The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark
“This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
– Jana Riess
This is a powerful read. Just powerful.
I’m often challenged. I’m often stretched. This book did both, but it did something else as well. It “convicted” me. I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes. That’s pretty much always a good thing.
So, yes, this is a book about questions. It’s a book of questions. Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning. We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question. He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go. He knew the question itself, was sacred.
David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.
In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.” Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives. We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.” “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”
From questioning God, we move to questioning religion. We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park. Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”
Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!” Talk about a misuse of scripture. Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended. But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others. “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack. We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”
Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.” We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it. There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.” And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”
Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5. The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.” Very interesting.
The sixth chapter has up questioning language. “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.” “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”
Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations. “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.” If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation. “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”
Chapter 8: Questioning History. I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school. I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners. That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament. In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.” It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.” This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians. It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”
As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures. Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.” I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”
Finally, we question the future. We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.” “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.
“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information. There’s a lot to think about here. Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has. (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.) David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing. This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
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– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t. It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.
– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.
– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.
– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.
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– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span. There’s always more to a person than we know.”
– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers. And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.
– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.
– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.
– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.
– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.
Buy The Book. Click HERE.