"Across the country, Desi moms can barely contain their glee at pointing out to their daughters how Weiner is what you get when you marry out."
For those who aren't acquainted with the term 'Desi' - it designates someone of South Asian descent. The Facebook page that carried this amusing message last night revealed a sub plot to the Weiner sex chat saga, namely that Weiner and Abedin are perhaps the highest profile interfaith couple in America and the troubles in their relationship have the potential to be used as another case in point of those issuing dire warnings about interfaith marriages.
Anthony Weiner, as you know even if you live under a rock, was exposed (ahem) Tuesday as having continued to engage in sex chatting with young ladies for over a year after he lost his congressional seat due to the last sexting scandal in 2011.
When the news emerged on Tuesday, the mayoral candidate promptly held a press conference. There, standing next to him, was his wife Huma Abedin, to whom he apologized repeatedly. Weiner told the reporters that he had asked for Abedin's forgiveness and she had given it. Abedin then spoke:
"It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony. It was not an easy choice in any way, but I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. I made a decision for me, for my son and my marriage."
After watching the press conference yesterday afternoon a secular Muslim friend of mine emailed me his reactions: "It struck me, seeing them there together, that here was a Muslim and a Jew, and how hard that might be."
After watching the press conference a couple times I have to say that my heart went out to both of them. They obviously have been through a lot and are trying to make this marriage work -- in part because of political ambition, but as Huma said, for the sake of her son, and the sake of the marriage itself.
Interfaith marriages can be difficult under any circumstances and research shows that people with different religious beliefs tend to have a slightly higher rate of divorce.
Although Weiner and Abedin appear to be more secular in their observance, which probably makes them more similar in their world view than a secular person married to an religiously observant person of the same religion, the religious tension in their marriage was revealed in one text during the original sexting scandal in 2011.
Gawker reported that Weiner complained in a text that he had never been accepted by Abedin's parents. "A lot has to do with religion,' Weiner said, '"They just believe I should be Muslim or convert... it makes for a lot of uncomfortable meetings."
In both Judaism and Islam there is an emphasis on marrying within the faith and Weiner and Abedin must have faced considerable pressure when announcing their decision. Having grown up with grandparents who were of different faith traditions, I know that an interfaith marriage can be a source of conflict, although it has proven to be nothing but a blessing in my own family.
One of the psychological and spiritual risks of an interfaith marriage is that you do not immediately have a shared language or ritual to process such difficult moments such as infidelity although, as Weiner and Abendin made clear, therapy can also provide an effective means of struggling through such issues.
As political figures not sharing a faith provides serious difficulties. We have become used to politicians admitting sin and accepting redemption from their God and, hopefully, then the public. There is a long list of political and religious figures who have committed far worse crimes than Weiner has, and yet they can use familiar (read Christian) language that the public understands to cleanse themselves and start over.
Just this year Mark Sanford and Elliot Spitzer both used religious language to talk about their past 'sins.' However, this public religious ritual of confession and absolution is much more complicated in the loaded marriage between a Muslim and a Jew.
What seems clear, however, is the problems of the marriage between Anthony Weiner and Huma Abendin did not arise because they are of different faith. It is because one of them has struggled with sex-addiction and they are now confronted with the deep consequences of that addiction.
Perhaps they will follow the example of Bill and Hilary Clinton. After all, they were from an interfaith marriage -- he Baptist, she Methodist -- and they had their trial by fire, and they are still are together.
I hope they can save their marriage -- not because they are interfaith, and to prove anything about interfaith relationships, but because I always want marriages to work. We should all wish both of them the best -- whether or not we want to vote for them in the coming mayoral election.