Are you curious about religion or about the large and small questions of life?
Are you seeking a safe outlet to explore new ideas?
I'm interested in hearing from you and helping you to explore those questions in a safe and honest way.
What's your question?
Please note: I am a theologian, not a licensed counsellor. None of your personal details will ever be published without your full consent.
Here are examples of some questions I've been asked
Does religion matter?
A: In short, yes. Whether you have personal belief or not, religion is part of the human experience. Since our earliest days, people have sought to find and make meaning of life and have used various religious systems and rituals to do it. Religion doesn’t have to be about God in a Christian, Muslim, or Hindu sense; religion at its most basic is merely a system of thought and belief (conscious or unconscious) that defines how you operate in the world. Even those who say they are “spiritual, but not religious” are still, indeed, religious. What they mean is that they don’t adhere to religion in the traditional sense (e.g. regular ritualized worship, particular dogmas, etc.), but everyone is religious in the sense that they look to something to give them meaning.
What is the most important thing to you? What do you look to for guidance, affirmation, meaning, and authority in your life? Chances are – whatever that is – that is your religion. It may be God, or it may be the Bible, nature, physical beauty, health, money, learning, sex, or even humanity in general. Either way, if it’s what gives us meaning, it matters.
What’s the difference between good religion and bad religion?
A: Here’s the thing: religion is what people make it. Christianity and Islam say nothing; Christians and Muslims do. Furthermore, there is no single Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Humanism; there are a multitude of Christianities, Islams, Buddhisms, and Humanisms. So to paint any religion or atheism with broad brush strokes and say one is good and another is bad is to miss the point. People make religion good or bad, depending on how they interpret and implement it. Religious belief, texts, and fervor can be shaped and harnessed for good and bad purposes, and it is the responsibility of the believer to keep the brain God gave them engaged to test whether or not what they’re being taught is true.
A favorite quote of mine is this: “I like God just fine; it’s God’s fan club I can’t stand.” So much hate, exclusion, violence, and simple ignorance is perpetuated in the name of God and it gives those who work hard to love, include, and strive for peace and justice a bad name.
Here’s the test: Is the religion (or atheism) you’re practicing making the world a better place? And by “better”, I don’t mean better for you and your fellow followers in order to achieve your own goals for the world, but better for everyone now, whether they believe the same as you or not. If it does, then great! Go and be blessed and be a blessing to others. If not, well . . .
I ’m confused. Am I broken or am I whole?
A: Both. In one of my favorite books, a character states: “If ever you find yourself in the midst of a paradox, you can be sure you stand on the edge of truth.”
These words “broken” and “whole” get used a lot in contemporary pop psychology and culture, so we need to be careful what we mean when we use them as sometimes they are helpful and sometimes not. By “broken” I mean someone who is in pain, someone who has regrets, has made mistakes, who struggles, and who is…..well, human. By “whole” I mean someone who is created by God, whose spirit lives in each of us, and that who we are is enough; we are not a partial thing. No one is a mistake. A pain in the ass sometimes, maybe; but not a mistake.
For me, the paradox between “broken” and “whole” is similar to the paradox within the commonwealth of God idea where we say that it is “already” and “not yet”. “Already” in the sense that God is here, God’s presence is real and there are glimpses of that perfection God created in the beauty of this world and in the love we see in and around us. But “not yet” because it’s not fully realized – it hasn’t taken over completely, there is still work to do and it is still in process. Will it ever be realized? I’m not sure, but I doubt it.
Wholeness is like that: we know objectively that we are created whole (though I know others will debate with me on that, depending on your theology sin), and at times we see our wholeness and the wholeness of those around us in all its glory. It’s spectacular. But it comes and goes, and no one ever experiences wholeness 100% of the time because we also know we are broken. We know there is still work to do. We know that while we are made whole, we sometimes feel like a fragment, that we are not enough. One doesn’t cancel out the other – they both coexist within us – and I don’t think you can understand and embrace wholeness without also understanding what it means to be broken and embracing that as well.
If God is good, why is do bad things happen?
A: Millions of theological and philosophical pages have written on this topic. The formal word for this type of question is theodicy, and if you want to really dig deep on how this question has been answered over the centuries (if not millennia), then let’s talk.
In short though, God is good, but people have immense capacity for good or evil and sometimes evoke the name of God as the reason for it. It’s people that create and perpetuate the evil in the world, not God. And by evil, I don’t just mean folks like Hitler or KKK; I also mean banal evil in which we all participate, such as perpetuating inequality, poverty, structural racism and sexism.
“Life is pain . . . anyone who says differently is selling something,” says Westley in the movie The Princess Bride. While there is an immense amount of good in life, there is also suffering. Western culture has moved toward trying to avoid and explain away suffering, which I believe is unhelpful. This world is imperfect, as are the people that inhabit it. Accidents happen, storms build and blow through areas, the Earth shakes, and lives are destroyed alongside more overtly “evil” things such as violence, abuse, and injustice. Sometimes things happen for no reason, and other times it’s our own failings to care for one another and the Earth we inhabit that lead to disaster. Suffering in the world is often made worse by our ignorance, inaction, or disregard for life. Regardless, I don’t believe these things are usually from God.
The Psalmist writes: "Awake! Why are you asleep, O Lord? Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth." (Psalm 44:24-26) Suffering often makes us feel like God has abandoned us, that God has allowed it to happen, or even that God did it to us directly. We are engulfed in grief, and our pain can cause anger and despair. It’s completely understandable, and questioning God and doubting are natural reactions in order to make meaning out of what very well may be meaningless situations.
Does good sometimes come out of pain and trauma? Yes. Sometimes we learn a lesson or see things in a different way that makes a positive difference somewhere down the line. But is the learning and good that comes out of the pain and trauma the reason for it? No. Sometimes there is no learning, and there is no good. It should not have happened, but it did. Loss, grief, and trauma are what they are – there is no need to redeem them or spin them into something positive. Unfortunately, they are a part of what it means to be human in this broken world. And yet, we are called to try to rectify it as much as we can – to bear witness to suffering, to work towards justice, and to evoke healing wherever possible.