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Converting for Love
A person decides to become part of a religion due to some sort of romantic interest.
Happens quite often in Real Life
, particularly with religions which do not allow their believers to marry outside their faith. It is somewhat more common for the woman to convert. Perhaps this is because so many cultures are patriarchal.
Of course, actual dedication to the new religion varies from convert to convert. Individuals who lack genuine religious fervor may stop practicing their new faith if they Did Not Get the Girl
(or guy) they were interested in. On the other hand it is also common for the convert to become more
fervent than their loved ones who grew up in the religion.
open/close all folders
- Discussed in Maus, the Author Avatar's wife converted to Judaism to please his father. Since the characters of Maus are represented by Funny Animals, Art Spiegelman, the Author Avatar, wonders if he should portray her conversion as her turning from a frog (i.e. French) into a mouse (Jew). His wife just tells him to portray her as a mouse and leave out the conversion.
- In Harry Potter fan fic Hogwarts 1940, a witch converts to Judaism in order to marry a Jewish muggle.
- Ian Miller (the main character's Love Interest) My Big Fat Greek Wedding converts to the Greek Orthodox Church.
- Happens in Eat Drink Man Woman when the eldest daughter Jia-Jen (a Christian) marries the school volleyball coach. When one of her sisters points out that he's not Christian, she smiles and replies, "He will be."
- In The Big Lebowski, Walter had converted to Judaism for his wife, and remains as such, despite being divorced.
- In Keeping The Faith, Christian Anna Riley converts to Judaism so she can marry rabbi Jack Schram.
- Implied to happen after the end of Kiss Me Guido, as the older brother and his love interest (the younger brother's landlady) are getting busy on the couch in the theater lobby; he (in muffled tones) asks "Will you convert [to Catholicism] for me?" and she says yes.
- A particularly interesting instance in The Believer, where the girl appears to have converted to Judaism by the end of the movie. Thanks to her self-hating Jewish boyfriend. Who's a Neo-Nazi.
- Les Misérables (1995) (the Jean-Paul Belmondo version) features an example of this.
- The film David and Leila features a romance between a Jewish man and Muslim Kurdish woman in New York City. At first she pretends to be Jewish so his parents will accept it, and surprisingly her family doesn't have a problem with him at all (Kurds having more problems with fellow Muslims than Jews). Her father still tells him the imam won't let them get married unless he becomes a Muslim though, which he does after initial reluctance (humorously noting how easy it is converting to Islam versus Judaism-"No wonder there are so many more of you.")
- A throwaway conversation in the S.W.A.T. movie reveals that a minor character converted to Mormonism when he got married. And habitually violates their dietary rules due to a love of fast food.
- There's an old Jewish joke about a father who gives his son one piece of advice as he leaves for college: whatever you do, don't marry a girl who isn't Jewish. Sure enough, he goes to college, meets a girl who isn't Jewish, falls in love, and gets married. To appease his father, she converts. In fact, while taking conversion classes, she gets so excited about the religion that she becomes a fervent believer. Fast forward a few months, and the father drops by the son's house and tries to get the son to come to the movies with him. The son refuses, saying that his wife tells him that it's not allowed for Jews to go to the movies (or do anything involving electricity) on Saturdays. Punchline: "I TOLD YOU NOT TO MARRY A GIRL WHO WASN'T JEWISH!"
- This is Older Than Print due to occurrences in mediaeval literature. Notably Parzival, where the half-Arab Muslim Feirefiz undergoes a rather unconvincing conversion for love of the Grail princess. (He doesn't even know what "baptism" is, but if it's what he has to do to marry her...)
- Katya and Leisl both join the Church of Lathander in the Ravenloft novel Vampire of the Mists because they're in love with Sasha, the priest.
- Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker series has Decker convert to Judaism in order to be with the Jewish Orthodox widow Rina Lazarus. An unusual example since as an adult he finds out that he was born to Jewish parents (and thus was already considered a Jew under Jewish law) but he was adopted and raised by Southern Baptists.
- Averted in Harry Kemmelman's Conversations with Rabbi Small. Additional twists: the girl want's to pursue conversion despite insistence by both Small and her fiancee that they aren't interested. (Small is more concerned with reverting the non-servant man). But she turns out to be genetically Jewish anyway.
- In The Godfather, Kay (a Protestant) converts to Catholicism after marrying Michael. In fact she turns out to be far more into her new faith than he ever was since Michael is actually annoyed at her insistence in raising their kids Catholic (he wanted them to be brought up Protestant and thus more assimilated into American culture.)
- In The Alien Series, Serene attends catechism classes at a Catholic church, despite being her family's religion being so important to them they were willing to go into exile on Earth for it, because she's trying to get closer to her Catholic crush.
- Ulrika in The Emigrants converts to Christianity's Baptist denomination in order to marry a Baptist priest.
- In The Long Ships, Orm has to convert to Christianity to marry the beautiful Ylva. (From Islam, of all religions; he'd already converted from the Norse religion to serve under Caliph Almansur.)
- In People of the Book, Reuben Ben Shoushan converts to Christianity to marry his Catholic sweetheart. This being Spain in 1492, it really doesn't end well.
- Adja Awa Astou from the novel Xala converted from Catholicism to Islam in her youth in order to marry El Hadji, and as a result is estranged from her devout father.
- Subverted in Swedish science fiction novel Iskriget (The Ice War), in which neither Catholic Linda nor Wesleyan (i.e. Methodist) Johnny convert — they just have a Catholic wedding. Considering that in this alternate history the Wesleyans appear to be openly disliked by a lot of authoritarian governments for their stance on social justice, it was probably the most practical solution.
- In Tales of Kolmar, Akhor is made to become human to be with Lanen as Varien. When this happens he doesn't stop praying to the Winds, but he does mention the human goddess, Lady Shia, a lot more often and with more reverence than before.
- In The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Wanda fall is love with her family's Jewish slave Jacob. After Jacob manages to buy his freedom, he returns for Wanda and the two of them run off. Wanda converts to Judaism so they can be married.
- The Danielle Steel novel Coming Out mentions that the protagonist converted to Judaism before marrying her second husband. Very touchingly, he did not ask to do this—they were in their late 40s when the wed, ergo there was no need for debate over what religion their children would be raised in—she did it essentially as a wedding gift to him to show how much she loved him.
- The Flyte family of Brideshead Revisited are Catholics, and Lord Marchmain was expected to convert in order to marry Teresa Flyte. Hilarity Ensues when Rex Mottram attempts the same to marry Julia.
- Sasha from The Tenets of Futilism picks up a rather unusual set of beliefs about halfway through the novel. She even starts a cult. Her partner, Joe, is heavily hinted to not share in her beliefs, and only pretends to out of love.
Live Action TV
- George converts to Latvian Orthodoxy briefly for a girlfriend in Seinfeld, only to lose the girlfriend anyway. (According to The Other Wiki, the writer of that episode had no idea that Latvian Orthodox was a real sect — he was trying to make up a fictional one.)
- "Is this the group that mutilates squirrels?!"
- In another episode, Elaine goes to a bar mitzvah and the kid tries to make out with her saying that now he's a "real man". Later on she tells him that he's not a real man yet, and he renounces Judaism. His father later also renounces Judaism because of interest in Elaine.
- Charlotte converts to Judaism for her eventual husband in Sex and the City.
- Happened in Im Alan Partridge with Lynn being baptised.
- In the first season of Soap Corinne is in love with Father Tim, who leaves the priesthood for her. She isn't Catholic, but she converts.
- Big Love has Margie leaving the main Mormon church and joining a polygamous offshoot. (Which, if the Mormon church learns of it, is grounds for immediate excommunication; hence a lot of the secrecy).
- In Arrested Development, George Michael tries to ante-up the game with
Bland Ann by attending her religious protests and family Christmas party.
- In The O.C. Summer plans on converting to Judaism for Seth. Interestingly averted with Seth's mother Kirsten who is confirmed several times as not converting and is happily married anyway.
- In a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode called "Shandeh", the victim was a Catholic woman who converted to Judaism for her husband.
- A storyline on the prime time soap Sisters had youngest sister Frankie converting to Judaism with her husband Mitch. Interestingly, she was not converting to join his religion—they were both Christian and decided to convert after Mitch attended some services that gave him an insight into Jewish life.
- Janelle from Sister Wives says that she fell for Kody and the faith came later. With the later revelation that her mom married Kody's dad shortly before Janelle and Kody got married, it seems there was also some Converting for Love there.
- In House, Cuddy's mother had converted to Judaism for her husband. While House is dating Cuddy, she asks whether he intends to convert to Judaism as well. As he claims to be atheist, she just says that so are most Jews and that it's more about community.
- In Degrassi, Jenna gets baptized in order to hook up with Luke, who is a conservative Christian.
- Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves: While he doesn't straight up convert, Benjamin leaves Jehovah's Witnesses in order to come out of the closet and be with his lover Rasmus. Not only does that mean leaving the church he was raised in but it also means that he is dead to his parents and sister. His parents are even kind enough to show up at his door with flowers and cake for a "funeral service".
- Sarah Hamoudi converted to Islam in order to marry Yasir in the backstory of Little Mosque on the Prairie...and is depicted as being a thoroughly unenthusiastic Muslim, partially because Yasir is as well (the plot of many episodes revolve around either their daughter Rayyan or the imam Amaar nagging one or both of them to behave more Islamically)
- On Masters Of Sex, Ethan, who is non-observant Jewish, is convinced by his fiancee Vivian to convert to Christianity so they can get married in a church. However, he decides not to and breaks up with her.
Religion and Mythology
- In the opera Madame Butterfly, Butterfly secretly converts on the night before her wedding so she can worship the God of her husband-to-be. For this, she is disowned by all her relatives.
- In Fiddler on the Roof, youngest daughter Chava converts to Christianity so that she can marry a Christian. She is effectively dead to her father, and by extension the rest of her family, for most of the rest of the play.
- In the older, Yiddish adaptations, as well as Sholem Aleichem's Tevye stories, on which the plays are based, Chava cannot live without her faith. She deserts her husband and, possibly, children, begging her father to take her back. Sometimes, Tevye relents. Sometimes he doesn't, but she follows the yiddishe mishpocha into exile anyway, hoping eventually he'll let her rejoin the family.
- Jessica does this in The Merchant of Venice, becoming a Christian after she elopes with Lorenzo compare with her father Shylock's forced conversion to avoid capital punishment.
- In Tina's Story, Tina wants to convert to Judaism, so her fiancee and their children-to-be would have a common bond.
- Isla Fisher, Ivanka Trump, and Elizabeth Banks all converted to Judaism to marry.
- Autumn Kelly had to convert from Catholicism to Anglicanism to marry Peter Phillips (Princess Anne's son), because if he married a Catholic he'd have to give up his place in the succession.
- Bobby Jindal, the current Governor of Louisiana, converted to Catholicism in high school after falling in love with a Catholic girl. This is why he doesn't go by his real name (it's not Robert, but rather Piyush, a Hindu name that he wants nothing to do with). He didn't wind up marrying her, but he remains a devout Catholic.
- Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism when she married Arthur Miller.
- So did Elizabeth Taylor, when she married her third husband, Mike Todd.
- Singer-songwriter Jim Croce also converted to Judaism upon marrying his wife Ingrid.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's wife Edith converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism for their marriage, a great sacrifice (although anti-Catholicism had died down considerably, converting to Catholicism would still cause a bit of a stir even in the early 20th century; also, Edith was involved in her parish and suffered some ostracism for the conversion) that Tolkien never forgot. This experience is quite unambiguously the basis for the recurring motif of immortal women marrying mortal (or at least lesser-ranked) men in Tolkien's work, such as Arwen marrying Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, in the process irreversibly separating from her people or origin.note
- A rare (for the time) male example: Sir Ernest Cassel, a famous British Jewish merchant banker of the Victorian era, converted to Catholicism because of a deathbed plea from his wife. Decades later, when his friend King Edward VIII made him a member of his Privy Council, everyone present was astonished that Cassel insisted upon swearing his oath with a Catholic Bible.
- Non-Muslim men marrying even moderately-serious Muslim women typically invert this: the traditional Sunni interpretations of Islamic law permit Muslim men to marry non-Muslim "believers" (usually considered to include Christians and Jews, occasionally expanded to include Zoroastrians and even Hindus and Buddhists), but do not permit Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. The reason that this is a Sunni regulation and not a Shia one is that the rule started with the Caliph Umar, whom the Shia regard as a usurper. Since most Muslims are Sunni, most mixed marriages involving a Muslim woman typically require the man converting. It should be noted that the basis in the Qur'an is kind of vague; it clearly bans marriage to kafirun (unbelievers) but who exactly is an unbeliever is a rather tricky subject. More liberal Muslims restrict its definition to just the ancient Arab pagans (who no longer exist), or sometimes pagans/animists generally; more conservative ones tend to consider anyone not a member of the Abrahamic religions (sometimes plus Zoroastrianism, on account of a confusing passage in the Qur'an) a kafir; and the radical fundamentalists often go so far as to say as everyone who does not hold to their strict interpretation of Islam is an unbeliever.
- In Malaysia, a non-Muslim marrying a Muslim must first convert to Islam, regardless of gender. It's the law. And unlike other nations, it is almost impossible for a Muslim to convert to another faith - meaning that even if you had converted merely for the sake of your spouse, you can't simply "jump ship" back to your old faith if your marriage crumbles.
- In a lot of countries, converting from Islam for any reason can get you killed or otherwise result in punishment. How severe depends on the country: in Egypt, a private citizen has to get offended enough by it to bring it up with the prosecutor, who may or may not be willing to pursue the case, and the worst that can happen to someone convicted of apostasy (which includes both conversion away from Islam and what amounts to heresy) is having to pay a fine and, if married and male, having the marriage annulled.note On the other hand, in Saudi Arabia, a convert away from Islam should not expect to keep his or her head for very long once the Culture Police find out about it.
- Yet other Muslims find the idea distasteful in that, love amongst persons may die when said person dies, and when conversion is done out of love to a person, that faith can die when the person (and hence the love) dies. Then again, there have been cases where a person converted out of love for the person, only to find him/herself genuinely attracted to the religion and started practicing with full conviction.
- Speaking of this business, Omar Sharif (of Doctor Zhivago fame) was actually born to a Catholic family of Lebanese origin (his birth name is Michel Dimitri Shalhoub). He converted from Catholicism to Islam at least in part to marry the Muslim actress Faten Hamama; they later divorced, but Sharif decided that Islam suited him better anyways. In 2008, he appeared in an Egyptian film (Hassan and Marcus) where he plays a Muslim sheikh who has to pretend to be Christian for his own safety, leading to a bit of irony for people who know his actual life story.
- In the non-recent past, when a Jewish woman left the faith and married a non-Jew, it was seen as such a betrayal that her family would consider her dead. They might even sit Shiva for her, mourning just as if she really had died. Afterward, they would not speak to her even if she was standing in front of them, because logically they could not see or talk to a dead person. The attitude is more understandable if you take into account the way Jewish communities were frequently harassed by the people around them; besides betraying religion and culture, she had effectively defected to the enemy.
- Toshimitsu Deyama converted to a small "therapy and healing" sect called Home of Heart at the behest of his then-wife Kaori Moritani. It would take around 10 years for him to realize that this wasn't a good idea.
- Very common when anyone who's not Mormon wants to marry someone who is. In Mormon theology, marriage is considered to be a necessary and eternal covenant (with the marriage continuing into future planes of existence), but this covenant can only be made between two active members of the church. For believing Mormons, therefore, marrying outside the church means making a vital part of family life impossible.
- Many Christians practice "missionary dating," with a Christian dating a non-Christian for the purpose of helping spread the word about Jesus. Most apologists condemn the practice, as the Christian risks either compromising their own faith for the sake of the other party or facing heartbreak when the other person doesn't convert.
- Jay Roach converted to Judaism when he married Susanna Hoffs.
- Based on context clues, Katie Holmes likely did this when she started studying Scientology around the same time she dated and later married Tom Cruise. It didn't stick, given that she went back to Catholicism, the church of her youth, after divorcing Cruise.
- In his autobiography The Color of Water, author/musician James McBride writes about his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan, who did this. Born Rachel Shilsky, she was a Russian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. as a child. She eventually converted to Christianity and married her first husband, a black pastor. Her family disowned her and in fact sat Shiva for her.
- It's also very common for non-Jewish women to convert when marrying a Jewish man because certain denominations adhere to matrilineal descent, meaning that someone is only Jewish if their mother was, or if they undergo a formal conversion.