Wednesday, November 19, 2008


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.


Eruesso said...

G¿D, for those who speak Spanish. Or could it be Di¿s?

Rabbi Rami said...

Very cute.

Patti said...

If asked; “How does Rami feel about questioning?” I would know that you promote it with all your being. However, after reading your writings for a year or so, I have somehow blissfully rested my question quest. Truly, my past 40 something years of asking has been more about the answer's TRUTH, than the question. But there is a part of me that is adoring this break from asking. Not that I want to put it down forever, that would be dull. Yet, turning from asking to acting and trusting has made me feel more in balance and loving to those I don’t understand. And I thank you for that.

Rabbi Rami said...

Patti, your comments are always a delight.

Karen said...

What happened with Ann Rice also happened to a prominent UFO person (her name escapes me). She actively pursued all information related to UFOs and organized an annual, national conference that apparently was pretty well attended. Then one day, after receiving occasional UFO emails from her for several years (I used to publish a new age magazine, so I was on any number of lists!), I received an odd email from her saying that she had found Jesus (didn't know he was lost...) and that she no longer believed in UFOs. When I typed in her old website address, up popped a picture of Jesus, a prayer, some Bible verses, etc.

I've always found other people's journeys fascinating -- being raised Mormon but converting to Pentecostal, being raised in a Jewish home then becoming a hard-core Southern Baptist, being raised Catholic and then discovering shamanic practices, being fascinated by the unknown out in the universe and reverting to the "known."

I agree with you, Rabbi Rami. I can't imagine a life without questions. And I feel sad for those who are afraid to NOT have the answers.