Progressive Christianity

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Not to be confused with Liberal ChristianityWikipedia.

Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity that espouses a liberal theology based on progressive values which its adherents feel are more in touch with what they believe to be the actual teachings of Jesus Christ than those believed by fundamentalists.

Notwithstanding this, fundamentalists, also claim to base their beliefs on what are claimed to be the literal words of Jesus.

Clearly, as nobody was taking notes when Jesus was speaking and the gospels are a later invention of whoever created them then nobody can really know what Jesus may have said on any particular occasion, and progressives are as likely to be as "right" as conservatives.

Nevertheless, starting from Christ's alleged instruction in John 15:17 to "love one another", Progressive Christians maintain they are typically more open to questioning tradition, and favor secular values such as social justice, tolerance and caring for poor or marginalized people.

They presumably recognise that biblical instructions are open to multiple interpretations and do not interpret the "love one another" instruction to be an invitation to have a lot of sex as some other Christian cults have done.

Beliefs and practices[edit]

Values of Progressive Christians revolve around the following values:[citation needed]

  • A spiritual vitality and expressiveness, including participatory, arts-infused, and lively worship as well as a variety of spiritual rituals and practices such as meditation
  • Intellectual integrity including a willingness to question
  • An affirmation of human diversity
  • An affirmation of the Christian faith with a simultaneous sincere respect for other faiths
  • Strong ecological concerns and commitments

While retaining many classic Christian myths the Progressive Christianity movement is a reaction to conservative values espoused by fundamentalists of the Christian Religious Right. In the opinion of Progressive Christians, Conservative Christian values include war, racial and sexual exclusion, and neglect of the poor. As Progressive Christians see these as not being representative of their interpretation of the words attributed Jesus Christ they want to move Christianity into a framework that emphasizes social justice, fairness, responsibility and compassion.

Progressive Christians tend to accept Biblical criticism, as they are more inclined to interpret the Bible as a historical record of human culture and experience rather than of literal facts, and to recognize Biblical proclamations and statements in the context of the time and culture in which they were written.[citation needed]

Increasingly, many Progressive Christians are also promoting environmental awareness and protection. To this end they quote mine the Bible to support their idea that it states that man was intended to be the steward of the Earth. This would mean that for the last few hundred years we've kinda been screwing up the job "God" assigned to us.

Examples of Progressive Christianity[edit]

The Society of Friends, Shakers, Liberation theology, Unitarian Universalism, Roman Catholic Modernism and the United Church of Christ are examples of the application of progressive Christianity.

Since the ascension of Pope Francis to the Holy See, the Roman Catholic Church has taken a strong (if imperceptibly slow) turn towards progressive Christianity, with Pope Francis condemning Western capitalism and American fundementalism, as well as saying that, "If homosexuals accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized."[1] He's still against gay marriage, abortion, married priests, contraceptives and freedom of expression in respect of religion [2] while being strongly in favour of exorcism[3] - but at least he's issued a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse within the Church (although if his most significant policy movement has been restating the church's opposition to child molestation, one might wonder about how far he has brought the church.)

In addition to being less politically conservative, both the Vatican and the clergy of Mainline Protestant denominations have significant theological differences from fundamentalists. Their seminaries reject Biblical literalism and openly accept such findings as the Documentary hypothesis, false authorship of some Pauline Epistles, and the significant early evolution of Christian theology.

Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College, a historian of religion and self-proclaimed evangelical, wrote an article entitled "Jesus is not a Republican" in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which he contends that the Religious Right has little to do either with the gospel of Christ or with the spirit of historical religious movements geared towards helping the needy and disadvantaged:

"Indeed, the most effective and vigorous religious movements in American history have identified with the downtrodden and have positioned themselves on the fringes of society rather than at the centers of power. The Methodists of the 19th century come to mind, as do the Mormons. In the 20th century, Pentecostalism, which initially appealed to the lower classes and made room for women and people of color, became perhaps the most significant religious movement of the century. The leaders of the religious right have led their sheep astray from the gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of neoconservative ideology and into the maw of the Republican Party. And yet my regard for the flock and my respect for their integrity is undiminished. Ultimately it is they who must reclaim the gospel and rescue us from the distortions of the religious right."[4]

Ultra-liberal Christians - and beyond[edit]

Although it is more open-minded, mainstream liberal Christianity has its limits and decries ultra-liberal theologies. Ultra-liberal mainline protestant theologians acknowledge problems with Christianity to such a degree that they sound more like atheists than apologists. The most liberal of these is Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong, who has called the crucifixion child abuse and regards the Bible as a bad source for morals. Although he does believe in some sort of god, he regards theism as poor method for knowing such a god.

In any event, if religious people of any persuasion gradually come to reject unprovable religious doctrine imposed by their society and accept, instead, empirical descriptions of the world then then they will ultimately move towards atheistic positions.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]