The Rev. David Rivers, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.:
Exploration is an indispensable part of the soul as it searches for the answers to some of life’s greatest questions, like “Is there a God?,” “Why am I here?” and “Who am I?,” among many others. The greatest writings conveying the relationship between God and humanity are the result of deep soul-searching.
Often, the age in which the deeper questions of the soul emerge happens at the same time that students leave the confines of home and are launched into a world that brings fresh challenges and opportunities. These come from every direction, and many embark on the voyage of soul-searching for years to come.
The concern of many Christians, perhaps other faiths as well, is whether exposure to other religions is dangerous for one’s faith. Perhaps. It depends on one’s perspective of the “evils” out there and God’s power.
On the one hand, I like how one theologian once said that God is actively “wooing” humanity to himself. If this is true, the exploration is in fact a journey toward the God who is wooing us back to himself. The end result is God.
Yet there are some who worry that exposure to other faiths may lead one away from their own. As a Christian, I must always remember that my tradition blossomed from Judaism. Jesus, a Jewish follower, invited humanity to come and follow him on a new way. This new way was the invitation of love — to love God with all that I am and to love my neighbor as well. Yet even in the time of Jesus, followers were entrenched in a culture with a multitude of religions. Therefore, they learned how to practice this new way that leads to life and, ultimately, God. So explore, question and find life!
— Send email to David Rivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judy Roitman, guiding teacher, Kansas Zen Center, 1423 N.Y.:
This question is about what happens when you start living on your own. College has nothing to do with it. Permission from strangers writing in the paper has nothing to do with it either.
So suppose you’ve just started living on your own. Does your spiritual life fit? If it does, why would you want to look elsewhere? If it doesn’t, then you can put up with it anyway, look around for something else, or leave religion entirely. These are your options at any time in your life.
I used the word “fit” very carefully. A lot of people want a religion that makes them feel good. But if you go deeply enough into any religion, you will find yourself challenged, facing things that are difficult to face. That’s one of the basic purposes of any religion. It’s not about whether you feel good — it’s whether the religion (or lack of it) helps you look at the hard stuff.
If your religion fits, or if it doesn’t and you’ve started looking around at other religions or none, there’s nothing more to say.
But suppose you’re just going through the religious motions. A lot of people do. If it doesn’t bother you, no problem. But maybe you feel like you are drowning.
Then you need to do something. It can be very difficult. Your friends may not understand. Your family may not understand. You may fear becoming a pariah.
But it’s like gay people coming out. Some have it easy, some have it hard, but people who come out as gay very rarely regret it. Their life can feel whole.
That’s what I would wish for everyone reading this: that you feel spiritually whole. And if you don’t right now, that you find something — whatever fits, from monastic life to atheism — that helps you do so.
— Send email to Judy Roitman at email@example.com.