When asked ‘Are you religious?’

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Instantly I am on guard. In front of the rest of the wedding party at my best friend’s weeklong celebration, I am asked this question.

“Are you religious?”

If I say yes, I feel like I would be stereotyped as the morality police, whacking people each time they take a sip from their coozy. If I say no, I can envision God parting the clouds, pointing His mighty finger at me and shaking His head.

As a Chaplain Assistant, you would think the question of religion would not be that challenging. The problem is, religion is a topic that means a whole lot more than just the faith group we put on our dog tags.

Questions about religion do ’not always translate to “what do you believe in?”

What is even more difficult is exploring what we believe in the most noncommittal, nonthreatening and nonjudgmental way possible.

Before joining the military, I really needed help navigating the questions surrounding my purpose. Each of my thoughts on belief, and life in general, ended with a question mark.

On an especially slow day at my hostess job, one man and two questions solidified the beliefs I hold to this very day.

The man sat down to wait on his party. Turns out, he was a pastor and mortician.

Truthfully, what made me more uneasy than his work as a mortician was the fact that he was a man of God and I was currently questioning God’s existence.

I soon caved and told him how I was struggling with my post-high school “nest leap” and the doubts swirling in my head.

I cried: What am I supposed to do with my life? Is the Air Force the right choice? What is my purpose? Is God even real?”

His casual reception threw me off.

He asked, "What if you choose to believe and you're wrong?"

I paused, then answered: If there is nothing past this life then I guess it would not matter in the end.

He probed further, “Would it help your life if you did believe?”

I took a deep breath and shrugged my shoulders. Probably. If there was a purpose behind what happens, good or bad, it would be cool to think someone had me in mind, that my life was supposed to matter.

In only two questions, my beliefs were changed forever.

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone expect a mysterious stranger to drop by at just the right time, with just the right questions, and we would all figure out what to believe.

What I am saying is, I happen to know a few people who are trained and would be very pleased to sit down with you and bounce around life’s questions-spiritual or not.

Whatever questions or beliefs we have, Chaplain Corps members are eager to serve us as we discover our own answers to what our souls desire.

Plus, please know that you are always welcome to join us on Sundays at the Shaw Chapel for worship.

You can ask us, “Are you religious?”

Then, we will talk.