This is a response to a Distractify article I read this morning:
Author’s Note: I’ll preface that this piece does discuss religion, both positively and negatively. Religion is a stressor in many families, and just like politics, a subject of contention for many. This response is to something I read that brings up the bigger issue of values and what is more important to someone – what makes you happy, or being true to one’s faith and putting it before happiness. If any of this is a bone of contention with a potential reader, I understand. If you choose to continue, I thank you for visiting. Opinions, as always, are welcome!
I normally take anything from sites tha appear to be “clickbait” (I refuse to ever say “fake news”) with a grain of salt (the title alone makes me wary), but while this may (only may, it may be legitimate) be a clickbait piece, it does bring up a bigger point about how religion should play into a relationship, or if it should at all.
In this article, the author discusses a contentious exchange of text messages between a male raised in the Jewish faith, but practicing Atheism, and his aunt. He is in a relationship with a girl, and according to the source material in the article, has been for four years. The catch here is that she is not of the faith. Her religion is not specified; all that is important to note is that she is not of the Jewish faith.
The conversation involves the happiness of the male “in the long term,” and how his choice of a non-Jewish female may make him happy “in the short term,” but that he can find everything he seeks for companionship in a Jewish girl. She imparts the importance of teachings, tradition, continuing the bloodline, how this interfaith coupling will not help the relationship the nephew has with his siblings, and that someone who is not of the faith could not possibly understand what people of the faith have been through.
Believe me, anyone who studied the Holocaust unit in high school (which was doubled in 11th grade, the year I had American Literature AND US History 2) knows what happened and understands. It doesn’t take being in the faith to be the only ones to truly understand.
I was raised in the Catholic faith. I went to public school, but attended CCD classes from first grade until eighth grade. I had my first Holy Communion in second grade and Confirmation in eighth grade, attended church during my formative years, and have prayed. As an adult, I’ve found my identity within the Catholic faith to be more spiritual in nature – I understand the religion, pray to myself, and believe. I’m comfortable with my faith and my status within it. I will never impart anything upon others who do not identify with Catholicism or pretend to be any more religious than I am. I do not attend church regularly. This is my choice, and my choice alone.
In other words, I’m not religious. My parents, the two people whose opinions I value as much as my fiancee’s opinion, know and understand where I am with religion. And that is all that matters.
My fiancee identifies as Atheist. He attended Catholic school in seventh and eighth grades, and learned about the religion and its teachings. He found it is not for him, and not what he believes. He has told me he envies those who believe (even my spiritual belief). Like him, I envy those who prescribe heavily to the faith, can quote the Bible, and live their lives with religion as the forefront. It is their choice (or calling?), and I respect that. It is not for me, it is not for him, and we are happy with who we are and what we choose to believe.
We are getting married next year. By choice, I do not want a church wedding. I could still have my ceremony in a church if I chose to, but I am foregoing this in favor of an officiator (I work with a woman who serves as one), and to have everything in one location. I’m citing convenience for my out of town guests, as well as personal preference. I’d rather be married in a place I’m happy to be in, and married by someone who knows me and takes my best interests at full value. I’d rather have someone who has known me for many years, and can preside over a ceremony where she (yes SHE – my planned officiator is female) can authentically address us in a heartfelt and personal way. I’m looking for more personal, and not a priest who doesn’t necessarily know me and my interests.
My other reason for not marrying in the Catholic church (even for only a ceremony and not a mass) is that we are not planning to have children. I’m 35, he’s 34 – we’re older and know what we want. Our plans do not include a family of our own. Between us, we have four nieces and a nephew. My life is full knowing that I children that I can love and have fun with, and be able to turn them back over to their parents. Our siblings (my brother, his two sisters) chose what they wanted. This is what we want. We have discussed that if we get to a point where we’d like to have a child, we would consider adoption. Again, this is our choosing.
The problem that I have with those who are heavily religious (and no, this is not how everyone in the faith is), is that these same people are also among the most contradictory sorts there could possibly be. I’m referring to Bible beaters and those who will never hear of any other way other than the “religious way.” While I understand where the aunt is coming from in this conversation, this is not what her nephew wants from life. He has met someone who he loves and wants to share his life with. He will create his own traditions, stand true to who he is, and love her the way she deserves to be loved, and for who she is, rather than what religion she prescribes to. Religion be damned, they are happy together. That is the only thing that matters, but to the aunt, nothing is more important than finding someone within the faith. Sure, she says he can have happiness (and should), but that he can find this within the faith.
I have a problem with this way of thinking. The aunt believes that no one can make him happy and (gasp!) not be of the Jewish faith. Like us Shiksas (like my Yiddish?) are not capable of long-term (read: forever) happiness. I find that incredibly hard to believe. This aunt quotes statistics without backing, says that his bloodline is effectively cut off due to his preference to not marry a Jewish girl, and that because he may have children with her (who says he has to?), they will not be Jewish. And that is not ok, at least not in her eyes.
The nephew informs her that he does not practice Judaism, and mentions that their (future, projected) children don’t necessarily have to share his faith, or hers, and can make their own choice shows that he a progressive thinker. This still isn’t good enough for her!
I got my hackles in a rise reading this, the way that I am while writing this. Religion is a touchy subject, right up there with politics. As I said, I was raised Catholic, and my fiancee identifies as Atheist. He is the most loving, caring, compassionate, smartest, and funniest person I’ve been romantically involved with. I’d rather spend my life with someone who fulfills me on those aspects than someone who fulfills the religious part of my makeup, and that alone.
I’ve been down this road with religion before. When I was twenty-one years old, and continuing until I was twenty-five, I was in a relationship with a man who was religious. He identified as Catholic, but very much a religious sort. His faith was (still is, I presume) important to him. When I was in my early twenties, I was in college, and finding out who I was, and what my purpose was going to be. I went to church regularly then. I found I wasn’t the most religious person, but I loved the guy, and I knew it fulfilled him as a person to attend regularly.
When the relationship ended, I knew religion wasn’t for me. Part of it is who I am, the other part is that he imparted – rather, imposed – his faithfulness onto me. He played the part of a “Good Catholic,” but was quite the contradictory individual. He preached, but he didn’t practice. He told me two years after we’d broken up (while I was still grappling with the repercussions of being in that relationship), that he planned to be a deacon, but had to be married before he could become one. If he wasn’t married before he became one, he couldn’t marry. I’m not sure why he was telling me this. It killed me inside to end the relationship, he hurt me with words, and he stopped fulfilling me the way he should have been able to do naturally, but he was telling me all of this long after we’d broken up. It only further solidified how I felt about religion. How could someone of so much faith be so contradictory? And don’t get me started on “friends with benefits.” He wanted that two years after the relationship ended. Not necessarily practicing Catholic or otherwise, that is against my values.
I have no ill feeling toward this individual anymore – it was a long time ago, and things have changed. I’ve changed, and I’m sure he has too. As I’ve found my way through life and have gotten more comfortable with what is important to me, I’ve made peace with all of it. Prehaps it is the “spiritual but not religious” aspect. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not, and can have faith on my own terms.
Many years later, I’m doing just that, without fear and worry about how others will judge me based on religion. I have my insecurities about other aspects of my life and how people judge them, but not when it comes to religion.
That’s how this young man in the article is – he has his faith and traditions on his own terms, as well as a relationship he is fulfilled in. His aunt needs to let him have this. There is no mention of his parents, aside from the young man implying some resentment with following his faith as a child.
And another thing, since the parents aren’t mentioned as having any involvement with this. Presumably, his parents are still alive, and have some opinion or weight in all of this. Why is the aunt taking this upon herself to provide a little “religious intervention”? That would be like anyone else imparting the same on me, when I have parents who clearly understand my feelings and know what I want. If this is a family member whose opinion hasn’t had any weight ever, then it should continue to be this way. I’m not saying disregard family members, but they should know their place. Overstepping boundaries is a big no-no.
I’m aware that this article is probably not real, but some manufactured clickbait made to sensationalize. However, it does bring up a bigger issue that should never be taken lightly. If it is real, however, I hope this young man has the guidance he needs, and the confidence and heart within him, to follow the path that ultimately makes him happy and fulfills him on every level.