Beliefnet's teen advice columnist, Pastor Paul, chatted about religion and spirituality issues affecting teens on April 23, 2001, on Yahoo. bnet_ellen: Hey everybody, thanks for joining us tonight for a chat with Beliefnet.com's Pastor Paul. He's here to talk about anything and everything that has to do with teens and religion and spirituality. Welcome Pastor Paul! bnet_pastor_paul: Hey all! Great to be with you here today. bnet_ellen: So, tell us a little about yourself before we begin with the questions. bnet_pastor_paul: Well, I am working as a Protestant chaplain at Columbia University in NYC and I produce the music page at Beliefnet, and that has been great. We interviewed Moby and Bono and Mos Def, to name a few. I have been a minster for 5 years and love writing the Ask Pastor Paul column that is on beliefnet.com in the teens area. minister--duh, sorry. bnet_ellen: Great, well let's get started with some questions... bnet_pastor_paul: Hey there are a ton of questions already on what Wicca is, so I think it is a good idea just to give a brief explanation. bnet_ellen: Wicca is an earth-based religion--falling under the larger umbrella of Paganism. Wiccans worship a Goddess and a God and revere nature. They believe in "magick" (spelled that way to differentiate it from
stage magic), and some do cast "spells," but these practices shouldn't be confused with Satan (a Christian concept) or black magic. Wiccans believe that magick is a divine energy that exists in everything, and spells channel these energies to create positive change. They are not hexes and curses, as popularly depicted. bnet_pastor_paul: That said, lets answer the first question. tantriced_one: Many of my friends are wiccan, is there a way i can get into a religious debate, and not turn it into a dirty argument? bnet_pastor_paul: That depends on you. Do you start out in a place of judgment or in a place of interest and friendship? My feeling is that any two people can get along, even if they disagree, as long as there is mutual respect. You should tell them sincerely why you are whatever faith you are and ask them to sincerely explain their religion to you. Janelle00: I was raised in a family that attended church for years, but when my little brother died, everyone quit. Now I am in my late teens and realize that something is missing, but I'd feel strange going by myself to church. What should I do about this? bnet_pastor_paul: First of all, I am so sorry for your loss. I am also saddened that the church did not supply a place of comfort enough that your family wanted to stay and go through the grief with that congregation. You might start by going back to the church your family left, unless there is real bad blood there. If that doesn't appeal to you, you might go visit a church with a best friend or someone you trust. And may God bless your return.
Jc2Jake: What do you think about the rapture? bnet_pastor_paul: Oh, well, in case some of you don't know, the "rapture" is a belief in the end time of the earth when Jesus returns and will judge humankind. Here is the official definition... bnet_ellen: A term employed in the New Testament of the Bible to refer to the eschatological (end time) event during which Christians who are living on earth will be "caught" up to meet the Lord in the air. bnet_pastor_paul: I actually don't concentrate much on the rapture, preferring to do my best to live well now. I am not so concerned with that belief, but I know that for some this can be very comforting, meaning that God will come and change the world and make it a better place, and for others it can be incredibly anxiety provoking and not a positive belief at all. As I said, I don't really concentrate on it. carmellunique: Hello. I am 19 years old and I got saved in my last year of high school and it has been very hard for me to stop having sex. I lost my virginity last year, my first year in college, and i felt bad and asked for forgiveness, but each time i am with a guy, I want to have sex with them and wind up doing it, please can you give me some advice as to controlling my sexual flesh and what the bible has to say about sex? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, I am going to take it that you believe that sex before marriage is wrong and you want to stop. Not everyone thinks that way, but is sounds like you do. You may need some counselling on what sex
means to you and whether you are confusing sex with love. You could talk to a pastor or else even a counselor who specializes in sex issues. By the way, God forgives you each time you ask, so please don't feel like God has given up on you. God is always there. merylp81: My friend isn't religious but she is looking for spiritual advice. Who do you recommend teens go to for spiritual guidance if they're not of a particular faith? bnet_ellen: Well, beliefnet.com of course ;-) Check out the teens section at teens.beliefnet.com for a whole bunch of stuff from every spiritual path. bnet_pastor_paul: OK, in addition to Beliefnet, your friend could also start attending worship with her Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc., friends. I feel the best way to learn about religion is to see it in its ritual form, and to meet the people who practice it. From there she will begin to learn lessons of spiritual life. cheribabie17: If you go to church every sunday, and believe in god and all, but you dont listen to christian music every time you turn on the radio, does that make you a bad christian? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, if it does, then I confess: I almost never listen to Christian music unless it is really good music. I have learned more about my faith from U2, Ben Harper, and Moby than from any of the "Christian Rockers." Not to dis Christian rock, but God moves in mysterious ways. puck92509: I am a wicca in a very christian home and i cant be open about it, do you have any ideas on how i can cope better, because keeping everything inside is driving me nuts. shadow_tiaga: I am a pagan and my family is christian, should I tell them my beliefs or keep them to myself?

bnet_pastor_paul: Yeah, not being able to express who you are is very tough, and I know it has got to be hard for you both. I would continue to be true to your beliefs, but remember that you are in their home and the street is tough. If there was any way to have a respectful conversation about this, I would suggest you speak to them directly. Otherwise you should find support in your faith community. Try to find the points where Christian values and Pagan or Wiccan overlap, like in respect and love and spirit. I know this will be difficult if your parents are very conservative. Good luck!

ladyflames6: My parents are different religions, what should I do? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, that doesn't tell me much. Do each of them want you to be their religion? Please send in more! If that is the case, then I would not officially adopt either of them until you have left home and can experience them on your own. Choosing now will inadvertently be choosing one parent over the other. If they don't care which one you like better, you may wish to wait and experience them on your own, or else just pick the one that makes the most sense to you and where you feel the spirit leading you. bnet_ellen: We're chatting with Beliefnet's Pastor Paul, who is a chaplain at Columbia University and editor of Beliefnet's music section. Please remember that the views expressed by Pastor Paul are not necessarily those of Beliefnet Inc. and that he is not a licensed social worker or mental health professional. Please seek immediate direct assistance from mental heath workers in your area if you need it. archangel_love_goddess: What is your position on prayer in the classroom? bnet_pastor_paul: I feel pretty strongly about that issue. I believe in the separation of church and state, mostly because I think that the spiritual education of students should be handled by the spiritual leader of their choosing or of the family's choosing. It puts too much responsibility on the teacher. I also fear that minority religions might feel neglected or put upon. bubblez_groover: Do you think there is such thing as "the devil"? bnet_pastor_paul: I do believe in evil. I tend not to make evil into a person, like the devil, or satan, but I do believe that evil exists and should be countered with love and action. tigger_male_2001: Pastor Paul...i am planning on leaving my church because i am no longer growing...but i dont want to offend my youth pastor or the head pastor...what should i do?? bnet_pastor_paul: That's a really good question and shows a lot of compassion. The first thing you may want to do is meet with your youth pastor and tell him or her of your feelings. They may wish to help your growth and need your guidance as to how they can help. If they respond badly or if you are already convinced you want to go--don't feel guilty! Write them a letter thanking them for all they have done for you and tell them that you would like to experience other communities. They should understand--a great gauge of a pastor is how well they let go. earth_enchantment: Is this room for a certain religion?

bnet_pastor_paul: Nope--all are welcome!

huh75: Why does the church have problems with masturbation?? bnet_pastor_paul: Go figure! I am not sure what the obsession is. I think that many religious leaders believe strongly that sex is only to have children or to be enjoyed within a marriage. bnet_ellen: Pastor Paul gave a great answer to this before, if you'll bear with me, I'll stick it in here: Christianity traditionally has not been very sympathetic to sex apart from reproductive sex inside marriage, and that pretty much extends to masturbation. However, there is no mention of it in the Bible one way or the other. That said, the Catholic Church has interpreted certain Scripture passages as a divine prohibition against masturbation and has backed its belief up with church teaching. Mormons also think it a sin. And the practice is widely condemned by evangelical Christians. At the same time, many Christian groups consider masturbation to be a harmless activity and not inherently sinful. While Christians will never agree on whether masturbation is a sin, most will agree that a sin is an act that alienates us from God. Does masturbation do this? Well, Jesus commands us to love God and love one another. Masturbation can be a little, uh, self-involved. Therefore, I put masturbation in the same category as alcohol. It's a natural act, and one that most people engage in, whether they publicly acknowledge it or not. Done occasionally, it's fine, but when it becomes an obsession or an addiction, it should be stopped, because at that point it alienates us from God.
bnet_pastor_paul: Alright--there is the necessary answer to the necessary masturbation question! merylp81: My Indian friend uses astrology to figure out when to do certain things--some dates are better than others according to Hindu tradition. What do you think about this practice? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, I don't know that much about this practice. I will say that if it lets your friend live a better life, then all the more power to him. Of course, Hinduism is an honorable tradition and is not the exact same thing as astrology (not to dis astrology). algrant33: Do you believe it's morally and spiritually correct for a Christian to date a non-Christian? Even a moral non-Christian? How about to date a Mormon? What's your take on that? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, my parents were an interfaith marriage. I think you can gather that I respect all religions for their intrinsic value, so I am not going to say that it is wrong, but I will say that the Christian and the non-Christian or Mormon will have to talk about it because in an interfaith relationship, you can't take anything for granted.

bnet_ellen: I really like what you said about interfaith dating in your latest column: A person's religious conviction is basic to the reasons you pick a girlfriend or boyfriend. Would you pick a girl who did not have the kind of face you wanted in hopes that she would get plastic surgery? No, of course not. If, on the other hand, you admire the faith that this girl does practice and think that it might enrich the Christian faith that you hold, you should ask her out.

ginaluv2002: I want to know why the church is against lesbians like myself. I am a devoted member like anyone else. bnet_pastor_paul: Well, for one thing, the church has had a hard time with women, let alone Lesbians. But to blanket the "church" as one entity is wrong. There are many places where you can feel welcome. Various denominations have groups specifically to welcome gay and lesbian people. You may want to check out the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). a_chick_in_to_metal: hi do u think that wicca is just a trend to most teens? bnet_pastor_paul: I have a feeling that it has become a little bit of a "well, I want to rebel and so I will do something zany like become a Wicca." But that said, for those who stick with it, it is a very strenuous and serious religion and those who expected a free ride will probably not stay. Adam_and_Joe_Show: Religion is the cause of almost all wars, whats so good about that? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, no, religion is not the cause of all wars, people are the cause of all wars, and people are difficult and complex things that are trying to figure out what life means and how to best live it. Unfortunately, when people get some knowledge of God, or the divine, they believe that they alone are right, and that is where the problem is. But people war about race and politics as much as religion. angel_fish4e_n_a: Whats the difference between catholic and christian?? bnet_pastor_paul: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that it was founded in the first century. In the 16th century, Martin Luther started a split from the Catholic Church, which is where we get Protestants, evangelicals, and "Christians." The short answer is that yes--Catholics are Christians, as are Eastern Orthodox. merylp81: I wouldn't date a non-jew because of my religious traditions, but a lot of people think this is racist. How can i explain that it's not?

bnet_pastor_paul: This is a tough one. I think you can explain that by saying that your family's religion and tradition require you marry a Jewish person. If this is your choice, then it is fine to choose who you want to love and who you want to marry. And by the way, Jewish people are many different races--just go to Israel and you will see many colors.

mantaur44: What do you mean by spirituality? bnet_pastor_paul: Hard question. This term is thrown around a lot! I would say that spirituality is that part of us that wants to transcend just day-to-day living and understand how to relate to something greater than ourselves. This can mean greater communion with a religious tradition, it can mean meditation, it can mean really connecting with nature. Hope this helps. bnet_ellen: Looks like we have time for just a few more questions... hotgaystud22: What's your favorite bible story? bnet_pastor_paul: I really love the prostitute who anoints Jesus. She pushes through the crowd and sits at his feet, enduring the scorn of the religious leaders and rubs oil on his feet--it is a beautiful story about how Jesus loved those whom nobody else would love. b0otyfabulous101: Do you think it's right for a parent to force their kids into going to church? bnet_pastor_paul: Well, I know this is going to make me unpopular...but I think it is ok to require a kid to go to church until they are, say, 16. Just like going to school, or doing basic chores, if the family goes to church, everyone should go. But at some point, it becomes pure torture, and then they should probably let sleeping dogs lie. island_gurl_032001: Is your job hard? bnet_pastor_paul: Being a minister is a fantastic job! I get to be with people at the best times in their lives, like at marriages and births, and at the worst, like death or sickness. So it is very emotional and wonderful. And I like chatting with all of you!
bnet_ellen: Thanks for chatting with us tonight paul! bnet_pastor_paul: See you next month!

bnet_ellen: Thanks for joining us tonight everyone! Please remember that the views expressed by Pastor Paul are not necessarily those of Beliefnet Inc. and that he is not a licensed social worker or mental health professional. Please seek immediate direct assistance from mental heath workers in your area if you need it. If your question wasn't answered, please check out the "Ask Pastor Paul" archive or send him a question at PastorPaul@staff.beliefnet.com and check teens.beliefnet.com for the answer! Thanks!

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