The other day one of my friends said that we should get married. After I said, “Okay,” he said that actually we couldn’t because he’s Muslim and I’m Christian. This caused me to stop and think. For a very long time.
One of the things that I like about Indonesia is that, even though it’s a majority Muslim country, I’ve never once felt strange about being a Christian. Yes, every single one of my friends in UKJGS is Muslim, but that doesn’t matter.
A few weeks ago, I ran into one of my dance friends on the street.
“Where are you coming from?” he asked.
“Church,” I said.
He nodded, as if I’d said the supermarket or eating dinner or campus. We moved on to talking about makeup.
I hadn’t even paused to consider whether or not I should be vague with my response, the way I always did at Oberlin. I go to church; they go to mosque; it doesn’t matter. At the beginning of meetings, when we all close our eyes and pray, my prayer is different; it doesn’t matter.
But, to the government, it does matter. Inter-religious marriage is forbidden in Indonesia, which means that if people from two different religions want to get married, one of them has to convert.
Because I’m prone to flights of fancy, I followed this train of thought along. Probably I’d be the one to convert, since I’d never want to feel responsible for messing with anyone else’s faith. Plus, it’s just a government regulation. Converting wouldn’t actually affect my faith either.
But even after I’d come to this conclusion, it still felt deeply wrong. I went over it again in my head. My religious identity is bigger than a simple, government-imposed label, so why did the whole thing feel so skin-crawlingly bad?
It took longer than it should have for me to figure it out. It feels wrong because it means the government would be interfering with my religion. Which isn’t okay. I’d go so far as to say that it’s obviously not okay. Now, I know this is coming from my position as a biased American, and I know that part of my job here is to remove myself from biases, but this may be one place where I can’t compromise.
Because of the upcoming American presidential election, all the news that I read is about abortion and gay marriage and other delightful topics of contention. I’ve done my fair share of rolling my eyes at politicians who claim that women can’t get pregnant through rape and wondering aloud about the crazy path the US seems to be headed down.
But it’s all relative. Parallels can be drawn between the Indonesia and the United States, comparisons can be made, and they’d all be accurate to a certain extent but no further. Indonesia has its problems and the US has its problems. It’s good to remember, though, especially for recent liberal arts graduates now living overseas, that the US also has its strong points.
I’m waiting for my absentee ballot.