Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Don't discourage Question Quigley

Recently, as I drive to and from school, I have been listening to Angela's Ashes, one of my all-time favourite books. I am really enjoying its author, Frank McCourt, read it.
Brendan Quigley raises his hand. We call him Question Quigley because he's always asking questions. He can't help himself. Sir, he says, what's Sanctifying Grace? 
The master rolls his eyes to heaven. He's going to kill Quigley. Instead he barks at him, Never mind what's Sanctifying Grace, Quigley. That's none of your business. You're here to learn the catechism and do what you're told. You're not here to be asking questions. There are too many people wandering the world asking questions, and that's what has it in the state we're in and if I find any boy in this class asking questions, I won't be responsible for what happens. Do you hear me, Quigley? 
I do. 
I do what? 
I do, sir.
At the age of seven, Question Quigley and McCourt were being prepared for their first communion. Their teacher, Mr. Benson, didn't have what I would call a helpful attitude toward giving young boys religious instruction.

How many of us who have taught children or teens have secretly wished we could answer like Mr. Benson? Sure, the never-ending "why" of a toddler is one thing, but how do we react when a ten year old comes to us with the question, "Where did Cain get his wife?" or a thirteen year old asks, "Why does a loving God curse people in the Bible?" or a 16 year old wants to know how she knows if the Bible is really true?

That last question was one my own daughter asked her friends when she was a teenager. Her friends were horrified at her, and speculated about the validity of her faith with that question. Apparently, they were kindred spirits of Mr. Benson. It was not not entirely their fault. Perhaps they'd had a similar experience, and were only reacting in kind.

We shouldn't discourage those who ask questions. In fact, we should invite the questions. And we need to be prepared to answer them. If we don't answer, the Question Quigleys of the world will just ask someone else who simply isn't helpful, or worse, harmful. If we don't know the answers, we need to admit it, and then tell our young people that together, we will figure out those answers. The important thing is not to discourage the questions.

Women in evangelical circles talk about being a "Titus 2 woman." Such mentoring relationships do involve marriage and child-rearing, which is not a bad thing. However, I believe it needs to include opportunity for young women to ask questions. Young women are smart. They know the difference between a good answer and a bad answer. Let's encourage them to ask questions and to understand with depth. This is an area of service I would love to see more older women engaging in. Those lessons we love to give young moms will only be better received if they start thinking when they're teenagers.

I had a Question Quigley once upon a time. Sometimes, I gave pat answers. Sometimes, I responded in a very Mr. Benson-like way, as if it wasn't her business. She was my daughter, and it was my responsibility. May we equip ourselves, ladies, so that we can equip others, and may we be willing listeners.

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