An unexpected interfaith marriage
“Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk” by J. Dana Trent
(Fresh Air Books)
J. Dana Trent and Fred Eaker spent their honeymoon in India, but the sights they saw were unique to the interfaith couple. Trent, an ordained Baptist minister, and Eaker, a Hindu who spent five years as a monk, honeymooned at an ashram outside New Delhi. An ashram, Trent explains in her memoir, is a Hindu temple, monastery and residential community that usually accommodates pilgrims, including them. Their India honeymoon is described in detail in the first chapter of “Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk,” including the lack of, shall we say, expected romance.
Trent read an excerpt last week at her church, Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, as she launched the book along with Eaker. They shared their interfaith marriage in an interview with The Herald-Sun in early 2011, and over the past year, Trent has been writing her memoir. There’s plenty of humor as well as the seriousness that comes when two people of two different faiths who love each other need to work out the details of daily life and living their faiths.
The Rev. Stephanie Ford, minister of Christian formation at Binkley, said at the book launch that interfaith families have a lot to contribute, including at Binkley. Interfaith marriage, Ford said, is about “learning to support another person on a faith journey.”
When Trent, a graduate of Duke Divinity School, and Eaker set out to make their interfaith marriage work, the self-described theology nerds went to a book store and searched for books on interfaith marriage. Most were Christian and Jewish or Christian and Muslim, but they did not find any books on Christian and Hindu marriages. So Trent wrote her own.
The Rev. Robert Seymour, minister emeritus at Binkley Baptist, said that when he grew up in the 1920s and ’30s, a mixed religion marriage meant a Baptist and a Methodist or a Presbyterian. Seymour said he was very impressed by Trent’s forthrightness and candor in “Saffron Cross.” Her book is breaking new ground, he said.
Eaker said the book has brought a huge spotlight on their lives, and his wife is more comfortable being it. He thanked both of their faith communities for their support. Eaker and Trent spend time in each other’s faith communities, something they said was essential to their marriage.
Trent said she hopes “Saffron Cross” will foster conversation, and that their prayer is that the book will be a manual of courage to get to know someone from a different faith or denomination.
Trent and Eaker met on the dating website eHarmony, where she checked off all the world religions, as long as the match wasn’t atheist or agnostic. Their merging of faiths was also a merging of lifestyles. Eaker is a minimalist, so they compromise. He said that in his eHarmony survey, he was open to pretty much anyone.
“It’s not so important to have the same faith, but it’s important to have deep faith,” said Eaker, who converted to Hinduism after learning more about it in college.
In “Saffron Cross,” Trent chronicles their struggles, arguments, lighter moments and dedication to each other during the beginning of their marriage.
She writes: “A Christian-Hindu life is messy, like Prasad flattened on the concrete, but I cherish it. Spilling our overflowing cup was an honor, not a trouble. No matter how off track Fred and I felt our interfaith marriage was at times, God was still God, incarnate in many forms amid this diverse world.”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St., Durham