Tag Archives: intermarriage

“Gilead: A Novel” by Marilynne Robinson

I was at a party a few weeks ago when a friend sat down and mentioned a book that it made her want to understand GRACE. She was talking theology.

The subject matter stayed with me but unfortunately I forgot the name of the book. Luckily my older son, who reads almost everything, was able to supply it, and I headed for the Library.

Gilead is a really wonderful book. An old minister named John Ames writes to his very young son, whom he knows he will not see grow up. The book starts straightforwardly, but the quiet of the small Iowa town is disturbed by the return of a wayward son, Jack Boughton, a namesake of the protagonist. Jack’s past is disturbing, and the Reverend Ames ponders warning his family against the outsider. The secret the tormented and difficult prodigal eventually reveals is unexpected and terribly painful.

Historically, this book deals with the American heartland, in particular Iowa and Kansas (at its bloodiest). When should Christians go to war? Ames interprets the influenza pandemic of 1918 as a sign from God, and subsequent wars as punishment for ignoring that warning.

This book is quiet and meditative, and lyrically beautiful. There’s no doubt in my mind that it qualifies as “literature”. I know I will read it again.

I read and enjoyed Housekeeping by Ms. Robinson a few years ago. Gilead is even better, and it is part of a trilogy! I look forward to reading the two additional novels and also her essays. I’ll start with the collection entitled When I Was a Child I Read Books.

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Religion and Family Life

‘Til Faith Do Us Part – How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America by Naomi Schaefer Riley, 2013.

I grabbed this from the “new arrivals” shelf. The author is a newspaper writer who was able to commission the extensive survey on which this book was based. She is very careful to ground her assertions within the data.

Riley says that Americans are not, by and large, “intentional” about marriage. We plan and work towards our careers. We may place a priority on living in a specific city or state. But we don’t PLAN marriage. I “came of age” in the sixties, when talking about what we wanted or expected from marriage became almost taboo. Young women were told to plan on self sufficient independence and if love, relationship and marriage happened, that was “nice”. What were young men being told? No idea…

Religion is important to many Americans, but most of us take a “break” from religious practice from the end of high school until some time perhaps a decade down the road. And so many important things happen in that decade! Very few people invest that time in deciding about matters of faith.

Riley takes a careful look at our attitudes towards diversity. It is widely accepted as a good thing. Riley’s conclusion: “Religion is not race and marriage is not a public school.” Intermarriage is harder (judged by divorce rates) than marriage within one’s faith, so looking for a religiously compatible spouse in not necessarily being prejudiced. Diversity within a family can have good impacts, but it also makes marriage difficult.

Maybe you caught the recent kerfuffle caused by a woman who said she now wished she had found a husband while at Princeton. She was roundly scolded for being “conniving”, but replied that the pool of really bright, interesting men is limited, and her critics were being unrealistic.

Riley thinks young adults should talk much more about religion, family life and community as they are courting and marrying. The relative “vacuum” (freedom?) of our twenties doesn’t last. We live our lives among webs of interconnection.

I particularly recommend this book to people who work with young adults, whether as teachers, counselors or religious leaders.