Thursday, March 02, 2006

Talking to Myself, Again or More Open Questions to Progressive Christians

I have recently been wondering what has driven me to communicate with Progressive Christians and why I still feel driven. When I began the endeavor it was to find out how they reconcile their positions which are opposed to what the Bible says with their own progressive political positions. In those conversations which I have had with Progressive Christians I got no satisfactory answers to those questions. What I received was an unwillingness to judge others based upon what the Bible clearly defines as sin, or implies would be against God's will. While I can understand this position because it is true that we all sin and we all fall short of God's glory, at the same time we should be able to identify sin as sin, not make excuses for sin because we too sin, all sin should be hated among the Christian community. This should not be confused with an attitude of hatred for the sinner, which is often the knee jerk assumption of Progressives, that by Conservatives non-approval of sin that we somehow hate those who practice it. That simply is not true and is only intended to silence those who disagree with a Progressive agenda which would embrace sin as though it is not sin at all in an effort to love the sinner. One can hate sin and love the person who commits it. We do it every day when we love the people in our families, neighborhoods and all the friends in our lives. Regardless of what men perceive as the "degrees" of wickedness, Christ says that if we are guilty of breaking one law we are guilty of breaking them all. Where the difference for me would come in, I suppose, is an unwillingness to accept certain sins as sin in the first place. There is an attempt by some to try to turn their head away from the fact of a sin because it is inconvenient to face that sin or it would be intolerant and uncompassionate to express the truth that a sin is a sin. This is something that all Christians deal with on a personal basis daily, what concerns me is a whole community of believers collectively arguing that sin is not sin if it is something they would like to embrace.

For instance, in the case of homosexuality, and this is a primary issue between the Conservative and Progressive Christian ideology, though the Bible clearly defines it as sin, as an abomination to God, many Progressive Christians would like to use the argument that, and I know I simplify, homosexuality is not a sin because there are other sins and therefore we cannot address it for fear of alienating the people who practice its lifestyle? No. Homosexuality remains a sin in the same way that a lie is no less a sin just because men consider murder to be a greater sin.

One blogger I visited recently asked the question of why fundamentalists or Conservative Christians make a bigger deal out of the sin of homosexuality than they do adultery or fornication, well the reason is quite simple, we do not spend as much time blogging about adultery or fornication because a faction of the Body of Christ is not busy denying that those sins are sins, that is not the case with homosexuality, there definitely are Progressive Christians who would like to deny that homosexuality is a sin. So, would she accept that as a legitimate answer? Nah, even that blogger refused to recognize my reasons for there being more bloggers discussing homosexuality than adultery, but who denies adultery is a sin? Therefore it is not a controversial subject, homosexuality is a controversial subject and therefore receives more attention.

At one point, in the beginning, I think I was driven to go on the offense with Progressive Christians and prove them wrong, but that was then and this is now. I have evolved from that point, I don't seek to condemn Progressive Christians but rather to understand them and understand what I view as a duplicity of ideas. As the country song said "you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything," I have been trying to figure out what it is that Progressive Christians "stand for." I know what they claim to stand for, but what are they doing about it short of complaining that Conservative Christians and/or the Republican party isn't doing it right, aren't on the right path, aren't being very "Christian-like," aren't following Jesus as they should?

If we do not communicate, how do we unify? How does the Body work as one? How does the hand refrain from cutting itself off because it isn't the eye, or the eye plucking itself out because it is not the ear? Why does one part of the Body fight so against the other part of the Body?

I find the Progressive Christian movement not much unlike the Democratic Party. Full of complaint about Conservatives but with no solutions of their own. Is it enough to oppose the majority to juxtapose oneself into a position of power? I don't think so. I recently was listening to the Laura Ingraham show on the radio and she played a recording of Nancy Pelosi making the case that, yes, Democrats can win elections without a plan, they can win just by opposing the plans of the Republicans, she pointed to Bush's proposed Social Security reform as an example. Are the American people really so gullible as to vote a party into power which has no plan to implement the agenda for which they give lip service? Will the Christian majority swing over to the side of Progressive Christians because they oppose fundamentalism as hypocritical, and are they not being hypocritical, themselves, by condemning fundamentalists for judging others while they are busy judging fundamentalists themselves? I don't think so. I like to think that Americans, as a whole, and Christians, as a whole, can see through this sort of rhetoric to the real issues and that issue is what is the respective Democratic or Progressive Christian PLAN to implement their agendas?

There are many Progressive Christian bloggers who belittle, parody and write satire pieces on fundamentalist, evangelical, Conservative Christians. There may be Conservative sites which do the same to Progressive Christians and I am just not familiar with them. Wouldn't a better goal be to bridge the divide and communicate with each other? To find some common goal to work toward? To accept that the hand has a place in the Body as well as the eye? I don't know, I just don't get that impression when I talk to Progressive Christians.

After the recent ugliness I went through displayed by a bitter return kiss off for my efforts at communicating with Progressive Christians, I am disillusioned about the Progressive Christian Community. Why is it so difficult for some to believe that another's motive is to understand and communicate, why do some believe that good intentions are always suspect? Could it be because we all believe that others are like ourselves? If, for instance, on is primarily interested in chopping off the hand because it isn't the eye, perhaps he or she thinks that everyone else's goal is to do the same? Rather than taking each other at face value and honoring the differences between ourselves must we tear each other down? Is that what Jesus would do? I don't think so, but for now? These are many of the questions I started with and I don't have any more answers to them today than I did almost a year ago and after extended discussion with Progressive Christians.

13 comments:

Mini Me said...

That's an interesting topic - I know for myself I have a hard time with the terms "progressive" or "conservative", unless of course someone labels themselves with those terms. It just seems everyone is so divided by their differences and the titles tend to enhance it and put each other in a restricting box.

I'm an independent for lots of reasons but the main one is the feeling that neither party completely respresents me. I get flack from both sides because of my "middle of the road" stance but that's ok - I feel comfortable with my "greyness" :-)

My frustration is similar to your thoughts, the idea that there can't be open dialogue despite the differences. I am SO LUCKY to work at a very diverse church where all sorts of political and theological backgrounds are represented and some of my best memories are sitting for a long lunch with fellow staff members while we debate everything from calvinism to rush limbaugh. It gets heated but we all love each other and have a staff covenant with each other that directs us to treat each other with the utmost respect and love. And I tell you, if you break that covenant someone else will call you on it - good accountability.

I know it's different on the internet, you don't have that personal connection. But sometimes you've just got to distance yourself a bit and let your emotions calm down.

Ok, enough of my essay :-) I'm hanging out at home today since my poor car is very sick and being worked on today. And I actually got my computer to start, (yeah!) so I'm catching up a bit. I might even blog today since something pretty wacked out happened to our church last week.

Have a great day hon!

Jacke M. said...

Yes, Mini, I get your point about labels and I don't like them either. I don't think anyone fits into a particular category and agrees with everyone else about every issue, however, I am talking about people who own and/or comment on blogs which are identified as "Progressive Christian" blogs when doing a google search.

These were and are all open questions and/or comments which have been discussed at blogs identified as such and for which I got no satisfactory answers.

I hope that explains why I wrote it that way a little better.

wildwest said...

I welcome your sincere openness to us strange people who don't make much sense. I wish I could say the right words that would cause it to make sense to you, but I can't. And that's OK. Because your openness and sincerity are evidence of the fruit of the spirit, as I see it. I am called to love. I don't recall having been called to cognitively understand every point of view.

Jacke M. said...

Thank you, wildwest. You're willingness to listen or read my rants without disliking me are evidence of the fruit of the spirit in your life, too, because I know that you don't agree with me on a lot of issues and yet you are still willing to share your friendship with me. That means a lot to me.

I also realize that we aren't necessarily called to "cognitively understand every point of view," but we ARE called to unity in the Body of Christ and how can we have that unity unless we understand each other? We can at least understand each other, even if we don't agree and we can still love each other even if we don't agree. Our friendship is the evidence of that, isn't it?

No, you haven't tried to make me understand, but you have also explained WHY you don't try to make me understand and I respect and appreciate that because that is you, being open and honest with me.

I sure do like honesty, openness and respect and I'm touched by what you said, truly, I thank you. It is moments like this that give me the encouragement to go on. I didn't know you were an encourager, wildwest. ;)

Have a great weekend, wildwest. See you Monday! Jacke

Angel said...

The reason I disagreed with you, Jacke, is because while no one might be claiming adultery or lying is not a sin ... both are pretty darn rampant within the Christian community. From my point of view, I don't see much difference between us and the "world" when it comes to those two sins. I think the Christian community doesn't tackle them because it is too busy "doing" them and they hit way too close to home ... where homosexuality doesn't. It is far easier to get busy on someone else's sin than deal with one's own and all that.

Also, if Christians started ranting about the adulterers agenda or the liars agenda, people would look at us like we are nuts. :)

I definitely agree with your first commenter in that I don't like all the labels and I feel Satan uses them to divide the Christian community and we let him. It isn't about Christ, in my opinion, it is about whether one is conservative or liberal or progressive or moderate or a democrat or republican or whatever and none of that really has anything to do with the gospel, the spreading of it, or following Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacke,
I just had the same argument with a progressive christian. The titles are confusing people and confusing our christian community. Like Reformed and Evangelical?

I believe that progressive christians have compromised the truth. Why do we try to add to what the bible says. Their arguments are always, "everything is not found in the bible" so how do you know what God has said?"
If I studied the issues of homosexuality and abortion (life), in the bible, then I should be clear on the issues, right?
I believe the divisions will go on until Christ comes back. It will only keep getting worst in our churches. We must be true to the word.

I'm glad I found your site.

Angel said...

You know, Jacke, I went back and revisited that post (link) and I don't even mention "fundamentalists or Conservative Christians" at all. I was talking about my brothers and sisters in Christ, in general.

I just wanted to clear that up. :)

Jacke M. said...

Well, Angel, I just disagree with you and that's okay. We don't necessarily have to agree, do we?

The thing is that homosexuality IS controversial because some Christians, yes, primarily, "Progressive" Christians would like to argue that God made homosexuals the way they are and He makes no junk and that since God made them that way and with those desires that they do not sin because He made them to be that way.

I could just as easily say that God made man, or woman, to want to commit adultery or fornication and that because God made us with that desire to "go out and get some strange" then it can't possibly be a sin, but your Christian "brothers and sisters" don't argue that do they? They pretend that homosexuals have no choice but to practice homosexuality and that it can't be a sin because God created them with a desire for same sex partners but they won't make that same argument in the case of the adulterer or the fornicator, they don't show that "tolerance" for the sin of adultery or the sin of fornication, no, that particular brand of tolerance is reserved only for gays.

Because of past conversations I know that you view homosexuality as a sin, so you and I are not arguing that point. However, there are two clear general viewpoints about politics in this Nation. One is "Progressive" or "Liberal" the other is "Conservative." Likewise, there are Christians who view politics through those same political lenses. I happen to agree with you that those labels are divisive, however, is it the label that is divisive or is it the two very different general viewpoints which are divisive? It doesn't matter how you "label" them, they exist and by pretending that they do not exist they don't just vanish and go away. Now, you have the choice to pretend that these different general viewpoints don't exist by not labeling them and refusing to accept them if you want. I, however, am a realist. These two general viewpoints DO exist and my pretending that it's a perfect world and that they don't exist might give me comfort and solace but it doesn't change the fact that they exist.

The only way for REAL unification is through communication, understanding and agreement with each other that we all have a right to our own opinions, beliefs and viewpoints, in my opinion. That is why I am driven to explore the issue and try to understand the reasons behind viewpoints which do not seem to agree with God's Word, something which I understand that we are pretty much in agreement upon.

I didn't intend to start an argument with you, Angel. But I think you miss the point, you can refuse to label people all you care to, but it doesn't change the FACT that these two very generalized viewpoints exist, whether you say they exist among your "brothers and sisters" or I say they exist between "Progressive" or "Conservative" Christians doesn't really matter, that isn't the point.

Jacke M. said...

Anonymous,

I actually once got a "Progressive" Christian to admit that he was trying to redefine the meaning of Reformed Christianity to suit the political agenda of "Progressive" Christians. I respect the fact that he admitted it, it couldn't have been an easy admission to make. You can find that exchange here:

http://www.badchristian.com/2006/01/10/in-pursuit-of-righteousness/

The gospel is being diluted isn't it? By an array of various divisive labels and titles within the Christian community. It is possible that it is intentional. It is also possible that they don't even realize that this is their goal until pressed on it. That's part of why I think communicating with all different Christians is vitally important. We ALL learn in the process, and oftentimes we learn about ourselves more than those we are seeking to learn about. It's interesting, isn't it?

I'm glad you stumbled across my blog too. I hope you'll keep visiting.

Oh, one more thing, and you're probably a lot smarter than I am and already know this but I found a good site to read about reformed Christianity if you are interested:

http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/reading/article.cgi?id=55

Angel said...

Jacke, I didn't take it as you trying to start an argument with me and I felt no anger nor animosity when I wrote my response. I just found it interesting that you mentioned our exchange and couldn't understand why I did not agree with you. Of course, being that it is your opinion, I am sure you feel you are right. I, on the other hand, don't see everything as "conservative" vs "progressive" so I don't.

I don't make everything about politics and I believe too many people do. As I said, Satan uses that stuff to divide us and we are letting him do it ... which is why I stand in the middle and say ... I am not conservative nor am I progressive or liberal. I am a democrat and come from a long line of democrats, all Christian, all Evangelical, and I am proud of that. But, I understand that neither side represents my faith or stands for it. And, I trust neither side explicitly and I vote my conscience always. Neither side is doing what they are supposed to according to the word of God and I don't expect them to. This whole "us" vs "them" mentality that is so prominent today is sad and I want no part of it.

I would rather refer to my brothers and sisters in Christ as such than refer to them by their politics. Like I said, that has nothing to do with the Gospel, the spreading of the Gospel, or following Christ and that is what I believe in first and foremost. It also reminds me that no matter what someone believes, whether their politics disagrees with mine or is the same, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ above everything else and I find it helps me treat them as such instead of the adversary Satan would prefer I see them as.

Jacke M. said...

Angel, I think it is wrong to think that Christians who disagree with one another politically cannot still love each other AND disagree.

The dialog I seek is not an effort to pit one against the other, I too believe we are first and foremost brothers and sisters in Christ. If you think that the only reason I am interested in understanding and communicating with Progressive Christians is to be adversarial with them you must not think much of me. It is just the opposite, I seek to find common ground and acceptance of each other in my communications with them. I accept their agenda as being heartfelt and righteous, unless it proven otherwise on an individual basis. I only seek that they return that same understanding and respect for my position. Wildwest and I have been able to bridge this divide, I believe that you and I can, as well.

I believe all Christians should be able to respect each other and edify each other rather than tear each other down. This is what I am fighting against, not promoting. I'm sorry if you think that my motives are more cynical than that or if you think that I am promoting Satan's divide here, that is not my intention at all. What a shame if that is what you think of me.

wildwest said...

Jacke,

Bob has a new entry on his blog on "why America is polarized." You might be interested.

Jacke M. said...

Thanks, wildwest!