“Ask Questions”: Healthy modes of spirituality
In her blog post How to create (and perhaps uncreate) a scared-stiff fundamentalist, Crystal St. Marie Lewis examines the language of religious fundamentalism and its hierarchical familial and ecclesial structures (with helpful diagrams! so do click through to read it), and the fearful, infantilized adult believers they produce. Finally, she advocates a remedy:
We are even taught to view these structures as natural, beautiful and holy. However, there is nothing “beautiful” or “spiritual” about “training” people to forgo their capacity for self-advocacy in favor of blind obedience to another human or institution. The most powerful and important thing that we can teach both children and adults is to ASK QUESTIONS of their authority figures. Lots and lots of questions. Uncomfortable questions. Inconvenient questions. It is my opinion that this — the question-asking — is how we will accelerate the demise of religious fundamentalism in our society.
I desire to live in a world where influential religious figures who promote responsible and healthy modes of spirituality are celebrated, while those promoting harmful forms of spirituality are held accountable without apology.
In this context, I always find it helpful to remember that according to the first chapter of the gospel of Luke, even the Blessed Mother (Mary of Nazareth, the Virgin Mary) asked questions of the angel Gabriel.
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
(Oddly, this often seems to be overlooked by those, especially in the Roman Catholic tradition, who would hold up Mary as the epitome and model of meek feminine obedience, to be particularly imitated by women obeying men.)
If Mary could ask an angel questions — and be answered! — it seems clearly right and just that all of us may, indeed, ask questions of our human religious leaders.