After church service Sunday, a 20-something guy told me that when he was 12 years old he asked his youth pastor a question: “Why does God allow children to suffer?”
(The topic Sunday in our “S*&! Christians Say” series is a common answer to suffering: “Everything happens for a reason.” So we talked about suffering.)
Now really, who hasn’t asked the same question? Or who has not at least thought the question?
The 12 year old was shut down. Put down. “That’s a dangerous question,” he was told. “Questions like that show a lack of faith.”
That has been the experience of a lot of “churched-people” – which is why many of those people are now “de-churched.”
Maybe it is still the experience of people today.
Churches have a reputation of being a “no question” zone. Yes, questions lead to:
Just ask my 20-something friend. He still remembered the experience of being shut down. Anyone who has dared to ask questions has likely been told one or all of these things:
“These questions show a lack of faith.”
“Questions are a slippery slope.”
“Just accept what I tell you as truth.”
What we hear is:
“Sit down and shut up and you’ll learn something!”
We walk away thinking, “Believing is so much easier before I started thinking.”
I mean, really, we’re told to read our Bibles everyday. So we do. Immediately we are faced with two creation stories that don’t line up! We write down the question: “Why is mankind created after the animals in chapter one, but before them in chapter two.?”
We keep reading and meet a talking snake:
Write it down: “A talking snake? Really? Is this history or some kind of fable?”
We go on in Genesis and find a man looking for a mate among the animals.
Ok, that’s disturbing. “What kind of “Find your date/mate” plan is this?”
We keep reading…We get to the famous children story, Noah and the Ark. We’re shocked in multiple ways. First there is the horror of a God who, in a fit of rage, drowns babies and toddlers along with their parents.
Write it down: “Is this ‘Biblical Parenting’? God, The Heavenly Parent, gets so mad at his children that he kills them so he can start over with new kids. Really?”
“Why do parents decorate their newborns’ rooms with a ‘Noah and the Ark’ theme? What’s so sweet about this story?” I wonder if parents have even read it.
“I thought the animals went in two by two (Genesis 6:19)? What’s up with Genesis 7:2-3 that says there were 7 of each pure species and two of each impure species? Why the contradiction?”
“And this was written before the Law. How’d Noah know which animals were “clean” or “unclean”?
So we take our list of questions with us to church the next Sunday and hand them to our pastor or student leader. As they read the list, they start sweating. Mumbling something about having to go preach or something, they run away.
What does it say about a religion when that religion is afraid of questions?
Maybe it says we’re not much like our founder, Jesus. He loved questions. He asked a lot of them (someone actually counted and found 307 questions) and he answered a few of them.
Why did Jesus ask more questions than he answered?
What does that say about him?
What does it do to our understanding of spirituality that Jesus is more “The Question Man” than he is “The Answer Man”?
Maybe it says we’ve lost our childlike spirit which Jesus seems to insist we keep (Matthew 18:2-4). Someone else counted and discovered that children ask 289 questions a day!
Peter Abelard (1079-1142), philosopher, theologian, poet, wrote, “The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.”
There is no need to be threatened by questions. Asking them or being asked.
I don’t know everything and I know I don’t know everything. I find value in reaching out, learning new things, hearing new perspectives. My purpose is not to preach but to understand. To listen, to love, to live like Christ and to ask questions of myself, of others, and of God.