Friday Challenge – Questions Anonymous:

Questions, Questions

Regarding Questions

David Hayward of Saint John, New Brunswick gets Stuff Fundies Like. That, or we get him.

For years, David Hayward has maintained the ‘Naked Pastor‘ website. With 30+ years pastoral experience, there is little anyone can tell him about church culture. David plies his wit with artistry. The Naked Pastor website displays countless cartoons, essentially doing what we do here at SFL. But David does so primarily with his masterful cartoons.

How Monitors see themselves--fearsome predators!
Monitor goes about, seeking whom it may devour…

Regarding this cartoon, David understands that questions can be dangerous things.

More years ago than I’m going to admit, I had a conversation with a Hall Monitor. The Hall Monitor was the person to whom BJU room spies [APCs (Assistant Prayer Captain) and PCs (prayer captains)] were to tattle illicit activities. I don’t even recall what the issue was, but the monitor decided that my comment required redress. I was advised to be careful with my words. It seems that some such talk about certain matters lands one ‘in trouble.’

Questioning ‘Power’

Monitor Tackles Unwary Soul
Monitor hitches ride on Unwary Soul

My sense was that the Monitor’s censure was supposed to instill in the erring the fear of the Yom Yahweh. I was supposed to back down, become all submissive and compliant like. If so, this strategy was a resounding failure.

I asked whether we were at a university. It seemed that we were.

No Questions Indeed!
Disposing Disgusting Monitors

I pointed out that universities had always been communities of discussion, that education was impossible without it, that only those without answers fear questions. And I pointed out that the postulation of questions was integral to university life. To put this off limits belied the prior claim that this was a genuine university.

It was amusing to see the reaction. It wasn’t clear what shocked this monitor most: that any action taken would surely result in my expulsion and therefore [unquestioningly] my eternal damnation. Or was it that this poor fellow feared that lightening would strike for hearing such things? Then again, this might have made more sense than he expected.

We are not all blessed/cursed with drive to stand up to and call out heavy-handed louts in the service of injustice. Less belligerent souls are too often cowed into slavish submission, living in silent isolation among throngs of plastic happy-happy people. It’s all quite destructive to life and faith.

Question-Friendly Places

Especially young women have borne atrocious burdens in the ‘Name of the Lord.’ Home-schooled in IFB culture, some face unimaginable dilemmas. Lacking non-IFB contacts or life skills, and with no home to go if they are expelled/censured/shunned/shamed, they experience a power imbalance that is at once shocking, unjust, dehumanizing and dangerous.

Some localities really are not ‘question-friendly’ places. David Hayward found it liberating to leave such places to find freedom to question and explore and discover. He offers this simple word:

I encourage you to get to a place where you can do one simple thing: question.

Friday Challenge:

With as much or as little detail as you like, today’s Friday Challenge is to name a question, injustice, fear, practice, situation or other issue that arose in your life, or that you witnessed in others because IFB culture does not support question-safe places.

14 thoughts on “Friday Challenge – Questions Anonymous:”

  1. When I was about 10 or 11, we had a famous preacher come to our small IFB church. After a morning and evening service of off topic,doesn’t make sense, illogical and usual IFB preaching, we had a you guest it a MEAL in the fellowship hall. (on a side note: I quickly learned that the reason we had all these fellowship meals is because that’s the only thing IFB people can do an other activity could be sinful or appear sinful 🙄🙄I was so bored most of my youth.) So at the fellowship I asked the Great man of God a simple question. “I have a friend who is a Presbyterian, can they be saved true Christians also? ” He proceeded to tell me how the Presbyterians were Protestants and we IFB were baptist and unique and different from Protestants. I realized even at 10 or 11 that he had not answered my question. so I pressed him further until he just became annoyed and told me the adults were speaking. It was then that I started to realize that the IFB has no answers or at least no deep we thought out answers. An as I got old the questions about life,fun,sex,women,the universe etc only got more complex and the answers I recieved if at all in the IFB church only became weaker and shallower. An by the time I left for university ( a state school) I was a confused,anxiety ridden, shy, lost in the dark. So I quiet going to church, quiet caring about God and heaven and hell. Until I met God again in a place and through a person, I never would have thought of. but that’s another story.

    I think the band The Fray’s song wraps up many teens-adults feels after have IFB questions and answers. An then finally meeting God.
    So here it is enjoy :

    https://youtu.be/xMlou7Q0GRE

  2. “Only those without answers fear questions.” True. Plus the Bible tells us again and again to FEAR NOT!!!

    I remember for the first time hearing someone really dealing with answering questions about the Bible with reasons, not just with Bible verses. This was encouraging to me because I could see that just saying “The Bible says so” is circular reasoning. Now, yes, as a believer, at some point I do have to have faith. I do have to trust in something and Someone I have not yet seen. Yet there are reasons and arguments and historical proof and other things outside of Scripture that can be used to bolster that faith, especially when someone has questions. To just answer a sincere question with “The Bible says so” seems like a “shut up” or avoidance when there could be other reasons also to defend what we believe.

    Yet there are those who don’t want any such discussion. I was talking to my parents on the phone about a church service I’d recently attended on “Why We Can Trust the Bible” and telling them how interesting it was (this is a non-IFB church). One example dealt with the question, “What about other Gospels like the gnostic gospels?” The answer is that they were probably from 150 AD whereas the Gospels were from 70 AD, the latter well within the time frame of actual eyewitnesses. (I’m just using this as an example.) I’m talking about this on the phone to my dad and I don’t hear a single word from him. And he’s a smart, well-educated man. I literally had to say, “Are you still there?” “Yes,” he said. That’s IT!!! He didn’t want to even DISCUSS it. I couldn’t get a response from him, from one believer to another. It broke my heart. OK, actually, it made me really mad. They can’t question in any way. “God said it.” That’s it. They see questions as a lack of faith; more specifically they see any answers besides a quoted Bible verse as a lack of faith.

    1. Dear formerlypastor’swife:

      Sorry this conversation with dad went as it did. I think that fundies equate questions with doubt and mind-blank as faith.

      As I see it, an important part of faith is learning to live with our questions. Abraham believed God’s promise despite all evidence to the contrary. That he considered siring a son by Hagar to bring God’s promise to fruition shows that he lived with questions. In telling Sarah to pose as his sister rather than his wife, Abraham showed an imperfect faith.

      The only one who ever loved and trusted our heavenly Father perfectly is the Lord Jesus Christ. For the rest of us, faith and doubt mingle and questions remain. The inability to say this is an indication of a weak faith. To say, ‘Lord I believe — help my unbelief’ is to show faith which while struggling clings to God ferociously. Blessings!

  3. A very early question for me: “If it’s a sin to go into a movie theater because 1) people don’t know which movie we’re attending and 2) our presence supports ALL of Hollywood including the bad movies, then why is it OK to go to a video store. Same reasons apply!” Shortly afterward, I started attending movies in a theater. (My first one when I was 23!)

  4. I didn’t allow myself to question openly, but I did have questions swirling around my head. One question was why did we invite people to come to church because church was important, yet immediately after church go to restaurants or stores? If church is that important and you want people to come, you can’t patronize the businesses that keep them working and unable to attend. That was just one of many things I questioned.

    1. Dear TILS:

      You speak of this with the past tense. I’m assuming that you moved on to a better place where questions are received and validated. That’s a good thing. Whenever I was told I wasn’t supposed to question, that sent off all kinds of alarm bells. Why not? What is so important/protected/precarious that it cannot be questioned? Who is being protected and why? What interests are at stake? Of course, this never went over well.

      Would you happen to be ‘The Inimitable Lady Semp’ from Darrell’s forum? In either case, welcome to the continuing Stuff Fundies Like!

      Blessings!

      1. I am she.

        I have moved on. Am I in a better place? I suppose I am, though the fundies would most assuredly say that I am not.

  5. I keep thinking about questions, and realized that Jesus asked questions constantly. He answered questions with questions. He asked questions that he already knew the answers to.

    And yet, questions are not encouraged in Christianity. Or maybe just not the “right questions.” I guess questions are acceptable when they can be answered with nice, neat little answers. The kind of answers that don’t really make sense, or don’t seem complete, or just lead to more questions. Then you are expected to just put the questions to rest with a hefty dose of faith.

    Jesus didn’t need to ask questions of anyone. He knew what was in the hearts of the people already. So, I guess the questions were for their sake. He evaded evaded questions asked by the religious leaders intended to accuse him. He would respond to them with questions showing the hypocrisy in their hearts. He asked the disciples questions that required them to think. “Who do men say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” Maybe some of that is cultural. It seems like we would expect Jesus just to tell his disciples who He is, rather than to ask them. But he did this often.

    I am not really following the directions here for the Friday Challenge. This isn’t a story of my own experiences. It’s just my thoughts as I try to understand new things. But I can’t help but think about your experience with your hall leader in regard to how Jesus would have handled such a situation. When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus replied with a question. Jesus ignored the questions of Herod altogether. If Jesus had a hall leader at a Christian college, I think He might have been expelled.

    1. Dear First time caller:

      I believe you are correct to suppose that the only ‘acceptable’ questions are those with very neat, tidy answers.

      Years ago, I was a board member of a Christian Day School community. Unfortunately, this school was saddled with an administrator who had fundamentalist leanings. He drove the kids nuts by closing all his chapel messages with some little quip — usually from Proverbs. At one point, I was asked to do a chapel message. I thought my message would escape that end. I was so incredibly peeved when he did it again!

      It wasn’t too long before I was asked to do yet another chapel message. I put together something so incredibly open-ended that there was no conceivable way he could do that. At the close, I watched his face contort several times in several different ways as he wrestled to get a ‘handle’ on what he had heard. He gave it up. But Oh — the looks of gratitude/hilarity on the teacher faces was simply priceless! But that wasn’t the end!

      Later, I learned that this chapel message struck such a chord with the students that the next two periods were spent discussing that message. Students plied questions and pried answers for two hours — until the noon mealtime! And again, the teachers were absolutely on board. The administrator soon afterward earned the title, ‘the simpleton.’

      I think that in some parts of the field, questions are discouraged as a means of concealing a lack of meaningful answers. In reality, questions are necessary to probe the depths of our souls and to prove the value of our faith. If we can’t deal with questions, how can we hope to face life?

      I think you’re 100% correct that many a Christian college and IFB church would have a difficult time if Jesus ever showed up for convocation or service. I also love his ‘since you won’t answer me, I won’t answer you.’ In effect, he told his critics, ‘buzz off … I have more important things to do.’

      Blessings!

  6. One early question that bothered me was this: if people in other countries have never heard of God or Jesus, how could they be condemned to hell?
    I did find some people, even in Fundyland, who believed those people were covered by a special kind of grace.

    The one that really got to me, because I never heard a satisfactory answer was this: how could a loving God tell Israel to destroy every living being of another society, including women, babies, and the elderly?
    Regarding babies, I was told that they would have grown up to hate God, so it was ok to kill them. It’s a terrible answer! Why couldn’t they just say, “I don’t know”?

    1. Dear Miss TTU Runner-Up:

      ‘I don’t know’ might lead to people looking for answers elsewhere … Can’t have that!

      Blessings!

    2. Dear Miss TTU Runner-Up:

      One day, Christians will gape in disbelief at things which were said/done in our own time. Blessings!

    3. One early question that bothered me was this: if people in other countries have never heard of God or Jesus, how could they be condemned to hell?
      I did find some people, even in Fundyland, who believed those people were covered by a special kind of grace.

      I’ve always been taught that if someone in another country who has never heard of Jesus was to die, they would go to hell. Because Romans 1 says that they are without excuse. So its their fault. But Ezekiel 3:18 says that if they go to hell it’s our fault. Their blood is on our hands. We didn’t tell them. But if you believe the Calvinists, it’s because they weren’t elect. They weren’t chosen. So it’s God’s fault. Except it isn’t, because God is perfect so it’s their fault. Or something like that. It seems like a lot of circular reasoning, doesn’t it?

      I’m not sure what I believe about hell anymore. I’m reading Love Wins and trying to keep an open mind. I hope I come to the conclusion that there is no hell.

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