Progressive Christianity is Not an Oxymoron

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Copyright: christianchan / 123RF Stock Photo

They said I was…
a radical.
a liberal.
anti-American.
a tree hugger.
a peacenik.
a socialist.
a progressive.
But I was just following Jesus.

Contrary to what some may tell you, progressive Christianity is not an oxymoron. We have a long tradition of progressive ancestors going all the way back to Jesus – yes, Jesus was progressive, not actually Christian, but he did start the whole movement.

History is important. It informs us, inspires us and it can even comfort us. It can also become an anchor. At its worst, history can encourage us to get stuck in comfortable ruts and can even be used to manipulate contemporary realities.

One constant about history is that it’s always ours. Who we are as individuals, communities and even as nations is a direct response to our history. Yes, our identity is a response to environment, to experience and any number of things; but, undeniably, a big piece of who we are is a response to our history. Sometimes it shapes us for better, sometimes for worse, but either way it shapes us.

Progressive Christianity has a long line of forefathers and foremothers who have gone before us and shown us the way. They have shaped us individually and as a faith tradition — hopefully for the better.

It would be sheer folly to try to record, list, and enumerate the countless progressive followers of Christ who have played essential roles in our history. And, while many of our brothers and sisters on the right would have you believe otherwise, the progressive Christian community has been around since the earliest days of the Church.

Although many a fundamentalist (both conservative and progressive) may be oblivious to this truth, the Christian Left is a place of broad diversity in heritage and in theological perspective. While it is fairly difficult to be a conservative Christian and be pro-choice (difficult, not impossible), it is very easy to be a progressive Christian and be either pro-choice or pro-life – happens all the time. We frequently find strength in diversity, not in conformity.

Inclusivity and open-mindedness are two defining characteristics of the Christian Left. That is not to say we don’t take what we believe very seriously. We do. A great deal of thought, study and spiritual energy goes into arriving at any conclusion for progressive Christians. We just don’t demand that everyone adhere to some either/or, black/white version of our beliefs. We do, however, expect that people’s theological beliefs are thoughtful and sustainable under logical scrutiny. Rationality is key.

Because of this formula, when we arrive at a conclusion which we believe to be rational, biblically based and the desire of God… we are passionate about it. Very passionate about it. So much so that frequently, we tend to change the world.

Progressive Christians or members of the Christian Left, don’t actually see ourselves as “progressive” or “left.” All we are trying to do is follow the teachings of Jesus and God’s desires for humanity.

Unfortunately, that gets labeled progressive these days. But, we think of ourselves simply as convicted Christians. We are just following Jesus.

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