Marriage is indeed an expression of commitment to the relationship between two individuals. The men and women who take the bold step to become one regardless of their origins, faiths, races and ethnicities must be applauded. They are setting an example of how to live in harmony.
What is it that God really wants? He wants nothing more than harmony in his creation. Because he created everything in balance he expects us to preserve it or restore it when it is off.
Look at the universe, everything is programmed precisely! The moon revolves around the earth and the earth goes around the sun decisively. The seasons are programmed and the plants and animals have a determined cycle of birth and death. Within the human body, different organs work cohesively for a normal functioning (with of course built in anomalies) of the body. However, he did not program us how to relate with each other and live with each other. He gave us complete freedom to chart our own course of harmony with the other. God is happiest when two people can rise above their differences and live in harmony.
Interfaith marriages are becoming the new norm of the society. In a few years one out of two marriages would be of interfaith. Yes, this is across the board, whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Baha’i or the other. According to the Pew survey, 40% of people of different faiths will be marrying a person of another faith, it is higher among Jews, its 50%.
I am blessed to have officiated ceremonies for Jewish-Christian, Hindu-Christian, Bahai-Jewish, Hindu-Jewish, Atheist-Jain, and several other combinations. Being a Muslim, I am pleased to have officiated weddings for Muslims in a variety of combinations; Muslim-Christian, Muslim-Mormon, Muslim-Jewish, Muslim-Hindu, Muslim-Sikh, Muslim-Jain, Muslim-Buddhist and Muslim and an Atheist.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Initial conversation with wedding Officiant.
- The Bride and Groom express their desire to get married out of free will.
- A conversation about the differences and how they would handle.
- The Bride/ Groom can share what part of their social, religious or cultural tradition to be included in the ceremonies.
- The Bride and Groom can create their own new tradition.
- A draft outline will be prepared by the Officiant.
- The bride and groom will review and modify the outlines to suit their wants and needs.
- Officiant will perform the wedding ceremony per agreed outline.
- Wedding will start on time and close on time.
- Based on the planning between the couple and the officiant.
- Interfaith greetings to include people of different traditions
- Appreciating the bold steps the bride and groom have taken to respect the otherness of other
- Acceptance of each other as the spouse
- Exchange of Rings
- Pronouncement as husband and wife
- Signing the marriage registration papers
- A short customized Sermon to fit the tradition(s) chosen by the Bridge and Groom
- Prayer ( again from one or two traditions)
- Other rituals
- Sand ceremony
- Hand Holding
- Personalized one
The marriage is between two individuals and the family’s support and cheers are important. I will be happy to talk with parents or guardians, if they are reluctant.
It is disappointing to the potential brides and grooms that their clergy or a parent invariably insists on the other person to convert to their faith tradition, some do, and some fake it and some are not comfortable with the idea at all.
When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married any way but sorely miss out on the ceremony. Over the years, I have seen too many couples miss out on the joy of that additional sense of completeness that comes with a religious ceremony. Marriage is between two individuals, and their families and friends ought to be supporters and cheerleaders to celebrate and complete their joy.
As a Pluralist, I have chosen to officiate the weddings of such couples to reflect the essence of Bride and Groom’s religious and cultural traditions. I laud such couples who embrace genuine humanity by respecting the otherness of other, and accepting each other’s uniqueness. If the couple prefers to give that little extra joy to the religiosity of their parents, relatives and friends, the sermon would include reflections and essence of the faiths of the couple.
I am blessed to have performed some uniquely beautiful combination of weddings; Jewish Bride and a Christian groom; Muslim bride and Jain groom, Hindu Bride and Muslim groom, Christians Bride and Atheist groom….. it was such a joy to see their families cheer at the end.
I had a difficult father of a Christian groom who was vehemently against the Hindu girl marrying without conversion, he did not even want to be a part of the wedding, but I had a good heart-to-heart conversation with him and it did put a dent in the relationship. The man who had not talked with his son for two months and did not want to be a part of the wedding was grateful for the semblance of Christian wedding and then hung out with the kids for celebrations. Oh, there are lots of good stories to share.
By the way, officiating weddings gives me the joy of fulfilling the religious needs of the couples.
God is nothing but the cause that created everything we see, feel, smell, think, see and enjoy. People of religion call him by various names and those who do not subscribe to the idea of God don’t have to call anything.
Mike Ghouse is a member of the American Marriage Ministries, a non-profit established in Washington State in 2009.
“We provide all people the ability to celebrate marriage and other religious functions according to their beliefs. We believe that this is an innate human right and is also protected by the 1st Amendment. Our values come from the understanding that all people, whether religious or not, have deep personal values and should be treated with respect, acceptance, and understanding.”
Marriage is a celebration that brings people together, and we want to extend that ethos further by being a church comprised of a wide cross-section of people that have found common ground in the service of bringing people together.
To begin, the legal dimension to officiating a wedding simply involves completing a piece of paper, the marriage license. The marriage license is the legal document of marriage. It is filed for by the couple from their local government prior to the wedding.
The role of the minister is to conduct the wedding, have the couple present their marriage license, make sure that the information is correct, and complete the license. The couple then returns the completed license back to its office of issuance.
Personally, Mike is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, interfaith, politics and civic affairs.
The Creator* has created everything in balance and harmony, and every element of the universe is interconnected and interdependent. Chief Seattle, a Native American said this perfectly, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does it to himself.”
What does God want? He wants to see that his creation remains intact and functions smoothly. He has programmed the moon to go around the earth in unbelievable precision, and the earth has been going around the Sun for millions of years. The change of seasons, the power of light, and the need for darkness is all programmed and works together.
Even the human (or animal) body functions cohesively, each organ plays its part for the normal functioning of the body. However what is not programmed is our attitudes and behavior. Each one of us is unique with our own thumb print, eye print, taste buds and DNA, and that uniqueness creates conflict in three areas; one’s space, sustenance and nurturence.
God loves us, like a mother loves her children, teacher loves her students, and as a chef loves his patrons, he gives us the guidance (religion or common sense) to restore that equilibrium, that is all he wants and nothing more.
God loves harmony between humans and his creation, and marriage enhances that harmony. Some day we may find out what attracts a man to a woman or vice-versa, like a magnet two individuals come together to be one with each other. Religion, region or race become secondary when two people fall in love with each other. This is what God loves, two people becoming a source of harmony and happiness to each other.
Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. Two books are poised to be released this year on Pluralism in America, and Americans Together building a cohesive America. Details at www.MikeGhouse.net