Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family chronicles the rise of a controversial new grassroots movement: interfaith families choosing to celebrate both religions. Clergy of every stripe continue to urge intermarried couples to raise children in one religion. However, growing up as an interfaith child celebrating only one religion, Miller became aware of both the benefits and the drawbacks of this strategy. After years living with the more complex religious identities in Africa and Brazil, Miller and her husband decided to raise their own children with both family religions.
Miller, a former Newsweek reporter, interweaves her own story with original reporting, and with hundreds of responses from original surveys of parents who chose both religions, and of their grown interfaith children. She describes the formation of communities, across the country, pioneering interfaith education for interfaith children. She interviews parents, group leaders, teachers, and clergy associated with these communities, as well as the grown children who graduated from them. The result is the first book by an adult interfaith child to advocate for the right of interfaith families to claim, and embrace, both family religions. And the first book to survey and interview interfaith children raised with interfaith education programs.
Miller makes the case that each pathway open to an interfaith family—choosing one religion, choosing both family religions, choosing no religion, or choosing a third religion—is valid. Now, in major cities including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and San Diego, more children are being raised “Jewish and something else” or “partially Jewish” than with Judaism alone. What does this mean for these families, for these children, and for religious institutions?
Whether or not religious leaders support the idea of choosing both religions, Miller argues that it is important to understand why parents sometimes make this choice. Young couples, grandparents, extended family, religious educators, clergy, and religious leadership will all find this book helpful in understanding the rise of “doing both,” and how it fits into the rise of the “religious nones,” and the rise of the “spiritual but not religious.” Being Both focuses primarily on the Jewish and Christian families who have pioneered the concept of interfaith education for interfaith children. But Miller also tells the stories of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist interfaith families: the next interfaith wave. Finally, Miller makes the case that interfaith families should be included in, rather than excluded from, the growing interfaith dialogue and interfaith activism movement. Interfaith families live and breathe interfaith collaboration and cooperation, and could become leaders in bringing about a world of peaceful religious pluralism.
Praise for Being Both:
“A moving, personal story that opens new dimensions of life in general and religious life in particular that rise out of an interfaith family. Susan Katz Miller writes with the passion of experience and with the integrity of being authentic. Its insights moved me deeply.” —John Shelby Spong, author of The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
“A gorgeous and inspiring testament to the power of love to not only transcend the divides of faith and tradition, but to bring faiths together and create wholly new traditions.” —Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
“Religion is never static, and always reflects the needs and mores of those who adopt and adapt it. In Being Both, Susan Katz Miller brings us into the emergent world of interfaith families, families who seek to blend traditions that others find mutually exclusive. Whatever your thoughts on religion and interfaith marriage, this book will help you think more clearly. And if you are in an interfaith marriage yourself, it may help you live more courageously.” —Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness
“Hallejullah! This is the book interfaith families like mine have been waiting for! Susan Katz Miller serves as a wise, well-informed, progressive, steady, and plainspoken guide to the challenges and benefits–yes! benefits!–of raising children with two faith traditions. Reading this book I dropped tears on the pages because I felt for the first time my family was affirmed and understood and, most importantly, not alone. This is a singular contribution to the conversation on the future of religion in America. Every interfaith family and every religious leader who works with interfaith families should read Being Both.” —Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl