I have a confession to make. Secretly, deep down, in a very dark place, I am a fan of Desperate Housewives!! Now I’m out of the closet, I need to regain some dignity by making a few pious comments on this week’s episode.
Lynette, mother of five, who has survived cancer and a tornado, decides she wants to go to church. She watches her neighbours leave for church on a Sunday morning, and realises that she has a lot to be thankful for, as well as a lot of unanswered questions. So, for the first time in her life she goes to church. Unfortunately, when she gets there, she discovers that church is not a place for asking questions. Watch the clip of her visit to church here.
The punchline comes in the next scene, though, when her church-going friend, Bree, informs Lynette that she should not ask questions in church because, “church isn't a place for questions, it's a place for answers." Church, she explains, is a time to listen and eventually, if you have any questions, they will be answered by listening.
At this point, Schof rang me (much more stimulating than Desperate Housewives, of course), so I have no idea how it ended, but it really struck a chord with me because I’ve been going to church most of my life and for most of that time I’ve been desperate for the church to answer my questions, but it was never interested in them. It never seemed to be a group of people asking and investigating the divine, but a group intent on telling everyone their answers. (Is that too harsh?) I’m not trying to say that there is value in indecision. Constant prevaricating can certainly stop us putting our beliefs into practice. It seems quite reasonable that we land on some convictions that prompt action. But, these convictions are always held to with a light touch, aware that we are dealing with questions of God and life – questions that cannot be empirically tested. Isn’t that what faith is all about. It just seems to me that God, by his very nature is mysterious, beyond us, someone we enquire into, not one we essentially can ever have sewn up.
I’ve always felt a bit like Lynette – like a square peg in a round hole – like I’d completely got the wrong idea about what church was about - asking questions no one wanted broached, let alone answered. In fact, had I declared myself a non-Christian I think people would have given me more time, but a Christian is in. His journey has stopped and he now has the answers, not the questions.
Of course, I realise that it is highly threatening for some people that their faith is being questioned. I realise I’m not as sympathetic about this as maybe I should be – psychologically many do not have confidence (faith?) that their beliefs will still hold together after intense probing. Faith (that conviction about things we cannot be certain about) is replaced by certainty.
Anyway, this isn’t a moan. I am personally reconciled to what church is. This is more of a thanks to all you bloggers out there for providing me a context for the first time in my life where I can ask questions and get things wrong and retract things and no one is defensive that their faith is under threat.