Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I’ve just finished listening to a podcast that really struck a chord with me. I think that within American culture there is far too much emphasis put on knowing the answers. And those who don't know the answers or doubt what they are taught are perceived as somehow deficient. This trend disturbs me. Personally, I have grown so much since I started doubting and really looking for explanations.
Early in grade school we seem to learn how to make fun of the kid who asks the questions, even if we don't know the answer ourselves. It's as if we don't want to be the one to admit that we don't know the answer, but we want them to find it out for us so we don't look ignorant. To this day I know people who refuse to admit that they don't know all the answers. Even when someone tells them something that they didn't know before they respond by saying something to the effect of, "Yeah I know that." Perhaps they still perceive not having the answers as a sign of weakness.
In today's political culture where everything gets painted as black or white (perhaps red or blue would be more appropriate) people feel this need to adopt equally simplistic solutions to very complex social issues. When I hear these simplistic solutions presented I typically play devil's advocate and try to get them to think deeper about the issue. These discussions usually end differently than I would like. Rather than them coming to a realization that the world isn't as black and white as they believe they typically just label me as a nut that's the opposite color than they are. It was never my intent to come across as knowing the answers. I just wanted to get them to think that perhaps the issue at hand could be more complicated than they first thought.
From the pulpit we have the monthly ritual of standing in front of the congregation and telling everybody a detailed list of what they "know". A few of these testimonies show genuine introspection and reflections of their own faith. Those I really enjoy. Most, however, do not. My least favorite type of testimony is when they criticize others who don't share their beliefs. In such an environment how could somebody who has honest doubts actually share their thoughts and expect to be treated with understanding? More likely those that are in the congregation that have these doubts will tend to suppress them rather than confess them and have them turned into a topic of discussion.

"Nobody surely doubts that he lives and remembers and understands and wills and thinks and knows and judges. At least, even if he doubts, he lives. If he doubts, he remembers why he's doubting. If he doubts, he has a will to be certain. If he doubts, he thinks. If he doubts, he knows he does not know. If he doubts, he judges he ought not to give a hasty assent. I love this being and this knowing. Where these truths are concerned, I need not quail before the academicians when they say, 'What if you should be mistaken?' Well, if I am mistaken, I exist."
From Saint Augustine's City of God.

I share Saint Augustine’s view of doubt. To me doubting is not a weakness. It’s a humble reflection of what I know and how I know it. If we approach an issue already convinced we know the answers then we will be much harder to convince if we are mistaken. This doesn’t seem like a very good starting point if we are honestly looking for answers.

I have a little bit of a reputation as a “Mythbuster”. I just don’t like it when people base their actions or opinions on some anecdote without testing it or researching it for themselves. I’m sure that not knowing all of the answers can be scary for some people. For me knowing all of the answers would take the wonder out of the universe. I’m intrigued by that fact that even behind the answers find there are just more questions. I hope that I never loose my desire to question and try to find out the answers.

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