I’ve done a small post about the ‘house’ part of our title (though more will follow) so now I should say a little about the questions part.
LCI have a set of priorities that we were asked to pick a theme within, but Phill and I both felt our strengths lie in facilitating discussion and thought, and so we are hoping we can create something that helps people have some of the discussions about such things as ecology, economy, diversity, accessibility, sexuality, gender, power, and race. All these things affect not just the church or churches, but individuals and how we approach God. But we need tools, and we need space, and we need help at times to tackle these issues.
So here are my current musings on Questioning, and why it might be hard for us to fully embrace as part of Christian faith, despite it being key in theological history.
There are many things I think make people wary of the questions people have about faith and God. And the main one is a personal fear that speaks to our hearts: Faith is the bedrock for many peoples lives, we do not want it to be shaken from the outside.
We have built on it not only our ideas or beliefs, but our worldview and maybe more importantly our identity. Salvation is, we are taught, the foundation of who we are because we are ‘a new creation in Christ Jesus’. The worry for many people is that if they begin to question God, or allow too many questions about God, then they may have to question their basic beliefs in salvation and then what would happen?!
It’s the idea of pulling on the one thread and finding the whole thing unravels.
“if you pick at the authority of one bit, you pick at the authority of all of it! Where does your salvation come from then? The only evidence about Jesus is in these texts, don’t touch it!”
Are we told that faith is unquestioning or that to doubt is to backslide, or even that doubt is not part of faith? These things are certainly not held up by a look at the Bible (that’s going to be my next post), but its also true that to survive day to day we need some stability, so questioning our beliefs can be really scary. We don’t want to live in a tangle – so how then can we embrace questioning? How can we do it so it doesn’t ruin our chanced of survival?
In the present situation many white people are feeling uncomfortable – our view of the world is being challenged and we are being asked to listen instead of know, to change our worldview and acknowledge where we have been privileged because of the colour of our skin. Its a hard lesson. It involves questioning what we have always taken for granted. And many of us don’t like it. But we need it. We need to sit with the discomfort and learn to change, because the worldview we had wasn’t the whole picture. The view that we had wasn’t the entire truth. Being ready to change your worldview might change your world but flip, that is scary cos it might mean changing your behaviour too.
Questioning or having our faith challenged can be similarly uncomfortable. We react against it out of fear that the one thing we knew, our worldview, might have to change or just disappear.
Such fears are normal. We create narratives to keep ourselves safe and to keep ourselves moving. Our worldviews protect us from caving under the weight of the whole world.
Its funny though, because everyone I know that has faith has done at least one moment in life when they questioned and embraced a new world view – the moment/period in their life when they decided they did believe in God. Such a time must have involved questioning – why then are we reticent to follow those challenges later?
The urge to tidy it up
There is a tendency in preaching to need to come to a conclusion, or at least a challenge that is positive; one in which the hearer can see God clearly.
Neither theology nor art have this need.
In theology we prod and probe the depths, in Biblical Studies we do not even get to the question of application; the bible can stand as a text on its own saying whatever awful thing it does, and we need not make it nice, but it is not easy to carry that around.
In art the challenge of the viewers feeling and experience do not and often cannot be tidied away by the artist. They have left the art to be experienced, the viewer has to make things work for themselves.
This may be the power of art that sits inside a church- that it creates the place in which someone can encounter and deal with the uncomfortable.
I am wondering right now what it might be that we can provide that might make it easier to deal with untidiness.
What the Black Lives Matter movement right now is showing us is that it difficult cannot be tidied away any more, and we are going to have to sit with this discomfort for a while. The aim of doing so – to create a better world.
If we create a House of Questions, can we make it safe to be uncomfortable. Is that possible?
We are collecting questions. If you have a question about God or faith or belief please video yourself asking it and send it to me here.