Clashes and compromise in mixed religious families

(Left) Pilgrimage is a huge event where Methodist youth groups come to Fayetteville for a weekend of praise and worship. My youth group goes every year, and it is an amazing experience for many people. (Right) The 2018 graduating class of The Franciscan School. I attended there during my middle school years, and learned a lot about the Catholic faith during that time. (Photo Courtesy of Gretchen Stern)

Having two different religious influences in one family is a dilemma that many people have to deal with. In my case, I have a Catholic dad and a Methodist mom. For some, this would not be as big of a deal. One parent just decides at some point to raise the child in their religion, and the other parent was okay with that.

 However, my mom being a minister in the Methodist church and my dad being a devout Catholic meant neither of them gave up. As a result, I have grown up going to Catholic mass Saturday nights, and Methodist church Sunday mornings.

Upon hearing about my religious situation, many people ask me which I like better, or which one I will become when I’m older. At the moment I am a part of both denominations — Methodists and Catholics are both branches of Christianity — but at some point I’ll have to make this big decision. And the answer to those questions? Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve grown up wondering if it’ll be some monumentos occasion where God comes down and tells me the answer when I’m older, but as I’m getting closer to leaving for college I’ve realized that’s not the case.

Even though I like church more than I did when I was younger, going to services twice a week is not my favorite thing in the world. However, even with the inner conflict of still not really knowing which one I want to be a part of, my faith has grown because of it. Religion is such a big part of me– from services to “Jesus camps” and mission trips– that I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I am who I am because of my Christian upbringing, and people raised in very faith-based family can relate to that.

Time Magazine talks about how raising children in two different religions or denominations could actually have positive impacts rather than just a way to compromise.”It encourages family unity,” said The New York Times.

Both parents have a part in their child’s faith, and no parent is completely excluded. For example, I went to a Catholic middle school but am also very involved in my Methodist youth group. Having a sort of education in both faiths also gives kids a sense of what both parents both believe. This circles back to neither parent being fully left out of their child’s religious journey. For me, it has given me knowledge of the similarities and differences of both denominations.

According to a study at Pew Research Center in 2016, “one in five adults were raised with a mixed religious background.” Another study by Pew Research Center showed that people with the same sort of family I have there is a split — with 38% identifying as Protestant and 29% choosing to be Catholic, and there are many more specific statistics for all the different religious situations a family might have. 

I found it interesting that adults apparently tend to opt toward their mother’s religious preference, but many people — even those brought up with only one religion — identify with a faith completely different from their parents. Another thing the study showed is that the more parents talk about and expose their kids to religion during their childhood, the more likely they are to belong to a religion when they’re older.

The most important thing for me to remember is that no matter what I choose in the end, my parents will support me. It’s hard to not think that I will disappoint my dad in going to a Methodist church when I’m older, or vice versa — and I’m sure I’m not alone. My two brothers will also have to make the same decision one day, and I hope all three of us make the right decision. I hope people that might be in similar situations understand that it’ll all be okay with time, and that whatever happens there will be people to support you.



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