TomKat is through, apparently. Though the impending divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes may not seem to have much to do with parenting, reports suggest their split was caused by a pretty common and complex family issue: religion.
Their daughter, Suri, is now 6, an age when children can begin to grasp some of the broader concepts of religious teaching. For many other, far less examined, families, this turning point can also bring friction.
I know of what I write. My husband and I decided, in retrospect rather casually, that we would raise our girls in his religion. To me, the decision was based on some vague ideas and uninformed assumptions about what that would mean.
It wasn’t until our older daughter began asking about churches and God and Santa that reality set in about how I would need to adapt. Naïve? Yes, most especially for a woman who had covered religion as a journalist. But singular? I don’t think so.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has found that younger generations are much more free form in their theological ideas. The overwhelming majority of younger Americans still believe in God, but fewer identify with the religion they were raised in or with larger religious groups.
Many couples may not consider the rituals surrounding a spiritual life until they have children — “baptism or baby naming?” being a commonly posed question on parenting listserves.
The stakes become higher when those children begin to seek guidance. It’s at that point, conflicting traditions take on more stark contrasts and vague assumptions meet hard truths.
If Holmes and Cruise did break apart in part because of religion, it won’t be the first couple that has publicly divided over the issue.
Therapists often advise talking it out as the best approach on family decisions on religion (as with most other contentious issues).
On Parenting frequent contributor Jennifer Kogan offered excellent advice this past holiday season on how to establish inclusive family traditions by talking through which traditions have deep meaning for each partner.
But religion is not the family budget or bedtime duty or how to deal with teenage backtalk or any number of parent dividers.
At its very core, religious teaching and one’s interpretation of it is sometimes just not malleable. Which means it can be far more difficult to work out a compromise.
Are you part of an interfaith couple? How are you navigating the religion decision?