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PC and Evangelicalism


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IMO that to evangelize or proselytize would go against Progressive Christianity's 8 points, particularly as it sets up an “us vs them” mentality. However, should we (progressives) not be making our views accessible to others? I wish someone had taught me years ago what I have been learning recently. I was ready for it, hungry for it, but I never even heard of many of the concepts discussed in this forum until recently. Even when I first started reading, much of what I read was by Jesuits – and most of it was way over my head. I persisted, because I wanted to know things. Fortunately, one author let to another and another until I began to find books written for every one. Then I began to grow in understanding and could more fully appreciate the language used by authors I had struggled to read early on.


It should not, imo, be anathema to want to express progressive's concepts and ideas in a way that appeals to more people.


As an aisde - In the opening pages of "The God Delusion" (which probably isn't the best source I could cite here
), Dawkins tells the story of one who didn't know she could question. Huh. That's more common than I think many would like to admit - that we, as Christians, are not supposed to question. People don't talk about it, so many people seem to think that spirituality is so intensely personal that they are embarrassed to even discuss it. (Kind of like the topic of sex used to be.)

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Robert and friends,


I would offer some gleanings which seem to bear on an aspect of the quandary of structure which you have alluded to:


It is difficult for religion to survive as the private practice of isolated individuals. This has ever been the error of the religious leaders: Seeing the evils of institutionalized religion, they seek to destroy the technique of group functioning. In place of destroying all ritual, they would do better to reform it. (UPapers 97:10:7)

(Assuming a positive attribution to the terms: cultus and enculturation) I have found many insights of Henry Nelson Weiman concerning the significance of group religious functioning to be valuable (even though somewhat dated), including these excerpts (edits & ems. mine) from:


Chapter V of The Normative Psychology of Religion

by Henry and Regina Wieman

Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1935




One of the chief attractions of the cultus is that it belongs to the group…It gives the members a sense of belonging, of shared affections, loyalties and sentiments…That this sense of belonging to the group of a certain cultus is held a very precious value in human living, is markedly evident.


The cultus of religion today is not fulfilling its function…Indeed, the development of an effective cultus in any religion today is a very serious problem.


It must be a living and growing symbolism through which they sense The Highest, and through which they dedicate their living to The Highest.


It stimulates, fosters and sustains the sentiments and loyalties with which the religious beliefs and ideals must be charged if religion is to function vitally and effectively… It is the chief means of religious education, the means through which the immature or the novitiate are inducted into the distinctively religious way of life… The religious cultus is the symbolism which is the carrier of religious beliefs.


The new cultus must be an integral part of life and growth today. It must be of a new tempo and type consonant with the requirements of the realities and possibilities of human living in this present.


The urgent question at the heart of the problem centers in the social procedure which will be efficacious in developing new and potent symbols, and in fostering emotional response to all symbols carrying new meanings.


Progressive reconstruction is necessary in order to release the widening and integrating community of life… The cultus must foster, whether through evolution or revolution, that growth which is essential in a progression of objectives toward the Supremely Worthful…The cultus must provide for the change… in its own religion.

And, consider for yourselves the reported words of Rodan, an Alexandrian Greek philosopher contemporary with Jesus who said: “If something has become a religion in your experience, it is self-evident that you already have become an active evangel of that religion since you deem the supreme concept of your religion as being worthy of the worship of all mankind, all universe intelligences. If you are not a positive and missionary evangel of your religion, you are self-deceived in that what you call a religion is only a traditional belief or a mere system of intellectual philosophy.


In good spirit,


Edited by Brent
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Like I'm not suggesting we go on door knocking campaigns or intrude on foreign cultures, but I don't think it's wrong in itself to share your faith with others and raising awareness about promoting tolerance and the problems with religious extremism and discrimination. Jesus didn't keep his ideas to himself because it might make people uncomfortable but he went out and interacted with others to promote his vision of what the kingdom of God should be like. The more I think about it, the more I don't see that evangelizing itself is wrong but it matters more on how you do it and what your message is.



The kind of things I would like for PCs to promote (proselytize) outside the fold such as peace, tolerance and social justice do not require reference to any religious authority or faith. I think these are worthwhile concepts whether secular or religious.



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IMO that to evangelize or proselytize would go against Progressive Christianity's 8 points, particularly as it sets up an “us vs them” mentality. However, should we (progressives) not be making our views accessible to others?


The word evangelize simply means "to preach the gospel." When the post-Easter Christ commanded the apostles to evangelize, he didn't say anything about forming a new religion. He only told them to preach the good news. What is the good news? I think Jesus in John 10:10 sums it up:
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The good news isn't saving souls from a manufactured torture chamber but it's about combating social injustices and bringing life and the light of justice to people who need it. This is what I think it really means to evangelize the gospel. Edited by Neon Genesis
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Guest billmc

Hi all. Just a head's up that I split this topic of PC and evangelicalism off from the Wild Goose and Emerging movement thread. I felt it was heading in a different (but excellent) direction and that it might be good to have a separate thread to discuss what it means to be evangelical and how PC fits or doesn't fit with that paradigm.

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My single favorite Christian blog is Slacktivist by Fred Clark, an evangelical Baptist whose opinions about religion and politics can easily be described as progressive.


That said, I'm going to be hesitant to offer or assume any hard or fast definitions about what Evangelicalism is or isn't.

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This is a pretty good topic. I think what we're doing on this forum, and what various authors and speakers are doing - is comparable to evangelism. Writing books, maintaining websites like this, doing podcasts, etc., constitutes an effort to make PC known and to draw attention to what we're doing. And I think the message is a worthy one. Many fellow sojourners who discover PC are rewarded with a sense of having found an expression of where their heart has been at for quite some time, many are excited to see Christianity being done in what is to them (as it is for me) a very relevant and meaningful way.


I think the fundamental difference here is that we're not proselytizing. Progressive Christians tend to be a very eclectic bunch with a wide range of beliefs, practices, and backgrounds, and I am willing to wager that none of us here are interested in compromising that diversity for the sake of a label. So perhaps we are evangelizing, but without the pretense of proselytizing or conversion. We're genuinely inviting people to walk a similar (in a broad sense) path and join in a larger conversation.




Edited by Mike
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Mike wrote: So perhaps we are evangelizing, but without the pretense of proselytizing or conversion. We're genuinely inviting people to walk a similar (in a broad sense) path and join in a larger conversation.


I think you are right on it. So doesn't that make what we are doing as being witnesses, offering others often excited and even ecstatic testimony to wonderful possiblitites many have been longing for, seeking, even if they did not conciously know it? And in that, are we not sharing with them Good News in the truest sense?


Jesus said, the sheep know their Master's voice.....that they will be frightened by and run away from strangers, thieves breaking into the fold? How many, just as most of us here can deeply understand, are discomforted by the voices they've been hearing, that have tried to lure them into following, that are just waiting for the sound of their Master's voice? A might it be, that is the voice that we have heard, and recognized, and followed, and that now speaks to others through us?



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