Jump to content

Progressive Christianity--what Does It Mean


David
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am new to this Board but I am wondering how many persons who use this Board, especially those that use it often would consider themselves "Progressive Christians". If you do not identify yourself in this way can you identify what it is about "Progressive Christianity" that would cause you to post here? I do not raise this to be a "gatekeeper". I am just interested in what brings you to this Board.

Edited by David
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am new to this Board but I am wondering how many persons who use this Board, especially those that use it often would consider themselves "Progressive Christians". If you do not identify yourself in this way can you identify what it is about "Progressive Christianity" that would cause you to post here? I do not raise this to be a "gatekeeper". I am just interested in what brings you to this Board.

 

 

I am new to this forum too. I was attracted to it because I am rebelling against Christian fundamentalism, which when taken to the extreme is like an evil virus imo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was pretty much a run-of-the-mill Christian who worshipped at UCC churches, which have always been considered to be "liberal" in their approaches to tradtion. However I became involved in work which required me to look into the future to try to determine useful and viable outcomes and uses for applications of science and technology.

 

At this point in time I became convinced that traditional stories and approaches concerning the things that Jesus intended to teach us were going to become increasingly inapplicable to the technologized lifestyles in human societies, which were, IMHO, inevitable as time moved on. Such "fundamental" approaches would become increasingly outmoded and not understandable as they became immersed in worlds that would increasingly do the bidding of human "creators" through technological enhancements and virtual realities that could be individually "constructed" around them if they had sufficient resources. At this time I became convinced that Christianity, or at least some of its forms, must "progress" into the future along with human living lifestyles, or this great set of philosophies that has served western civilization so well for 1,500 years, ran the danger of withering on the vine and dying as do other energizing fruits if they are not picked and used by us as we move through life and time.

 

I looked around, and this was the only place that I found which encouraged questioning and exploration of these issues without judgemental factors coming into play, as I had experienced earlier in my life even in "liberal" Christian environments.

 

flow.... :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been accused of being a gatekeeper. I guess that may be more true than my suggestion that this was not my intention. One of my first impressions about the postings to this Board was that Progressive Christianity was starting to look a lot like UU and I was hoping for some difference. Another first impression was that the postings seem to be a lot about “what I believe” and “what I feel” rather than trying to create/sustain a community called Progressive Christianity. Quite frankly I am much more interested in what that Progressive Christianity may look like than any individual viewpoint. So I guess the purpose of this post was to see if people are here to be a UU discussion group or whether there is a sense of Progressive Christianity. Yes, I should have started the post with this but it was late last night. Yes, I should not start a post late at night. Yes, but, but, but…OK, I'm sorry.

 

So let’s go with “the gate” accusation and see where that leads. I suspect that any community will have “gates”. Here are some thoughts about “the gates” to the Progressive Christianity movement.

 

“The Gate”:

 

1. Above all we try to avoid thinking that there is a gate at all. I notice the discussion about Point One of the 8 points provided a lot of discussion about this. This reminds me of the first principal of UU: The inherent worth and dignity of every person. We do not want to leave anyone “outside the gate”. It seems to me that this is admirable as we view our relationships with each other in our communities and in our world. Yet it provides very little motivation to come together in actual communities. I have been to so many gatherings of UU which seems to prove this paradox to me. I honestly think that this ideal is not operative even in those UU groups that seem to most strive for it. There are “gates” there and when they are “hidden” they become evil. I think it is easier to think there are no gates within a discussion board like this but I have to suspect that the “gates” are still there. It just seems to me that it is more honest to think about those “gates” and bring them out in the open. Having said this “being inclusive” seems to be the number one “gate” for Progressives. If you are “exclusive” you don’t come through the gate. Like the UU principal we want to show respect and dignity for everyone even with those who disagree with us (by the way the posters to this Board are model citizens as far as this is concerned). If you are “judgmental” you will tend to be left outside the gate.

2. I have suggested that “Progressive Christians” start, but do not end, with rationalism. It is this “gate” that would prevent a fundamentalist from coming inside. However, if one can get through this gate one finds that there is a lot more going on here than rationalism. I am not completely as sure on this as the previous point but I am “pretty sure”---sure enough that I would suggest something like this be put in the 8 points next time it is done.

3. I think it was wise to drop “Christ” when the 8 points was revised and stay with “the teachings of Jesus”. Jesus is the gate, not the Christ. After you are “inside” then we can talk about the Christ. However, those that see no Jesus at all may actually belong to another faith besides Christianity. We certainly want to talk to those people but I think it important to know whether we are talking to someone who actually is a Buddhist. As you can see I am putting these in order of less certainty---for instance, Islam talks about Jesus but not the Christ. So this is not a perfect gate. I just think it is more useful to focus on the person of Jesus before we talk about the Christ, rather than try to fit Jesus into a Christology from some other source. Again, less certain on this.

4. It seems significant to me that many gatherings of “Progressive Christians” are focused on justice and really are not concerned with theology/philosophy. Those persons have not found much of a voice here but it seems to be a primary “glue” that holds Progressive Christians together. I am not sure this is a “gate” item but based upon what is happening it seems that many have accepted this as a “gate” and so it can not be ignored. For instance, those that have nothing to say about Justice had better pay attention to all of those Progressive Christians who are focused on Justice and explain why they don’t join the conversation.

5. I think that the 8 points are a form of a “gate” even though there are specific references to that not being the case. This is again is a less certain suggestion. However, I think we need to think about it. The 8 points serve as a focus. I like that they are open to revision. The act of making the points and revising them is an act of inclusion/exclusion. I do not think however that this is a “solid” gate since the points themselves tend to be “open ended” and not closed. Again, I am reminded of the UU principles.

6. Finally (there should be many others) I have been “toying” with the idea that “how we know” is something that could tend to unify. Anything that tends to unify will be a “gate”. Epistemology seems very important to Progressives. We begin with rationalism but I think it is more than that. I think that many/most Progressives would start with experience as the basis for “how we know”. Our “way of knowing” then is a conversation between rationalism and our experience. If this is a “gate” then it will leave out those that totally discount experience as a reliable guide to “what we know”. If this is a “gate” then those that want to come in and quote the Bible as authority can be asked to what extent that “jells with” their experience and this conversation would be a form of “gate keeping”.

 

Well please don’t shoot the questioner. My agenda is not to become the Bishop here. I am more interested in the process of identification—what brings us together. Then, as we think about this more I am interested in polity or organizational answers that may help us stay together and pass along “Progressive Christianity” to others that may need to hear our message. Seems to be that talking about “gates” may help in this process.

 

Maybe this gives this post some more interest?

Edited by David
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see that people who have wound up here or in UU are there primarily due to rationalism. I'd say Progressive Christianity begins with rejection of traditional Christianity. Of course that rejection isn't of every aspect of tradition or someone would just be an atheist and not bother with any of this.

 

The problem is that different people reject different aspects of tradition for different reasons. I rejected Genesis in favor of science as a teenager. Then I found something of Christianity that worked for me, so I needed a system to hang on to that. Classical liberal Christianity works well enough for me to do that. Actually I'm a liberal charismatic or a charismatic liberal. Either one makes me a nut in the eyes of some, oppressor in the eyes of another, stupid in the eyes of a third, yet that is who I am. God doesn't mind. That's more important than the prejudices that people have.

 

I wish progressive was something more than liberal, but I don't find that it is. People reject being liberal because it has a bad press or for other reasons. I don't feel the need to do that. I understand your desire that Progressive Christianity be something as you've expressed. I don't think it's going to be. I don't think it's a positive movement, but mostly a rejection of something else.

 

As far as conflicts over experience as authority, I notice that there are very few Bible-believing Christians now who turn down treatment with pharmaceuticals in order to go strictly by the Bible and prayer, with or without the laying on of hands. I think everybody values experience, like they value breathing. They may not admit it, but you can see it in their actions. Now having a dialogue about that is a very different matter. Dialogues are tough. Words are not precise. Actions can be as vague as words, but there is always a reality to actions, while words can be utter fantasy. It takes an exploration of all sorts of things to make progress.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suspect that what you say about rejection versus affirmation is very true. It is what I would call the “UU Syndrome” which goes something like this:

 

1. Individual has been rejected by or rejects some form of religion.

2. Individual accidentally finds a UU group, walks in and immediately feels like they have died and gone to heaven.

3. Individual sits through week after week of services where some individual gets up and shares an individual journey either social or spiritual.

4. Individual gradually realizes that there is not much in UU that actually points towards a spiritual journey so individual may join one of the many great social action groups and there finds the community that was lacking (or perhaps starts to participate in the youth education program).

5. OR Individual who was not “political” before and is not much interested in youth work ends up in a world of narcissism.

6. Finally individual leaves with a vague feeling that something went wrong or stays with the same feeling. (Sometimes Individual follows one of those weekly presenters to some other source of real religious community).

 

I have not lost hope though that the UU Syndrome and the dead end of narcissism has not totally infected the social movement that is called “Progressive Christianity”.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I went to a UU, it was intentional. I did NOT go accidentally. I did NOT reject traditional Christianity, per se, it simply doesn't work.

 

I just last week joined a church for the first time, the UCC.

 

I have no problem with the UU, the local congregation simply didn't work for me. A while back I went to Synagogue. After I moved to California I couldn't find one I liked. (I know 2 teachers who are Jewish who don't like them either, one doesn't go, the other travels some distance to go to a differnt one). It is really about the congregation.

 

There are parts of the service which I skip because of my beliefs. I either change the words or simply don't say/sing them.

 

As far as the politics of the UU go, that was part of why I went. I hate churches who think that being a Christian is about being anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment. It is simply ignorance. Honestly, all those aborted fetus goes to heaven. Most of whom would have ended up in hell had they been born. And isn't it the afterlife, according to those same people, that matters? We are on the face of the earth but for a short time compared to eternity? Ignornance might be bliss, but only to the ignorant!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I did NOT reject traditional Christianity, per se, it simply doesn't work."

 

I'm not sure of the distinction you're making here. Are you saying that you didn't reject traditional Christianity for other people, but that it didn't work for you? That's about what I was trying to say by using the word "rejection", that if people don't find the need to turn their back on some part of tradition, they don't wind up either here or in UU. David went much farther than that, of course.

 

 

"There are parts of the service which I skip because of my beliefs. I either change the words or simply don't say/sing them."

 

You mean now at the UCC? That's interesting. I don't know how your UCC is, but the one closest to me is so scripted in terms of words for the congregation and back and forth, it's not for me. There are contemporary music services at the Methodists or Presbyterians that I like better. As far as beliefs, there's not much difference.

 

Still I can imagine if you went to any of those feeling Jewish, that must be a strange experience.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I did NOT reject traditional Christianity, per se, it simply doesn't work."

 

I'm not sure of the distinction you're making here. Are you saying that you didn't reject traditional Christianity for other people, but that it didn't work for you? That's about what I was trying to say by using the word "rejection", that if people don't find the need to turn their back on some part of tradition, they don't wind up either here or in UU. David went much farther than that, of course.

"There are parts of the service which I skip because of my beliefs. I either change the words or simply don't say/sing them."

 

It doesn't work because if it did there would be no poverty. My experience interacting with people who think it works for them is that they often have to turn off their brains in order to function within their church.

 

You mean now at the UCC? That's interesting. I don't know how your UCC is, but the one closest to me is so scripted in terms of words for the congregation and back and forth, it's not for me. There are contemporary music services at the Methodists or Presbyterians that I like better. As far as beliefs, there's not much difference.

 

Yes, at the UCC. Don't be fooled. Those "contemporary" worship services are just as scripted as the liturgy at the UCC. They spend a great deal of time manipulating the kind of music they are going to play to change your affect. It doesn't appear scripted, but it not only is scripted, it is manipulative. At least liturgy is straight forward in the scriptedness. I don't care for either. I think what we have been made to believe is worship, is not. I don't think God really cares about hymns, songs, etc.

 

 

Still I can imagine if you went to any of those feeling Jewish, that must be a strange experience.

 

I don't know if it is strange, I grew up in a pentecostal church. It is just that I find what happens on Sunday *after* church and on Monday-Saturday that is important. I put up with what I dislike on Sunday morning to connect with people who are less concerned with condemning others to hell and more concerned about people who are disenfranchised by society.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It doesn't work because if it did there would be no poverty.

 

I agree. I'm convinced there are the material, intellectual, and spiritual resources to end both poverty and conflict if enough people would let God help them do that. Of course, "enough" might be a big number, but my perfect church would be heading in that direction, and I'm not sure any church makes it that much of a priority to live to end poverty and live to end conflict. Anyone might wonder how to do that, but I'm convinced God could show a congregation how to do that if one wanted, without becoming a cult.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service