I’m a sucker for an online quiz. It really doesn’t matter what it’s about, if I see one, I’m taking it. So, Wednesday morning, I stumbled onto Beliefnet’s “What Kind Of Christian Are You?” I immediately went there. I mean, how could I not? It was quiz about Christianity! Talk about a perfect of wasted time. But, really, it turned out to be pretty useful because I got a blog post out of it. Not to shabby, huh?
As I was taking it, one question jumped out at me: “I became a Christian when…” As I perused the answers, I realized that, for me, there was a huge difference between getting “saved” and becoming a Christian. I got saved because I believed I was a sinner bound for Hell and I became a Christian because the Jesus Way resonated with me at level nothing else ever has. I know that sounds provocative, like I’m saying that evangelicals and fundamentalists aren’t really Christians. Not so, I’m saying that people who’ve gone through the motions and claim the name of “Christian” but don’t follow the way of Christ aren’t Christians.
That’s still kind of controversial, isnt’t it? Some people are going to accuse me of heresy and claim that I’m a false teacher. Others will say I’m not calling a spade a spade, that I’m hedging so as not to offend some folks. And, a few of you might actually agree with me. To be perfectly honest, the last response bothers a lot more than the first two. While I’m used to people disagreeing with me, calling me names and saying I’m full of shit, I’m distinctly uncomfortable when folks start agreeing with me. At the risk of a case of agreement heebie-jeebies, let me try to explain what I meant at the end of the last paragraph.
When I talk about “people who’ve gone through the motions and claim the name of “Christian” but don’t follow the way of Christ”, I’m referring to individuals whose willful misuse of scripture lead young men and women to take their own life. When I say that, I mean the prosperity gospel charlatans who are, my opinion, the modern-day equivalent of the money changers turning God’s house into “a den of thieves”. I’m talking about people who call themselves “Christian”, but refuse to speak up while young men of color are subjected to terrible violence by the powers and principalities of this world. Really, I’m talking about anyone who says they love God but doesn’t truly love their neighbor. As the author of 1 John said: “…those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
As I’ve told you before, I got saved when I was 10 years old in my mom and dad’s bedroom. In the years that followed, I’m sad to say that I did not love all my neighbors. I hated communists, despised liberals, looked down atheists and refused to acknowledge that I benefitted from the system at the expense of others. While getting “saved” was a concrete act with a definable moment, becoming a Christian wasn’t. That change occurred over a period of years (detailed here). And, it’s really ongoing if I’m being honest.
For the record, the quiz says that I am “Bishop John Shelby Spong Christian”, which the quiz described with the following;
“A.k.a. a Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong Christian. Your Christian history begins with the Gospel of Thomas, or at least you’d like to include any and all ancient reports on Jesus in your understanding of the Christian savior. Some people call you a “mainline” Christian, which is an odd moniker since “mainline” is simply shorthand for historic denominational Christianity in America. But for several decades, mainliners like you have not identified with evangelical Christianity and have incorporated liberal theological concepts into the practice of the faith.”
That’s a decent, if limited, description of my faith. As for my answer to the question that spawned this post? I chose “I identified with Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God.” Big surprise, huh?