Church historian and author Diana Butler Bass suggests that the questions people ask of religion have historically been “what?” questions. What should I believe? What do I need to know? These are questions religion is uniquely situated to answer. They are the questions of my patents’ generation, a generation born before, during, and shortly after the Second World War. They are questions like, “What should I beleve now that my whole world has changed?”
Somewhere along the way, the question changed from “what?” to “how?”. “How” is more a spiritual question than a religious one. Religions tend to excel at definition, even if the definitions often leave a lot to be desired. If someone asks what they should believe, the response can often be in the form of lists. Believe the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection. On the other hand, “How do I believe in the Virgin Birth when everyone I know had a mother who wasn’t a virgin” is not a question that can be answered with a list. Exploring “how” questions is less a matter of authority and more a matter of relationships. Generally speaking, authoritarians don’t excel at relationships.
I would like to invite you to reflect on the questions you find yourself asking. Are they “what” or “how” questions. Where can you take them? Are you able to get satisfactory answers? If you’d like to explore the kind of issues that keep you up at night, feel free to reach out to me or another member of the UAIC. We would be happy to explore the issues with you!