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The resurgence of progressive Christianity

The resurgence of progressive Christianity

Paul Raushenbush, executive religion editor of The Huffington Post writes:

Anyone born within the last 50 years would be justified in thinking that Jesus’ teachings and Christian preachings were the exclusive domain of social and fiscal conservatives. The ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s were dominated by Christians with names like Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson who leveraged television and radio to make theirs the default religious voice in America. ….

But that is so #TBT (ThrowBackThursday). There has been a largely unnoticed but radical movement over the last decade during which the spiritual fire has shifted to more progressive Christians and that has the potential to change both the political and spiritual landscape of America.

I had a feeling this was happening but was shocked during the past few weeks to note the extent to which the more progressive Christian leaders are speaking out and being heard in their effort to impact the public square. Pastors and priests have spoken out on blocked Medicaid expansions, gun control, and climate change.

Raushenbush mentions the work of Nuns on a Bus, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, The Cana Initiative, Moral Mondays and Faithful America, and notes that various denominational leaders have also stepped up to lobby for immigration reform, marriage equality, Net neutrality and sentencing reform.

In what other ways are progressive Christians making themselves heard in the political arena?

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Jim Naughton

Thanks for the conversation, Adam. I may worry less about church unity than most people because I don't think the times at which the church was most united it was the most oppressive and corrupt and that reform requires division. Also, since I don't believe God is comprehensible, I assume we will all get God wrong in various ways and that God knows and expects that.

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Adam Spencer

Hey Jim,

Thanks for seeking to clarify my probably needlessly muddled thoughts. I really appreciate the conversation!

I'm on board with your #1.

And I'm on board with #2 and following if what we're doing or trying to do is discursive and argumentative and not needlessly and harmfully factional and triumphalist. (From our end.)

Does that make sense?

I think unfortunately we're *already* factional (obviously...) but that's an unhelpful and I'd daresay even sinful part of this.

We've turned a legitimate intra-Church argument over important issues into saying to the hand "I have no need of thee" and that's the part of this that bugs me.

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Jim Naughton

Adam, I think I understand what you are saying but two things 1) if one set of folks owns the word "Christian" in the mind of the listening public, then folks who differ with the owners' views on what it means to be Christian either need to create another word, or attempt to dispute the ownership. The latter of these is generally more effective; and 2) It isn't that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and I, taken together, represent the fullness of the gospel because we each have out own little piece of etc. etc. etc. One of us is right about certain essential issues and one of us is wrong. We need to differentiate ourselves from one another so there can be an honest understanding of what is at stake in the arguments we are having.

Politics isn't the main criteria for membership in the church, but in the struggle to determine to what vision of Christianity the church will be faithful, it is helpful--and, in fact, honest--to have a way to identify those competing visions.

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Adam Spencer

Thanks for speaking to my concerns, Jim.

I guess my argument is more about how we're slicing up the Church and the fullness of the Gospel here. Christian ecclesiastical identity isn't ultimately about political positions, is it?

I'm all for saying to the media, "Ok but look, here's a group of faithful Christians over here who think there's a different way of reading this thing that leads to some different political commitments."

That seems to me to be something else from: there's a conservative Church and a progressive Church. And thank God we're in the one, true Church.

In my understanding, there's One Church and politics isn't the main criteria for membership.

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Jim Naughton

Adam, I think we use Progressive we can be understood. We use it for the sake of accurately distinguishing our use of the word from the way in which other people--whose voices are often louder and whose visibility greater than ours--use it. If we do not do this we will neither be seen nor heard, and the campaigns we undertake will fail as a result.

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