ERIC M. JUKELEVICS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Vocal perfomance junior and chair of the freshman students
of Hillel discussed her religiously specific dating
preferences last week at the University of Arizona Hillel
Wednesday Jan. 30, 2002
Interfaith dating can conflict with personal religious convictions
As society moves toward acceptance of couples whose skin colors
do not match, the personal nature of religion prevents many students
from interfaith dating.
Some worry about assimilation while others have concerns about what
their parents or friends might think. Many do not want to get into
a potentially serious relationship because of the greater pressures
of an interfaith marriage. Yet whatever the reason, students across
the University of Arizona campus make daily decisions about whom
they date based on religion.
"I feel a better understanding with other Jews; there's another
level to connect on," said Suzanne Lewinson, a vocal performance
junior and chair of the Freshman Year Students of Hillel. "With
my upbringing, I chose not to inter-date, because if it ever came
to marriage, then there's never a conflict."
A student's pledge to date only within his or her religion could
become more difficult as religious diversity grows in America. In
1990, the American Religious Identification Survey reported 527,000
Muslims living in the United States. In 2001, the survey estimated
1,104,000 Muslims, an increase of 109 percent. Likewise, the number
of Hindus grew from 227,000 to 766,000, a rise of 237 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of Christians, including Protestants and Catholics,
only increased 5 percent - from 151,225,000 to 159,030,000 adherents.
Complications with family members and different religious views
of marriage can also affect students' interfaith relationships.
"I live in a dual society, and in the Afghan culture, everyone
cares and talks about your relationship and marriage decisions,"
said Atal Wassimi, a physiological sciences junior. "I'm pretty
strong in my identity as an Afghan and a Muslim, but because I live
(in Tucson), it's harder to find women to date."
Differences in faith, however, are not always obstacles to potential
relationships. For some, religion is simply not an issue.
"My parents wouldn't care, and I can't think of a single person
who would ask about religion," said Katie Menssen, a child
psychology junior who said she is not religious. "I never had
pressure to marry someone specific."
But religion extends beyond the church, mosque or synagogue. Holiday
observances, dietary laws and prayer influence people's lives, and
those religious cultures may hold different interpretations of dating
American Religious Identity Survey, conducted 2001
2001 Est. Pop.
of U.S. pop
-Source: U.S. Breau of the Encsus, http://www.census.gov
"For Muslims, finding someone of the same faith to date is
even harder because they don't usually date in the American sense,"
Wassimi said. "Most families don't want their children to start
that type of dating because they see that it will weaken the faith
since premarital sex is a violation."
Besides conflicts with friends and family, religious doctrines often
speak strongly against relationships outside the faith.
"The New Testament says, 'do not be unequally yoked with non-believers,'
and there are plenty of other ways to learn about faiths - dating
isn't it," said Julie Evans, associate director of The Refuge
Student Ministries, 901 N. Tyndall Ave.
As representatives of the Baptist faith on campus, Evans and other
leaders take the dangers of interfaith dating seriously.
"If husband and wife are to become one as the Bible states,
then there's a problem if they can't worship or minister together
- that can't happen," she said.
Yet, for the Rev. Dan Hurlbert, pastor of the Methodist Campus Ministries,
715 N. Park Ave., interfaith dating can be a great way to "test
"We value diversity and pride ourselves on encouraging members
to think for themselves," he said. "I tell my students,
'The differences we have between one another bother us more than
they bother God.'"
However, some religious groups on campus focus more on counseling
for interfaith couples and welcoming non-church members into its
weekly services. At the Catholic Newman Center, 1615 E. Second St.,
Chaplain Intern Brother Tom Mar discusses the topic with students
"The subject has come up quite often of late, and in both cases
of interracial and interfaith, the Church has no strong point of
view," he said. "The Church is wise in not legislating
with whom people fall in love."
Even for Hurlbert, when the relationship reaches the question of
marriage, religion can prove extremely divisive.
"If someone has children, it can be confusing to the child,
and we can't get caught up in this, 'we all believe the same thing,'
deal because we don't," he said. "There are truths we
share but don't express them in the same way."
With the boundaries between different faiths constantly blurring,
some students find it challenging to date exclusively within the
"People cannot control who they're attracted to," said
Michael Neufeld, executive treasurer of the Hillel Foundation and
a business sophomore. "If you truly, deeply love someone, then
you will come to an understanding of what's truly important and
you will compromise."
For students who have not picked a major, let alone a life partner,
this compromise may seem a long way off. The decision becomes a
question of priorities, and some have already set their parameters.
"It's not that important to me to date someone Jewish, but
it is very important that my children be Jewish," said Neufeld,
who is also co-chair of the Greek Jewish Council. "Who I place
my affections toward and my personal dealings with God are two separate