Friday, March 18, 2011

When Questions Become Weapons

Have you ever been attacked with questions?

Assaulted with interrogatory intent?

Badgered into changing your mind, brow-beaten into accepting a new paradigm, or railroaded into a new direction that you instinctively mistrusted?
Have you experienced When Questions Become Weapons? (Yes, I see that hand.)
I remember the first time, many years ago, when Wendy & I were accosted in our own kitchen by a multi-level marketing stormtrooper. I don't know if all MLM shock troops use the same methodology, but this guy knew how to use questions -- an escalating series of them that you felt compelled to answer in the affirmative on pains of looking sub-human -- in order to manipulate his beleaguered prey into signing on the dotted line.

Fortunately, Wendy & I were able to escape with our skins that evening. But make no mistake, this guy used Questions as Weapons. It was manipulation masquerading as sales; greed behind a smiling façade of "wanting to help you achieve your goals".

We also once knew a pastoral leader who used questions -- deliberately vague, but incendiary enough to sow doubt in the minds of other leaders -- to undermine people whom he had decided were in his God's way. When another leader, from time to time, would object to the thinly-disguised slander, the pastoral leader would counter with "I never accused (insert name here) of anything -- I only said I had some questions..."

And it worked. Every time. After all, it was only a question. No harm, no foul. Except that the intended damage had been done, and holding the pastoral leader accountable for the deliberate spreading of innuendo was impossible. Again, the Question had become a Weapon.

And, of course, perhaps the earliest recorded situation where a Question was used as a Weapon -- with devastating consequences -- would be in an idyllic setting in ancient Mesopotamia, where the following drama was enacted:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
Questions are the tools by which we learn; we investigate; we evaluate; we sift. We grow by asking questions -- indeed, discernment demands that we question -- but not all questions are created equal:
  • some questions seek understanding
  • other questions seek ammunition
  • and sometimes Questions can be used -- by snake-oil salesmen of all persuasions -- as manipulative Weapons

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