Dec. 11, 2020

Fresh Take: Susan Katz Miller on Interfaith Families at the Holidays

The holidays are already intense, but if your family is interfaith, it can ratchet up the pressure for perfection times two. Guest Susan Katz Miller, author of THE INTERFAITH FAMILY JOURNAL, tells us how to draw a “sacred circle” around what matters.

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This week we’re talking to Susan Katz Miller, author of THE INTERFAITH FAMILY JOURNAL, a hands-on journal that helps families learn how to best honor one another’s spiritual and cultural needs. 

The holidays are always intense, and if your family is an intersection of multiple traditions, it can really ratchet up the pressure for perfection times two. Which is when it’s time to maintain perspective. As Susan explains:

“I try to help people to understand that if they're having conflict often, it's not about religious difference. It's not about theology. It's not about whether there was an actual physical resurrection or not. It's usually about whether to put the fried onions on the green bean casserole or not.”

In this episode we discuss

  • why every family is an interfaith family
  • how to reduce conflict about traditions with your spouse’s extended family
  • how to help your spouse when the hard feelings are on your family’s side
  • how to push back on the pressure to do “both” traditions perfectly
  • how to help your kids navigate being of a different faith than most people in your community
  • how to handle it when you’re observant but your spouse is not (or vide versa)
  • the resentment that can occur when the mom in a family is expected to carry the weight of passing on a religious tradition that's not even hers

It’s worth it to have the conversations, do the work, and delineate a “sacred circle” that works for your immediate family. As Susan explains, when you and your spouse come from different traditions, “you’re going to be doing the work anyhow.” But challenging your own mindset and context is also an incredible opportunity for growth– even if the way your spouse’s family opens their holiday gifts is completely and totally wrong. 

Here are links to some other writing on the topic we discuss in this episode: 

Pew Research Center: Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion

Stina Kielsmeier-Cook: Blessed Are the Nones: Mixed-Faith Marriage and My Search for Spiritual Community


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