Dear Pastor Paul,
My 17-year-old son told me that he is interested in Islam and thinking about converting. We came to the U.S. from Russia, and we do not practice any religion, except I visit our church, which is fifty miles away from our home, and my husband is Jewish. We have never thought of the possibility of our son being Islamic.

My son's best friend is Arabic and they are very close. I think they talk about it a lot.

I just don't know what to do with this. I don't have enough knowledge to talk to him about different religions. Can you give me any suggestions?

Dear Friend,
Your son was introduced to Islam the way that most people come to know a new religion--through a friend. The friendship undoubtedly offers support to your son in his adjustment to life in his new country. Likewise, Islam offers him the potential of a community, a belief system, and a way of fitting into American society which can sometimes be alienating to new immigrants. All of this is basically positive.

However, as with everything, you need to be involved in your son's life, actively cultivating his beliefs, and aware of the decisions he is making. Ask your son why he is attracted to Islam and what he understands to be the basic tenets of the religion. You should not be afraid to ask your son about the community where he is praying. You might even visit the mosque with him and speak to the leaders. You don't need to know that much about the Muslim religion to be able to sense if this particular religious community is a good place for your son to be.

Finally, both you and your husband should tell your son about your personal religious beliefs. You obviously have some investment in your church if you are willing to travel fifty miles to go to a service. And your husband is no doubt influenced by his Jewish heritage. Having an honest, heartfelt talk about all of your religious beliefs will help your family grow stronger whether or not your son decides to become a Muslim. In the end, being a part of a loving and supportive family will be the key to your son's success in America, no matter what religion he decides to practice.
--Pastor Paul

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  • Dear Pastor,
    I am a 13-year-old Hindu girl who is drawn to Christianity. I know that it is against Christian teachings to mix belief systems, but I still want to be able to appreciate Hinduism. I have been learning more about Hinduism and Indian culture so that I can connect with my parents spiritually, but I'm just naturally drawn to Christianity.

    I would really like to attend an Episcopal church where I live, but I'm not sure if it's OK to practice meditation and yoga while being a Christian. I also have the dilemma of how to tell my parents about this. I have not done anything yet, but I hope you can help me.

    Dear Friend,
    Most Episcopalians appreciate the value of the other world religions and cultures. My guess is that your local Episcopalian church would welcome you and respect your desire to maintain your yoga practice and Hindu identity while attending Christian worship, especially as you are just visiting.

    If you are simultaneously active in your investigation of Hindu culture and spirituality, my hope is that your parents would be accepting of your religious exploration. You certainly should tell them. You might describe your desire to worship as a Christian as part of an honored Bhakti yoga practice of finding union with God through Jesus Christ. Most Hindus are quite open to the variety of ways one can practice their religion. If your parents object, then I suggest you wait until you are 18 or living out of the house before you begin attending a church regularly. Respect for parents is very important in Christianity and you don't want to start out on the wrong foot. Personally, I find joy in the knowledge that you are being so intentional and respectful in your approach to yoga, or union with God. Keep it up.

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