It's been almost two years since I've written a blog, but a 60 Minutes feature last night prompted this one.
The segment featured a young man in a Minnesota prison who had attended his religious services regularly but didn't understand the language. He was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen. When he wanted to understand more about his religion he went to the internet and listened to a man speaking in English who convinced him that if he recruited for Isis and even died for Isis he and his whole family would go to heaven. He had questions and received pat answers.
This reminded me of a book I'd just finished (The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Karen Powell) where a thirteen-year-old boy attended church with his family most weekends, and one Sunday after service he asked the senior pastor if God knew everything and he held up his little finger, would God know which finger he held up. The pastor's answer was yes, because God knew everything. Then the boy pulled out a Life magazine with pictures of starving children in Africa and asked if God knew about them and if God was going to do something about it. The pastor gave the same answer. That boy left church that day and never returned. The boy's name was Steve Jobs. Yes, the Steve Jobs of Apple.
I often tell parents and church leaders that I consider faith as my relationship with God and my beliefs as something that has changed from time to time and will continue to change. This, then, requires us to inquire and question. This is what the early Jews and Christians did as they wrote the scriptures that we hold so dear. They were inquiring and applying the ideas to the life as they knew it then - the world was flat with the heavens and God above, and other thoughts.
If we don't inquire about our faith, we never grow in that relationship with God. Jesus encouraged an inquiring faith when he questioned some of the laws that had developed in his religion. John Wesley used four ways of looking at our faith: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. He encouraged us to use our brains for more than just filling the space in our skulls.
What would have happened if the pastor had taken the time to talk with Steve Jobs about his questions instead of giving pat answers? How many lives would have been saved if the religious leader of the young man in the Minnesota prison had done the same?
We must help older children, youth and yes, even adults, to inquire about their faith and thereby come to their own beliefs and understand that those beliefs may change as they grow closer in their relationship with God.