Dear Pastor Paul,
I am a Protestant, and I believe in God but I also like to read other religions' texts in order to get a better understanding of that religion. I'm told that Buddhist writings might have a lot to say to me, since I am a pacifist. Is it okay to read other texts and incorporate basic moral beliefs from other religions and philosophies into everyday life, still holding true to my own religion?

--No Name

Dear Friend,
Not only is it okay to read sacred texts other than your own, I think it's very important to do so. Knowing some of the basic beliefs and wisdom of other religions makes you better able to love and respect your neighbors who practice those faiths. Each of us should go as deep into our own religious traditions as we are capable of. I hope you will continue to practice your Christian faith and learn all the richness that Christianity holds. But in looking at other religious texts, you'll absorb some wonderful spiritual principles that may help you along the way.

For instance, the Buddha has many sayings about peace and compassion. If you do read Buddhist texts, I suspect you'll be interested to see the similarities to Jesus's teachings about peace. To read specifically about the intersections of Buddhism and Christianity, you may wish to pick up the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's book "Living Buddha Living Christ."

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Dear Pastor Paul,
I came home from my grandmother's funeral services recently, only to see my uncle rushed to the hospital later that day. Two days later he died. They both died from cancer. After both their deaths, I realized I had never told either one how happy I was to have them in my lives, how grateful I was for them and how much I loved them. I feel very guilty for this. How can I make peace with them and myself?


Dear Erica,
I am very sorry to hear of your loss of two dear family members within such a short period of time. Most of us are unprepared for the death of our loved ones, and when they go, we regret not doing or saying more. Your concern shows me you're a kind, loving girl. I know you were a blessing to your grandmother and your uncle in their life.

I want to suggest that you write both your grandmother and your uncle a letter. In the letters, recall your favorite memories of them. Express your thanks for how important they were in your life. Tell them how much you love them. If they are buried nearby, or if you can visit their ashes, you can leave the letters at their gravesites. Offer a prayer thanking God for their lives and reach out to their eternal spirit that still exists in the universe. Finally, take time now to tell other loved ones like your mom and dad how important they are and how thankful you are for them. Enjoy your life and all your blessings now.

Dear Pastor Paul,
My coworker asked me this: Is there any other religion besides Roman Catholicism that allows anyone to walk into a church, light a candle and pray?

Dear Cassandra,
Candle lighting is common to most religions, and among Christian denominations, many Episcopal churches offer visitors the opportunity to light a candle and pray. But Catholic churches are the most common and most readily available place to do so.

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