I was listening to a radio interview with Anne Rice that focused on her return to Catholicism. Ms. Rice, as you most likely know, is the author of Interview with a Vampire and other vampire books. Lately she has shifted her literary attention to writing historical novels about the life of Jesus, and her newest book is a memoir of her return to faith.
I have no feelings pro or con regarding Anne Rice’s books, but there was something she said in the interview that I found profoundly saddening. I can’t quote her verbatim, but if I heard her correctly she said that she came to a place in her intellectual life where she realized that she will never have the answers to her questions, but that as long as she believed God had the answers she could stop asking the questions.
I can’t imagine a life without questions. A life of answers is dull. A life without questions is dead. The irony of the world’s second most famous author of vampire stories succumbing to questionless and hence lifeless theology was lost on Ms. Rice and her interviewer. But not on me.
Life is all about asking questions. Answers are secondary. They are temporary. But only as long as we continue to ask questions.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if no one questioned the status quo? Questioning feeds the soul, triggers the imagination, and reinvents the world.
There is a billboard not too far from where I live that reads, “Jesus is the Answer.” How sad. How wrong! Jesus is not the answer; Jesus is the question. God is the question. When I was in rabbinical school some of my fellow students refused to write the name of God in English, using G-D rather than GOD. [I found this annoying and began to write my name R-MI, earning the nickname R-Dash]. My friend and teacher Rabbi Arthur Waskow often writes the word GOD as G!D to emphasis the wonder of God. I would like to suggest we write the word GOD as G?D to remind ourselves time and again that G?D is about questing and questioning.
So many people fear questions. In one of my university classes I asked my students to explain their beliefs. After a few had done so, I asked, “But what if you’re wrong?” One student immediately responded, “But what if we’re right?” “OK, I said. What if you are right? That still means that most of the others who have spoken are wrong. Can you be so certain about your position as to condemn your classmates to eternal damnation for holding a different position?” Frighteningly, the answer is “yes,” though the student herself was silent.
Answers are fine when taken as tentative and open to questioning, but it is the questioning that matters. It is the questioning that frees us from the tyranny of truth. What we need is an educational system, both secular and religious, that celebrates questioning. I doubt we will ever get one.