“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

"How to Tell if You're a Bad Christian"

I was glancing at a few blogs this evening and came across this post on A Bad Christian Blog. It leads you to a test on Worldview Weekend.com. (Just for fun, here are my results.) Though I would agree because of my own definitions, apparently I'm a very bad Christian.

Basically, you "determine whether you agree or disagree with the statement based on your biblical worldview understanding" (emphasis added). This, to me, implies that your responses are your personal opinions which further implies - though I may be stretching with this one - that there are no "right" or "wrong" responses to the statements. I mean, it's not like you're answering definitive questions that are true or false, or even multiple choice. A statement is listed and you choose the degree to which you agree with that statement or not. Sounds simple and harmless and entertaining enough, right?

When I got to the results of my survey I wasn't surprised by the category I was placed in. I'm not sure how accurately it describes me, but I wasn't put off by it. What got me was, when I scrolled down to look at my detailed question breakdown I noticed that I was penalized for having "no opinion" on a particular statement or if my opinion wasn't the "correct" one. The strange thing with the scoring was that I got -2 for having no opinion, but I got only -1 for having the polar opposite opinion to the "correct" answer. Apparently, it's worse to have no opinion or to be in the middle than to be in total disagreement. The scoring is just skewed so much that someone who is more liberal will score lower. Even someone who is moderate in their views will score lower than someone who is conservative.

What concerns me about this test - which also concerns me about any fundamentalists - is the use of absolutes. For each statement, without fail, the "correct answer" is always one of "strongly dis/agree." You have the option to respond with "tend to dis/agree" but that's not good enough. Somehow, your worldview doesn't quite stand up tall enough, if at all, unless you are difinitive in your response; and even then, only when you are difinitive on their "correct" side. There's no room for middle ground, no room for ambiguity or doubt or compromise. Though it's cliche I think it's true when it's said that we live in the gray areas of life. Most times there aren't absolutes, dare I say it, even when it comes to God. The arrogance, not confidence or conviction but arrogance, that comes with the thought that one can know "the mind of God" to the exclusion of everyone else is asinine. That kind of exclusivist thinking leaves open no possibility that God knows or is things that we could never understand.

Hebrews says that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," right? Unless I am totally off the deep end - which apparently I am - that means there must be so much that we don't know - about the future, about the nature of things, about God - that faith is required to make peace with the uncertainty. Am I wrong? Faith is all about not knowing. Faith is letting God be God and letting that be ok. I'm tired of how fundamentalists and conservatives - or anyone else for that matter, let's not be too discriminating - put God in such small boxes to the point that all mystery and wonder and possibility is snuffed out. After all, it's easier, it's safer to have absolutes and to have all the answers. Dissent or disagreement, or even ambiguity, seem to be so much of a threat to those who live their lives through theological absolutes. We live in a fluid world, not a static one.

(Just as an aside because of some of the statements in the survey and this whole conversation: If gay marriage "threatens the institution of marriage," I just have to ask, will your marriage mean anything less, will your love for your spouse be any less because another pair of people are married? Does that mean the value of your marriage is based on the relationships of others? Is the sanctity of your union less sacred because two people take the same vows to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their lives no matter what?)

At any rate, I take the survey with a grain of salt and I couldn't care less about the results or the scoring system - though it is kind of fun to complain about it. I just get a little steamed with the underlying mentality of exclusivism and fundamentalist audacity that seems to be so pervasive. I think it is harmful and dangerous. Especially when one is blind to the fact that fundamentalism can, and does, look the same no matter what religion you're looking at.

A late professor of mine once said, "If you don't question your religion, you're not taking it seriously enough." To me that says that we must live curiously, always asking the hows, the whats, the whys of life. Certainty clouds the possibility of fuller understanding. We must step away from thinking we know the answers and begin to open ourselves up to the radical concept of letting go and letting God. God's fingerprint can be found everywhere - especially where we can't imagine it to be.