On Being a Progressive Christian
I write a lot about what I call “progressive Christianity,” which is how I’ve described myself these past half a dozen years.
During that time I have noticed some unique challenges that come your way when you’re trying to live–in some way shape or form–in conjunction with the Christian Tradition and at the same time do so with a “progressive” bent.
As a progressive Christian, not only do I raise my voice at injustice in the political and socioeconomic world, not only do I fight systemic injustices like racism and homophobia and misogyny, but I’m also prophetically criticizing my own religious heritage. Pointing out how Christianity has lost the plot. How, instead of a movement of radical love and acceptance and grace and justice, the Church has become about rules and sexual policing and grabs for money and power and abuse and hiding abuse and manipulation and fear and shame and so on…
Yet, in spite of all that, and in spite of the ways in which I’ve personally been deeply wounded by the church and by Christians, I still hold on to this belief that the Way of Jesus can lead a person to come more fully alive.
Stop Being so “Divisive”
My experience is that it can be a very lonely place when you start to identify as a progressive Christian.
In particular, I’ve noticed (and perhaps you have, too)
When you step in to that space of speaking out against the systems, against the status quo, against the powers and principalities…
when you step in to that space of speaking out against injustice, discrimination…
when you step in to that space of critiquing traditionally held Christian beliefs or practices…
when you step in that space of calling out the church when she stands on the side of power instead of the side of the oppressed…
You are then told you are being divisive.
So let me just make this abundantly clear.
Calling out a thing for being “divisive” is not being divisive.
The divisive “thing” is the divisive thing.
Did you follow that?
If there is something in the world that divides people (systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia), then that alone is the “divisive thing.” Coming along after it and naming it as divisive, calling it out for what it is, bringing awareness around it and criticizing its proponents, is NOT the divisive thing.
It is not “being” divisive to shout from the heavens, “this thing right here is divisive!”
Even if, in doing so, a sort of division takes place as a result.
Therefore, when you enter any space and proceed to call out systems or beliefs or actions that threaten to divide humanity, you hereby have my permission to never again accept someone’s accusation that you are being divisive.
I recently did a five part series from Matthew 10 called “Jesus the Divider,” where I explored the confusing words of Jesus when he said that he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, and to divide families from one another. (Links to those posts are below).
As I see it, the idea that people will attack you when you call out systemic injustices is precisely what Jesus was getting in those passages.
The radical ideas of what the Kingdom looks like will not sit well with those who remain rooted in a more conservative way of seeing the world.
There will be blowback and division.
And not only will they reject you and your ideas, but they will heap on top of that claims that you are being divisive. Attempting to further shame you.
Dear ones, do not let their accusations get to you.
Jesus knew what he was getting in to–after all, he ended up on a cross. His words and actions were so “divisive” that he died for them. That’s why, when he sent out his disciples (and when he sends out you and me), he warned them of the dangers ahead.
His message–though deeply about the things of peace–will not always result in peace.
He came with a sharp message for the powers that be.
He came with a sword.
So when you’re rejected,
when you’re ridiculed,
when you’re insulted and shamed,
when you’re told you’ve lost your way,
when you’re accused of betraying your family,
at least know that it might very well be because you’re doing something right.
So keep speaking up.
Keep living out the call to justice.
Keep seeking to integrate your outer world with your inner world.
Keep fighting for the marginalized.
Because, as the Rev King said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
And know that Jesus the Divider is cheering you on.
(If you missed the “Jesus the Divider” series, here it is)
Part I: Jesus the Divider – What this series is about.
Part II: Conservative People & Progressive Ideas – Who Jesus sent the disciples to and why.
Part III: You Want us to do What?! – What it was the disciples where sent to do.
Part IV: Sheep Among Wolves… Good Luck! – What the disciples could expect on their mission: rejection.
Part V: When Jesus Doesn’t Bring Peace – What Jesus meant with that whole “sword not peace” thing.