I’ve been blogging on a weekly schedule but am beginning to feel a little self-imposed deadline pressure. So, I may begin skipping a week here and there to preserve my leisurely, retired lifestyle.
Anyhow, several years ago I took Beliefnet’s online quiz purporting to identify what kind of religion a person is. According to Belief-O-Matic, I was a Unitarian. I was aghast. I had been to several Unitarian services and disliked what I experienced at them. Anyway, I was pleased when I recently re-took the quiz and was scored as a liberal Quaker.
According to Beliefnet, I am 100% Liberal Quaker, 98% Unitarian Universalist (Hmmm?), 76% Liberal Christian Protestant, 67% Orthodox Quaker (FUM?), 45% Conservative Christian Protestant (Fundamentalist?), 43% Atheist (interesting), and 13% Roman Catholic (surprising). I guess the 13% score explains why I stopped being Catholic several years ago. I remember having to use “doublethink” to repeat the Nicene Creed at Mass, and I’ve never felt a truly Catholic reverence for the Virgin Mary or the Saints. I had less trouble with the idea of the Real Presence of Christ in the Host. After all, Quakers (some anyhow) believe in God’s omnipresence.
I also took the “What Kind of Christian Are You?” quiz. The results show me to be a “Brian McLaren Christian.” McLaren sees Christianity, not as a set of beliefs, but as a way of living. That way is the way of love, of coming to know God by recognizing and loving God in others. I may have trouble loving others at times, but I certainly recognize the validity of the concept (more about this later).
Besides McLaren, I’m supposed to be enamored of N.T. Wright. I have heard of Wright; but after an internet survey of his work, I must say that he and I have serious differences in our Christian faith. Wright believes in a literal Resurrection of Jesus whereas I think that the disciples had a mystical experience of Jesus’ presence which was later mythologized into a literal, historical resurrection. Wright also believes that the soul survives after death, a view to which I am sympathetic. However, I have no sense of certainty about the afterlife. I agree with another member of Old Chatham meeting who has stated that, “At death, we return to God, but I don’t know what that means.” Many Quakers will also agree with Wright’s statement that “Jesus is present, he is real, he can be talked to—and he will talk back.” To be on the safe side, I would say that God or Spirit talks. However, if the historical Jesus has, in some sense, returned to God, we may well feel His Presence in our meetings.
Other religious figures whom I am supposed to like include Rob Bell, Phyllis Tickle, Tim Keller, and Eugene Peterson. Bell questions the concept of Hell although he does not outright reject the idea. Tickle had a near death experience that convinced her of God’s existence. Keller is a born-again Christian who criticizes the alliance between evangelical Christians and Republicans. Eugene Peterson advocated a relational Christianity and translated the Bible into modern, colloquial language. My actual religious-figure favorites are Marcus Borg, Paul Tillich, Isaac Penington, and—well—Jesus of Nazareth.
The quiz also predicted six magazines that I would likely subscribe to, none of which I take. Of those mentioned, I have leafed through a few issues of Sojourners, and I’m continually being asked to subscribe to The Atlantic because I click on Atlantic articles in my Google News feed. In fact, I may as well right now follow the Beliefnet prediction and subscribe to the Kindle edition of The Atlantic. Done! (But as of March 4, I haven’t read any of my first Kindle issue!)
My test results also say, “Your Christian history is rooted in St. Francis, who leads (through Gandhi) to Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. You emphasize social justice as an element of God’s Kingdom.” Well, yes and no. I do like St. Francis’ love of animals and often see “That of God” in my two dachshunds. Certainly, I approve of the non-violence preached by Gandhi and King. I also approve of Mother Teresa, who—despite being a Catholic saint—experienced excruciating doubts as to God’s existence. I, too, sometimes find my faith wavering; but I’ve always been able to affirm, “Jesus is Lord.”
Like Jesus, I’m a big Kingdom of God fan; but—as much as I desire social justice and admire those who work for it—I’m not really a social justice activist. I’ve only done social justice things in a desultory and imperfect way, preferring reflection to action (thinking is usually safer than doing). And while the Kingdom of God contains an important focus on social justice, its Ruler gives us two more general commandments. We are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul and our neighbor as ourselves.
I could follow those commandments by driving to Colorado and chaining myself to the fence around a Minutemen missile silo; or, more conveniently, I could try to work through my anger at Donald Trump supporters and remember that they are beloved members of God’s Kingdom. Social justice projects are worthy of our time and effort, but we can also serve The Kingdom just by loving our family, friends, and even our “enemies.”
Of course, no quiz can really measure one’s spirituality. I call myself a
Quaker by virtue of my spiritual attitudes and beliefs. However, I also have the
evidence of a New Jersey Friend’s verbal baptism of me. Moreover, a Hawaii
Friend has confirmed that I am a Quaker—in spirit, at least. (Zoom was the
connection for New Jersey—Hawaii—and me here in Texas.) One of these days
I’ll join a meeting and receive a letter of acceptance, which I’ll frame and mount
on a wall. Then I’ll have written, official, incontestable proof that I really am a
Quaker. I won’t have to rely on Belief-O-Matic.
For those who are interested in the entertaining (but less than reliable)
Beliefnet quizzes, they are listed HERE.
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