Fred Stella, the Pracharak (minister of outreach) of the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:
“Speaking as someone who was raised in one tradition but adopted another later in life, I encourage anyone on a spiritual search to use a similar approach to finding a spouse. of a life partner, we are advised to combine the forces of our head and our heart. The same is true here. Of course, studying the different theologies and figuring out what appeals to you intellectually is extremely important. Beliefs do they resonate with your lived experiences?Would you be allowed to question any doctrine without fear of condemnation?
“But the survey is incomplete without noticing how you respond emotionally to faith. Does reading about it or chatting with adherents give you a sense of joy? Do you think you might be ‘in love’ with it? Take your time. And like the courtship process, “date” with as many religions as you want. Then maybe you want to “get stable” or “get engaged” to someone in particular. everything is going well, I hope that at some point you will feel so committed to a spiritual path that you will want to “marry” into it as a formal process of conversion or initiation.
“Finally, I’m sure my colleagues on this panel would be willing to meet with you privately, should you wish to explore any of the traditions we represent.”
Imam Kip Curnutt, Director of Religious Education and Associate Imam of Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids, responds:
“Choosing a belief system is perhaps the most important decision a human can make and therefore it is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a decision that should be made with full conviction. and spiritual comfort. This is a matter that involves both the mind and the heart. The mind must be convinced and the heart must be at ease. My advice in researching religions is to focus on first on the big picture. What is the basic assumption of religion? Then look at the small details. Are they consistent with the larger worldview that religion puts forward? Religion as Is the whole system logically consistent with itself?Is its paradigm a compelling picture through which to view existence?Then I advise you to sincerely pray with an open heart for God to guide you to the truth about Him and the life which is pleasing to him and so that your heart make yourself comfortable. God is merciful and answers the caller with sincerity.
Reverend Colleen Squires, pastor at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, responds:
“It’s very common in our Unitarian Universalist faith. Our 4th Principle is to have a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We look at all religions, welcome and are encouraged to explore other religions. Your religion must be consistent with what you truly believe. If you find yourself making excuses for the beliefs or doctrine of your religion, it may not be the right religion for you.
Father Kevin Niehoff, OP, a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:
“The questioner may already know the answer. The process you go through is called discernment.
“Start by identifying your values. Compare this with the teachings of different Christian religious traditions. Ask yourself, ‘what am I looking for?’ Which religious tradition matches my values (please note that no religious tradition matches perfectly). Spend time visiting the various churches, both alone and for services and mass. Speak with the assembled community members. Speak with religious leaders of different religious traditions. What speaks to your heart and, more importantly, your soul?
“I am a Roman Catholic cradle. The Catholic intellectual tradition, its rituals and its devotions nourish my soul. More importantly, I frequently received the body and blood of Christ.
“Catholic parishes, in September, begin a process for those who question the faith. This is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RICA). There is also one for children (RCIC). Other churches have similar opportunities. There is no rush for you to decide. Good luck on your trip!”
Reverend Ray Lanning, retired pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, responds:
“If God has not spoken, then we are all on our own. Any other criteria should be subjective, mere human opinion, and any conclusions drawn should be tentative at best. You can also shoot straws or flip a coin.
“The starting point for Christians is the double revelation of Himself which God gave to mankind in creation and the Bible: “We know Him by two means: first, by creation, preservation and government of the universe, which is in front of us. eyes like a most elegant book… Secondly, He makes Himself known to us more clearly and more fully through His holy and divine Word” (Belgian Confession, article 2). My advice is to look around you at the things God has done, listen to what they say (Psalm 19:1-3) and study in the light of what He says in Holy Scripture. Choose the religion that best accords with God’s revelation of Himself in His handiwork, in the Holy Scriptures, and in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This column answers questions of ethics and religion by putting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders from the Grand Rapids area. We would love to hear about common ethical questions that arise in your day as well as religious questions that you have. Tell us how you solved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].
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