The Christian Questionnaire

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Many are familiar with Dr. Martin Rochlin’s Heterosexual Questionnaire, published in 1972.  It was delightfully powerful satire that poked fun at the many misconceptions people have about same-sex orientations.  (It pains me to think that people have the same foolish misunderstandings of sexual orientations almost four decades later.)

The main point that it made was that homosexuality is not a choice any more than heterosexuality is.  So, I was thinking about how religion, which is the main force behind LGBT oppression, is a choice.  Or, it should be, but thanks to the way young children are indoctrinated and contextualized before they develop concrete reasoning skills, many people don’t get to make unbiased choices about their worldview.  Since the religious right still inappropriately accuses the LGBT community of their identities being a choice (and a bad one), I’m going to return fire with the same idea!

I have adapted the questionnaire to ask Christians about their identities.  Some of the questions in this version are quite profound and some are kind of funny.  Some of these questions I legitimately want to ask of people!  Enjoy!

CHRISTIAN QUESTIONNAIRE

(Developed by Zack Ford, January 2009.  Adapted from the 1972 Heterosexual Questionnaire by Martin Rochlin, Ph.D.)

This questionnaire is for self-avowed Christians only.  If you are not openly Christian, pass it on to a friend who is.  Please try to answer the questions as candidly as possible.  Your responses will be held in strict confidence and your anonymity fully protected.

1.  What do you think caused your Christianity?

2.  When and how did you first decide you were a Christian?

3.  Is it possible your Christianity is just a phase you may grow out of?

4.  Could it be that your Christianity stems from a neurotic fear of other religious beliefs?

5.  If you’ve never grown up in another set of religious beliefs, how can you be sure you wouldn’t prefer them?

6.  To whom have you disclosed your Christian tendencies? How did they react?

7.  Why do Christians feel compelled to convert others into their lifestyle?

8.  Why do you insist on flaunting your Christianity?  Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet?

9.  Would you want your children to be Christian, knowing the problems they’d face?

10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are Christian men.  Do you consider it safe to expose children to Christian male teachers, pediatricians, priests, or scoutmasters?

11. With all the societal support for marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling.  Why are there so few stable relationships among Christians?

12.  Why do Christians place so much emphasis on their beliefs?

13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone kept reproducing more Christians?

14. Could you trust a Christian therapist to be objective?  Don’t you fear s/he might be inclined to influence you in the direction of her/his own leanings?

15. Christians are notorious for assigning themselves and one another rigid, stereotyped roles.  Why must you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?

16. With such religious diversity found in military life, isn’t Christianity incompatible with military service?

17. How can you enjoy an emotionally fulfilling experience with a person of another set of beliefs when there are such vast differences between you?  How can a Christian know what pleases a non-Christian or vice-versa?

18. Shouldn’t you ask your far-out Christian cohorts, like skinheads and born-agains, to keep quiet?  Wouldn’t that improve your image?

19. Why are Christians so promiscuous?

20. Why do you attribute Christianity to so many famous Jewish and atheist people?  Is it to justify your own Christianity?

21. How can you hope to actualize your God-given intellectual potential if you limit yourself to exclusive, compulsive Christianity?

22. There seem to be very few happy Christians.  Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to.  After all, you never deliberately chose to be a Christian, did you?  Have you considered aversion therapy or Christians Anonymous?

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There are 9 Comments to "The Christian Questionnaire"

  • dcm says:

    1. What do you think caused your Christianity?
    I was lonely, I felt I had little purpose, I didn’t feel in control of my life
    When I found people that seemed really admirable, they were often Christians
    When I read books and felt that I had found something really wise there was generally a parallel in Christianity, or the source of the words/description was Christian
    When I viewed other religions I found read the similarities with Christianity as part of a “general revelation” of God to the world. I found some of the differences valuable but have either not been touched by them intellectually and emotionally (or have found a Christian equivalent) or I do not agree with them
    The aspects of Christianity which I do not agree with or am uncertain about can conceivably be chalked up to improper understanding of the original text/authorial meaning/Godly intent (and yes, it bothers me that we feel we can “read” a holy text in a different cultural context to understand in it virtually anything we wish—a tactic used by non-Christians both to discredit and also to re-read traditional understandings of the texts; I have no immediately satisfactory answers)
    Events transpired in my life that made Christianity seem more real than a doctrine, that made God seem a real person, that made it seem as if he were interested in me; they changed my way of thinking and acting in such a way that I felt different, but not self-changed; God explained me to myself better than I could explain myself. This is what was and always seems to me looking back to have been more influential than anything else: what I was taught and habitually grew up in gave me a place to explore but had little hold over my mind and emotions and in fact, before I became a “born-again” Christian, I placed almost no value on “faith” or Christian practice of any kind.
    2. When and how did you first decide you were a Christian?
    A complicated question with a complicated answer. I assumed that I was a Christian until I was 18 or 19 because I went to church and associated with, along with my family, a Christian denomination. I was baptized, I professed to believe, or consented to believe, that Jesus was God and made spiritual salvation or purity possible. What I really believed and why is perhaps impossible to tell, but it mattered only vaguely. My senior year in high school I felt challenged, due to a variety of circumstances, to think about and answer to myself whether I really cared or believed enough to make study of Christ and Christianity a central or more important aspect—it became clear to me the answer was no, and I was afraid that if God (I assumed he existed) were to require such a life of me, I could not make myself do it. In feeling so challenged, I resolved that if he existed and wished me to be more “Christian” or care more, he would have to go 90% of the way to making such a life probable, possible really, and then I would go the other 10%. Assuming that was sufficient, and not believing he had done the 90%, I forgot the challenge and went on with my life.
    My freshman year, compelled by being away from home and feeling some nagging compulsion to make the appearance of participating in Christian activities (but not wanting to go to church) I joined a bible study. The group that I met…astounded me. The reasons are too complicated to go into here. Suffice it to say that they seemed more mature, more certain, more determined, more understanding of living a way that I wished to live and didn’t feel capable of living. Or feeling. I wanted the confidence. I wanted the sense of community. I wanted to feel so trusting around people, to know that I could trust people so much, that there were people so trustworthy, even to be someone who was that trustworthy. I wanted to believe and see that I was really so good inside, not just make it seem that I was so good. Because I knew myself and I wasn’t that good. I still know myself. I’m not that good  But in the Bible study leader I saw something of myself, or at least I saw myself in what he used to be–mistrustful, angry, terrified, arrogant, intelligent, skeptical, bitter, cynical, depressed, etc. I though, “why not? What have I got to lose?” At some point that first year, I realized later, I started changing the priorities and interests of my life to move toward such a knowledge of this Christ. And I began to have some better hope that I might actually find some.
    3. Is it possible your Christianity is just a phase you may grow out of?
    I don’t know. I can’t see my future. I only know myself for the 30 years I’ve lived so far. But I think I want the promises that Christianity offers (for a spiritual life, more than an eternal life, for an intimacy with God, if such a thing is possible, and for self-knowledge, more than a secure place after death, a thing I have never been able to really imagine in any practical way and which has never been a driving force in my life). I’ve found since becoming a Christian that the struggle of life feels more…intense and real, more potentially valuable, than it ever did before. Maybe this is a trick of having had a religious experience at a time in my life when such changing self-perceptions are not uncommon. I have no way of knowing whether my own sense of this “Christian reality” is more real and valuable than those of a Buddhist, a Muslim, a spiritual seeker, or even a generally non-religious person, etc. Certainly I have since gone through some very challenging things and find myself at odds occasionally with many of the “typical” political, moral or theological stances of others claiming to be Christian. Certainly the longer I live, the more questions I have. But at the worst of times (in the last decade or so), when I was most bitter at God or Christians, I believe I wanted the hope and truth of Christianity more desperately than ever. I could not feel confident of the very things I suppose Christians ought to feel confident of, but I knew I wanted them more than anything. Certainly I would never go back to the “who cares” sort of non-religious attitude before I became a Christian. I see little value by comparison. If I am wrong, I have staked my life on it. To many, I have staked my intellectual integrity on it. Maybe it’s a gamble (maybe it doesn’t really matter) but it seems to answer my questions and perceived reality better. I am learning to care less and less what others think. Has not everyone staked their life and integrity on at least something? If we are wrong we have no one to blame but ourselves. But I cannot stop asking the questions, I cannot hide my doubts, but neither can I see that not asking, not believing, not seeking is any better. And it seems more despicable to me to be forever seeking and never settling, as if the person who does so is afraid to really know themselves, to really ask the hard questions and wrestle with god and life and purpose and truth and what is valuable, whether they claim to be Christian or not. To earn my respect requires proof of effort and evidence of wisdom found.
    4. Could it be that your Christianity stems from a neurotic fear of other religious beliefs?
    How would I know? I never felt much conscious fear or semi-conscious uneasiness with other religions until I had a greater stake in believing Christianity to be exclusively true or better at accessing the soul/God. It seems to me that this question fails on the assumption that because many Christians are negative toward or apparently worried about other religions, they therefore choose or become more attached to Christianity. It seems to me that this is a poor motive for any faith, at least one with any vitality. I would find it hard to believe, say, postmodernist philosophies simply because I was afraid of the other philosophies I came into contact with, even were such postmodernist philosophies widely believed and urged. My motives more likely would be dissatisfaction with all other theories [which I was aware of and thought I understood] and some sense that postmodernism made sense of certain data which did not otherwise make as much sense.

    If I have a neurotic fear of other religious beliefs, I am less aware of it. I am certainly bothered over the question about the metaphysics of other beliefs, about how God may really be found, about whether other Gods or being exist or are manufactured. Is the God that I seem to have some vague idea and contact with real? Is he the same or different as other religions’ gods? Is he different, and how? Can we find him any way we choose? Are there certain shibboleths? Am I reading my own religious texts the right way? Should I be so worried over this as I am? As we are in the modern world (we insist on being so precise)? I am less inclined to believe that I am making the God I believe in up ex nihilo; I have rather little faith in my or others’ creative abilities and many of the things which now amaze me about God were the very things that before seemed the most ridiculous. When I “discover” things that really amaze me, they are patently unexpected. If my “subconscious” or “unconscious” really exists (I have remarkably little faith in Freud’s ability to discern the metaphysics of the human mind) then it is by far more amazing at being beyond my comprehension that God is. In which case it is easier for me to manufacture ideas about God than it is about myself, a prospect which I admit strikes me as absurd.

    That said, I do feel afraid of others’ criticisms of my beliefs, my religious tenets, my actions and personal “religious” or “moral” habits, the level of my theology, etc. I realize that, for me, it seems easier to find control in these things to find or point out the weaknesses in others’ beliefs. The younger my belief, the more vocal (and more afraid) I generally was about challenges to my faith. The irony, I suppose, is that those who dislike Christianity the most often contribute the most such Christian reactions. Christianity (most probably because it is so openly proselytizing) is often one of the most openly criticized or questioned religious on the market (along with Islam, atheism, and many of the general “New Age” spiritualist movements). Because such criticisms have real justification and weight, because most Christians have at some point in their pre-Christian or Christian lives felt the tensions and doubts most vocalized as “proofs” against or problems with Christianity, and because such criticisms are recorded in places most likely to come up frequently, the fear seems to feed on itself. It dismays me to see that the more the media vents in one way or another against “Christians” or more specifically “evangelicals” or more specifically still, the “Christian right”, the more vocal Christians become on behalf of one or all of these groups, the more broadly are Christians willing to recognize that criticisms against some of these groups apply (rightly or wrongly) to themselves, and the more strongly do they feel the need to justify themselves publicly. The more vehement the Christians, the virulent the complaining against Christians… It is an interesting cycle of separatism, of rhetorical identification of “mainstream” and “acceptable” patriotism. We’ll see what the outcomes are, and how long they take to come, how long they will remain.
    5. If you’ve never grown up in another set of religious beliefs, how can you be sure you wouldn’t prefer them?
    I can’t. How long do you propose I undertake to study other beliefs? At what level of commitment? What evidence shall I take as proof to know which one is right?
    6. To whom have you disclosed your Christian tendencies? How did they react?
    Well, I used to disclose it to a lot more people. I’ve learned not to. Some people were very angry. Many were skeptical. Many who considered themselves Christians were skeptical, even. After all, what makes a “born-again” experience better or necessary? What separates it from “nominal” Christianity? Many Christian friends of mine were put off by the level of interest I grew to have in religious or spiritual things, in philosophy, in social issues, in political discussions, or at least in my views on them. I learned that it is…more justifiable to criticize religious and conservative political or social beliefs, particularly when motivated by religious convictions. The theology must be at fault, or my reading of it, or the group of Christians I was involved in. The Christian community itself is widely divided on many of these issues as well, making it hard to discuss them productively or easily even in Christian circles. Now that I work in academic circles, it is extremely rare that I speak about my religious affiliations where the discrimination against such things is hard to track or combat. In any case, I’m more interested in discussing tensions and solutions more than than the nature of religion its place in society. There is little personal productive value in responding to attacks on my belief system and no obvious reason to see value in such discussions as proselytizing events. If I find people I can trust to have open discussion, Christian or not, where I can voice my thoughts and ask my questions, debate in good faith such issues, I will be generally be more open about it. Still, I reserve many of the most “dangerous” questions for very few, perhaps one to three of my closest and oldest Christian friends. The more the debates rage outside the church, the more seemingly heretical it becomes inside to ask the questions most urged on the church by outsiders. It makes for a very strained dialog and remarkably slow “progress.”
    7. Why do Christians feel compelled to convert others into their lifestyle?
    Do you really want to know or do you want me to justify (if I can) something that seems to you unjustifiable? How honest shall we be with each other? When I first became a Christian, for the first few weeks (or the first few moments of actual conversations), I most wanted to share my beliefs/outlook (less lifestyle, since it seems secondary to me) with others because I felt that I had found something more amazing and real and powerful, more good, than anything I had (or have, to date) come across. Moreover, is was something I’d wanted but couldn’t explain that I wanted, couldn’t figure out why i couldn’t find, didn’t know how to ask for help. What I found seemed AMAZING and I wished everyone could feel so amazing. I remembered very clearly, however, my own skepticism and incomprehension from before said understanding dawned (never complete, of course, like Buddhism, or a calculus function, if your mind leads you more in that direction). And the reality is, I can’t explain what it is I perceive in Christ to explain it. It is something like explaining a different sort of color or taste of a thing never tasted. Or perhaps like never seeing snow or swimming in the ocean, only being able to see pictures—-the full experiential reality is comprehensible, but not comprehensible, from the image or description.

    Afterwards this initial aspect, which I admit never goes away but feels hopelessly unexplainable no matter how I bend my mind at trying to make it more so, the greatest compulsion came from the expectations of the evangelical community I had the most powerful spiritual contact through. It helps, of course, that all denominations of Christianity have had a theological and at least a latent practical evangelical or conversionary thread running throughout. It is wrapped up in the nature of the Christian break from Judaism (c.f. religious history and comparative religious studies). The contemporary push seems, now to me, to be brought to the fore by a variety of factors, including a millennialist rhetoric that became popular in the late 60s and 70s when social, political, spiritual and philosophical movements of all sorts were pushing for radical change and deconstruction/reconstruction. That generation of converts found release and purpose in passing on those ideas which themselves took root in a period of technological change (cheap airfare, internet, cross-denominational Christian “melding” of evangelical preaching, quick and tangible affects of global economic/political/social/ideological/linguistic mixing, general wealth among middle class group of the American demographic most likely to give to the Church and to missions, etc. At the same time, as such effects were already spreading in the early to mid-90s, the discussion, criticisms, and backlash against such vocalization seemed to urge the spread even more, to create a fertile ground for something like verbal “martyrdom” and the increasingly forceful rhetoric within churches and even traditionally non-evangelical groups of Christians to voice their faith proudly (like the gay rights movement—change the rhetoric of derogation into a proud banner).

    Now I find myself in the interesting and unenviable position of being in between a rock and a hard place. There IS a strong urge to be public about one’s faith and association with Christ, to spread the word (thought not at gun-point). What is more, several people I know and many many articles or serious/flippant comments from critics of Christianity argue that Christianity is hypocritical. It is a crime against humanity, seemingly, (or against moral or cultural relativism?) to be so exclusivist. We can have little or no justification in being so. It is horrible to believe that we are right and everyone else is wrong. But it is worse to believe everyone else is “going to hell” and yet do nothing (or worse, not care) that they are going to hell. So I am damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Frankly, it makes me not care, unless I happen across someone who seems interested in asking question, at really understanding. My learned response to the last 10 years has been to carefully train myself to not care what others think or believe. Is this really good? Certainly it makes life easier for us all at the present. It is a compromise I am willing to live with for the moment.
    8. Why do you insist on flaunting your Christianity? Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet?
    This is a loaded and derogatory question. If you want honesty, you’re asking a lot from your audience. You’ll have to be more specific about flaunting my Christianity. It’s not exactly the same in my mental image back as flaunting my nudity in public, or my political views on The Daily Show or the campus newspaper. Or a blog. I can be whatever I am and keep it quiet. However, it seems terribly unjust to say that something that shapes my life and actions, my voting habits and my social networks, my vocation and my opinions, should be open to attack and not to discussion. You have a blog post on gay rights and unjust, or rather, irrational, Christian views on the subject. Am I to also ask why you insist on flaunting your beliefs/lifestyle, etc.? Why you can’t just be what you are and keep it quiet? There are all sorts of social and political implications to such silence, or vocalization. Do you not also have goals you feel are justified, and agenda that is universal?
    9. Would you want your children to be Christian, knowing the problems they’d face?
    Yes, though I find problems potentially the most valuable thing about life. But I would rather that they understood and wanted to choose Christianity, or Christ, than that they felt, in the end, forced. Would you want your children to be gay, knowing the problems they face? Or blind? Maybe the issues of biology is different, since there is no choice involved, but I would think that the value of seeing life in interesting ways has its own value regardless of the problems associated with any social, economic, or biological challenge we might face. Concerning those things that have value, but create problems, like being Muslim, or being a foreigner in any of the world’s current “lands of opportunity”—would you rather your children tried to avoid these problems for an easy life (really only to find other problems elsewhere)? I suppose it would depend on the value you found in these things, and your own personal understanding of the negative value of the problems associated with them. For me, the potential value infinitely outweighs the problems, though the problems are most often the easiest stumbling blocks, even justifications, of a relapse or turn from faith.
    10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are Christian men. Do you consider it safe to expose children to Christian male teachers, pediatricians, priests, or scoutmasters?
    It depends on the person. There are lots of people I meet and don’t trust. It’s a worry (or would be if I had kids). On the other hand, one out of every three women is molested before the age of 18, and some estimates suggest the number would be higher if most women reported such occurrences and it seems most do not. In my own experience, the number is closer to 2 in 3 or 5 in 6 (from personal friends’ conversations). The majority of culprits were male relatives (father, brother) and male classmates or boyfriends. Do I consider childhood safe? Not at all. Do I consider men safe. I’ve never met one yet I didn’t feel some small fear around. I can’t imagine I ever will. Does it make me cautious? Do I look out for suspicious or untrustworthy people? You bet. Is it socially profiling to mistrust men? Or Christian men? You bet. Do I do it? All the time. I hope, however, before I solidify real doubts or vocalize doubts, before I make public accusations, I give the benefit of the doubt and try to find proof. That is the price we pay for freedom, is it not?
    11. With all the societal support for marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among Christians?
    Studies show the rate of Christian divorce is about the same as the general US divorce rate. Frankly, I’m not surprised it’s higher than average. The expectation and increasing pressure on Christians to have “perfect” or “Christ-like” marriages is an absurd ideal that is generally both mocked and mockingly expected from non-Christians critical of the idea (or joking about the idea). The pressure, I think, makes the marriage all the more difficult, all the more likely to be dishonest about problems and focus more on appearances. History shows, actually, that the divorce rate in the current world roughly mirrors the divorce or death/widowing rate of early centuries (depending on the society’s customs and laws). Of course, it hasn’t been until the Industrial Revolution and the entrance of women into a currency-based economy, even at a comparatively lower wage rate than their male counterparts, that divorcees or single women could survive in any real way without complementary gender roles that reinforced either matriarchal or patriarchal social, political and economic structures. So the issue of divorce and equal rights has taken on greater and newer meanings, although among wealthier segments of western (and I assume many non-western) societies, such aspects had their historical equivalents.

    Your questions holds the assumption that there are, in actuality, “so few” stable Christian relationships. I really couldn’t say conclusively that this is true and find it difficult to believe you could posit the same on any evidence. You would first have to find a standard for a “stable” relationship—a thing notoriously hard to pin down—and then also account for the varieties of Christian or secular beliefs about such relationships, whether the standard of stability is outwardly imposed for the sake of the study or whether the Christian couple itself would consider their relationship unstable, even whether they do so according to their own denominational standards, or if there is a general confessional standard according to which they might all be judged. A daunting, if impossible task. I would also be interested to know whether this is in fact your experience with Christian couples of your experience, whether it is an impression created or at least amplified by popular media, and if it isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts (you define such problematic relationships categorically according to religious affiliation because you expect to see them). Of course, I think the question stems from the advertised nature of Christian relationships, particularly within the evangelical community (whose books are read by most mainstream denominations, I might add) and particularly for couples. Within Christian companies and religious groups, the concept and rhetoric of such outstanding connubial bliss generates quite and industry; as an ideological and personal goal, it plays into all sorts of Christian and American prescriptions. That makes it complicated in all manner of ways. I personally have little expectation that the Christian divorce rate will decrease anytime soon, or that the pressures on having such wonderful spiritual and emotional intimacy under the aegis of Christ will necessarily ease the process of learning to act like a mature adult, though it does often point out the very things we find hardest to do…
    12. Why do Christians place so much emphasis on their beliefs?
    Too complicate for an answer. Do you mean, why emphasize beliefs instead of actions? Do you mean why emphasize belief in public discussion rather than just living what you believe? Or finding personal spiritual perfection separate from any form of organized community (zen self-actualization of some sort)? Do you mean why do we get into so many (seemingly nitpicky) disputes over shadings of belief? You can ask whatever question you want, but I’m not sure what you’re after, or what seems to bother you. If you simply don’t care about Christian beliefs, then there will be little means for communicating a satisfactory answer. At least that’s my experience with certain details of mathematical proofs—I don’t care and I can’t imagine anyone who loves proofs to be able to explain the mental or emotional aspects necessary for me to comprehend such fascination.
    13. Considering the menace of overpopulation, how could the human race survive if everyone kept reproducing more Christians?
    Well, no fear of that, really. Less than half the world’s population are professing Christians of any sort. The countries primarily Christian are also those in primarily first world countries which tend to have negative birth rates (more people die than are born). The more cultural associations built up in these first world western societies with what a good Christian life should look like, the less appealing or probable such doctrines appear to people in foreign cultures or economies (I’ve been a missionary, this seems true to some degree). So, how can the human race survive is all Christians keep reproducing more Christians? Luckily, in western societies with the largest number of Christians, less that 100% of Christians’ offspring will continue in their faith, even though some will return to it at a later date. More amazingly still, overpopulation has more to do with social inequalities, poverty, and political instability than it does with religious beliefs (in spite of the Vatican II ruling on contraceptives and the more recent evangelical Protestant debates over abortion, which is, by the way, largely an issue of a moderately wealthy class population; abortions are difficult and often deadly among poor, which in a horrible way, I suppose, eases the “menace of overpopulation”). Certainly in Africa and parts of south and southeast Asia, it has become clear that education about contraceptives makes little difference if 1) there is no money to pay for contraceptives or abortatives, and 2) having more children provides a greater probability of ¼ to ½ of the children surviving to adulthood and therefore a 100 or 150% higher likelihood of having someone to look after you in your old age (of 45-60), or of increasing the family income from $40 a month to $55 a month. I’m more concerned about the 60% of the world’s wealth being spent by the >10% of the world’s population living in America than I am about the overpopulation of the world. We’re far from capacity with no hope of taking care of bigger issues of inequalities (or caring about them beyond academic discussion) or environmental deterioration—a situation that has changed marginally since the Neolithic revolution and the rise of “civilizations.”
    14. Could you trust a Christian therapist to be objective? Don’t you fear s/he might be inclined to influence you in the direction of her/his own leanings?
    I’m not sure I can trust anyone to be objective. In fact, the last century suggests there is no such thing as objectivity. Even God’s view is by definition “subjective” unless you’re a deist. There are Christians who worry about denominational influences, and generally the name of therapists is passed through friends and relatives within denominations or similar groups. My bigger problem with Christian therapists is that they have a tendency to urge you simply to “have more faith,” a rather valueless pat phrase that seem, to me, to be pretty patronizing and unsympathetic and to mean something like “I can’t really help you—you and God have to help you help yourself.”

    In general, however, this is true for every Christian. Within denominations, anyone really interested in Christianity gets their information about it form a variety of sources, many of which they don’t think to examine through a doctrinal lens. The strength and weakness of evangelical denominations is that their rhetoric and discussions tend to emphasize more general and universally held Christian beliefs, to emphasize the nature of spiritual relationship over ritualized or formal religion, and therefore to move away from isolating or dogmatic discussions of theology (we too are influenced by the global trend toward cultural mixing). The result, as I’ve said above, is to blur the distinctions between doctrinal sets, to raise new sorts of theological or philosophical (or pragmatic/practice) questions about religion, and to have a lot of previously separate groups of Christians using the same rhetoric to mean vaguely different things. The problems, as you might imagine, are rather tricky. But it makes some people more likely to fear wrong or heretical influences (secular included) and try to protect “right” Christianity and makes other more frustrated that we can meld all previous denominations into a sort of free, loving happy family of unified Christians.
    15. Christians are notorious for assigning themselves and one another rigid, stereotyped roles. Why must you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?
    I guess I’m not sure what these clear and rigid sterotypes are. Can’t be worse that the jock-geek-junkie roles in High School. Or the partisan-power hungry-pampered stereotypes of politicians. Or the stereotypes of immigrants, foreigner, etc .I hear in conversations or websites and even occasionally in newspapers. You’re going to have to give me a hint about what and how worse these Christian self-impose stereotypes are before I could answer.
    16. With such religious diversity found in military life, isn’t Christianity incompatible with military service?
    On the same logic, wouldn’t Christianity also be incompatible with the average daily life in America where diversity is actually more tolerated? There is a push in the military to unofficially (from the officers down) strongly encourage or “enforce” conservative, Christian, Republican values and beliefs, and given the type of small and often intimate social situations, such socialization is possible and perhaps more coercive and damaging than in might be outside the military where other occupations, travel, or social communities are easier to find. Certain branches have a greater stereotype about being worse for this sort of thing, but it also begs the question of whether such beliefs, conversion or actions are really “Christian” and the nature of practice and belief in Christianity (or any religion, really).
    17. How can you enjoy an emotionally fulfilling experience with a person of another set of beliefs when there are such vast differences between you? How can a Christian know what pleases a non-Christian or vice-versa?
    It’s hard to have close friendships with someone who doesn’t comprehend my beliefs or why they’re important. No matter how much I care about them, there are often things I can’t or don’t feel comfortable talking about, and alternately, things the other person doesn’t feel comfortable listening to (how distant I feel from God, for example). I’ve never had a close enough friendship with a non-Christian to get very far into the recesses of my intimate questions and troubles without either feeling attacked, insulted, ignored, or uncomfortable (esp. by making the other person feel uncomfortable). And since so many non-Christians are so vocally against Christians being vocal on these very things (though they generally mean in a “pushy” or proselytizing manner), it’s hard to make a distinction I think between the topic and the goal. Few non-Christians have asked me to share unless they were specifically interested in Christianity for one reason or another (as you are in a certain way with your questionnaire—or why would you ask us to be honest and self-declared Christians?). But in general, as most Ameican culture dictates, I don’t share many personal opinions or problems unless invited to by the other person in the relationship.
    18. Shouldn’t you ask your far-out Christian cohorts, like skinheads and born-agains, to keep quiet? Wouldn’t that improve your image?
    Since I’m a born again, I suppose I can’t answer this question? But I generally do keep quiet. And to some degree resent it. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t talk about? What I should believe or not? Especially if your justification for doing so is to protect your own beliefs or freedoms of speech. Your freedoms at the expense of mine? In any case, the image war is complicated, especially by the internet which I think makes both sides look worse than they are, providing, as it does, a venue to vent openly and rather thoughtlessly without much fear of immediate social recrimination or reprisal and little chance of being publicly outed and ostracized as we might be in, say, a classroom, or a newspaper opinion column, etc.
    19. Why are Christians so promiscuous?
    Such a claim is not here demonstrated and I believe proof is required to justify the “so”in particular. Are they “so” much more promiscuous that any other group of people in our society? Either among teenagers or adults? If the rate is even, the question ought to be restated to say something like, “If Christians pride themselves on being so much morally better than [any] others, then why are they (at least) as promiscuous as other Americans?” If the answer referred to teenagers, I’d offer a guess that the commitment of these individuals is less than other adults and/or has less of a basis in experience and research than in socialization and habit. Given this situation, the restrictions or mores of Christian circles might seem even more frustrating than otherwise, esp. when they are made fun of by non-Christians who don’t like or understand them, and the “typical” rebellion of learning to be an adult still under your parents care and financial/social rules is heightened by binding you as well to a belief system you are only marginally committed to. The social reasons for being an adult and choosing Christian circles and being promiscuous seem, in my experience, generally smaller and caused by a greater variety of situations and motivations.
    20. Why do you attribute Christianity to so many famous Jewish and atheist people? Is it to justify your own Christianity?
    Possibly. I suppose it depends on who is in this large group of Jewish and atheist so-called professing Christians. If you mean something like Seneca, for example, a fairly absurd connection that seemed, if not likely, at least desirable for the very reasons you mention, the justification is in the similarity in his words to those of Paul—a similarity which can be better explained as most scholars think by Paul’s rather extensive training in the same widely popular Latin and Greek educational curricula and philosophical texts as Seneca, etc. If you’re referring to European thinkers, it’s probably because many of them are writing from a world-view steeped in Christian philosophy and rhetoric. Even in the Enlightenment, therefore, you find people radically bending the rules of Christianity in such a way that it’s barely recognizable to modern thinkers as Christian, but yet the broad strokes and language it uses can still seem, on the surface, to reference a Christian way of looking at the world. In some way, then, the Christianity is there, though probably not a connection most Christians would care to advertise if they knew the facts more closely. Even Voltaire was a deist and something closer to a Christian than a real atheist, but I wouldn’t say his understanding of God held much value to him, or that it makes him a “true believer.” If you have some examples that are particularly egregious, you might care to add them to your question.

    (I suppose this is one of the questions that seems to translate less well… The historical reasons for finding slim evidence for the homosexual interests of various historical figures is wrapped up in taboos which are a different issue than Christians reading back sympathy or universal values of Christianity into non-Christian people, esp since Christian groups have generally had a greater stake in proving how un-Christian pagan stuff is.)
    21. How can you hope to actualize your God-given intellectual potential if you limit yourself to exclusive, compulsive Christianity?
    The onus is on you to justify the intellectual limitations inherent in a religious belief system that is exclusive. I deny that the second in possible. Even in the Bible, were you to scrutinize God’s actions, I think you will find it difficult if not impossible to find that God ever coerces belief. Practice within a social community yes, though for a nomadic extended family group, those unwilling to abide by internally set community rules were free to leave and often did, as they passed near larger or smaller settlements or came across the steady flow of trading caravans. What you are more likely to find is the command or desire to exterminate non-consenting adults who either attack the community or who are supposedly squatting on land promised by said God. Of course, this is ancient Hebrew tradition, not Christian. The history of Christian evangelical coercion is great. But a close look at the theology shows the widespread belief among theologians (and even Popes or other leaders) that coercion generally invalidated the conversion. In the crusades, the goal was less conversion than a diminishing of political and social power of a religious and political enemy, regardless of the rhetoric you’re likely to read in the texts. In the European conquest of the Americas, the military conquest and forced conversions were not held to be real Christian conversion, demonstrated by mistrust and essential racio-cultural discrimination. It did, however, place the “misguided” natives under a system of “civilization” assumed to lead more directly to Christianity (which was by definition closely connected with the “advancements” made by European societies who happened to be Christian). In any case, you’ll be hard pressed to find many mainstream or even evangelical groups today who argue that forced conversions have much real spiritual merit, at least as far as salvation.

    In any case, I find fault with a question that assumes a direction-less pursuit of knowledge or growth is more productive in any situation than one which begins with both a direction and a general structure. I’ve always found it personally more productive to have something to build on, or alternately, to deconstruct and reconstruct, than to stare at a “blank page” with no parameters, goal, or limitations to the nature and types of questions or applications to the line of inquiry. I find it only a bit less difficult to explore a limited number of, but necessarily contradictory grouping of beliefs or questions for which I can offer no objective evaluating mechanism to decide between them, unless it is my own random fancies and whims. (please nothing about rejecting everything without proofs–what sorts of proof? “reasonable” proof? unassailable proof? particularly given that much of what we must act on on a daily basis offers little to no proof, beyond speculation, assumed general experience, and the believed “expertise” of others or what passes for iron-clad logic) And I have to say, I’m skeptical of the value of choosing the “spirituality” that suits me best just because it seemed to feel useful for a time. If there is nothing worth the value of commitment intellectually or ideologically than a passing but largely random desire, then there can’t be much in the system itself to make it worthy of my attention. That’s a short shelf-life.

    As to limiting myself in a negative way, I would think this would be the case with most belief systems. Whether the nature of these systems is ever necessarily limiting, I also find hard to believe, whether Christian, Muslim, atheistic, Democratic, Libertarian, etc. Questions just come into our heads. We ask them, worry over them, reject them (or at least try to repel them in some cases), but they come on just the same. If the imperative to hold onto a unified coherence within the doctrine or practice of Christianity, and to a belief system structure or at least accumulated in different socio-political eras that don’t always/often work well in the contemporary west—if this makes Christians more hesitant to embrace new or different ideas, which I think is fair to claim, then the obvious internal answer is that the “god-given” intellectual potential was designed by God by definition. Such is the most obvious perspective within a Christian world-view of course. Should the belief system exclude the very things which corrupt, overthrow, or contradict the central tenets of its practice or belief? Of course, that’s an internal sort of answer. If you think my God-given potential is to explore every question from every angle for a miraculously 360 degree 3D creative perspective, I’d say your view and mine about what is useful and good intellectual “potential” is very different. Even were such a thing possible, there could no longer be any semblance of unity or categorical definition of “Chritianity.” Were we to point to (so we say) the same metaphysical reality of “God” we could not find real justifications to call all of them “Christian” esp. since at least some of them would include all of the previous “heresies” of the Christian church of the present and past and many which have not in all probability ever been dreamed up.

    Your practical concern in rewriting the question this way, I should guess, is the unwillingness to consider doctrinal or behavioral changes which seem to you to be still tied to classic Christian texts and possible within mainstream Christianity. I think the issues are each separate, and you’d find different answers among each group of Christians and even within each denomination or individual church you visited (although you’d have to scratch the surface—they’re like small rural towns and like to give the appearance of a unified front to outsiders, quoting doctrinal catechisms with equal importance that doesn’t actually mirror the real beliefs or certainties behind the dogma of “should do”).

    If you mean “compulsive” in the sense of a psychosis, I’d say you’ve once again made unsubstantiated claims about the biological psychology of religion in general and Christianity in particular, made gross generalizations about all Christians which may be true of some (given current medical definitions and actual social and psychological Christian realities), and steered rather too close to your own prejudiced and narrow perspectives on religious things which you either choose not to or can’t understand. Perhaps only you can tell.
    22. There seem to be very few happy Christians. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to. After all, you never deliberately chose to be a Christian, did you? Have you considered aversion therapy or Christians Anonymous?
    This is one of the questions that is “quite funny”?

    In any case, you’ve made your point–it’s quite obvious that the questions become more leading in the questionnaire. This is an interesting and, I think, very useful way to point out assumptions and direction in questions/worldview in a way that makes the point in a way that make good use of the backhanded insults in the questions–the more insulting, the more unjustifiable the criticism of the original Christian-based framework of the original. I’m almost curious what answers you were honestly interested in (not my answers, I mean, I could care less whether you convert, but in what you wish to understand about a group you clearly disagree with and seem to find so stupid, if your other posts are any indication.)

    I think questions 9 and 10 provided the most interest cross-insight (between the 2 questionnaire versions). Question 12 prob ought to read something more like “Why do Christians place so much emphasis on peoples’ beliefs’s” or “…on their moral values”–still there’s nothing close to an equivalent for that question, I suppose. At least nothing with the same derogatory sense. Also, if you use this is the future, I think you ought to rewrite the last question. The issue of biology is important to certain homosexual arguments in a way that it isn’t in Christianity (or religion), but I think that the issue of happy Christians/happy homosexuals points out a similar sort of criticism against both, justifiable or not? In fact, for Christians it ought to be harder to answer, if you justify homosexuality biologically. I’m way too tired and shouldn’t have gotten side-tracked on this in the first place, but it seemed interesting. Happy blogging.

  • Clint Lombard says:

    Here’s my attempt at answering the questions.

    1. God himself giving me life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, even when I was dead in sin and unable to do anything about my deserved judgement before God for my sin.

    2. When I was 6 years old, someone told me that Jesus Christ died to take the punishment I deserved for my sin. I put my trust in Christ. A few years later, I realised that what I believed wasn’t a reality in my life, so I stopped trying to live to satisfy myself and handed my life over to God. Mainly because I realised that I belonged to him anyway.

    3. No. The evidence of the power of the gospel to save and tranform shows that it is something apart from me. And God continues to confound me and show just how awesome he is.

    4. No. It wasn’t any fear that drove me to Christ. Rather, I am convinced that Christ found me and called me to himself. (To read between the lines of your question, I am not a conservatist right-wing bigot by calling myself a Christian. To assume that is to approach Christianity from the wrong reference point.)

    5. I can’t. Simple. But if I am completely (and mean completely) satisfied in Christ, what’s the problem? There’s surely nothing better than complete satisfaction? Or am I making an anti-postmodern assumption?

    6. I have ‘disclosed’ my Christian ‘lifestyle choice’ to everyone I know. I have different reactions, ranging from sympathy, to joy, to hostility, to condescension.

    7. Because God himself has revealed his plan of salvation to those who he has called. We would be the most evil, cynical, sadistic people in the history of the world if we didn’t share that with everyone we come into contact with. And it’s not a “lifestyle” that we’re trying to “convert” people to. Instead, I try simply tell people what is really going on behind the scenes of this universe, in the hope that they would respond to God’s offer of mercy.

    8. I am being who am.

    9. Yes! Because the problems are so insignificant compared to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord” (Phillipians 3v8, which I know is the first Bible reference I have used) Furthermore, the problem of going to a lost eternity, facing the judgment of God head-on, seems to be greater. What do you think?

    *From this point on, it is worth pointing out the definition of a Christian, to avoid my answers running perpendicular to the questions. This applies far more to the following questions than the preceding ones.

    A true Christian is a person who has recognised that they are helpless in their sin, and deserve God’s judgement, but have thrown themselves upon the mercy of God in the death of Jesus Christ in their place, and trust in his resurrection from the dead for their own eternal glory with God in heaven. The life they live now is no longer for themselves, but rather directed towards bringing God glory in everything. You may find that this excludes a lot of white, Western middle-classers.

    10. As safe as exposing my children to gay priests, teachers, etc. (That is a objective statement, without any prejudice.)

    11. The same reason why there are so few stable relationships in the gay community – we are inherently selfish.

    12. This is nonsense question, but I will attempt to answer it anyway. I am defined by my beliefs.

    13. This question still doesn’t work. Keep working it at. In you can’t reproduce a Christian.

    14. No more so than any other therapist. Everyone has there own worldview. The challenge, which I am sure they are aware of, is to be objective. However (and this is true for other worldviews too), it is very difficult to ignore the obvious commonalities between one’s own worldview and what is medical science.

    15. I am not sure I understand the question. The only role to which I wish to assign myself is the one that God expects of me: wholly committed to glorifying him in ecery aspect of my life.

    16. Christianity isn’t opposed to diversity. In fact, you may find that real Christians form the most diverse community on earth.

    17. Easy. Our humanity is common.

    18. We probably should. But our image isn’t what’s important.

    19. Refer Q11.

    20. I don’t attribute my Christianity to any atheist people. As for Jewish people, well, it is narrowminded to not see the continuity between the faith of the Torah and the faith of the Bible. But God is in fact the only person I attribute my faith to in order to justify it, because people are all alike under God. Oh, wait, I forgot God doesn’t exist…

    21.”Exclusive, compulsive Christianity” is an interesting term. I trust that the God who created my intellect would never keep me from enjoying his creation, stretching my intellect and allowing me to actually reach my full potential. I might even venture to say that the only way I can reach my full intellectual potential is in understand God’s existence and continued action in the world.

    22. You need to get out more. And no, I didn’t deliberately choose to be a Christian. Instead God compelled me to make the choice. (I know that probably doesn’t make sense to you; you would only really understand it if you believed. CS Lewis attempts to explain it like an entrance way which says on the outside “Enter here all who wish to be saved” but when you turn around after entering, you see above the door it reads “I have chosen you”.)

    As for being happy, the experience of myself and others, the witness of the Bible and the unhappiness of those who don’t believe all serve to convince me that there is no other way to be truly happy. And whatever happens in this life, I have the knowledge that God will save me, and I can look forward to a glorious eternity.

    Other examples are as follows:

    John Owen was a pastor in 17th century England. And despite living in some of the worst times in history, suffering from chronic asthma, and losing all 11 of his children, had this to say about his happiness: “It may be said that those who have experience of such affection unto the Lord Jesus cannot but have continual matter of joy in themselves.”

    The apostle Paul was in jail in Rome in the first century, where he was chained up and had to have food provided by his friends as he awaited trial and possible execution, when he wrote these words: “Even if I am executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout’s fair play — you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me.”

  • Jenny says:

    I think it is great that these questions are out there for whoever wants to answer them but I think they are phrased in a way that almost makes you want to be ashame to tell others that you are Christian!! I am a Christian, I become one when I was 15 and although I lost the confidence so time in the past, God showed me over again why  I loved Him.  He has saved me more than once and that’s why I am a Christian, because I have felt the love He has for me!

  • ZackFord says:

    Jenny, thank you for recognizing the point of the exercise. 😉

  • James says:

    Wow, I know I am nearly a year late on this but watching Jenny, Clint, and DCM completely miss the point is hilarious.

    Talk about being out of touch with reality.

    • ZackFord says:

      This was one of the first things I wrote on the blog… over TWO years ago. I wonder if you’re the first person to get it… I’m glad somebody did.

      Asking a person to explain their faith is still taboo, and asking a person to substantiate their faith is often seen as completely disrespectful. We need to change that.

  • James says:

    I sent this to my wife and room mate, they busted up laughing.

    Truth be told it was your link on Friendly Atheist which brought me here.

  • Sara says:

    I came over from Friendly Atheist too (thanks for the link). I actually thought DCM’s response was quite thoughtful and interesting.

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