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What Chelsea Clinton's Wedding Says About Religious Syncretism

 
 
Miller
 
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 07:05 am
Posted: July 28, 2010

From the Cathedral to the Bazaar: What Chelsea Clinton's Wedding Says About Religious Syncretism

However intriguing it may be, the larger-than-life hubbub surrounding this Saturday evening's Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding -- who is invited and who feels snubbed, what the menu and wine list are, what the bride and her party will wear, who will be officiating and who will be entertaining, and all the levels of secrecy -- actually does not affect the vast majority of Americans except as voyeuristic entertainment. There is, however, an important, challenging, and hopeful story worth telling about the nature of America reflected in this high-profile wedding.

The Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is a perfect expression of the emerging American religious and social landscape in which one's inherited group identity bears little or no significance on one's marriage. As a consequence of the unprecedented freedom we enjoy to cross boundaries that even a generation ago would have been taboo, the majority of Americans, including more than 80 percent of those under 30 years of age, accept marriage across all types of boundaries, including ethnic and racial. The silos between groups are rapidly becoming permeable, and this shift in notions of group loyalty and exclusivity, especially as individuals form their most intimate relationships independent of any restrictive creedal or tribal inheritances, marks an uncharted world.

Welcome to the new world of religion in America. Chelsea's parents were an interdenominational marriage of a social justice Methodist and a Baptist, which would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Chelsea grew up proudly within mainstream Protestantism, while Marc was raised clearly identified in a mainstream Jewish denomination. Their marriage is the next generational step in crossing borders -- from Methodist-Baptist to Christian-Jew. What is unprecedented -- wonderful for some and horrifying to others -- is that in this era no one needs to reject his or her identity to cross these century-old boundaries. Multiple identities -- in the example of the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding, at least three different traditions being brought to bear -- is the new reality.

None of this should be surprising, as we Americans have been significantly changing the ways we identity ourselves by religion. The fastest-growing religious identity, now the third largest in the United States according to the 2009 American Religious Identity Study (ARIS), is "none" (18 percent), which is not to be confused with either atheist or agnostic. Moreover, according to all surveys on religious identities, including those done by traditional evangelicals, we Americans are increasingly becoming what I call "mixers, blenders, benders and switchers" (MBBS). We customize our religious identities -- less in terms of some group-belonging need, creedal purity, or theological consistency, and more in order to get a job done -- and in doing so, we find greater meaning and purpose. Identity, including our religious identity, is becoming fluid, permeable, and an ongoing construction -- a verb rather than a noun.

Millions of us are moving from the cathedral to the bazaar. Of course, you cannot have people mixing religious ideas and practices in a divine smorgasbord of choice, creating families with diverse inheritances, and, because of new powerful technologies from search engines to connection technologies, getting their religious and spiritual resources independent of religious authorities and expect existing religious institutions to be unaffected. The existing business models and organizational structures of mainstream religion are, as in many fields of meaning-making today (journalism, film, and music), increasingly unsustainable. Fewer and fewer Americans are getting religion in the cathedrals. They are getting what they need to get their spiritual/meaning-making job done in the bazaar, which has a very different model of authority and hierarchy, has very limited barriers of entry and far more choices, and which tends to be a user-friendly and open source environment.

This is unnerving stuff, and predictably, we have some religious communities becoming more conformist, exclusive, and intolerant while others are becoming more diverse, inclusive, and syncretistic -- all this as mainstream religious institutions in America have dramatically weakened over the past two decades, according to all measures (affiliation, membership, and attendance). Note that the Clinton-Mezvinsky wedding is being held in neither a church nor a synagogue and that finding clergy that can speak across boundaries while retaining the integrity of each tradition Chelsea and Marc bring to their wedding is no easy task. (In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised, is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)

Religious leaders who do not see these changes as threatening the integrity of their faiths and groups will need to be concerned less with creating good upstanding members of their group (theologically or sociologically) and more with providing wisdom and practice drawn from their tradition that is accessible, usable, and good enough to get the job done: helping "mixers, blenders, benders, and switchers" construct ever-changing lives that are more ethical, vital, and loving within their already-existing webs of relations.

Yes, there will be loss, about which traditionalists are appropriately feeling scared and angry and which liberals and secularists tend to deny. But just as the most important part of a bowl is the empty space that can be filled, so this loss can open space for a new reality, one that holds the potential for a much richer and better world as we transcend the exclusivity of our creeds, dogmas, and tribes, and -- here is the contemporary challenge -- as we include the best of our inherited traditions. Loving each other across boundaries and building families to which multiple traditions are brought is far better for the planet than what our religions have too often done: demonizing the other.

At their best, ancient religious traditions know this, which is why at some level, they all teach that we are one global family. Well, from climate change to terrorism, from SARS to markets, our problems clearly cross all borders. Now we are transitioning into some next expression of this intuition, culturally and religiously. This is hard for the purists and fundamentalists, and so we are seeing backlash all over the planet, and indeed there are no roadmaps -- so we are making it up as we go along. But the more people love each other, and the more people with different inheritances and traditions form intimate relationships and families, the better we will understand each other across all boundaries, and the wiser we will be at knowing what from our rich traditions we need to let go of and transcend, and what we need to bring along with us to help us create better lives and build a better world.

Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co

 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 09:39 am
Why anyone would involve themselves in such a garish event is beyond me.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 04:18 pm
I thought it was "money marrying money"? And, when one has such wealth, is it not better to feel that both Jesus and Moses loves one's family?

However, inter-faith marriages may just be a symptom of what is actually happening in the U.S.? Concerns over religious affiliation may be becoming quite irrelevant for a portion of the population? A growing population?

As a secular Jew, my house of worship is the library.

I think the real change that is coming is the number of Jewish-Asian marriages that will occur as the next generation matures. The common denominator may just be the love of education. Just my opinion.

For many, religion is passe, I believe.

These comments have nothing to do with the subject of this thread. Just my comments on the sociological phenomenon of inter-faith marriages in the U.S.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 05:35 pm
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised, is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 06:04 pm
I'm scratching my head because I went to several Jewish-Christian weddings before Chelsea was born.
ossobuco
 
  3  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 06:33 pm
@plainoldme,
I scratched my head too, for the same reason.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 07:11 pm
@plainoldme,
Jewish-Christian marriages were certainly the exception rather than the rule.

I recall a good friend of mine whose most important boyfriend broke up with her in around 1975 or '76 because she wasn't Jewish, so their children could never be Jewish. She eventually married, but it was definitely a second-best situation.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 07:23 pm
@ehBeth,
Quote:
I recall a good friend of mine whose most important boyfriend broke up with her in around 1975 or '76 because she wasn't Jewish, so their children could never be Jewish. She eventually married, but it was definitely a second-best situation.


That really blows my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long haired leaping ..., but seriously, it does blow my mind that people could actually turn down someone they truly love just because they are of the wrong religion, race, sex even.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 09:55 pm
@ehBeth,
ehBeth wrote:
Jewish-Christian marriages were certainly the exception rather than the rule.

I recall a good friend of mine whose most important boyfriend broke up with her in around 1975 or '76 because she wasn't Jewish, so their children could never be Jewish. She eventually married, but it was definitely a second-best situation.

I 've been rejected for not being Jewish, also.





David
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Sun 1 Aug, 2010 11:15 pm
@Miller,
My take is that religion is important to the husband, and that the wife is a religous tourist who cares about religion about as much as she does the flower arrangement, and for much the same reason.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 12:44 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised, is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??


Rabbi and Methodist Minister
Miller
 
  0  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 12:46 am
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

My take is that religion is important to the husband, and that the wife is a religous tourist who cares about religion about as much as she does the flower arrangement, and for much the same reason.


Very true.

If the wife was sincere, wouldn't she have converted to Judaism?
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 12:50 am
@Miller,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised,
is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??
Miller wrote:
Rabbi and Methodist Minister
I see; I wonder how thay went about it; I thought it was a one-man job,
but for sure, I 'm no expert.





David
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:01 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised,
is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??
Miller wrote:
Rabbi and Methodist Minister
I see; I wonder how thay went about it; I thought it was a one-man job,
but for sure, I 'm no expert.

David


The Rabbi and the Minister in this particular type of wedding are called
"participants". Basically, this wedding wasn't typcially a Jewish wedding, nor was it a typcial Methodist wedding.

As the husband was "brought up Conservative", yet did not marry a Jewish woman, I'm of the opinion that the husband was not observant.

Likewise, I don't think the Rabbi was a Conservative Rabbi, since the latter don't marry gentiles to Jews, unless of course the gentile converts to Judaism.

The husband looks like a nice guy, but where were his parents?
aidan
 
  0  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:02 am
@OmSigDAVID,
My sister married a Catholic and she had a priest and a minister at her wedding.

But the priest wasn't my brother-in-law's usual priest because he refused to do a wedding to a non-catholic at all - much less in a protestant church- which is where my sister insisted on and wanted to have the wedding.

It was sort of funny - the priest didn't know my sister or my brother-in- law so when the time came for him to say, 'Do you Catherine take Patrick to be your lawfully wedded husband' he inserted the wrong name and said, 'Do you Catherine take Peter/Paul/Philip (or something - I can't remember except that it was WRONG) to be your lawfully wedded husband?' my poor sister stood there and was afraid to answer because she thought she'd be messing up the legality of who exactly she was married to. She looked at me (I was a bride's maid) like, 'What should I do' and I looked at her like, 'I don't know!' and then Patrick's mom yells out from the front row - 'His name is Patrick - not Peter/Paul/Philip'.

You have to know Mrs. K. to get the full effect - she was this no-nonsense sort of New Jersey lady with this very flat, nasal voice - everyone burst out laughing - except the poor priest.

My mother was a Methodist and my father was a Baptist and they married 57 years ago - that's bull that that was ever a big deal.

This person is making too much out of this - I know all sorts of people who married across religions and races and I'm talking more than twenty years ago.

If someone gives or gave someone they say they love up for this reason - they didn't love them enough - so it's probably good they didn't get married.
When you get married - they say you are forsaking all others for that person. You love them so much that the most important thing is that you want to spend your life with them- and not that you have family or societal approval.
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:08 am
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

OmSigDAVID wrote:

OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised,
is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??
Miller wrote:
Rabbi and Methodist Minister
I see; I wonder how thay went about it; I thought it was a one-man job,
but for sure, I 'm no expert.

David


The Rabbi and the Minister in this particular type of wedding are called
"participants". Basically, this wedding wasn't typcially a Jewish wedding, nor was it a typcial Methodist wedding.

As the husband was "brought up Conservative", yet did not marry a Jewish woman, I'm of the opinion that the husband was not observant.

Likewise, I don't think the Rabbi was a Conservative Rabbi, since the latter don't marry gentiles to Jews, unless of course the gentile converts to Judaism.

The husband looks like a nice guy, but where were his parents?
That makes sense.
Except for this thread, I have no information qua the wedding.
I have no idea whether his parents attended, nor where thay are.

I did hear that everything was very secret.





David
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:18 am
The significance of this interfaith marriage is that the children of such a marriage, according to Jewish Law, are not Jewish. If/when Ms. Clinton converts to Judaism the children would be considered to be Jewish.

Also interesting is the Law Of Return, when applied to interfaith marriages between a Jewish person and a gentile.

Quote:
The Law of Return declares that Israel constitutes a home not only for the inhabitants of the State, but also for all members of the Jewish people everywhere—be they living in poverty and fear of persecution or in affluence and safety.

The law gives the right of return to those born Jews (having a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother), those with Jewish ancestry (having a Jewish father or grandfather) and converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations—not secular—though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages).
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:20 am
@OmSigDAVID,
OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

OmSigDAVID wrote:

OmSigDAVID wrote:

Miller wrote:

Posted: July 28, 2010

(In fact, no Conservative rabbi, the tradition in which the groom was raised,
is permitted to officiate at an inter-marriage.)


Mazel Tov, Marc and Chelsea!
Rabbi Irwin Kula

Also: www.huffingtonpost.co
So who did the job ??
Miller wrote:
Rabbi and Methodist Minister
I see; I wonder how thay went about it; I thought it was a one-man job,
but for sure, I 'm no expert.

David


The Rabbi and the Minister in this particular type of wedding are called
"participants". Basically, this wedding wasn't typcially a Jewish wedding, nor was it a typcial Methodist wedding.

As the husband was "brought up Conservative", yet did not marry a Jewish woman, I'm of the opinion that the husband was not observant.

Likewise, I don't think the Rabbi was a Conservative Rabbi, since the latter don't marry gentiles to Jews, unless of course the gentile converts to Judaism.

The husband looks like a nice guy, but where were his parents?
That makes sense.
Except for this thread, I have no information qua the wedding.
I have no idea whether his parents attended, nor where thay are.

I did hear that everything was very secret.

David


I hope the parents did attend the wedding.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:22 am
@Miller,
Quote:
If the wife was sincere, wouldn't she have converted to Judaism?
She goes with him to service very occasionally....what, that's not good enough?

I looked but could not see where she attends a church. I think her upbringing is that is a special occasion thing, like at Christmas and Easter. Other than that her parents only seem to show up at church when they are in need of a photo op or when caught getting orally serviced by an intern.
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Aug, 2010 01:24 am
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:

Quote:
If the wife was sincere, wouldn't she have converted to Judaism?
She goes with him to service very occasionally....what, that's not good enough?

Not according to Conservative Judaism.
 

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