Too many people out there think that there is only one way to be Christian. Well, they are wrong. We are not your grandma’s Christianity. We call ourselves Progressive Christians, even though we’re not into labels. Many of us would prefer not to call ourselves a “church”, much less even remotely align ourselves with what appears to be the dominant version of Christianity in the U.S. today – conservative, rigid, and exclusive.
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Being a progressive Christian does NOT mean that one simply has an amphitheater for a church, or a rock band, cool lights and projectors. And please don’t confuse the churches that label themselves “emerging” with “progressive” ones. All of these folks tend to have the exact same theology that they’ve always had, and that’s where I look to see whether a church is progressive or not – their theology. How do they understand God and humanity’s relationship with God?
While Progressive Christians do not hold to a common creed or doctrine, and often have a wide variety of beliefs about the Divine, I do believe that there are certain characteristics that define Progressive Christians:
- Taking the Bible seriously, not literally. This involves study of context, history, language, and allows for myth and metaphor.
- A theology based on love, not on fear. A fear-based theology includes anything that makes someone feel guilt, shame, unworthiness, or fear (say, of going to hell). It is not (in my humble opinion) acceptable to say, “God loves you, but you’re going to hell.” That is spiritual abuse.
- There is more than one path to the Divine. Christianity is NOT the only “right” way. Progressives recognize the validity and worth of many different religious traditions and are not afraid to learn from them.
- Inclusivity – all people, especially including the traditionally marginalized women and LGBT folks, are considered sacred and are welcomed into the full ministry of these communities.
- Non-gendered deity. The Divine is recognized to be beyond gender and gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language is used for the Divine. Many are non-theists.
- Questioning is good. Think about what you believe. Be curious. Ask questions. Keep seeking.
- Active in social justice and outreach. We must care for those who are oppressed, poor and marginalized.
- Ecologically-minded. We are one, not only with each other, but with all of creation.
Perhaps the defining feature that is necessary in all of the above points is the desire for growth. Progressive Christians aren’t afraid to think outside of the box, to change, to seek out new ideas and new ways of doing things.
I’ve been accused of not being a “Bible-believer” and not being “Bible-based”. These are code words for “You don’t take the Bible literally, therefore, you don’t follow the Bible the way you should.” And, yet, I find a great deal of wisdom and insight in the Scriptures. At least enough to preach off of every week. Do I dismiss certain passages in the Bible as wrong? Absolutely. I have studied those passages, placed them in their cultural time and place, examined them with my own reason and experience, as well as the insight of scholars and theologians, and am comfortable not giving them authority over my life or our spiritual community.
For me, this is a very rich way to live my spiritual journey.
Love & Light!