Interfaith Marriage Debated at FCLC


On Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m., Reverend Patrick J. Ryan, S.J., Laurence J. McGinley professor of religion and society, concluded that interfaith marriage is a threat to organized religious traditions in America at his lecture, “Interfaith Marriage: A Concern for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

Respondent Jerusha Lamptey, assistant professor of Islam and ministry at Union Theological Seminary, strongly dissented to Ryan’s view. “It’s disrespectful to say that [interfaith marriage] is a problem … coming from an interfaith marriage, I feel compelled and obliged to say that,” she said.

About 150 people gathered in the 12th Floor Lowenstein Lounge at Fordham College at Lincoln Center to listen as Ryan and other key speakers, Lamptey and Rabbi Daniel Polish, debated the dangers of interfaith marriage.

Thomas Ginch, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, said, “Usually, no one takes an interest in doctrine … we see now there is this interest that allows us to talk about these difficult topics.”

Ryan estimated that 58 percent of American Jews have married outside their faith since 2005 and that members of American interfaith marriages “may have developed expectations of marriage.”

“It may be too soon to judge the outcome of these marriages, but all too many of the children of such marriages are raised in neither religious tradition, growing up in what I call ‘Brand X,’” he said. This is terminology coined by Ryan to describe children of interfaith marriages who do not commit to any organized religion.

“I worry that identifiable Jews may be harder and harder to find in the United States,” Ryan said, from his Jesuit scholar perspective.

Lamptey, a participant in “multi-faith marriage,” her preferred terminology, and a Muslim, disagreed with Ryan and Polish. After a comment from Polish where he described “Brand X” as “noners,” meaning persons without religion, Lamptey replied, “that you could say it’s the same as spiritual, but not religious.”

Lamptey said,“I believe if there is a concern related interfaith marriage … it’s that we should be making these [religious] institutions better integrate interfaith families.”

Polish, who has served as a congregational rabbi for 30 years, agreed with all of Ryan’s accounts. “I do not like the ‘bad odds’ for American Jews laid out in front of me,” Polish said.

Ryan concluded his lecture talking about the “Brand X generation,” calling the possibility of it “a disaster.”