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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Sensitive In-Law Post - Religion

I just want to reiterate what I stated in my previous post on In-Laws and Politics:

Before I go any further, I just want to say that this is written in good humor. If anyone mentioned here happens to come across this post, I mean no harm. I simply want to share some very personal experiences of mine.

Now that that is out of the way, I can give a little background. As I stated many times here, my little sister is getting married this fall to a wonderful young man named Justin who is a cop with Kalamazoo Public Safety. I was there when they started dating (prior to that, they had been friends for a couple of years), and I couldn't ask for a better future brother-in-law. That alone speaks volumes for his parents.

Last fall, Erica and Justin purchased a home. As my Grandma was no longer interested in having Thanksgiving, my Mom entertains for Christmas, and Brian and I don't own a home yet, Erica and Justin had Thanksgiving at their new home. It was then that I met his parents.

While Justin grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, he isn't a typical Yooper. For those who don't know, Yooper is a Michigan term for those residing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula who exhibit certain characteristics. Yoopers tend to be of Scandinavian ancestry (especially Finnish), easily identify with Canadians, etc. Essentially, to be a Yooper is to be a caricature of residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with Finnish ancestry. It just doesn't apply to Justin.

Justin grew up near the Michigan and Wisconsin border. Northern Wisconsin tends to be very different from extreme Northern Michigan. In fact, Justin's Mom makes a point of mentioning that she teaches school in Wisconsin, not Michigan. Justin's Dad is an easy-going retired cop. Justin's Mom is Jewish, and Justin's Dad is Christian. That is where the real debate comes in.

While I would describe Justin's Mom as Jewish, I wouldn't describe Justin as Jewish (even though my sister does, but that is another story). His Mom, even though she tried to introduce him to aspects of her Jewish faith as a child, never really made it a point for Justin to be raised Jewish per se. However, that is changing as he and my sister are getting married, setting up a home, etc. It appears as though she's trying to put up a good front for her family as the wedding approaches.

For example, she has tried to give certain Jewish gifts to Justin and my sister. My sister is handling it with good grace; it is Justin and his Dad that get upset. As Justin said, "she hasn't pulled this on me since I was seven years old." Again, realize that I'm getting this information from my sister and Justin. According to Justin and his Dad, her desire for Justin and Erica to appear Jewish doesn't come from any particular religious belief, it comes from wanting to look good in front of her family (the wedding will be held near Erica and Justin's home). Erica and Justin both stated that they would be more open if it came from true religious or spiritual belief.

One of the biggest points of contention is the actual wedding ceremony. Erica and Justin will be married by one of Justin's cousins, who is a Methodist minister. Justin's Mom reportedly asked that no mention of Jesus be made in the ceremony. Justin and Erica are both in agreement that they want Jesus to be mentioned in the ceremony. In fact, from the conversations I had with Erica and Justin, they now want to ensure that Jesus is mentioned prominently in the ceremony. In fact, it was this debate that gave me the idea to write this series of posts. A post on Michelle Malkin's blog brought the debate to mind. You can read it here. While you'd have to know Justin's Mom to fully understand the situation, Erica and Justin's reasoning goes something like this:

If you have such issues with the mention of Christianity, why did you marry a Christian in the first place? They are our wedding vows; why do you feel that you should have this say? If you were so eager to pass along your Jewish faith to Justin, why didn't you insist when he was a child? If these requests are coming from a place of true religious and spiritual conviction, why does it appear as though you are simply trying to appease your family?

In my opinion, they have some very valid questions. I can also see why Justin's Mom would want her heritage acknowledged too though. Quite frankly, it appears as though it certainly would have been if it didn't seem so insincere. Justin's parents are wonderful people, but I can see where this issue would get tiresome for Erica and Justin.

As an outsider to the situation, the whole thing makes me want to elope. Brian is Catholic and I'm Protestant. We plan on getting married in the Catholic Church, even though my Grandma insists that it wouldn't be possible. I have a feeling that my Grandma is mistaken, but I have no plans to convert to Catholicism. I don't expect Brian to "convert" either. In fact, we have incredibly similar religious beliefs (Erica, Justin, Brian, and I all do, despite the varied religious backgrounds, so it would appear). Neither of us have much faith in organized religion. The story above is the exact reason why! Then again, St. Stans Church is beautiful. Brian's family helped found the church when they immigrated from Poland. The family history, on Brian's part, associated with St. Stans is a main reason why I'd like to get married there. We'll see what happens.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus indeed.


PS - I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people believe, as Brian and I do, that having faith and going to Church or Mass every Sunday are two very different things. You can read more about it here.

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At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Aurora said...

Lindsey, wow, what a multi-faith family you have. It's great that you can all take things with a grain of salt and laugh it off.
My family is all completely homogeneous when it comes to religion, though we have Danish/Greek, Chilean (two), Australian and Americans (several), and that's just my immediate family. The extended family contains more! The variety is great.


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