fear of the question

The exclamation marks fear even the smallest question.

For some, even the smallest question can feel threatening.

These exclamation marks… towers of certitude… are terrified of this tiny question.

They intuitively know that it can completely undermine their dogmatism.

You can get a print of this cartoon as well as many others here.

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PLEASE NOTE: THE COMMENTS DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT OR EXPRESS THE OPINION OF THIS BLOG, NAKEDPASTOR, OR THE WRITER, DAVID HAYWARD, BUT ARE SOLELY THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY THE WRITER OF THE COMMENT.

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44 Responses

  1. Gary says:

    This reminds me of the classic scene in that wonderful movie Monsters Inc. where little Boo has Sully and Mike (the big bad monsters) huddling terrified in the corner of the room. Of course once they get to know little Boo the fear was replaced with love and joy.

    Wow if that is not apropos...

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  2. DRG says:

    Nice idea... though (if I were able!) I would have used dominoes instead of exclamation marks. Once the first domino topples...

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  3. Steve Martin says:

    It seems to me (quite often) that it is the other way around.

    That all the questions fear the real Answer.

    I mean, the Living God shows up in our midst He being THE ANSWER...and all of us question Him. And inevitably, do Him in.

    And then we scurry about still trying to find the answers.

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  4. Gary says:

    Jesus IS my answer!

    The questions (about the church, the doctrines, the customs, the bible, the pastors, the attitudes, the behaviors, and a host of others) lead me TOWARDS "The Living God".

    All the man made exclamation points shroud Him in illusion. Only by stripping them away will we ever come into the intimacy with our creator He intended.

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  5. Steve, what you call fear of the answer, I call disbelief of the answer.

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  6. Pauline Galley MacDonald says:

    If that's not a David vs. Goliath moment, except the exclamation points have read that story, and so are understandably worried about the power of the question mark. Love this.

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  7. Sabio Lantz says:

    I have a theory about where their fear comes from:

    (1) Most of them are not solid. They made of thin, cheap plastic and puffed up with air.

    (2) On the other hand, the question mark is good solid stone -- very threatening to the falsely inflated fellows.

    But sadly, in the back of the row of question marks I'll be there are some very solid exclamation marks, but their owner was not comfortable settling for only a few.

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  8. Brigitte says:

    Pardon me, I wrote this today for someone I know, but maybe it fits here and maybe some like it.

    Christ is our poem. Ad Theosophism.

    What is thought without word?
    What are words without grammar?
    What is worship without liturgy?
    What is love without bounds?
    What is faith without promise?
    What is piety without doctrine?
    What is an open mind without edifice?
    What is gospel without law?
    What is spiritual without body?
    What is charm without orthodoxy?
    What is authenticity without a crucified ego?
    What is a crucified ego without Christ?
    What is a poem without truth?
    What is life without Creator?

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  9. Christine says:

    See, Brigitte. Those questions tell me more about you than any statement you've ever made.

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  10. Gary says:

    Indeed Christine.

    Many of the items on her list are far superior WITHOUT her secondary qualifier. But I was especially amused by the "What is love without bounds" line since the obvious answer is...God.

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  11. Brigitte says:

    Yea, "the love without bounds" bothers me a little, too, because the command is specifically to love even your enemies. I agree with that. It is a specifically Christian command. But I am coming from a different angle, here. As God is like Father (pardon the patriarchal language, I stick with them; you could say mother if you insist for this explanation)... as he is like father, he also disciplines all those he loves. He is not a wimp to walk over.

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  12. Gary says:

    But even if we agree that a father may discipline a child...in a healthy relationship this does not represent boundaries,it represents...love. To view God's loving correction as a boundary of His love is to place a limit upon it.

    And the fact that I believe His love is the single most defining characteristic of Him in no way implies I believe He is a wimp...or think it gives me license to walk over Him.

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  13. Brigitte says:

    I'm ok with that, Gary.

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  14. Gary says:

    Love finding common ground Brigitte.

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  15. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Brigitte:
    You said,

    "Love even your enemies. ... is a specifically Christian command."

    How are you using "specifically" in that sentence?
    Other religions speak of loving enemies too, so I don't imagine you meant "an exclusively Christian command", do you?

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  16. Brigitte says:

    Sabio, I am happy if it is in other religions, too. I haven't heard it though. I just finished Gita. What I got out of it to some degree, though I am sure it can be read and interpreted in a number of ways, is: do your duty, wipe out the enemy, the soul is recycled anyhow, don't worry.

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  17. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Bridget,
    Good, I was hoping your understand that LOVE, and even love of enemies is in no way a unique teaching of Jesus.

    BTW, "do your duty, wipe out your enemy" sound like the Hebrew Bible. "do what you want because you go to heaven anyway" sounds like the Christian Bible. --- While we are taking sound bite shots at religions.

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  18. Brigitte says:

    Sabio, I did not mean my little summary as soundbite, but as a summary. Do you think it is not fair as a such? Is it not what the document is meant to say, unless one goes with a purely internal, spiritual interpretation?--??? You've been reading more Hindu scriptures than me.

    The Hebrews are also told to fight when needed and there is a parallel, there, I agree. But the fight is not the essence of things in the Bible and duty is above all to God and justice. And the loss of life is never trivialized. This people who had the one God and a moral law were supposed to have a place, time, setting, home... to practice a more just society in, more just than those whom they displaced is usually the assumption or meaning. Of course, it was never-ending wrangling and multiple disasters, but it is astounding that it has persisted to this day and if you believe so that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Christ through these people.

    I am guessing that the whole idea of karma, doing your duty, reincarnation and the cast system, have something to do with millions of people forever related to the untouchable class, only able to work with dead bodies and leather. From our trusty internet, just now:

    Untouchables, now called Harijans, have traditionally occupied the lowest place in the caste system of Hindu India; they were called untouchable because they were considered to be outside the confines of caste. Their impurity derived from their traditional occupations, such as the taking of life and the treatment of bodily effluvia.

    Such was their impurity that traditionally they were banned from Hindu temples; in parts of South India even the sight of an Untouchable was sufficient to pollute a member of a higher caste. In 1949 the Indian government outlawed the use of the term Untouchables. The group has been reclassified as the "Scheduled Castes" and has been granted special educational and political privileges. Today it is illegal to discriminate against a Harijan, yet they remain generally at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, performing the most menial roles demanded by society. They numbered an estimated 65 million in the late 1960s.

    They are doing their duty and next time around they may get a better job. -- I don't know Sabio. I read in the Hindu catechism that nothing is really evil. Good will come of it all. Oh, ja, sure.

    And the "do what you want..." is certainly nowhere a Christian teaching. I don't know anyone who talks or acts like that. But when I say, I'm, and you are, a sinner and need daily to ask for forgiveness and start over, everyone starts jumping all over you (me)... It is controlling and negative and whatnot. Can't win.

    I am not saying Hindu's are not loving people. They, as all of us together know something of love. We all know something of it. We all should be better at it. I am just talking about the system and how it came about or is reinforced.

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  19. Sabio Lantz says:

    Sorry, Brigitte, I won't be talking to you about Hinduism on this thread. You can read my blog if you want my opinions on subjects. I was simply checking to be sure you understood that Jesus' ethical teachings were not unique.

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  20. Daryll Bryant says:

    BUT...Jesus' redemption IS totally unique! (exclamation...not a question)

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  21. Sabio Lantz says:

    Postscript to Bridgitte:

    A major theme of my blog is to show that all religious people do very similar things. We all share more foibles and strengths than we often can't imagine. Understanding this shared space is more helpful than coming to terms with any doctrine which any religion deems crucial.

    I am using the Hindu Ramayana to illustrate this principle. My series is very long because it often takes many examples and careful illustrations to show how different religions use their religious minds in surprisingly similar ways.

    To understand Christians involves more than understanding the doctrines that their religious professionals teach. Likewise, to understand Hindus is nothing like trying to understand some distilled version of their imagined homogenous doctrines. Just as Christians, there are huge varieties of Hindus and they all hold different mixes of inconsistencies, applications and embracings of parts of their faith as they weave together an inner life which is far more similar to Christians, for instance, than they'd like to imagine.

    All religions put up big Exclamation marks, and in each religion we find those who fear the little Question marks or dismiss them by mischaracterization. The same happens in the secular mind too. Because religious or secular, it is the same mind.

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  22. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Daryll:
    But for some, Daryll, "Was Jesus another Blood-Sacrifice to pacify Yahweh? [albeit supposedly the last one]" is a question. You think he was. But, if his teachings are not unique, why didn't Yahweh sacrifice him earlier and save everyone all the torment? Heck, God could have had innocent teenager Jesus sacrificed -- why wait until he was 33 years old if the teachings and supposed healings did not matter?

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  23. Brigitte says:

    Sabio, I am coming across this in various places, from people I really treasure, that all is essentially the same. And yes, because we have minds and hearts and souls, or whatever you like to call it best, we have certain needs, characteristics, right across the board.

    But this whole manner of attack ends up, every time, in a situation where those outside of a movement, can slice and dice someone else's teaching and analyze to their hearts content, only those within it are not permitted to analyze, differentiate and discuss. With these limitations I find I have more honest relationships with those who will confess something, defend something, discuss something, than with those who want to make us shut up and say it's all the same.

    "Why didn't Yahweh" here we go again, Sabio. That God bled for your salvation either has to be ridiculous or be the most profound and unique thing to move you. You cannot really discuss Christianity without being in it. As Lewis said, just get in. You won't know a thing until you worship.

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  24. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Bridgitte
    You said,

    "You cannot really discuss Christianity without being in it."

    (1) So why are you trying to discuss Hinduism?

    (2) I strongly disagree, we can discuss all sorts of things we are not in.

    (3) You also said: "who want to make us shut up..." but ironically you say we can't discuss. Can you hear your own irony?

    (4) Very importantly: I am a former Christian. So I was in Christianity. But then, maybe you are one of those Calvinists who believe that if I am out, then I was never really in.

    And one thing I must tell you. I know lots of EX-Christians and all of them don't feel less love in their lives or less joy. So if God is love, as you and Gary agree, then believing in him, worshipping her, or praying and communing with Him. Because me and many Former-Chrisitians did that who don't feel any loss in their lives. So either you God is love for everyone, in every faith and all the faithless and everyone has equal access or there is not God that supplies love -- we all get it the same way and you call it a god.

    Lastly, I did not say "it's all the same" -- those are your misunderstanding. We are all very different in our understanding of how things work -- verrrry different. And we all act differently and love different things. So you mischaracterized what I said, unfortunately. I hope the above helps clarify.

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  25. Brigitte says:

    After I posted this, I knew I had that coming. :) You should recall that I am confessional Lutheran. You once clearly categorized me on you blog. This was shortly before I got shut up and gave up commenting there, like others have said on this blog.

    Of course, you can discuss Christianity. But you don't know something without knowing it intimately. And some things are just not very describable. My mother would say: it's like describing color to the blind. Thus, if I am trying to understand Hinduism, there will be plenty I won't understand. It's good to know these limitations. This is also why I am tentative about any conclusions and was asking your opinion.

    About God being love and found everywhere else, too, especially where there is love. There is something to that. But it's like Paul said in Athens, you worship what you don't know, but we worship what we know.

    While other religious systems may have love, they don't know how far God himself went in this love and that it is indeed available to all ("boundless" in that respect). And the feeling love and joy are "feelings". This is not what I go by. I am looking for truth not myth. While mythologies, gods with elephant noses and all, manifesting here and there, etc. These myths may have wisdom, they may have love, but I can't believe them to be true history. You may say the same thing about Christianity. There is too much weird stuff to believe. Well not nearly as weird as a lot of other stuff. And it is supposed to be historical. The places actually exist, the narratives are couched in historical and geographic settings, which you can check out. You can throw all that out, but you can check it out. And there were supposed to be eye witnesses who traveled the known world not so long ago. The oral record besides the written records are not fancy ancient things beyond research.

    So much for today. It's not about who is the happiest. Christians worldwide are under so much persecution again, that I would doubt that many would consider them the happiest. I am to be faithful whether "happy" or not "happy".

    Enough for today.

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  26. Brigitte says:

    Oh, not enough. The little question mark there, it also applies more to Christianity than other religions, because in other religions the truth claims are not the same. You can have many paths or you can't question a thing. Christianity, you can actually question some things in academic study. In my New Testament class, I sat next to a Muslim, he marveled that we would pick apart our own religious text this way.

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  27. Christine says:

    Brigitte, you had ONE Muslim in a class that marvalled. Muslims examine Islamic text this way all the time, and many Chrisktians would marvel thinking that just isn't done in Christianity (because much of Christianity view it as heresy). Stop making such wild generalization about things based on such limited personal experience. All your points about Christianity and not from logic or knowledge but solely your own impression based on very limited observations. It's aggrevating. How can you simultaneously say you can only know Christianity because you haven't experienced other religions and then go on to say that you KNOW Christianity is different from these others... Please, think about how bias and even discriminatory this sounds.

    On "But when I say, I’m, and you are, a sinner and need daily to ask for forgiveness and start over, everyone starts jumping all over you (me)… It is controlling and negative and whatnot.": I am criticizing this because it is too LENIENT, not because it is too controlling. How many times do I have to say it? I can't help but feel that you keep misunderstanding this is because you always assume you are the most moral person in the room and so no one could be more demanding ethically than you...

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  28. Sabio Lantz says:

    Brigitte,

    Since your are making attacks in public, as far as I can find, you only commented on one of my posts: "Who is a Christian". As far as I can tell, this is what you called being "shut up":

    (1) You criticized "analyzing" and I told you " my site is about “analyzing” — so if you don’t like analyzing, you might not enjoy visiting."

    (2) I said, "Quoting scripture will act as no authority here but will only amount to you telling us: “here is what I believe” . But since many readers don’t think any god influences those scripture, I asked that you don’t quote them expecting us to respond differently than if you quoted the Qur’an or the Bhagavadgita."

    (3) You dropped large preachy paragraphs and I told you I won't respond to preaching.

    I think my comments were very fair. But I think your comment above which says us non-believers have no right to talk about your religion shows who is the "shut up" artist here. If you are going to make further attacks, please back them up.

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  29. Christine says:

    On the poem, that was exactly my feelings, Gary. But a few more than that one bothered me, Brigitte. Although, I don't really know how you are using any of those terms, so how I would read it might be nothing like how you meant it. Sometimes we might as well be speaking different languages.

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  30. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Brigitte,
    You said:

    "Of course, you can discuss Christianity. But you don’t know something without knowing it intimately."

    So, tell me how you know if I knew Christianity (or Jesus) 'intimately' or not.

    I agree with Christine: Do you have any idea about how you come across?

    And concerning emotions: Many Christians want their cake and eat it too: They want to say "God is wonderful, God is love, God is my joy". But then say -- "No, its not about emotions, it is about Truth."

    Seriously, do you think that really flies?

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  31. Christine says:

    Sabio: Can I aPoLoGiZe for this Christian?

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  32. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Christine: I don't really think of this as a Christian-Non-Christian thing, but as a Brigitte thing. But thanks anyway. I am not seeking an apology, either -- more (as you know) for a little understanding. Just a little would be fine.

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  33. Gary says:

    Yeah Christine as I remember at least of them made no sense whatsoever with the qualifier attached. Really was kind of bizarre reading it and and wondering how two professing believers of the same faith could be so far apart.

    Sabio you are right this is not a Christian-Non-Christian thing.

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  34. Gary says:

    Meant to say at least "half" of them...

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  35. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Gary, Yeah, thanx, I really never thought it was. We are all a jumble of thoughts and reflexes, eh? None of us, in the end, are an "ism".

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  36. Brigitte says:

    Sorry, can't argue today. Headed for a "gospel" singing workshop with a famous black woman from the United States. Should be fun,fun, fun. Picking up other people. (This is an example of being "inside". Singing. Singing. Singing, happy, sad, joyful, groaning, together... to our Lord Christ.) (You will tell me that you've tried it. I can't answer for you why this does not mean anything to you anymore. I know that singing is a good way to go through life, good times and bad times. And that I don't want to be singing to anyone else.)

    I haven't got as far up as to Christine's asking "how I come across." Just think about this, though, "how I come across" also has a lot to do with how you think and hear. Two-way street.

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  37. Gary says:

    Yes Brigitte of course it has a lot to do with what we "think and hear". That is the point is it not? Let me illustrate with a line from your poem.

    "What is worship without liturgy?"

    To you this seems to make perfect sense. To me the idea of worship being pointless without liturgy is abhorrent. The very thought of taking something so personal and incredible as worship, and believing that only through some man made and rigid form of expression does it find any meaning totally misses the point. To me this blocks one from focus on the creator at all. Even though we both profess the same "faith", this illustrates our differences in stark contrast.

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  38. Christine says:

    Hey, Sabio. It was a John Shore reference. Maybe should have been clearer. Makes more sense in context.

    Brigitte: You do see how you just turned your happy singing time into a slight against Sabio? ....sigh...

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  39. Christine says:

    I think to me it still feels like a Christian thing. Sabio, you are simply knowlegeable and gracious enough to know better. But just about every time I run into this frustration is because of (a certain brand of) Christianity. And where I live, that's how Christians (religion generally but Christianity more so) is often viewed. I don't know anyone who's that obnoixious about other faiths or a lack thereof, even online. Instill have a tendency to feel that it is Christianity that does this to people, not people simply using Christianity. My bias, I realize. Just a hard one to shake.

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  40. nakedpastor says:

    actually christine... i tend to think that it is hopelessly cyclical. religion attracts a certain type of person... the religion affirms the person... the person then endorses the religion... the religion then fulfills the person... then the person becomes an evangelist for the religion.

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  41. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ NakedPastor
    Interesting. Cyclical, mutual creation.

    @ Brigitte
    Welcome back from singing Gospel Music. It sounds like you love it! How fantastic.

    I played guitar for Jesus for years -- I don't sing much because I have a horrible voice. But do my years of writing and playing songs for the Lord count as having been "inside" Christianity? [Christine is right, btw, it seems that you instinctually keep swinging away.]

    I also spent years with people singing Bhajan, Kirtan in India and occ. in the USA-- their worship music. When in Pakistan I tried my hand at harmonium and was mesmerized by Sufi devotional Qawwali music in many a mosque.

    I also played flute and drum in a Mundari dance troope that toured US universities for a couple years. We used both secular and sacred song of the Mundari tribals of India - here is my teacher who I worked with for two years when I lived in Minnesota. He and I also performed in back country in India. Remembering my teacher can almost bring tears to my eyes.

    I have several Ex-Christian friends that actually still go to church for the music. Some of my friends enjoy chanting in Buddhist temples and some temples even sing. Some friends have found secular outlets. Recently, I am playing guitar with a buddy who does harmonica.

    As you can see, I love music. But I have never gotten into Gospel Music -- that may be enough for you to exclude me from being an "insider" in your sacred world, but I doubt it excludes me from the deeper world of the heart reaching out with song and dance shared by all humanity -- religious and non-religious.

    It is this shared aspect, this view of the human heart that I think your close friends and some folks here (both Christian and Non-) are asking you to consider.

    (I supplied links just in case you are curious)

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  42. Daryll Bryant says:

    wow....this is quickly becoming a dizzying conversation....

    Sabio Lantz:

    "But for some, Daryll, “Was Jesus another Blood-Sacrifice to pacify Yahweh? [albeit supposedly the last one]” is a question. You think he was. But, if his teachings are not unique, why didn’t Yahweh sacrifice him earlier and save everyone all the torment? Heck, God could have had innocent teenager Jesus sacrificed — why wait until he was 33 years old if the teachings and supposed healings did not matter?

    1) never said his teaching and healings did not matter.

    2) of course some ethics and morals are universal

    3) Jesus was not just a blood sacrifice to pacify Yahweh...he was the Son of God incarnate...messiah that was prophesied in Gen 5...who resurrected three days after his death.

    4) The one aspect of Christianity that IS unique to ALL other religions is that we are redeemed because of what Christ did, NOT what we have to DO to appease a deity....

    5) Its JUST about his sacrifice....BUT about his RESURRECTION!

    ALL TRUTHS....NOT QUESTION MARKS....

    RIGHT NAKEDPASTOR?? (That's a question...:)...)

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  43. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Brigitte
    Good timing -- maybe it is God speaking to us:
    "Epiphenom" (a website that reviews research on religion) just posted a review today which discusses the benefits of singing and group unity -- secular and sacred. You may find the discussion instructive. In it we can see how both you and I can treasure similar activities but we explain the benefits to ourselves in very different ways.

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  44. Christine says:

    Thanks, David. That still does seem to leave religion as a big problem/failure, even if it isn't solely responsible. If all religions are like that.

    And I think the people attracted can be "a certain type of person" who thrives on that, but a lot are simply vulnerable when they come to it and get no good from it at all.

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