wondering when, where and who will be in attendance, people want to know if Chelsea, the daughter of Hilary Clinton, a Christian Methodist (and staunch feminist) and Bill Clinton, a Southern Baptist, will convert to her fiancé’s religion of conservative Judaism. Regardless of her decision, the question is unfair and one-sided because no one is posing the same question to Mezvinsky – will he convert for her?
Issues over interfaith marriages in Western culture today exist more as private familial and individual problems. The emotional strain caused by following or breaking from religious conformity in the eyes of community, family and the self can be daunting. Will Chelsea start asking her kin to pass the Latkes? Or will Mezvinsky say hello to little baby Jesus? Or will both celebrate the 21st century invention of Christmukkah? (On a side note, what will they do about their last names?) The tolerance level of your peers and family plays a huge role in individual experiences. It would be nice to believe that the debate of choosing between religions is as simple as debating it around the dinner table, but in other parts of the world many women are forbidden from even considering or fraternizing with men outside their religion.
In Iraq in 2007, a 17-year old girl named Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in an honor killing because she fell in love with someone outside her religion. She was from a minority Kurdish religious group called Yezidi, and the boy was a Sunni Muslim. Iraqi security forces stood by and simply watched as she was dragged into a square and publically flogged until her death. The entire event was captured on camera and released on the Internet (Warning: graphic violence)
Religion is an incredibly sensitive subject to those who believe and those who don’t, no matter what part of the world you come from. But when it comes to falling in love and deciding to marry, who are we to judge what is right? If there’s any commonality between the secular and non-secular it is the core belief in being a good person, so it’s possible to marry someone good even if the couple does not share religions. Within intolerant moments like that of Miss Aswad’s death, the question to ask is when does honoring doctrine become more important than upholding humanity as a good person?
Ms. Aswad saw something good in that boy outside her faith to risk life and death for love. Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky recognize honorable qualities in each other to overlook their religious differences as well. It’s true Chelsea comes from feminist roots and we’d like to see her stay true to herself, but like the tolerance Miss Aswad needed, our job is to give tolerance and a little faith to Chelsea and Mark that they will make the best decision that honors individuality, heritage and equality for their partner and as a couple.
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