There is a tremendous amount of fear in asking questions, particularly for Christians.
We are the people with the answers, and the answer is always the same: you just need to have faith. At least, that’s what I heard anytime I got off of the beaten path. It is not an uncommon idea that faith is “believing without questioning.”
What if the Bible has errors? It doesn’t. You just need to have faith.
What if the creation story isn’t literal? It is. You just need to have faith.
What if Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality? It does. You just need to have faith.
What if God doesn’t like it when we kill our enemies? He does. You just need to have faith.
For so long I was riddled with guilt over the fact that I simply couldn’t accept things without question.
I had so many questions and so few people who could handle them. Slowly, I began to encounter blogs in which Christians were asking the questions that had plagued me (most of them can be found in the blogroll to the right of this post). If there are people out there asking questions, maybe I can too!
So, I started blogging in order to share my thoughts and centralize the conversations.
And, it worked.
I connected with people from all over and had the opportunity to share ideas, dialogue, and find others who were on the same path. I kept asking questions and sharing my thoughts, then emerging with more questions. People were responding and it was invigorating.
At the same time, however, I had people pulling me down. They called it “speaking the truth in love.” But, it didn’t feel very lovely. I was on a “dangerous path.” I was a liberal with little faith and a low view of Scripture. I was “ruining my witness” by letting non-believers see that I disagree with other Christians. I was confusing young believers. I was just trying to piss people off or become popular.
At one point, I had a nice little Facebook debate over one of my posts. I thought it was going great until one person in the conversation—the guy who said he was “concerned for my soul”—began calling the Christian college I worked for in order to get me fired. From the same conversation, my pastor (who had no knowledge of the post or the debate) called me because a member reported to him that I believe some “concerning” things. (Luckily, the college administrators knew me well enough to dismiss the ridiculous claims; and when I spoke with my pastor, we both realized the person misunderstood what I said.)
On another occasion I had someone tell me, “You should be having these conversations in person or at church, not on the Internet.” After seeing the way some responded to my blog, I wondered if they were right.
There were times when I sat next to my wife, dejected and frustrated, asking if I should just stop blogging.
The problem is: I didn’t have the option to have these conversations in person. I definitely couldn’t have them at church.
But then, I remembered all of the people who were rooting for me: People who disagreed with me, but were open to hash it out in a Facebook debate. Friends and colleagues who would tell me how much I’ve challenged them. Pastors who said, “I wish I could say some of the things you say without getting fired—I’m glad you do what you do.” People I barely know, telling me how relieving it is to find someone who can put their thoughts into words. People I trust, sending me messages of encouragement to keep going. I even had an English professor tell me that I wrote well and communicated clearly! Most of all, my wife, who encouraged my questions, proofread my posts, and told me when I was being stupid.
The support far outweighed the opposition.
So, I kept going.
Every question led to another. Each one, a shovel filled with sand from the foundation I had built. Deeper, darker, lonelier. Someday, I’ll sweep the last grains of sand off of the ‘ole Solid Rock and build something with sturdier materials.
The strange part about it all is that the lonelier I felt in “real life,” the more I felt connected to something greater in the world of social media where masses of believers have found themselves on the very same journey.
But it wasn’t enough.
I needed the church. I needed community. I needed a place to sit at a table and eat and be.
So, I enrolled in seminary and moved to Texas. That’s where I am now. Sitting at tables everyday with real people, learning from them. Going home to my wife and pouring out all of the questions that have been piled onto my ever-growing list, only to learn more from her.
Then, we gather with our church, break bread, and we remember: This is where our questions find their meaning.
It has taken quite some time, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to be opposed. It’s even okay if you come to different conclusions that piss people off.
So, what is faith?
I don’t know. That question is still on my list.
But I know what it is not. It is not about blind acceptance of another person’s dogma. It is not about convincing yourself that you are right. That’s just ignorance and idolatry.
I have a feeling it has something to do with love and relationship with God.
At some point along the line, asking dangerous questions became a form of worship. Some worship primarily through song, some through service, and some through meditation.
I worship through questioning. And if you take that away, you take away my faith.
But questions make a lot more sense when other people get to ask them with you.
So, will you come worship with me?