In Praise of Progressive Christianity

2 Timothy 4:17  But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

ChurchThere are a great many stories asserted, with a great deal of authority, regarding the decline of fortunes experienced by the liberal to progressive end of the Christian seesaw. We have been whinging about it for decades now, how the liberal Mainline church is catatonic, how the Evangelical church is sucking up all the available air space and drawing generations of erstwhile faithful away to some shimmering mega-plex of theological certitude. Truthfully though, the indications all seem to suggest that The Church, in general, across the board, is in decline in the United States, as it has been in Europe for some time, it isn’t just us.

For a long time the assumption has been that our traditional Mainline churches lack the spiffy polish of cultural relevance to be found in the homes of our Evangelical cousins. They have light shows and rock bands and praise music that just draws people in and makes the experience of discipleship irresistible to mere mortals. We, on the other hand are so dusty, dull, and boring that newcomers fall gently asleep just moving from Narthex to Sanctuary. In response, a great many of our churches have attempted a broad and energetic pastiche of worship and ministry styles meant to emulate what we imagine people are looking for.

We keep hearing that theology is of less consequence than style, an assertion I do not believe, but we also hear that the principle offering of Evangelical communities, the one that sets them apart from the Mainline communities, is theological certainty. To this, I say, “half right.” There is a natural human tendency to enjoy judging others, a tendency made perhaps easier to indulge in faith communities based on a rules-based morality, but this does not seem like a sufficient draw. Instead, I would suggest that the strength to which this plays is the sense one has that such churches know (and are able to articulate) what they believe.

The concerning aspect of our otherwise enlightened theology is that we have primarily defined ourselves in accordance to what we do not believe, what we are not like. It is undoubtedly time that Progressive Christianity, and progressive Christian communities, begin to wrestle with what it is we actually do believe, and to make positive proclamations about our faith. Now, more than ever, the world needs a strong and confident voice from the Progressive realm.

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”

Dalai Lama

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

Edith Wharton

About revjtomgough

In the more than 30 years I have spent in parish ministry, I have held a wide range of related interests and theological foci. From Process Theology, Creation Theology, and Liberation Theology, to spiritual practices, Celtic Christianity, and World Religious Traditions. I have learned a great deal about a very few things. Otherwise, I'm not especially interesting.
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