With Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy

Before I offer up my list of “progressivisms” let me first claim an assumption that I have with the word itself.  While being “progressive” in politics and theology is often seen as ascribing to a “liberal” platform and belief system, I do not believe this to be true. For me the “progressive” adjective can exist across the theological spectrum, but holds together people who are looking at moving the church into new ways of being church.

You, so here we go, my intentionally fuzzy list of perspectives and postures that might make you a Progressive Christian.  Please keep in mind that I do not think that everyone need be one, but that there is a growing number of people who yearn for a drastically different approach to being the Body of Christ.

“You might be a progressive Christian if . . .”

  • You can be described, but not defined - Do people have a hard time putting you into a theological and ideological box?  The Progressive Christian often confuses staunch liberals and conservatives with the unpredictability of her conduct and the openness of her perspective.
  • You are more than a party platform - Do folks assume that because you land on one side on one issue, it must hold true that you prescribe to a laundry list of conservative or liberal beliefs? The Progressive Christian might be pro-this or pro-that, but he is rarely tied to any set platform.
  • You are not just waiting for the other side to get over their idiocy – Do you think questioning the intellect of the opposition because they are the opposition is silly and not really about having meaningful conversations?The Progressive Christian will always honor the idea that community only grows if she is open to the possibility that she might be just as wrong as the other side things she is.
  • You believe God can and does speak through disagreement – Does it frustrate you that so many have a difficult time being open to the possibility that genuine and faithful discernment by opposing sides might take place? The Progressive Christian, even in the most difficult of disagreements, trusts that the other is discerning the movement of the Spirit just as faithfully as he is.
  • You seek the highest common denominator – Would you rather find common ground in larger questions such as, ‘Who is Christ for you?’ and ‘How do we address poverty and violence?’ rather than put a great deal of energy into controlling the every move of other members of the community?  The Progressive Christian, by directing energy towards finding common ground on bigger issues seeks to build trust and make real the ever elusive idea that we can”agree to disagree.”
  • You find God’s inerrant truth in a non-literal understanding of Scripture – Do you believe that Biblical authority does not mean the same thing Biblical literacy literalism?  The Progressive Christian claims the Truth of God is revealed in Scripture, but that it is a truth that must be wrestled with, unpacked and never used as a weapon.
  • You bear with the battles – Ever wonder if some people wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they were not in a good church fight?  The Progressive Christian knows that there are times to engage in passionate and righteous interactions, but she is not defined by the polemics nor does she determine her worth by the existence of the fight.
  • You appreciate the person over position - Do you find yourself drawn to relationships across theological chasms because the other person is genuine and approaches the journey of faith in similar ways? When engaging in theological discussion over tough issues, the Progressive Christian values the complex personhood that she experiences with the other over and above the rightness or wrongness of the position being discussed.
  • You choose the middle - Do old school left/right, black/white, good/bad polemics frustrate the heck out of you? The Progressive Christian, often accused of being soft, sees the “middle” as a place to model a new and faithful way of being church regardless of the arrows fired that are fired from edges.
  • You do not demand loyalty – Are you shocked at the way that “friends” turn on one another when someone engages in real conversations with the opposition?  The Progressive Christian can live with the idea that loyalty to a position or a person can easily turn into idolatry and that being open to true dialogue with and being gracious towards people who disagree is not a sign of weakness, but an expression of strength.

I am sure that there are plenty of others out there, there is plenty of overlap and not everyone who considers herself a Progressive Christian will fit perfectly into each of these statements.  With that said, if the very notion of not fitting into every predefined theological slot does not cause you anxiety and stress . . . hate to break it to you, but you might be a Progressive Christian.

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     I would propose the term Sojourner over Progressive Christian. I seek freedom not constraint. A sojourner wants to wander where the Spirit takes us. We want to walk like Enoch attempting to understand, free to ask questions of God while enjoying either the answer or the silence that follows.

      Questions answered are wonderful experiences but to be allowed to walk safely in silence with God knowing full well that answers will be provided when needed or when we are ready is euphoric. There is a serenity or peacefulness of mind and soul that envelopes you once you achieve this confident, trusting state of mind.

      For me I've found it best not to ask God, "Why...." but rather to simply tell God, "I don't understand....." Now this may not seem like much of a difference but in my head it is. Asking "why" engages my brain to struggle for an answer which prevents me from listening. Saying I don't understand keeps my brain in neutral so that I can receive additional information. There is another issue for me which is that asking why is a challenge of God's authority. It implies that I don't agree which is in itself a challenge. Asking for understanding is not a challenge. It is asking the teacher to teach more about something compared to defending or justifying  something.

      Walking like Enoch with God implies a stroll together without time constraints or restrictions; no rush, no deadline that has to be met, no mandatory RSVP arrival time. Don't rush to commentaries of others or web sites, groups etc slow down, pray some, read God's word some, wait patiently and quietly just listen for understanding.

      Understanding is similar to a skyscraper in that it requires deep, solid footings/foundation to be built upon. Be patient when understanding does not leap out at you immediately for the skyscraper does not just appear instantly either. If God does not grant you understanding immediately, move on with confidence. God does not forget things or ignore you. God is just saying that you don't need that particular stone block at this time or in this location or maybe it doesn't fit at all but nonetheless the answer will come later. Trust and be patient. Enjoy the silence of God for God does some of His best teaching when we are silent.

      Our silence is golden for it is in our silence that God can be heard for God is never silent. God simply waits for us to shut up and listen.

      So my beliefs have no place in any denomination for I desire the message and not the debate. The debates are not about the 1st or 2nd great commandments but instead thrive and feed upon policy and format. I can't recall a single debate about either of those commandments.

      Debate on policy and format has only served to divide rather than build. They are distractions that serve no real purpose from my point of view. The animosity behind such debates only demonstrates how lost the message of love, forgiveness, compassion etc has become. What was once foundational, has now become irrelevant.

      There are no tough issues in the two commandments that Jesus taught. The only tough issues are those that men create and it's time for everyone to take a time out, go to their rooms and think hard about it and only come back out when they are ready to focus on two commandments.

      God's word is the bread of life but as I look around instead of bread I see cake. Cake and bread are fairly similar in make up. Both have flour, eggs, milk in them but the difference is that cake has frosting. Frosting is just sugar, water and food coloring. Frosting has no nutritional food value.  It's a HUGE cake made of two commandments. Stop worrying about the frosting.

      A majority of these debates are nothing more than greedy children wanting to cover the entire cake with their particular choice of frosting. Like children, they seem to be unable to comprehend that they will never finish eating the piece of cake in front of them let alone the entire cake. The cake is already covered with every color of frosting under the rainbow. Find your chair in front of whatever color you like, sit down, stop arguing, pass the milk and eat cake.

      The Hebrews did not starve in Exodus. The widow did not run out of oil in Kings. The bread and fish did not run out in Matthew. The cake will not run out now.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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