Faith requires application to be complete
A memorable poster from the 1970s stated, "Life is a journey, not a destination." This served as motivation to encourage students in becoming lifelong learners.
To be alive is to be constantly growing and evolving into a more complete person; this certainly includes one's spiritual journey.
Going to college can be an important part of this process. The friendships, activities and adventures of being independent are indispensable aspects of personal growth.
Growth can result from a variety of experiences. One of my vivid memories comes from a freshman philosophy class. The professor asked a question about the meaning of life, and, being fresh from the farm and filled with optimism, I raised my hand and answered, "To find peace of mind." He explained in precise detail why that was such a "stupid" answer, and I never raised my hand in that class again.
During the 50 years following college, there have been other teachers and ministers who have, likewise, tried to block my spiritual growth by claiming to have all of the right answers. Those who admitted to not having all of the answers and who expressed an interest in looking at a variety of expressions of faith were instrumental in charting my spiritual journey. They have my grateful thanks.
Every faith tradition can provide followers with a belief system, a critical foundation for the beginning of personal spiritual growth. However, religion has often failed in the area of putting one's faith into practice. For example, Christian love might be taught on Sunday mornings, but disrespect and intolerance is too often practiced during the week.
When religious leaders of any faith claim absolute authority about spiritual truth, it not only stops discussion, it brings a halt to spiritual growth. Doctrine can overwhelm the spirit. Furthermore, it seems like an overemphasis on belief systems is the primary cause of problems between different religions.
What one believes is both critical and foundational, but if the believer isn't instructed and encouraged to find daily application, of what use is the belief?
The purpose of religion is to bind our inner spiritual selves to all our relationships -- to other humans, to all creation and to that which transcends us.
While I admit my 1950s concept of "peace of mind" was immature and vague, there is still an element of promise within it.
The practice of growing spiritually, of finding personal fulfillment and of being of service to others might well lead us toward peace, within our inner selves, with each other and among the nations of the world.
The Rev. Dr. John R. Heidel is a United Church of Christ minister and president of the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii.