Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Thoughts on the Meaning of the Term “Mixed Marriage”

with 6 comments

Folks, it’s December 27, 2015. And I was thinking this morning about the changing definition of the term “mixed marriage.”

We rarely hear the term “mixed marriage” these days, but when we do, it usually refers to a marriage between two people of different races. For example, a black man marries a white woman, maybe…or an Asian woman marries a Hispanic man. So if you use the term “mixed marriage,” it’s usually seen to mean a marriage between people of two different races.

Now, does it matter much that one person is one color and the other is a different one, if the love is there? No, it does not. But there are still cultural differences, so the term “mixed marriage” seems to apply even if the awareness of the term and the meaning behind it seems to be changing.

That said, when my grandmother was a girl — in the 1920s and early 1930s — the term “mixed marriage” meant something entirely different. Then, it meant “a marriage between two people of different religions.” She entered into a marriage with my grandfather despite the fact she was Irish Catholic and he was German Protestant — and while in today’s terms no one would bat an eye, back then, that was not “the done thing.” (It might not have been scandalous, but it wasn’t exactly easy, either.)

Unfortunately, we seem to be returning to this earlier definition to a degree. Now, if a Muslim lady marries a Christian man in the United States, that term is getting trotted back out. And the feelings that term engenders of fear, disbelief, anger, worry, misunderstanding and more are back with a vengeance…mostly because the dominant culture of the United States doesn’t seem to know what to do with people raised in a different culture — and religion — entirely.

I don’t know why this is, to be honest. I do know that this isn’t the first time the United States has dealt with such an issue — and I know that because of my own, personal history.

It took years for my grandmother’s marriage to be first tolerated, then accepted, and then finally — in her seventies and eighties, after my grandfather passed away — seen as “what’s the big deal?”

We are starting to see that now, in mixed-race marriages. All sorts of biracial children are coming into their own — President Barack Obama is far from the only one. No one bats an eye at them, and no one should.

I hope that in time, we will see more tolerance and respect for people of all faiths, all cultures, all ethnicities, all skin colors, and all gender expressions.

Love is love. And we need to start respecting that, wherever we may find it.


Written by Barb Caffrey

December 27, 2015 at 5:29 am

6 Responses

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  1. *Most* of the “hatred” in a Muslim-Other Religion is from *Muslims.* Islam takes the “we are the one true religion” to an extreme. Islam doesn’t even _permit_ other religion to exist, much less be “equal.” Radical Islamists want to destroy anyone other than Sufi Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims. Even Christians come second on the “Destroy them” list. Think anti-protestant inquisition, but worse.
    In fact, AIUI, a Muslim-other religion marriage s regarded as _non-existent_, regardless of any legal/religious sanctioning.

    Walter Daniels

    December 27, 2015 at 7:45 am

    • Walter, you do know that the Sufis are a mystical branch of Islam? (The Sufis are not like the rest of the branches, either. They are extremely pacifistic, for one, and quite mystical. They’re almost closer to the Gnostic Christians, as I understand it, in certain respects.)

      But yes, branches of Islam have been fighting it out with the other branches (save the Sufis) for years. That does not mean we have to add to the problems.

      I’ve only known one person, personally, who converted to become a Muslim. She married a Muslim man, and she converted to his religion to please him. We used to work at the grocery store together, and one day she started wearing a headscarf while she worked. That was the only reason I knew she’d converted, and we didn’t discuss it much. (This was twenty years ago, roughly.) I treated her exactly the same as I had before she started wearing the headscarf.

      I’m aware that there have been interfaith marriages in Jerusalem for centuries. (Muslim-Jew or Muslim-Christian run into problems. Christian-Jew marriages are not particularly welcome there either, but seem to be a little better tolerated as far as I can tell.) And yes, the Muslims do not recognize them, as best as I’m aware.

      Still, I hope that one day there will be a way for people who are married and of different faiths to coexist, to be tolerated, on _both_ sides. Like the Protestants and Catholics tolerate each other now…it took decades in the United States, and centuries in the UK, for this to happen, and in some places like Northern Ireland it’s still very difficult. But it’s better.

      We need to work for progress on both sides. It will be a hard, tough slog. But I hope that in time we will be able to learn tolerance for everyone, and that the RIFs will cease to exist because they have nothing to push against. (Right now, any time there’s some ignorant person out there who tries to burn a Quran, that gives ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, among others, more fuel. It’s like burning a Bible would’ve been five hundred years ago in many places in the Western World or Latin America — or in some places, even now, sadly. But now, at least, it’s considered shameful — and that’s a start.)

      Barb Caffrey

      December 27, 2015 at 7:59 am

  2. Staying away from the “nature of Islam”, I do see possible problems with “Religious Mixed Marriages”.

    A person who takes his/her religion seriously can act differently from a person who does not. IE feels demands from his/her religion to behave in certain ways.

    This can cause problems within the marriage if the spouse is of a different religion (with different demands) or is non-religious.

    IMO this isn’t a matter for society but is a matter that the couple has to work out between the two of them.

    As a single guy, I can imagine the problems in dealing with a new person in my life and such problems can be worse when the “demands” of faith aren’t the same for both partners.

    This isn’t a matter of “bigotry”, this is a real potential problem that both individuals should be aware of.

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    December 27, 2015 at 11:02 am

    • Paul, I agree with you. It’s a clash of cultures, and it should be respected and worked out. If the love is there between a couple, hopefully they can find a way to make it work.

      Barb Caffrey

      December 27, 2015 at 11:03 am

  3. Well. It is discerning for me, that differences in religious beliefs are coming up as the new “mixed marriage”, and while yes, there are obvious cultural differences, at least between Catholic and Lutheran, there are certain celebration such as Advent/Christmas, Lent/Easter, etc. that we have in common. Not so much when we look at Islam vs. Christianity, Judaism vs. Buddhism, Hinduism vs. Theosophy etc. The Native American Spirituality may actually mesh well with Shintoism. Because so many traditions differ, not only from one sect to another, but also by religious differences, cultural differences in other form – such as a Japanese Christian vs. Irish Christian may have the cultural differences because they are from so different backgrounds, even if they are from the same sect (Lutheran, Baptist, what have you).

    I guess being that I am a Universalist, meaning I am almost none of the above and almost same as above at the same time…


    December 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    • I understand, Lika.

      I have studied a lot of different religious expressions, and I tend to believe that most faiths have seen fractions of one greater truth. How they describe it differs, but that truth remains the same.

      I don’t know what’ll happen down the line with mixed-faith marriages. But I do know that I hope love will prevail, and that people will make allowances and get to know folks of different religions before condemning them out of hand. (It wasn’t that long ago that the Sikh Temple had that shooting up in Oak Creek. And the Sikhs are a nobler religion than many…I hope that if I met a man who was of a different faith, I’d try to at least understand where he was coming from before deciding, “Nope, I’m not going to date that Muslim/Sikh/Hindu/Theosophist guy ’cause I don’t understand his religion and don’t want to, either.”)

      Barb Caffrey

      December 27, 2015 at 7:58 pm

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