Thou Shalt Not Ask Questions!

The other day I was having a conversation with someone I’d just met. She knew what my full-time gig was and because of that I could tell she was adjusting her words as we talked. She said something like, “…and I thought, what the fu….u…udge.” I was mostly just amused by her mid-air alterations. However I wasn’t amused by another phrase that kept coming up. “I hope it’s o.k. if I ask this…”

That phrase came up at least a dozen times in our short conversation and it was clear that she was much more concerned that her questions would upset me than whatever four letter words were on the tip of her tongue.

I have to admit I understand her concern. I’ve learned from experience that the 11th commandment for the Church is “Thou Shalt Not Ask.” It took me a long time to catch on and I still bump into it by accident. You would think if Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life that questions would be pretty safe. Truth rarely has an identity crisis.

My experience tells me that it’s not just a question that creates the problem though. Usually it’s that whoever hears our question jumps to assigning a motive to our question. It’s happened to me a lot in the Church. Sometimes outside of the Church but mostly just inside – in fairness, that’s where the majority of my life has been lived now so my results are skewed.

I’ve got a good friend who, in a crowd of people who share a non-denominational distinctive of “baptism by immersion so your sins will be forgiven and any other way for any other reason doesn’t count”, asked, “Can’t God forgive anyone he chooses to forgive? Are we sure that un-immersed people won’t go to heaven?” He created almost the same reaction among his ‘brothers and sisters’ as if he’d said, “Hey! How about we all get drunk and fornicate?!” I wish I was exaggerating. He was placed on an invisible, non-published list, the “keep your eye on that one” list. And with that one, simple question, he was determined to be dangerous and ‘not one of us’. A question.

(for interest’s sake: that friend has, I’m sure, gone on in the last few years to baptize by immersion more followers of Jesus than everyone else in the room who heard the question and wrote him off – combined.)

Here are some questions we’re not allowed to ask: What if God used evolution to bring about Creation? What if the Church was never meant to be about one a week meetings? What if all the miracles stories the speaker is telling aren’t true? What if the Bible was never meant to be taken the way we’ve taken it? Can you be a Christian and be in a same sex romantic relationship? What if we’re misleading people about the Kingdom by the structures we create and the style with which we meet? Why do we keep creating celebrities in the Church when that’s so antithetical to the Kingdom?

And there are even more personal questions. Why did God let my baby die? Why did my business go bankrupt even though I gave a tithe to the church? Why did my husband/brother/best friend/dad die in pain from a terrible disease when I know God could heal him? Why did God let my baby be born with this birth defect? Why don’t I have any friends at church? Why does God command me to stay married to this person who left everything else about our relationship but our address years ago? Why do people keep flocking to that mega-church with that mega-pastor and they don’t come to our wee-church with our wee-pastor?

And why are we, followers of Truth, afraid of questions?

About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, denial, emerging church, God, Life, questions, reality, religion, truth. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Thou Shalt Not Ask Questions!

  1. atimetorend says:

    Good thoughts. Here’s my un-askable question, similar to your, “What if the Bible was never meant to be taken the way we’ve taken it?“:

    I met with my pastor a couple of years ago, and asked the question, “Can we even ask the question, ‘Is the bible true?‘” In response I received some garbled apologetics in defense of the bible. Which didn’t address my question, I was just wondering if we have the latitude in the church to honestly inquire about something in the first place. So I took that to be a “no” to my question, and it turned out to be a meeting on my way out of the church.

    I take it you’re a pastor? I hope you are able to have meaningful conversations with those in your church based on your openness to questions.

    • brianmpei says:

      Render, I am a pastor. I definitely have conversations that are meaningful for me, I’ll let others speak to whether they’re meaningful to them! I’m not afraid of questions, personally, about faith or otherwise. The freedom of not having an answer and not feeling the need to have one was pretty big for me. But still I ask and still I encourage others to question.

  2. Phil says:

    Hey Brian
    Great thoughts, and great questions. Is it safe to confess the answer to most of these questions for me is “I don’t know”. I wrote you a while back about a topic, and some things were cleared up, but some things I am still not sure of. Will we ever know what the answer is to some questions ,are we suppose to. The bible doesn`t clear up a lot of modern day questions, how are we to find the answers, or do we need to…

    • brianmpei says:

      I hope that’s a safe confession Phil! I’ve got a lot of ideas but not nearly as many answers as I used to. And the more I read the Bible the more convinced I am that God is more interested in meeting us in the wrestling than sending us off with our answer.

      • Phil says:

        I agree totally that the point is not the answer so much as it is the wrestling match or the journey as we like to say. But I don’t like to wrestle I just want a short, conformed, answer that fits in to my modern way of thinking.

  3. Michelle says:

    I want to scream, EXACTLY! Honest to God (really) some people freak out when you ask questions. Some people have more respect time for total, out-and-out sinners than they do for those who are struggling to find their way, but don’t share the same beliefs.

    p.s. “Why does God command me to stay married to this person who left everything else about our relationship but our address years ago?” I know it shouldn’t, but that made me laugh.

  4. Joe Ward says:

    I agree, any question should be
    OK to ask. I believe we can ask
    God anything. We may not
    understand the answer, but we
    have finite scope and understanding.

    How else do we learn more about
    God? Or what we believe? Or why
    we believe it?

    Maybe a lot of people shun the
    questions because they do not
    know the answer. Or, if they
    know the answer, they don’t
    really know why they believe it.

  5. Darrell says:

    Maybe we, as Christians, don’t ask the questions because we are afraid of the answers. Afraid the answers will go against what be have come to believe is “right”.

  6. Yes, to God a question is the way He can put there something out for you to agree, since you have free will. Otherwise HE would be a dictator. He is never tired of questions, we may be when out of order. God help us to learn how to ask the right questions, or is it even necesary. To me was a season when I began my Christian walking, then I ask everything to everyone (and just one Christian in the family…poor guy? Well , he is my dad, thanfully), now I have even this source from which I can learn new things, grasp even some revelations. The title you use for this blog makes me laugh aloud….reminds me of the old religious day. Good post!!! “)
    ~Great love to you,
    Mirian from peelingtheorange.

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