I come from a great, big, three-generation interfaith family. Our Thanksgiving features about sixty family members—Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Quakers, Buddhists, and atheists. Together, my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles represent many different interfaith family choices and paths. Some celebrate one religion. Some draw on two or more. Some lead strictly secular lives. And we continue to get together on a regular basis to express our love and revel in our connection to each other.
Interfaith families are a growing and important segment of society. One in every five Americans now grows up in an interfaith family, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Given this reality, this journal is not going to defend the formation or existence of interfaith families—we’re already here! Instead, these pages will help you to find a way of living inside our whirling religious kaleidoscope without getting overwhelmed. The exercises here will support you in finding your own way to build the bonds of love while honoring more than one culture, more than one set of traditions, and more than one set of beliefs, in a way that will create joy and empowerment. It will bring you through a process of discerning your own best path as an interfaith family—a process that can itself provide intellectual and spiritual nourishment.
Is this journal meant for my family?
An interfaith family can include any two religions, or more than two religions, or a religious/nonreligious relationship, or atheists from different religious backgrounds. Your family might share a broad religious label, but include both secular Jews and Orthodox Jews. Or it might include members from two very different Protestant denominations, or Buddhists from different cultural traditions. While not technically interfaith, these families may still find this journal tremendously helpful. On a philosophical level, all families are interfaith families because no two individuals have identical cultures, traditions, practices, or beliefs, even when they share a single religious affiliation. So this journal could actually help any family. For those who are struggling to figure out how to make it all work, or are just unsure of the options, going through this journal process could be transformative.
You may not think of your family as interfaith, or you may dislike the term. The terminology is imperfect! Some people prefer multifaith because their family includes three or more religions. But I like the sense that “inter” implies active engagement, rather than simple co-existence. Some people prefer interreligious, because while faith can be a synonym for belief-centric religions including Christianity and Islam, it is less appropriate for describing more practice-based religious cultures, including Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. And families with one or more atheist, secular humanist, or agnostic member have argued for new terminology to replace interfaith, including interbelief, intercultural, or interworldview. While acknowledging this linguistic flux, this journal uses the term interfaith because the intention is to reach and include the greatest number of families searching for help. But also, I admit to sticking with interfaith as the historical term of art, because I feel harmonic resonance with the positive linguistic echoes of other words that use the prefix inter-, including interest, intertwine, and intercourse.
Praise for The Interfaith Family Journal
“Susan Katz Miller has created a way for interfaith families to embark on a joyful journey of discovery. As part of an interfaith family for over 25 years, (Muslim, Jewish, UU) I know that stories of family histories are crucial to understanding who we are today. This journal will become a part of your family’s story for many years to come.”
—Aisha Hauser, MSW
“A brilliantly original, practical approach to interfaith family building that combines structure with flexibility, common sense with spiritual depth. This book will become a lifelong companion.”
—M.H.P. Rosenbaum, co-author, Celebrating Our Differences: Living Two Faiths in One Marriage; Director, Dovetail Institute for Interfaith Family Resources
“Having spent my rabbinate working to support interfaith couples, I can think of no better gift than a tangible way to communicate about how to navigate two different backgrounds in one home. This will be an invaluable resource for clergy and wedding officiants and a beautiful resource to offer so many couples before their wedding and as they begin their marriage.”
—Rabbi Ari Moffic, founder of Cohere
“The Interfaith Family Journal is a wonderfully inventive and engaging resource for families blessed with more than a single faith tradition. More than this, its value reaches far beyond the ‘interfaith’ issue. It is a tool for clarifying a family’s aims for religious, spiritual and cultural meaning in their lives—and helping a family to tailor its life accordingly. It is pitch perfect for all 21st century families.”
—Sheila C. Gordon, PhD, President and Founder, Interfaith Community, Inc.
“As the child of an interfaith family, partner in an interfaith marriage, and co-director of an interfaith arts community, I’ve found that most questions of difference are to be lived rather than solved. In this guide, Susan Katz Miller equips us with creative tools and courageous tactics to do just that.”
—Rev. Erik W. Martínez Resly, Founder and Co-Director, The Sanctuaries
About the Author
Susan Katz Miller is an author, speaker, educator, interfaith coach, workshop leader, and interfaith activist, and the founder of the Network of Interfaith Family Groups. A former correspondent for Newsweek, her writing and photography have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, International Wildlife, and elsewhere. She spent years living in and reporting from West Africa and northeastern Brazil. Miller is both the child of interfaith parents, and the parent of two adult interfaith children. Her new book, The interfaith Family Journal, is a supportive and interactive resource for any and all interfaith families. Her previous book, Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, includes both memoir and original surveys and interviews with interfaith parents, children, teachers and clergy. Miller has been featured as an interfaith families expert on The Today Show, CBS, PBS, several NPR programs, and many other media outlets. Miller, a graduate of Brown University, lives outside Washington DC.