I briefly touch on what Progressive Christianity is on my About page, but I wanted to make a more indepth post about what progressive Christianity really is, and why I identify with this – or at least my interpretation of progressive Christianity as not every progressive Christian will really agree as to what this particular movement is about (really, that is true for most groups that have more than 3 people in them (and that number may be on the high side) that agreement is really hard to come by), part of the reason the tagline for the site is “thoughts from one small part of the Christian Left”.
Wikipedia (which I’ll use for a lot of this) says that one of the main tenets of progressive Christianity is caring for the poor and needy. One would think this is a non-issue for any Christian , but there are a lot of modern-day Pharisee politicians in the US that both actively make laws making things difficult for the poor or the refugee, and proclaiming their Christianity loudly.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. – Jesus, Matthew 23:23
Another tenet of progressive Christianity is questioning; if progressive Christianity has a patron saint, Thomas would be it. He is probably most famous for being a “doubting Thomas”, skeptical of Jesus’ rising from the dead. The rest of the apostles believed Jesus when they said He had risen. But Thomas wanted to investigate more. He wasn’t really “doubting” Jesus, but just wanted to use the brain God gave him to find out for himself. Too many times, Christians take things that are told to them at face value without checking into it. “Jesus died and rose again”. OK I can accept that, I don’t need to investigate for myself. “We need to go to every land and win souls for Christ!” OK, I can accept that, I don’t need to check into that. “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” OK, I can accept that, sounds like something that God would say, no need to investigate further. “God wants you to be happy. He doesn’t want you to have any problems. If you pray a certain prayer and give to the church, God will reward you tenfold and you will be rich and successful. This is God’s plan for you.” OK, I can accept that, God loves me, surely he wants me to succeed in everything. See where this is going? Progressive Christians aren’t “doubters”, but we investigate, we learn. This is why we believe that science can exist with God because our powerful God has no limits and can easily create the laws of physics to give us this wonderful world.
A central belief of conservative, evangelical theology is in proselytizing and missions to “win” people to Jesus. Whereas for myself, as a progressive Christian, one of my favourite quotes comes from St. Francis of Assisi (who Pope Francis took his papal name from and is also an admirer of), “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”. I have found with dealings with non-Christians that this is far more effective to have them listen to what Christianity is about then have them be treated the same as if you walk into a Circuit City only to be accosted by a salesman right away wanting to sell you something. (OK, other places do this too, but lately Circuit City has really bothered me about this since they didn’t used to do this. I used to go there all the time, but I don’t any more because of this.) as a blogger I frequently quote here has mentioned, it’s about relationship and respect and quoting Bible verses at virtual strangers, anonymously leaving religious tracts in people’s mailboxes, and traveling to another country solely to “change” people you haven’t met isn’t “relationship and respect”.
Another tenet of progressive Christianity is “right actions over right beliefs”. Many times I have seen Conservative Christians refuse to do what is the right thing because they don’t believe that is what the Bible said. This isn’t a new struggle, in http://Matthew 12 Jesus comes across a Pharisee (you’ll remember from previous blog entries that the Pharisees are undoubtedly the ancestor to modern conservative Christians) that complains that teaching and healing on the Sabbath is wrong. And, yes, if you look at the Old Testament as it is written, legalistically, healing and other work that Jesus did on the Sabbath is forbidden. Jesus reminded them though, that right actions are better than right beliefs, God cares more about what we do for others than if we have kept rigidly to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Jesus didn’t quote Scripture when he said this, but being the Son of God he showed God’s intentions. This is why progressive Christians don’t take a literal interpretation of the Bible, and we know that man can use every opportunity to exploit and change God’s word for their own interests. Rather, we look at what the meaning of the text is, couched in God’s message of love and acceptance for all that has remained in the Bible.
We also have confidence in our God. That our God is bigger than anything, that our God can do anything. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering “I know that this is a central tenet of Christianity period. The loudest of the Pharisaical [ed: is that a word? My spell-checker isn’t catching it and it looks good, so I’m going with it] Christians loudly proclaim that their God is more powerful than any other God and that’s why he should be worshiped!” But do they really believe that? It seems that more than God, the right-wing conservative Christians often put fear as their God. Fear of the “gay agenda”. Fear of Muslims. Fear that Christianity is going to be made illegal Any Day Now. All of a sudden, their all-powerful God, the God they believe made the universe in the blink of an eye, the God that will defeat Satan in the End Times, is suddenly afraid of a Muslim community centre, is afraid that schools don’t have prayers. They stop focusing on God and start focusing on The Other. Suddenly, God is not in control. I’ve mentioned before (I think) that I love learning, and I love learning about other religions. When looking into Islam, I found a lot of similarities between the Quran and the Bible (which is to be expected, since the Quran was written for people from a similar time period in the same region), most of the characters in the Quran are in the Bible too, and many of the basic tenets are there too. But one thing that the Quran says that isn’t in the Bible is that Jesus is not the Son of God, because God cannot have a Son. The God that we believe in as Christians is all powerful, he doesn’t have limitations. He can have a Son because he made the universe. And yet, there is a whole subset of Christians that worry about Christianity being eroded because their God, like the God in Islam, is a God that cannot do things. We believe God is always there.
I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Jesus, Luke 12:4-7
There are many other things that progressive Christians believe (I’m not saying that I personally hold to all progressive beliefs, however; I like to state that if I believed everything a church or religion or movement says, then there’s something wrong with me!) that you can see at the Wikipedia page linked above. There is also a post I came across recently that could be considered the “10 commandments for progressive Christians”, although I like to think there are actually 13: Jesus gave us the first and second ones that top anything on this list: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.”. As I explained in my first two posts, these should be the guiding principles for every Christian. The 13th is referenced in a previous entry, Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a jerk”. Even to the other team. Progressivism is about showing justice and mercy to all. Even those we don’t like. After all, someone’s got to demonstrate what Jesus actually did.
Thanks again for reading and visiting! I urge you to click on the subscribe button so that you don’t miss any future entries – I have one in the works planned for Christmas, so you don’t want to miss that, if nothing but to see if I actually make my self-imposed deadline of getting it up by Christmas!