics she’s been given. They are still sacred objects, because they belonged to someone who believed them to be so. They could be donated to a Buddhist temple or to a Buddhist practitioner.

          I hope this helps!

          Many thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing your experiences.

          Warmly,
          Dana

  • Hi Dana & Fred,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I too realize the deeper meaning of what idols are and as u have pointed out. It’s the idol of materialism we are pursuing subconsciously that distract us from GOD rather than external forms of worship, yet most have no clue of this.

    I told my friend base on your advise to donate it to a Buddhist temple however I added that it would be better for the original owners to do it. She agreed to do so. Thanks once again for the advise :-))

    It’s nice to see that you have done mission work in such gracious ways, I visited the website of World Changers and was quite impressed with their mission work. How long were you in missionary work? Did you ever travel to India for mission work?

    I would like to take this opportunity to ask you being in a inter-faith marriage with a Hindu, how would you perceive converting a Hindu to Christianity if it were part of your mission work?

    I ask this because we all have friends from different belief systems and we try to be tolerant or accepting of their faith. But when it comes to mission work it becomes rather difficult to resist not saving a soul and at the same time respecting another’s faith. It’s hard to face yr peers knowing that if they found out what you did, it would be deemed offensive. I have had past acquaintances who say mission work is about serving humanity not gaining converts or blaming their past faith for the situation they’re in.

    Thank you & Fred

    Heather

    • Heather:

      Thanks again for reading and for your thoughtful questions.

      Per missions work, I traveled and served with World Changers several summers during my high school years. I loved every minute, but always felt that the truest “gospel” lived in the nails I hammered and the love I shared, not necessarily evangelism with conversion in mind.

      Growing up in rural North Carolina, I’m sure there was a time when I would have tried to convert a Hindu to Christianity, for lack of seeing the broader picture. However, as I aged, met people from other faiths and cultures, served as a hospital chaplain, and traveled to India as a religious pilgrim, I saw that there was no need to try and convert practitioners of other faiths. Instead, I reveled in the idea of getting to know their stories, what brought them to their faith tradition, and how they practice.

      But, I’m not in the mission field, and I’m certain that missionaries whose churches and denominations have sent them forth to “go and make disciples” struggle with the pressure to convert those whom they meet. They are in my prayers, and I hope that they will one day be able to simply love those whom they meet without feeling it necessarily to convert them. It seems like this kind of gospel-with-feet attitude might speak louder than any words of evangelism we could utter!

      Thanks again!

      Dana

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