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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Labels: Progressive Christian

Having just been warned about the negative temptation of labeling people, I though I might ponder over some of the labels people have called me recently. I am hoping this exercise is not so esoteric as to be useless to others, but I really don't know.

People call me a PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN.  And I think what people usually mean by this is that I believe gays can be Christian and that other religions have valid points to them. And I do believe those two points, but I believe so much more. But I am curious about the term "progressive."

I would much rather people call me a "liberal" Christian, especially as that terms was used 200 years ago to mean somebody who believed in liberty and freedom. Nowadays liberal tends to mean wishy-washy, or over-generous, or even not holding people accountable for their actions. I am none of those things, so I take the label "progressive" as the evolution of the sort of Christianity I espouse. The Christian faith I hold to wasn't called "progressive" 500 years ago (it was called "reformed" then), and it probably won't be called "progressive" 100 years from now.

But I believe in freedom and liberty to the point where all "law" is suspect. (In my tradition we have a wonderful Latin phrase--lex semper accusat-- which means "the law always accuses," from which we derive our undestanding that law can never be our final salvation.) Freedom and liberty are our destinations from which we were created, and they are God-given beyond our control. If a progressive Christian is one who is free, and who in their freedom seeks freedom for all others; then yes, I am a progressive...and so I encourage gays and people of other religions to engage and explore their freedom to live.

But I am not quite sure how such a belief is "progressive" because there is not much "progress" here at all. In fact, if you discerned from the line above, if we are created in freedom for freedom we are in some kind of cyclical loop that connects us to our beginning at our end...and that's hardly a good definition of "progress." But if you mean by progress that we are better off today than yesterday, or this generation better off than a previous generation, well, again...I am not so sure.

There are progresses--for example, the understanding that women have freedoms to explore their creativity outside of traditional social roles--the almost universal abhorrence of slavery--these are good progresses. But have we abandoned all the distinctions which make us human? Have we blurred our social roles to the point of failing to recognize gifts we have received for the "common good?" These are real questions for me (and I assume many others), and the label "progressive" doen't seem make sense in terms of those types of questions. For example, if a women chooses to explore her creativity within traditional social roles is that "progressive?" What if that is what God is calling her to do for all the rest of us? These are the things I wonder about...

So the label is what it is, and I will find myself more often than not with progressives when Christians get together...it doesn't bother me much, just as it doesn't seem to bother God much either.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

1 comment:

Stephen Berg said...

I think Americans live by labels. If we can't label it, box it, and put it away, it becomes hard. I tend to be a "progressive" Christian as well. Sometimes it's hard to even know what that means, as it seems (to me at least) that the "progressive" or "liberal" views are the ones that are the most "Christian." Unconditional love, acceptance of those that are hard to accept, and others before self.

Obeying is important for many people because they feel that if they know the rules, it's easier to operate. A musician friend of mine described the Bible as a rulebook. If you are careful and do the things the Bible says, you are safe. I tend to look at the Bible as a guidebook to get me to where I want to go, but allows me to appreciate the beauty and the uniqueness of each situation and experience, and to find a new way to show and receive God's love.