(ACNS) In your experience, do people suddenly discover or rediscover religion during difficult times like these?
I think, generally speaking, religion is either part of your life or it isn’t. What often happens during a crisis like this is that people come to a temple or a mosque or a church looking to identify with that part of themselves, rather than suddenly finding it in the midst. But clearly there will be some for whom this is the moment when that spiritual part awakens for the first time.
Many people are confronting their worst fears about their vanishing financial security and livelihood. I imagine you must be hearing about these concerns in your pastoral role. How do you comfort someone who is facing the loss of a job or life savings?
I think you try to be there with the person – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually – that’s the first step. And then, out of that conversation, perhaps you try to give some encouragement and direct them toward services that can explicitly help with job transitions, outplacement, that sort of thing.
From a spiritual perspective, what comfort can you offer?
The basic comfort of the Christian tradition is that God is with us. That doesn’t mean that you won’t lose your job. It doesn’t mean that the hurricane is not going to hit your town or that a plane isn’t going to hit the buildings at the World Trade Center. What it means is that God is in the midst of all that, whatever’s happening.
The 23rd Psalm provides the essence of that: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why not? Not because it’s all going well in the valley of the shadow of death. The promise is, “I will be with you” to the end of time and through all of this. The theology in the Christian tradition and other traditions as well is that the loving presence of God is always in our lives.
Read it all.