This week in 2008, I started writing for The Forum as part of its new “Parenting Perspectives” rotation of columnists. And in 2013, I began focusing on religion with “Living Faith.”

When the idea for this column first emerged, it was met with some uncertainty, but optimism won out. It wasn’t long before I discovered some non-believers were reading my column, too – and not all happily. One essay produced a firestorm of reactions that resounded beyond our immediate area.

“Well, Roxane, you’ve got people talking about religion around the dinner table.” The response from the newsroom revealed that, despite my having hit a tender nerve with some, what had begun as a quiet little column behaving itself at dinner parties was emerging as something with more fire and relevance.

Though I hadn’t anticipated the strength of those reactions, I never doubted that religion as a topic of discourse mattered and deserved more airtime. And yet, heading into year eight in 2021, some might ask, “Does religion really matter anymore?”

Studies show society becoming less religious by the year, and young people abandoning organized religion like a football stadium during COVID. The pandemic has further revealed that some churchgoers seem so content with online church that even post-COVID, they might continue worshiping God from their easy chairs at home.

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And then there are the hidden jabs. A recent seasonal frame applied to my Facebook profile picture announced “Merry Chrismas,” and I didn’t notice the missing “T” until a friend pointed it out. She’d seen numerous “Merry Chrismas” memes that week and interpreted this as an intentional “removing” of Christ.

But just as COVID-19 has shown waning enthusiasm regarding assembled worship, other faithful have become extra appreciative of in-person worship and more fervent in faith, realizing life’s brevity and the importance of getting this one thing right – and soon.

We’re being called to make a choice about whether God is real, with consequences never weightier and the moral choices facing us never more critical. Despite disturbing trends, the soul, very much alive, yearns for something more than what this world can give.

The importance of faith in our lives won’t disappear, any more than Christ will disappear because someone removed the “T” in a digital frame.

We’ve just come through a horrendous year, and truly, the only way we’ll transcend the residue of 2020 well is by continuing to probe the wisdom of the One who transcends all. We still need God and one another.

I encourage you, no matter where you’re at with God, keep coming back to think through faith with me. A vaccine might curb the Coronavirus, but only the Divine Physician can inoculate and heal our souls.

Speaking of that, next time I write here (first and third Mondays, so Jan. 18), I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the COVID vaccine. It’s important we look at the moral implications of this promised remedy thoughtfully and from various angles. Stay tuned.

Roxane Salonen, a wife and mother of five, works as a freelance writer and speaker in Fargo. Email her at roxanebsalonen@gmail.com, and find more of her work at Peace Garden Passage, http://roxanesalonen.com/

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.