“If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that serious doubt, the kind that leads to despair, begins not when we start asking God questions, but when out of fear, we stop.” –Rachel Held Evans in Evolving in Monkeytown
When did asking questions become a sin punishable by death in Christian circles? And when I say death I mean…the death of one’s status as part of the community or the death of one’s right to be part of the discourse.
So often I’ve been told that I should be cautious in voicing my doubts or concerns for fear of causing a non-believer to miss the message of Christ or being responsible for the stumbling of another Christian. I long ago gave up trying to edit my true thoughts. I spent years trying to silence myself for the sake of others. But even in my honesty, I was still careful. Cautious not to ask the very hard questions. Trepidatious about asking the questions that I really wanted to ask.
In being such a careful “leader” sometimes I not only didn’t ask the questions of my friends and community, I also stopped asking God. And when you stop asking God, trouble will find you. Asking God the difficult questions involves going deep with the one who has the answers. I’ve noticed that when we stop asking, it usually means we’ve:
- Stopped being curious out of boredom or frustration or whatever
- Decided we have all the answers
- Started believing everyone else’s bullshit that THEY have all the answers and are being super quiet so they don’t find out we have doubts, questions, and anxiety over the contradictions of the Bible
Systematic theology and apologetics have made us all very good STUDENTS of the bible, but has made us suspicious of the movement of the Holy Spirit and our emotional response to Divinity. Our ability to make a case for everything we believe is great. But our ability to trust our feelings or intuition is always suspect. My generation of Church Kids learned to argue before we learned to listen. We are experts at casting aside the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of another with a mere hand wave and a memorized scripture. We are no longer lovers of humanity…flawed, dirty, messy humanity. Instead we stand in judgement of those who have questions, who doubt, who were born in another space or time that didn’t allow them to be raised with our Christian worldview. So sure are we of our rightness that we’ve wrapped our politics, our generosity, and our love of others up in doctine, dogma, and have hiked our way up to moral high ground in search of purer air. Meanwhile Jesus was touching lepers, spitting into the mud to heal the blind, regularly annoyed with church folk, and unabashedly disinterested in politics.
So is it all REALLY that easy? Is loving God so simple and neatly explained that we can put it in a box and wrap it with a snappy little red bow?
It isn’t for me.
It’s okay with me if it is for you. As a matter of fact, I’m happy for you. Maybe you are more intelligent, have the capacity for greater spiritual depth, and are exponentially more faithful than I. I am fully able to get behind that idea.
Instead of being the smartest, deepest, and most faithful of all leaders…you’ll have to excuse me while I just keep pushing the limits, asking the questions, and try to find some mud to play in with the messy folks. All I have ever known to do is lean into the moments where God is both real and real close.
Lean On Troublemakers…
NOTE–Anyone who wants an understanding of where I am today can get a good feel for that from the book quoted at the top of this blog. Held-Evans and I have walked similar enough journeys that it might be insightful for my family and friends who are curious about where I stand today. If you REALLY want to know…for the simple reason of loving me and wanting to understand me more…I’ll buy you a copy.