Cary Tennis, the smart, poetic, intelligent advice columnist for Salon, dispenses some of his usual brilliance to a teenager who seems to be outgrowing (subscription required, or free to view after ads) the faith and/or views of her parents.

The danger of teaching a child only one absolute and inviolable set of rules is that when the child meets contradictions she has no way to integrate those contradictions into her world. Integrating your direct experiences into your world of faith requires nuance. When your experience seems to contradict what you have been taught, you have to move beyond the literal and toward the metaphorical and the subjective. In a world of absolutes, those words may sound like the devil’s words. But they represent experience as we know it, not as we wish it were so. Meeting apparent contradiction also spurs growth. But grow carefully.


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