Saturday, August 23, 2008

Newspaper Column -- Questions Anyone?

Any parent knows the feeling. For the last 15 minutes the kids have been asking question after question after question and finally the exasperated parents call out “Stop asking questions and be quiet!”

But of course we want our children to ask questions. We want them to learn, to think critically, to explore. We don't want them to take things for granted, to accept only one side of a story or concept, to have blind faith in what others tell them. Questions are a big part of how we learn and grow in the world.

Think back to your school memories. How many times did the teacher ask if there were any questions? Teachers know that students who ask questions are engaged and involved in learning. Asking questions helps information get integrated and processed.

Questions are important throughout our lives. When we read news stories or listen to the news on radio or TV questions should arise in our minds. When we watch movies or TV shows, when we read books or magazines, when we listen to the stories of life around us questions should arise in our minds.

The same thing goes in our faith. In my first year theology class I remember the professor saying that questions, not answers but questions, were the more important part of doing theology. In order for our faith to grow we need to feel free to ask questions, we need to feel free to challenge our preconceptions, our traditions, the “way we've always believed”. Many people have felt that to question the principles of their faith is to reveal doubt. But as a Canadian musician Linnea Good sings (in a song called Doubters) “it takes a lot of doubing for our faith to grow”.

The other thing about questions is that they don't always have answers. (Maybe that is partly why my professor said the questions were more important than the answers.) 15 years ago I was in a Bible Study group whose members were experts at asking questions. And quite frequently we came to the conclusion that “that one will have to go in the pile to be answered in the life to come”. But we loved the freedom to ask and explore, to grow in our wonderings.

There is always a part of us that wants certainty in life. We would love all of our questions to have a clear concise answer. But most of life is not like that. Certainly questions of meaning and existence and ethics and morality are rarely like that. But we need to keep asking them. As we ask our questions, as we explore the possible answers together we learn more about life and faith and everything. As we learn we grow to fuller maturity. And really isn't that the whole point anyway, to grow and learn throughout our lives?

So lets keep asking the questions, just like the unquenchable questions asked by the child at the top of this column – the one who drives his parents to distraction.

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