The debate still rages across the Jewish world, and especially within Messianic Jewish circles, over the issue of intermarriage. Recent studies have placed the intermarriage rate within the Jewish community well over the 50% mark. And the numbers are even higher within the Messianic Jewish movement.
Of course there is debate over whether or not this is a good thing – for kids of mixed marriages, for the future of the Jewish people, for Messianic Judaism, etc. But one thing seems to be clear … interfaith marriages have a higher tendency to fail.
According to a recent article in The Washington Post, interfaith couples face “particular hardships and a poor track record of interfaith marriages: They fail at higher rates than same-faith marriages. But couples don’t want to hear that, and no one really wants to tell them.”
Here are some findings published in the article:
- According to the General Social Survey, 15 percent of U.S. households were mixed-faith in 1988. That number rose to 25 percent by 2006, and the increase shows no signs of slowing.
- According to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.
- Less than a quarter of the 18- to 23-year-old respondents in the National Study of Youth and Religion think it’s important to marry someone of the same faith.
In 1993, Professor Evelyn Lehrer, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, reported findings showing that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40 percent chance of being divorced in five years.
The odds are not too good …
However, many intermarried couples have found in Messianic Judaism answers to the intermarriage dilemma. In fact, Messianic Judaism can be uniquely situated to address the specific needs each partner brings into a marriage. I am one advocate who feels we need to do even more to reach out to intermarried couples and families, and empower those already in our midst.
At the same time we need to be advocating for fellow Jews to marry other Jews. Not only for the myriad of continuity reasons being discussed – but it also seems for the benefit of the couple and their marriage, as well.
What do you think?