There’s a pretty widespread phenomenon among those who grew up in conservative Christian households in the 80’s and 90‘s: Questioning
Who is God really?
Is the Bible really the infallible word of God?
What about all the terrible things Christians have done in the name of “God’s Will?”
It seems much of the questioning boils down to having been taught that the world, faith, and God operate in one way, but as we step into adulthood we realize there are aspects of what we were taught that seem inconsistent with what we’re observing as adults.
What are my Options?
Unfortunately for many raised in conservative evangelical church, we were often told that questioning our faith is not allowed, and possibly even sinful. I’ve heard Christ-followers reference having “childlike faith” as a primary argument for why we shouldn’t ask questions (as an aside: on what planet do children not ask questions? Try hanging out with a 4-year-old for an afternoon and see how many questions they ask).
Because questioning is off-limits, it can seem that our only options left are either to zip our lips and fall in line, or leave the faith all together.
What terrible choices! If I believed these were our only choices, I would leave the faith. And that’s what so many already have done. Fortunately for them, they are able to see the oppressive nature of being forbidden from asking questions, so they want out from that abusive kind of relationship.
Questions are Normal
I propose a third option: ask as many questions as you like! No question is off-limits.
If you’re asking questions about your faith, it’s normal. I would argue that it’s a healthy part of exercising your now grown-up brain. If we were never allowed to question anything, we might still believe the earth is flat and that everything in the universe revolves around the earth. Questioning invites a curiosity that says, “I know what we were taught, but what if what we were taught was wrong?” From this space there’s room for creative thinking and an openness to discover new possibilities that might be more accurate, open-minded, and Christ-like.
Curiosity vs. Anger
I’d like to clarify the difference between asking questions from a place of curiosity and asking questions from a place of anger. When we’re curious, we ask questions from a place of wondering: “I’m not sure what’s true, and I’d like to learn more to see if I can discover the truth.” When we’re angry, we ask questions as a means to prove an agenda, or possibly to hurt someone else.
If you’re noticing you’re feeling anger, today might not be the day to ask questions. Rather, I encourage you to take space away from what’s upsetting you; asking questions may only cause you to feel more anger and might put you in a potentially vulnerable position. The questions you wish to ask will still be there another day, but for now take the space you need to remove yourself from whatever situation might be stirring up anger. Find a safe space where you feel seen, heard, and accepted.
These are some mighty big subjects to resolve within a simple blog post. My hope in writing this is that those of you who have questions to ask feel released from any shame you may feel for having questions. The journey to find safe spaces to ask those questions might take some time, as not everyone will feel comfortable with your questions. Please take your time and be cautious about who you share your questions with.
If you’re reading this and you aren’t sure where to go from here, I’ve found The Liturgist’s Podcast to be incredibly validating for those who are wandering spiritually. If you’re not sure where to start listening, you might find it helpful to start with episodes 6 and 7 titled “Lost and Found” where the hosts Science Mike and Michael Gungor share their own journeys of asking questions about their faith (Click here for Part 2).
One Last Note
If you are in a community that is not comfortable with you asking questions, that may be a reflection of their own faith process and is not worthwhile for you to try to “convert” them to your question-friendly brand of faith. Just as you’re allowed to ask questions, others are free to believe that they are not allowed to ask questions. And still then, others are welcome to leave the faith rather than ask questions.
With that, ask away!