‘Is it OK to always ask questions?” one parishioner of mine asked. My answer was an unqualified, “Yes!”
To question is part of our journey of faith; not to question means that we may be stuck somewhere on our spiritual path.
When I was a child going to Sunday school, I often asked questions — lots of questions. Many of these questions were posed because I sought understanding, a means to know the answer for a certainty. Just because the teacher said it, if I didn’t understand it, if it didn’t fit in with my admittedly limited view, I did not necessarily think what had been said was the “truth.” I wanted clarification. I didn’t think of this as disrespectful, rather, I thought of it as inquisitive.
I can’t remember when I first heard Verse 7 of Matthew 7, but it stuck in my brain and I felt that gave me permission to ask and to seek and to knock. Matthew 7:7 (King James Version) says: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
As a somewhat precocious child, questioning teenager and thoughtful adult, I have always asked questions about everything, including religion, perhaps especially religion. Yet, there have been times when I was told that I just had to accept the statement that I was questioning because it was “the truth.” I was even told that to ask questions was heretical.
One time I was pulled out of Sunday school and told politely that the questions I was asking were causing other students to be confused and to doubt their faith. While I did not question the authority of the person telling me this, mentally I did question what was so confusing about my need to deeply understand. I thought back to Matthew 7:7. What did Jesus mean when he said ask and seek and knock?
As an adult, I have interpreted the Scripture to mean that it is my responsibility to continue to search for a deeper understanding of the Mystery that is God. There are many who believe the more we know of the Spirit, the more we realize there is even more to know, and that we always will be on a search for greater comprehension. I know as I continue on my life’s journey, my deep and abiding faith is augmented by my search for more understanding in response to the questions that arise from study and from daily life.
One of the seven Unitarian Universalist Principles is that we affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Many Unitarian Universalists, including me, believe that truth is a matter of personal perspective based on our life experience. We take few things absolutely literally. Even the scientists among us question scientific theories as a means of truly understanding the foundation of the theory. The same holds true for religious doctrine. We encourage questions. Furthermore, we know we may not necessarily have the answers, but will support the process of trying to find them.
Carl Jung in his book “The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche” wrote: “The serious problems in life are never really solved. If they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of a problem seems to be not in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly.” That means we need constantly to question, study, research, meditate, pray, listen, search and knock on those unopened interior doors for our truth, for the wisdom of the Spirit. We can’t quit asking and seeking because we need to be “working at it incessantly.”
In other words, ask those questions, clarify your beliefs, deepen your spirit. Do not let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t ask theological, religious questions. There are myriad ways to live out your questing for religious truth, one of which is to be inquisitive.
Remember when you were a child and you were always asking “Why?” Relearn that behavior and you will have a chance at greater depth in your religious life.
The Rev. Becky Gunn is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor. She may be contacted at email@example.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.