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A Challenge To Progressive Christians


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In Election 2004 we saw the religious right continue to own the definition of Christian values, at least as far as public perception is concerned. It is time for liberal and moderate Christians to stand up and articulate their own definitions.


Follow this link to read an article I have written on the subject:


Onward, Christian Soldiers


The article focuses on the current political climate and uses a progressive church in Chicago as an example of a possible path for those who don't want to throw their hats in with the Bob Jones' of the world.

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My knee-jerk response is this:


I hear this kind of talk a lot; unfortunately, I don't think it works that way. Just who are we articulating our values to? Other Christians? Non-Christians? Politicians? Other Christians know what they believe already. Non-Christians are the minority. Politicians are elected by the people. The vote says it all. The majority of Americans support so-called "traditional" values. People aren't confused about their own Christian values.

True, Democrats could run a better campaign, but we are truly experiencing a cultural struggle.



After giving it some thought, though, I think progressives have their own cultural struggle that is hindering the proliferation of progressive values.


1.) As a whole, we don't feel comfortable with evangelism. We wish that more people believed what we believed, but it goes too much against our belief in pluralism to try to make it a reality.

2.) We feel anger, frustration, and contempt, but we don't feel comfortable using it to sway the minds of other Americans, because it goes against our values of peace, love, and compassion.

3.) We don't see the world as black and white. Black and white is much easier to articulate and much easier to grasp (sells better).


I also have another comment on this issue (as if it weren't already complicated enough).


We are willing to see folks of other religions and value systems as friendly neighbors who deserve our respect and acceptance, yet we see our own Christian brothers and sisters as enemies. I suppose this is true of families in general, but I see it as incompatible with progressive Christian values and the 8 points (see points 2 and 5).

(Boy, that sounded awfully dogmatic!)


There is reason to hope, though. What we are seeing with conservative Christian political forces is their first solid grasp of power. As soon as they are seen as a part of the power structure, their power will be challenged. The Universe has a way of bringing balance.

Edited by fatherman
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We are willing to see folks of other religions and value systems as friendly neighbors who deserve our respect and acceptance, yet we see our own Christian brothers and sisters as enemies.


Perhaps it's because many Christians feel we (progressives) are no better than "unbelievers" and in some views, even worse?


However, despite that, I agree with you. I particularly like the following thought:



"What about the men who run about the countryside painting signs that say 'Jesus saves' and 'Prepare to meet God!' Have you ever seen one of them? I have not, but I often try to imagine them, and I wonder what goes on in their minds.


Strangely, their signs do not make me think of Jesus, but of them. Or perhaps it is 'their Jesus' who gets in the way and makes all thought of Jesus impossible. They wish to force their Jesus upon us, and He is perhaps only a projection of themselves.


They seem to be at times threatening the world with judgement and at other times promising it mercy. But are they asking simply to be loved and recognized and valued, for themselves?


In any case, their Jesus is quite different from mine. But because their concept is different, should I reject it in horror, with distaste? If I do, perhaps I reject something in my own self that I no longer recognize to be there.


And in any case, if I can tolerate their Jesus then I can accept and love them. Or I can at least conceive of doing so.


Let not their Jesus be a barrier between us, or they will be a barrier between us and Jesus."


Thomas Merton - New Seeds of Contemplation




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An excellent quote; thank you for sharing it here.


I had an opportunity this weekend to spend some time with my husband's sister and her husband. We are quite progressive, while they are more fundamentalist in their beliefs and outlook.


As we spent time talking, I began to realize that, when one sets aside the labels, it becomes possible to tease out common areas of interest and concern. It was only when things came up in converstation which seemed to challenge certain closely guarded notions that things became momentarily tense.


In this case, during a conversation with my brother-in-law, there was discussion of education and one of us mentioned that with a college education, kids would learn the essential skill of "thinking for themselves". At this, it was as though a switch had been thrown and we were treated to a ten minute tirade about how God didn't want us thinking for ourselves; God wanted us to follow His Word and that the job of a parent was to guide the child to fear God and in a way that God would approve of, etc. We just listened politely while his face got redder, his hands got shakier, and his voice got louder as he defended his ideology.


The outburst culminated in his saying to my husband something like, "I may even be one of the people you hate!" at which point I quietly and calmly said "I don't think he hates anyone". At this, the switch was thrown again... brother-in-law was back in the room; ranting was over.


Reading between the lines, I understood that he was really saying that kids need guidance, and he took the concept "thinking for oneself" to mean no guidance at all. It's a black-and-white sort of way of viewing the world, which I think is fairly common among fundamentalists. I'd argue, actually, that there is a certain personality type, or phase of emotional development, or what have you, which clings to black and white thinking out of the need for a sense of security. But I digress.


Outside of this outburst (and I'll admit my husband was sort of testing to see where his boundaries were), we had a very pleasant weekend, and we discovered much about one another that I believe pointed to common interests and concerns about the world we live in.


He's not a demon. I'm not a demon. Yet as a society we've allowed ourselves to fall prey to the politics of demonization, and we've drawn lines in the sand that represent sides to be taken and defended. I believe that if we can stop looking at the world in this way, and can instead simply listen deeply to one another, we can find ways to work together for common interests. In this way, perhaps the demonic images of one another that we've created in our minds can begin to fade.

Edited by Lolly
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