Is Chelsea Clinton Really Embarking on an Interfaith Marriage?

First daughter Chelsea Clinton will marry Marc Mezvinsky July 31, reportedly in the quiet village of upstate New York’s Rhinebeck, but will their wedding reflect more of Chelsea’s Methodist upbringing or Mark’s Jewish heritage?

In the Washington Post, Dr. Marion L. Usher posted a series of “interfaith” articles exploring what he believes is central, saying: “The salient question every interfaith couple needs to answer is, “Will we practice both religions equally or will we choose one religion to be the 'lead religion' in our home?” Usher’s work focuses on bridging the gaps between couple’s religions for harmonious unions. His motive seems to promote peace and goodwill for all; however, it misses the most critical point of all: belief. What do the two people believe?

One cannot build a bridge between belief in Jesus as the Way to eternal life in heaven, and belief that he was merely a man who began a movement.  When it comes to Christianity and Judaism specifically, one cannot combine the notions that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah and also that He was not, that some other Savior is yet to come. Such beliefs clearly oppose one another. Usher counsels those who want to settle not differences of faith, but differences in tradition.

Faith and tradition are not two sides of the same coin. What one believes is true and what one adopts as practice are no more the same than peanut butter and jelly. They can complement one another, but they are also mutually exclusive. Some have true faith apart from any religious tradition, while many others are steeped in ritual but lack real belief. Still others embrace tradition to express an authentic faith. But no one should equate the two, although the culture does this with frequency.

I would argue that most people in America today do not hold much faith at all, except for a simple belief in a faraway, impersonal Creator God. This makes “marrying” religions, or traditions, seem easy enough: “We both believe in God. That’s all that matters.” Usher writes, “Couples often come together through shared values, such as constructing a life based on social justice.” As intellectual as some claim to be, many of these refuse to analyze the deeper issues of faith and draw informed conclusions. They cannot expound upon their belief in God, or how it intersects with the religions of the world. They choose to delve deeply into the lesser social issues of the day, while ignoring the greater spiritual issues of their lives.

The term interfaith suggests an impossible intersection of differing belief systems, but it really speaks to a coming together of people of different religious practices. As such, Chelsea and Marc do not enter into an interfaith marriage at all, but an interreligious one.

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