Religious boundaries are being crossed … and that is good news.


Today I’d like to point to an article by a Rabbi, not because I’ve suddenly decided to convert and embrace a god I do not believe in, but rather because the rabbi has a bit of rather good news …

Muslim-Jewish marriages herald a brave new world

Muslims and Jews in the UK are beginning to get together – a living example to the Middle East peace process.

Something surprising is beginning to emerge in marriage patterns between members of different religions in Britain. In the past, “marrying out” was seen either as a religious sin, partnering up with an unbeliever, or as a social crime, betraying the faith group identity.

But in today’s much more tolerant, pluralist society, mixed-faith marriage has become commonplace. People who mix together at work, socialise together afterwards. They concentrate on what they have in common – be it music, sport or crosswords – not the theologies that divide them.

He does say, “a living example to the Middle East peace process“, and alas sadly no, that is not going to happen, but it is still encouraging. It has been my personal experience that when a belief rises in strength and dominates your thinking, it usually includes constraints about marrying outside the tribe. For example many strands of Christian belief, (usually the happy clappy crowd), embrace texts such as …

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14

That message is then pushed and the very idea of even socializing, let alone marrying, with “them” is more than frowned upon; do it and you are out.

Within some strands of Islamic thought I have encountered a very high degree of intolerance for those who simply hold a different view, in fact the Quran itself justifies this with some rather vile hate speech such as …

Sura (9:30) – And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah… Allah (Himself) fights against them. How perverse are they!

Sura (8:12) – I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them

Sura (9:123) – O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness

And so here we have religious rhetoric that has evolved to maintain a strict boundary around the religious tribe, essentially a form of belief apartheid. With stuff like this lurking within most beliefs, it is a recipe for division, not just between completely different beliefs, but between different strands of the same belief, Catholic – Protestant, Sunni-Shiite, etc…

So what is rather encouraging about the Rabbi’s article is that individuals from different religious tribes who would normally seek to murder each other (literally), in this case Muslim and Jewish, are hooking up and getting married. What this tells us is that the belief has fallen in priority to the status of cultural and that the batty beliefs are no longer embraced literally or actually believed.

Sadly, out in the middle east, where many of those around you are pumped up with a far greater degree of religious fervour and passion this would probably not happen, but within the cultural context of the UK, such pressures do not exist and so secularism and doubt can naturally bubble to the surface – the result is that artificial religious barriers then break down and fall.

Now that is encouraging.

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