Being Both | Book Review

skmWhen I first posted about Susan Katz-Miller‘s book on Facebook last year I was surprised to see how quickly people were willing to dismiss it simply on it’s premise. Even people I know from my interfaith activist circles seemed initially skeptical. But despite the knee-jerk protestations I’ve seen from around the web about Being Both, I remain convinced that Susan Katz-Miller isn’t actually trying to dismantle or dilute religion by promoting the idea of dual-faith families. Rather, she is acknowledging and celebrating a type of family that has been part of most societies throughout history.

One of the things I always tell people about interfaith work is that, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t about getting everyone to agree on everything. Rather, it’s about helping people who have drastically views of the world and about God learn how to live together peacefully; cherishing differences instead of letting them be a source of ongoing, destructive conflict. Katz-Miller points out that interfaith dialogue has been going on in some of the most intimate family situations for centuries, and without one or more of the members of those families giving up their deeply held beliefs about the nature of The Divine.

A product of a dual-faith family, (Katz-Miller’s parents were an interfaith couple), she is now in an interfaith marriage herself, raising her children with two whole traditions. Being Both contains beautifully poignant reflections alongside it’s well-researched text. It also provides ample defense against the myths of interfaith families (“The kids will grow up confused!”) as well as practical considerations like communal worship and holidays can be facilitated.

But I think the most compelling thing about this book is that it’s not asking permission or begging for acceptance on behalf of interfaith families. Katz-Miller is a first-class disruptor.  She is secure in her interfaith lineage, unapologetically claiming a space for herself and her family and for others who are part of this movement.  This book is a practical guide on making space for people who have always existed on the sidelines of mainstream religious communities. Being Both makes a powerful case that interfaith families are as spiritually strong, and as religiously viable as any others.

Furthermore, interfaith families are in a unique position to help facilitate genuine understanding between different religious groups. By their nature these families have accepted the simple truth that none of our traditions has cornered the market on The Divine. As the world becomes increasingly culturally integrated, and individuals meet one another and fall in love across lines that seem increasingly irrelevant, the prevalence of interfaith families is sure to increase.

I agree with Susan Katz-Miller that we should consider it a sign of the times, and a welcome one at that.