Very interesting first-person piece in the LA times Sunday. Aizita Magana explains how her marriage to a Muslim man fell apart after 9/11. Her story had been typical – a Catholic who had “fallen in love” with a Muslim and thought that romance would conquer all. In one of the most telling passages, she tells of how, after announcing her engagement,
a Jewish friend told me I would eventually change my religion. “Believe me, you will convert,” he said. But falling in love in secular America means you follow the “I” and not the “us.” I didn’t think I had to love his religion or his country of origin. In retrospect, I didn’t think that I needed to love my own. [emphasis Don’s] My job, I told myself, was simply to love him. As for his faith, his prophet and the rug in the living room upon which he prayed, I didn’t see how they could harm our love. We both agreed there was only one God, so how could it be bad that he prayed five times more each day than I did?
This type of thinking is unsustainable, and it predictably ended in the collapse of the relationship. Religion is not something that comes second or third in life’s list of priorities. It is what defines your understanding of reality. This couple had competing worldviews. They did not worship the same God and therefore, underneath all the emotions, each believed the other to be false about the most important questions of life. After 9/11, some of the differences became more stark and the author tells how she could no longer gloss them over:
In truth, America did not wind up rejecting my husband. I did. I began to rethink our agreement to raise our children Muslim. He started to talk about going home. He wanted me to know the Koran. I was considering revisiting my Catholic roots. He thought love meant that I would begin to embrace Islam because the events now called for it. I thought it meant that we could still both worship God in our own way. In the pre-9/11 world there was a space for us that was big enough to love and be married in, to blend our differences with optimism and fearlessness. Now those differences seem unbridgeable. I know there are many couples who have found a way to move forward together regardless of their differences. But I no longer believe that love conquers all. Love consists of compromises, and with the world so deep in conflict, compromising on the big things, like religion, seems harder now than ever before.
I’m not sure she understands love yet, but it looks like she is starting to get religion.