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Am I A Christian? ...or Even A Progressive Christian?


Eric333
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Hi there PC's and friends. I have recently been wondering if the title of "progressive Chrsitian" is even too much of a label for many PC's. In a recent blog post I listed my current beliefs and would love some feedback from members of this board of whether those belifes would "qualify" as Christian, or even a stretch of a PC. The blog is here http://www.christianevolution.com/2013/03/am-I-a-Christian.html but I have pasted the pertinent points below as to not force you to my blog if you wish not to go there. If you comment on the blog that would allow a variety of other types of thinkers to see some good responses, but the forum is good too, whatever works best for you. I admit it's a bit wordy and thank you in advance for forgiving that :-)

 

1) At some points in our lives we all naturally deal with self-centeredness, and we sometimes think (at least subconsciously) that the world revolves around us, and tend to take ourselves way too seriously. But Jesus said to put others first. He said if we want to know love, we must give love to others as we would expect to be loved. He said if we want to find ourselves, we must first lose ourselves... That all resonates with me.

 

2) At some points in our lives we all naturally feel anger, resentment, or lack of forgiveness for past events. But Jesus said to let go of anger, forgive everyone, and if someone slaps us on one cheek to turn and give them the other. He said to let go of past hurts, and instead to look forward with peace and joy... That all resonates with me.

 

3) At some points in our lives we all naturally feel jealousy, envy, and greed. But Jesus said to give of ourselves and our possessions generously, and with cheer. He said our hearts would be with that which we treasure, and that doing for others is more important than our own social status and the size of our storehouses... That all resonates with me.

 

4) At some points in our lives we all naturally feel unnecessary anxiety, fear, and insecurity. But Jesus reminded us not to worry, or be troubled, or afraid; as those negative emotions won't add a single minute to our lives; and instead to exhibit courage and live with a noble purpose. That all resonates with me.

 

5) At some points in our lives we all naturally chase power and status But Jesus says that those things sought out of context are a huge drain of lifecycles, and that we

should instead focus our time and energy on humbly and meekly building others up with respect, positive virtues, consolation, and encouragement... without seeking recognition for our good works. That all resonates with me.

 

However, after much subsequent exploration, research, and some basic common sense, there are aspects of modern mainstream Christianity which I can't subscribe to or have any degree of certainty about. You see, I don’t literally believe stories like Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jonah, Job, or others like them... at least not literally, and in many cases not even figuratively. I think many of these stories limit our spiritual growth and were merely tribal attempts to harmonize a good God with a challenging (pre-scientific) world.

 

I don’t believe God sent his people on divine missions to slaughter everyone in the lands that he wanted them to inherit; or that he rained down fire and brimstone on certain cities as consequences of their sin; or that he sent a death angel over a town to kill Egyptian babies. I think those were stories born of theocracies trying to rationalize their conquests. And I believe there are people alive today who take that warrior God motif too literally and use it to support some warped views.

 

I also don’t believe the Bible is inerrant or infallible. In fact, I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it claims to be? Who says we have to believe every word literally anyway? I would love it if we had a perfect owners manual directly designed to navigate life by our creator, but we don't, at least not in my opinion.

 

I do “believe” Jesus existed, and I follow many of his teachings. I “believe” in "God," although I cannot in any way try to define God or ascribe limited human attributes to God (such as a white beard). So I choose to "believe" that some undefinable God does exist, but I understand if you don't. I “believe” that undefinable and uncategorizable God has some good purpose with existence, but in this wild and crazy world I can’t articulate that point much further. I don’t “believe” Jesus was born of a literal virgin, and I don’t think Jesus believed that either. I do “believe” Jesus is the son of God, just like I am the son of God, or you are the son / daughter of God (for whatever that may mean), for in the most famous Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed to “our Father,” which shows that in his opinion we are all sons and daughters of God. I “believe” Jesus died for our sins, in the sense that he understood our sins and was willing to go all the way to death to try to turn us from them. The Bible says there's no greater love than to lay down one's life for another, and in that sense, you might also say that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King died for our sins. I still go to church as it’s one of the only positive places on earth to be in community with other seekers and be reminded to slow down, take time to reflect, and serve others on a regular basis... although I do have to tune out some of the doctrine. I do “believe” in prayer, because at the very least it’s therapeutic for us personally, and it brings people together, and if we believe in an afterlife there's no reason we can't pray to Jesus or anyone else for that matter. Oh, and lastly, I believe the word “believe” plays much too large a role in today’s spiritual conversation, because something either is, or it isn’t, and "belief" doesn't make it more real or unreal, although our actions in response to it might. So after this post I don't believe I will use the word believe so much.

 

In your opinion, could these beliefs even fall under the PC umbrella?

Edited by JosephM
edited Link for Eric (JosephM)
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Eric,

 

Obviously others will have their own opinions but I'm thinking everything you wrote above certainly falls under the PC umbrella!

 

I don't think anything you says goes against the 8 Points of PC (not that they're the be-all & end-all) and in fact much of what you mention aligns with same.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Thanks for the feedback Paul. I think the 8 points are very well crafted actually, but am curious why, as Dom Crossan might say, the word Christian isnt totally dropped and mayby use Jesusist or something like that. Given the modern common defintions of Christian, do the 8 points maintan enough overlay?

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Thanks Soma. I'm not a big fan of fences either, which is partly why I put that post together. I like the title of "humble seeker of good, justice, and love" but a title like that would die on the marketeers table :-) I do know that I fit in well with people simlar to this board, who have christian heritage, are striving to do good, and are looking for community of accepting people, which I think is the only reason i look for at least a loose fence... not to fence it around god, but for a designation that identifies like minded people.

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Thanks for the feedback Paul. I think the 8 points are very well crafted actually, but am curious why, as Dom Crossan might say, the word Christian isnt totally dropped and mayby use Jesusist or something like that. Given the modern common defintions of Christian, do the 8 points maintan enough overlay?

I'm not sure, Eric. Maybe some like to retain a connection to their roots as traditional Christianity is probably where most PCs come from.

 

Personally, I would encourage the use of the word Christianity to help others trapped in fundamental Christianity to understand there are other definitions of Christian rather than the narrow, exclusive one promoted by fundamentalism.

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Eric,

 

As one can see from the 8 points and your statements, you seem to be progressive in your Christian understanding and fit in quite well under the PC label. However, We here of course accept you as an individual whatever label you prefer to associate yourself with. Perhaps as you and some have mentioned in the past, the name here could be changed to more effectively reflect their perception of what this site represents. History here shows that the label as perceived by others is not important enough to change.

 

Most here have come from a Christian background and their understanding of Jesus and his teaching have progressed to something that although it doesn't line up with fundamental interpretations, has as much right as any to retain the Christian label. After all, Christian merely means Christ-like or follower of the teachings of Jesus, To me, Christ (anointed) represents the smearing together of the individual with God so that there is only One. And it was Jesus's prayer in the Gospel of John that we might all be One even as he and the Father were One. Most all the dogma and doctrine of fundamental Christianity is, i believe (imo), just filler added in ignorance by men for their own reasons.

 

Joseph

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  • 2 weeks later...

Eric, that is quite possibly the most elegant, thoughtful and thorough distillation of what it means to be a Christian I have ever had the pleasure to read. I could care less if it qualifies as PC or not, but in my opinion, it does.

 

I have not attended church services (Christian or Jewish) since becoming non-theist in my beliefs. Your words, I think, have given me pause to reconsider.

 

The thing I enjoyed most about attending a Christian Church or Jewish Synagogue was the camaraderie of tackling difficult human tragedy and struggle collectively. It is where I felt most profoundly a part of the Community.

 

Thanks, Eric, for sharing this.

 

NORM

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

The thing I enjoyed most about attending a Christian Church or Jewish Synagogue was the camaraderie of tackling difficult human tragedy and struggle collectively. It is where I felt most profoundly a part of the Community.

 

NORM, thanks! To the comment of yours I quoted above, I really hope that aspect of Christianity survives the intellectual enlightenment intact.

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Eric,

 

As one can see from the 8 points and your statements, you seem to be progressive in your Christian understanding and fit in quite well under the PC label. However, We here of course accept you as an individual whatever label you prefer to associate yourself with. Perhaps as you and some have mentioned in the past, the name here could be changed to more effectively reflect their perception of what this site represents. History here shows that the label as perceived by others is not important enough to change.

 

Most here have come from a Christian background and their understanding of Jesus and his teaching have progressed to something that although it doesn't line up with fundamental interpretations, has as much right as any to retain the Christian label. After all, Christian merely means Christ-like or follower of the teachings of Jesus, To me, Christ (anointed) represents the smearing together of the individual with God so that there is only One. And it was Jesus's prayer in the Gospel of John that we might all be One even as he and the Father were One. Most all the dogma and doctrine of fundamental Christianity is, i believe (imo), just filler added in ignorance by men for their own reasons.

 

Joseph

 

Thanks Joseph. I'm with you actually, as I am not really looking for a label or concerned about the PC label being a good fit or not, I just find it fun to explore titles and challenge paradigms. As you say, the title of PC is probably the best road-sign out there right now to let people know progressive thought exists. There's certainly a great group of folks on this board with widely varying opinions, but common pasts.

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why .. the word Christian isnt totally dropped and mayby use Jesusist or something like that

 

 

The Quakers did actually do this. They're referred to coloquially as Christians (and Quakers), but they actually call themselves the Society of Friends. Coincidentally (?), they have been leaders in many moral revolutions, including the abolition of slavery, equality for women, racial equality, etc.

 

I like what Robin Meyers says in his book, Saving Jesus From the Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus. And "Followers of Jesus" seems like a meaningful name. I would object, however, to anyone taking that name if they continued to use the Old Testament as part of their holy book. I'm with the second-century heretic Marcion on that one: the OT is incompatible with what Jesus was all about.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Eric,

 

I think you are heading in the same directions as many other faith seekers today. Let's face it, in this post-modern world the fundamentalist definition of the term Christian struggles to be relevant. Organized religion is progressing through some tough times. I agree with your 8-point theses above and that Jesus gave us prescriptions to deal with many of the internal challenges that you cite above. I am a big believer of all prayers go the same direction regardless of your faith approach to God, when the believer is sincere and is not in conflict with the "laws of God" that are readily apparent and not spelled out in a specific creed. I do not feel that we need creeds or dogma to know what is in keeping with God's laws as they are within every human. I am pretty sure that there are fundamentalist that will take issue with your progressive approach to Christianity and take offense with your alleged "hijacking" of their title :) , but you will most likely not run in to them here. Most of the literal beliefs you have distanced yourself from (literal interpretation of scripture, concrete belief in creation and flood accounts, etc.) are key tenets of fundamentalist belief. As progressives I see us on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. But I want to be careful to avoid the trap of judgment. In my journey, I do not want to pass judgment on others and become part of another "group" who thinks that they are on the right path and others are on the wrong path (that is the last thing this world needs). I think most sincere thinkers of all faith groups are doing their best to understand God and the relationship with humankind, titles will prove irrelevant in the endgame.

 

Thank you for sharing ,

Bob

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Eric,

 

You're opening post really resonates with me as well. As I read it, I felt as though I could have written something very similar. I share many of the same viewpoints. For instance, to me, God is love, Jesus was a special person (but not God), and the Bible reflects the views, not of God, but of the ancient Jews and the first Christians. Most Christians that I fellowship with (at a UMC church) would at least look askance at me if they knew my views on these three things. My views may not be "Christian" enough. And yet, who is to say what is Christian and what is not, especially with over 38,000 different Christian denominations?

 

I think that if we ultimately wear a label, then we get the right and responsibility to explain that label to others. I wear the label "Christian" because Christianity is my background religion and because I find Jesus and his teachings to be central to my spirituality, my relationship to God and others. But I certainly don't hold to everything found within the Christian religion. In fact, perhaps my favorite Bible verse is from Paul, "Test all things, hold to what is good." There are many good things in Christianity. But many of us realize that it is not all good, that some things need to progress and some things simply need to be let go off. How/when we do this is probably a very individual thing. Christianity is, to me, like a language. It is my native language for speaking about God and spiritual matters. But *I* get to choose the words I use and do the best I can make myself understood while trying to understand others.

 

So, as has been said, the person who has the most (perhaps only?) say over whether or not you are a Progressive Christian is YOU. If the label resonates with you and you find it helpful, wear it. As a wise person once said, "Be who you is. 'Cause if you is who you ain't, you ain't who you is." :)

Edited by BillM
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  • 5 weeks later...

One can be called Christian who thinks Jesus was utterly flesh and a good teacher, same as Buddhist and some other labels. I think the meaning of "liberal" or "progressive" Christianity reasonably goes that far, unlike "Bible-believing" Christian or something else more specific.

 

"Christian atheist" would make sense to me, though I don't hear that from those who believe Jesus to be a good teacher. If there is no God and no Spirit, wouldn't a good teacher know that, ruling out Jesus?

 

The question for me is how much more than a good teacher is Jesus, a thoroughly mystical issue unfortunately. I call Jesus my Lord and my Savior, in part because I was raised that way, but in part because of how I experience that and what it might mean non-physically.

 

Much of the Bible is myth. Any serious scholar admits this. But what is the rest? Much is longing for the God-shaped void in our brain, the one evolution built from our desires for power, wisdom, goodness, love, and whatever else. Is there spirit(or spirits) that fills this well? Was that the source of Isaiah's experiences or were they just dreams? I don't know, but I reach to Jesus as well as God for whatever help I can get with that. That's the sort of liberal Christian I am. There are other ways that are reasonable for others.

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Eric,

 

I'm not ready to write my own thesis on what I believe, mainly because I'm still searching and probably will never stop, but I will say that agree with pretty much everything you wrote. I also struggle with the question of "Am I Christian"? I get up on Sunday mornings and attend church at my local Presbyterian church along with my family. I think it's a good atmosphere for my children to be in. I love the fellowship of the community of my church and feel uplifted when I leave. So I continue to go. But I often feel like a bit of hypocrite as I'm sitting in church on Sunday morning because in my heart I really don't believe that Jesus is the one and only God, which is what our church doctrine says. I can't even say that I believe he was God. I think he was a very wise man and was inspired by God, like many of us are. So I follow his teachings. That said, I also agree with a lot wise and insightful things that many people have said through the years, both dead and alive, but I don't think they are God.

 

In this country people like to quote famous people and sayings. The way some people in the country talk they have practically elevated Thomas Jefferson and the other forefathers to level of deities and they act as if the constitution was written by the hand of God. (I'm sure people don't see themselves that way though, but if the forefathers said it, then that becomes undeniable fact and "truths" for them.) I often wonder is this similar in someway to what happened with Jesus? He was a really smart charismatic guy who said some very insightful things, people agreed with what he said and elevated him to the level of God in their minds. And those who wrote the scriptures for whatever reason, political or otherwise, decided to add mystical elements to convince others that he really was God. I also think that some of the insights in the gospels and other books of the NT were ideas of the authors who wrote them and attributed to them Jesus. They thought them up, but it sounded better if they attributed Jesus in order to make their insights sound more holy or "the word of God." Because you know, Paul says all kinds of things that Jesus never spoke of.

 

I still don't know what God is, other than I believe God is a love, and whatever God is in us and part of everything else on the planet...In the end Christianity is a religion created by man.

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Hi Amy,

I read your post with interest. I guess the question becomes, can one call them
a Christian if they do not accept Jesus as God, and the Second Person of the
Trinity. I’m not convinced that even the
early Church fathers, those responsible for developing Christian doctrine, believed
Jesus was God. There was much debate and
in-fighting involved in deciding on that doctrine.

The belief that Jesus was God and the doctrine of the
Trinity seem to be the only things separating Christianity from Judaism. Beyond that, I don’t think the “message” of
Jesus was anything particularly new to the world. Given his brief ministry, I think Jesus’
message is probably incomplete.

Peace.

Steve



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Steve,

 

Thanks. Yes, his ministry probably was incomplete. And in my mind, I don't believe that Jesus's propose was the create a whole new religion. I think he was a reformer and pointed out things that he saw wrong with what was going on with many of the priests at the time, their teachings and what was going on inside the synagogue. Much in the same way that Martin Luther pointed out what he felt was wrong with Catholic church. The main difference being that protestants start didn't a whole new religion. They still consider themselves Christian. Perhaps if Jesus would have been able to continue his ministry the division between Orthodox and reformed Judaism would have happened back then instead of when it actually did occur in more recent centuries...Now whether the "reformed Judaism" would have caught on with the gentiles and spread like Christianity did, I don't know.

 

Amy

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"his ministry probably was incomplete." I agree that the interpretation of Jesus was and is incomplete. I feel Christian Mysticism leads us to a complete interpretation of the mission of Jesus, which I feel was the joy, love, freedom, and happiness of becomming one with everything or the unified field of quantum physics, which we Christians call love.

Christian Mysticism is embodied within the church, but seems to be kept a secret, a mystery. The church’s authority is upheld without in a static system that gives a map that is marked to guide the surface personality. Christian philosophy examines the nature of God, but gives us very little information about the nature of man. This is where Christian Mysticism is a good balance because the church gives very little explanations about the soul and spirit, but mysticism does. Mysticism is the spirit within the individual that gives a vision without rules and controllers because it is nourished from within. The mystics say the introspection is the innate tendency of the human spirit towards a complete harmony so the vehicle is not the senses, but the soul, spirit, or consciousness. The church uses laws and authority to reach a mind conditioned to the five senses in order to guide it inward while mysticism uses multidimensional, spiritual experiences to develop a spiritual consciousness inside
that goes deeper within the soul. In other words, the institution is finding the inward in the outward while mysticism is discovering the innermost secret in the deepest privacy of the heart.



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Hello Amy,

 

It sounds to me that you are attending church for the proper reasons. I would advise you continue and disregard your feelings of hypocrisy. I can guarantee that there are many folks within that very congregation who do not believe every word of the creeds they recite. They too probably feel they are hypocritical.

 

One could start a hypocrite's club and meet for breakfast or lunch - perhaps during the sermon portion of the Sunday worship ceremony.

 

I was in a similar circumstance as you a few years back. Our church sprouted fundamentalists and quickly died (it was previously a Swedish intellectual church). I miss the group of friends we had to go with on service projects in the community. Now I volunteer for civic groups.

 

As far as religion goes, I'm currently a humanistic Jewish person (non-theist).

 

Cheers!

 

NORM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Eric,

 

I think you are heading in the same directions as many other faith seekers today. Let's face it, in this post-modern world the fundamentalist definition of the term Christian struggles to be relevant. Organized religion is progressing through some tough times. I agree with your 8-point theses above and that Jesus gave us prescriptions to deal with many of the internal challenges that you cite above. I am a big believer of all prayers go the same direction regardless of your faith approach to God, when the believer is sincere and is not in conflict with the "laws of God" that are readily apparent and not spelled out in a specific creed. I do not feel that we need creeds or dogma to know what is in keeping with God's laws as they are within every human. I am pretty sure that there are fundamentalist that will take issue with your progressive approach to Christianity and take offense with your alleged "hijacking" of their title :) , but you will most likely not run in to them here. Most of the literal beliefs you have distanced yourself from (literal interpretation of scripture, concrete belief in creation and flood accounts, etc.) are key tenets of fundamentalist belief. As progressives I see us on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. But I want to be careful to avoid the trap of judgment. In my journey, I do not want to pass judgment on others and become part of another "group" who thinks that they are on the right path and others are on the wrong path (that is the last thing this world needs). I think most sincere thinkers of all faith groups are doing their best to understand God and the relationship with humankind, titles will prove irrelevant in the endgame.

 

Thank you for sharing ,

Bob

 

Bob, thank you for your response on the topic. Nice to meet someone else of pretty like mind!

 

Eric

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Eric,

 

You're opening post really resonates with me as well. As I read it, I felt as though I could have written something very similar. I share many of the same viewpoints. For instance, to me, God is love, Jesus was a special person (but not God), and the Bible reflects the views, not of God, but of the ancient Jews and the first Christians. Most Christians that I fellowship with (at a UMC church) would at least look askance at me if they knew my views on these three things. My views may not be "Christian" enough. And yet, who is to say what is Christian and what is not, especially with over 38,000 different Christian denominations?

 

I think that if we ultimately wear a label, then we get the right and responsibility to explain that label to others. I wear the label "Christian" because Christianity is my background religion and because I find Jesus and his teachings to be central to my spirituality, my relationship to God and others. But I certainly don't hold to everything found within the Christian religion. In fact, perhaps my favorite Bible verse is from Paul, "Test all things, hold to what is good." There are many good things in Christianity. But many of us realize that it is not all good, that some things need to progress and some things simply need to be let go off. How/when we do this is probably a very individual thing. Christianity is, to me, like a language. It is my native language for speaking about God and spiritual matters. But *I* get to choose the words I use and do the best I can make myself understood while trying to understand others.

 

So, as has been said, the person who has the most (perhaps only?) say over whether or not you are a Progressive Christian is YOU. If the label resonates with you and you find it helpful, wear it. As a wise person once said, "Be who you is. 'Cause if you is who you ain't, you ain't who you is." :)

 

Hi Bill, great to "meet" you and thanks for your thoughts on this thread (and sorry for the slow response, I didnt realize there were any new posts on this thread). I also was last most involved at a large UMC church and they were wanting me to preach and lead ministries etc and finally I talked to the pastor with the goal to have a discussion with him about Bible inerrancy and I quickly realized there was no interest by him in anyone who wasn't gong to march to the party line, so I had to leave. Pretty unfortunate because there were a lot of folks there who I really liked, and there was some good work I was able to do there with mission / outreach, and many don't even know why I left.... Nice to know theres others of like mind out there.

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