Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Christian/Hindu Interfaith Marriage Dilemma

I actively work to recognize my own cultural shortcomings and I also seek out to find where I get my views and beliefs from. It's always eye opening to discover something I hadn't yet realized about myself. As I've mentioned before, I was raised in the Holiness Christian church. This is a strict denomination of Christianity and as such it gave me a set of standards that I've recognized and had difficulty living up to my whole life.

Today I was watching some videos and documentaries for another blog post and something in one of them struck me. As part of my upbringing I was encouraged, taught and expected to associate more with other Christians than with 'secular' individuals. Even to this day some of my family members push the attitude of only living within the church and Christian community while avoiding all things non-Christian.

So I'm watching this video on and it dawns on me that is one thing that is difficult to overcome in an interfaith marriage. The little things you were raised to believe that you don't even realize are part of your faith. Things like not associating with other religions or giving them the chance to expose you to their 'heathen' ways.

For me I think this underlying concept affected how I adjusted to my life in India. I have some pretty ingrained views about feet (and of course feet-touching), cleanliness in the home (which I admit borders on OCD) and accepting food from other people. I pay a lot of attention to my life. Some of that comes from my current job training but I would like to think I was pretty aware before that.

So I've noticed that when I go to a potluck here in the states (typically at my mothers church) I don't think much about who cooked what and how and how they prepared it. I just assume that it's been done to the same standards I grew up with. On the few potlucks I've been to outside of church, I was only a little hesitant and it didn't affect me much. I did have dinner at a friends house once who was Wiccan and though I myself had dabbled in Wicca in my teen years, I didn't feel comfortable eating her food. I had the same level of discomfort in India, ultimately winding up starving myself.

So what had being Christian taught me:
  • Hold yourself and others to high standards that can't be reached
  • Judge others based on religious preferences
  • Distance yourself from all things non-Christian lest you be scarred for life
  • Anything secular is evil and one should never incite emotions of any kind (arousal, anger, fear, etc.) 
  • You must convert everyone. Everyone should be Christian.
In my life now, I know better than that though. There is very little acceptance/tolerance in the Christian church. A religion that promotes 'love' seems to have very little unless you conform first. I did conform for a long time. I worked in the church for 12-13 years. The love wasn't there in the form they promoted it to be.

All of these things have made adjusting to my husband quite a task for me. It's me, I recognize that. It's things I need to deal with but that doesn't make it easy in the moment those deep ingrained religious teachings are rearing their ugly head to just step back. I'm doing okay with it but sometimes I have to walk away for a minute or stop and think. 

What I realize now that I have left the Christian church:
  • There is a substantial amount of hypocrisy within the church. 
  • There are a substantial amount of double-standards in the church. (Only non-Christians can be possessed by demons and engage in devilish behavior is what is taught but I have been personally attacked within the church over charity work I was doing in the community - by the preachers daughter!)
  • There is a serious need to control people within and outside of the church. It's like a system of forced free will. You don't always see the forcing and controlling but it is there. It's an underlying current of things you must do if you want to make it to heaven and be accepted by the church. Don't do one little thing and see where that gets you. It's almost like a co-dependency type of setup.
This is a system I'm glad I've left. I still maintain quite a bit of my views about God. I also see a considerable amount of the Christian principles I grew up believing alive in Hinduism. It amazes me that so much of the two religions align and how much of Christian history matches Hindu stories that were in existence long before Christianity.


  1. Your objections to feet touching maybe related to cleanness/respect. In India, we respect to elders/teachers come naturally. Ever seen a Punjabi touch feet of an elder. He will bend down and touch the knees of the person, or pretend to do so and say "Pari pana" (I touch your feet). There is quiet a distance between hand and feet. It is quiet hilarious.

    BTW, Hinduism with all its ills, is probably the only religion of the world which does not insist on conversion. You can practice certain aspects of Hinduism like yoga, ayurveda etc., but retain your faith while other religions insist on conversion. There is nothing like conversion in Hinduism. They were numerous in number so probably never needed to convert anybody to increase their numbers. Islam and Christianity are obsessed with conversion. Both the religions go on and on about how other religions are inferior and salvation lies in their religion.

  2. It's always hard to challenge things that you've grown up believing. Religions, worldwide, seek to control individuals, despite all claims towards free will in Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity). Having lived in the middle east for a while I realised how much Arabs, take what your church 'taught' to the extreme. Even in Hinduism, it's only because the Brahamin orthodoxy has broken down over the centuries, rules have become easier and much more irrelevant for the masses in general. But while there are no churches that force feed their beliefs, the grip of religious gurujis and hindu movements (ISKCON, Arya Samaj and others) within their followers is quite tight. That said, hinduism is too inward looking, probably maybe because, unlike Christianity or Islam, it had no other religion for it to reject. So there's no one voice on what's right or wrong. I find it confusing that you can reject the Vedas and still be considered Hindu.....which is so unlike other faiths and their scriptures. Is this seemingly laissez-faire approach a good or a bad thing? Who knows? But definitely it creates issues when trying to understand it from an outsider's perspective where you're used to defined religious ideas and a concrete idea of what's what. Hindus may proclaim tolerance, but my guess is, the masses generally don't go beyond the general circuit of the temple pooja, worship of Gods, doing a havan a year and other traditions as such.....which I personally think is good enough. I personally can't believe that something someone wrote in a book a 1000 years ago could be so accurate/unaltered over the ages that it has to be taken literally. It's amusing that practises such as chopping your hands off for stealing, keeping women covered from head to toe is still practised in certain countries because a certain book written 1400 years ago said so. As they say, religion is the opium of the masses.

  3. I too faked the feet touching, sometimes not touching anything at all. I did find it odd not one single person told me to touch the knees, they always said feet. I noticed most of them touched knees though.

  4. I think you and I have some very similar views on religious practices

  5. I think a lot of people eventually go back to what they were raised in... I just blogged about this on my tumblr; even Ed Kowalczyk, formerly of Live, went back to Christianity even after writing so many songs about vehemently rejecting the church!! Even if they don't go back to the same actual faith, the mindsets that they were raised on remain, like highways carved in our brain. We could take a side road but much more automatic to take the highway :)

    I think this is also true in my case; I was raised by agnostic and skeptic parents and even though I have had my turn through a few religions, I find myself still being a skeptic at heart. :)

  6. Hey Kristy, do you know the most powerful woman in India today is from an inter-culture, inter-religious, inter-faith background. She's Sonia Gandhi, the wife of our late PM Rajiv Gandhi. She was Italian, married Rajiv in the 1970s and has been in India ever since. She's the chairperson of the party currently in power, and single-handedly won her party to victory in 2004 after debacles all through the 90s. She would have been prime minister if she had not given way to her 'inner voice'. Just in case you had troubles adjusting to India, I thought you'd be interested to know how someone like you from another country, who was once a waitress ended up marrying for love and became one of the most powerful woman not just in the country but also among the top 10 most powerful women in the world (multiple news reports).You can read about her fascinating life more on;

  7. It is definitely easier to fall into old routines, good or bad. I'm fighting some of that now with my soda addiction. Familiarity is easy.

  8. Oh yes, I had heard of her and read some of her story. I appreciate you sharing!