A Sunday School teacher posed the following question to her class of children:
"I'm thinking of something that is furry, has four legs and a bushy tail and collects nuts for the winter. What is it?
Hands shot up immediately. "Jesus!" shouted one little girl.
"Jesus?" said the teacher. "Why did you say Jesus?"
"Well," was the reply. "It sounded like a squirrel but this is Sunday School, so I knew the answer was Jesus!"
I believe that this little tale is the source of the occasional usage of the expression "Squirrel Answers" by my daughter Sherry, with whom I am in frequent communication. While I felt I agreed with her usage, I also felt I need a more concise definition. However, Mr. Webster was of no help and when I googled it, all I got was pictures of little creatures and statements regarding them. I didn't think that this was what Sherry was referring to so I texted her for her definition .
Her reply: "That's a hard one. I use squirrel answer because otherwise I have to give a whole paragraph. LOL."
"I guess basically it's when somebody gives you a trite, by the book answer to a complex, and often personal question. It is an answer meant to stop the conversation so it is quite often judgmental in nature."
"For instance you say that you're having a hard time dealing with the suffering in the world and they quote a Bible verse. Or you say that gun control is a complex issue and they chastise you for causing strife."
After further thought she continued: "However, based on the jokes that that comes from (apparently a reference to the above story) I think it's when people give you the spiritual answer they're expected to give you - with little regard to whether it's true or not."
Not concise, but pretty clear.
We're all used to hearing evasive answers from politicians and other public figures:
"Is it true that you called the president an idiot?"
"I will not lower myself to answering a question like that!"
But it is sad when Christians who are supposed to have an answer for everyone who asks, can only give canned, evasive answers or out-of-context Bible verses. I'm not sure why this is done, but I believe squirrel answers are symptoms of more serious problems. If I may speculate on some of the sources.
First I believe that some, as the little girl in the story, assume that this is what we're supposed to do. As children we are taught to memorize Bible verses, usually with no regard to context. This continues into adult life. Many Bible even have tables printed, listing various needs or problems, each followed by an appropriate (?) verse or verses. We assume that "there's a verse for every problem" (as I have actually been told), that maturity includes a knowledge of the right verse for every situation and that all the questioner needs is to find the right verse. But the Bible is not a magic book full of magic verses. It's a complex book that deals with many moral issues in various contexts. It demands thought!
The above types of squirrel answers may not necessarily be judgmental but often are, and whether or not, will be perceived as such.
Another source of these answers (related to the one above) is that the answerer believes he/she has attained a greater knowledge than the questioner and again all that is needed are the appropriate words or cliches, which are to be accepted without question.
But I suspect that one of the main reasons for squirrel answers is a lack of faith, a fear that shows up when questions are raised for which there appear to be no obvious answers. I suspect that some Christians have a faith which can be easily shaken by sincere questions. A pious canned answer can be a protection against such questions. It can also put the questioner on the defensive.
But a faith in the truth and authority of Scripture, a faith in a God who is sovereign, has no need to fear questions for which the answer is not clear or is not known. The follower of Christ has no need for fear but should take every question as an opportunity for growth in faith.
I read somewhere of a graffiti slogan sprayed on a wall, "Jesus is the answer!" Below it was sprayed in a different hand, "What was the question?"
(By the way: the little girl in this story was not Sherry.)