Kerry Egan, in her book On living describes the big spiritual questions of human existence as relating primarily to community. She argues:
“We don’t live our lives in our heads, in theology and theories. We live our lives in our families: the families we are born into, the families we create, the families we make through the people we choose as friends. This is where we create our lives, this is where we find meaning, and this is where our purpose becomes clear.” – Kerry Egan, on living, 28.
While many graduate students do have intellectual questions about faith, the big questions often have to do with belonging. This is true even for graduate and professional students whose whole lives seem to be caught up in theories and thinking. And it is true even when the new academic “family” feels somewhat to have been chosen for them: for example, the labmates of the lab they join and spend all their time in, the other (vet) med students who are in all their classes and labs, the cohort that helps them through the challenges of comps and difficult classes.
When this family seems to understand them better than the church family, then it is hard for people to feel like they belong to the church. It is then that the intellectual questions become harder to answer – or even become less important to answer. We in the church sometimes see only the questions, as it is often easier to blame (intellectual) questioning than to recognize how the strength of another family (and perhaps the weakness of our own) might have drawn people away.