About a week ago, I posted a research proposal explaining how a short conversation and a seemingly simple question sparked an internal philosophical and theological debate in my mind. I think I was so excited and taken by the possibilities of all there was to explore in terms of faith and spiritual journeys that I moved further away from the focus I intended to search for.
A week, and some guidance (the kind of this world, not that of the other-world) later, and I feel confident that I have adjusted my research intentions to a focused, interesting, and thought-provoking topic. I will be examining others’ spiritual journeys to and from God.
To study these journeys, I would like to conduct personal interviews or research in paper/electronic archives with people in various stages of spiritual discovery. This could include a young person who has no association with faith, a young person discovering their faith through schooling or with the help of his or her parents, a reformed believer who may have turned away from God at some point in his or her life only to find the way back, an adult believer who never stopped believing, a spiritual leader (i.e. a priest/pastor/Reverend/minister), an adult who turned away from God and decided he or she was a nonbeliever, an adult who changed religions, and an adult who was never raised in faith.
Katy Perry, for example, might be an interesting figure to look into for starters because her father is a minister. She was raised a Christian, but she no longer believes in heaven, hell, or God in a traditional Christian sense. I could research through paper and electronic archives why and how she may have adjusted her spiritual beliefs. Then, I could compare Perry’s experience to a similar experience of person to whom others might more easily relate. Again, this is just one example, and I would also love to be able to speak with and work with members of my local and surrounding communities for a more thorough, relatable perspective on the topic.
I think it would also be interesting to participate with or engage in the religious practices of those I meet and talk to. For example, attending the church services of an adult who had turned away from the church but found his or her way back to God might help me understand why they were drawn back to a religious lifestyle. Perhaps the messages shared at his or her church are particularly relevant and appealing to the specific age group. Perhaps he or she really enjoys being able to use different media to build a relationship with God rather than listening to a priest read from the Gospel and then give an instructing lecture about the passage.
I feel as though doing this might ultimately lead me to consider my own personal beliefs. In addition to helping me understand what I think about faith and its various aspects, the research will enable me to write an interesting, comparative feature article or editorial article about church, faith, and religious practices in the 21st century.
So–what exactly will be my first course of action?
At the suggestion of Bill Wolff, I think I’ll begin by listening to Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God, the first segment of which she performed for TED in 2006.