If you read my blog much you know that I’m far from a right-wing Christian fundamentalist, but I also don’t espouse liberal theology, nor am I a card-carrying member of the increasingly “progressive” branch of Christianity. I never liked cards anyway.
I see the whole of fundamentalism and “progressive” Christianity as two extremes—both missing the mark. Let me explain.
I grew up within a mild form of Fundamentalist Christianity, and I’m still surrounded by it here in Texas. It is known for being dogmatic, legalistic, obsessed with biblical inerrancy, militant in defending creationism, escapist in eschatology, and committed to nationalism and the Republican party.
For all its flaws, I do think that fundamentalism has been very forthright about the person and saving work of Jesus, even if that message is often a bit muddled with poor atonement theories and hell-fire, pulpit-pounding.
Nevertheless, a clarity about the person and work of Jesus is refreshing after you’ve been bombarded by many competing voices in the culture that wish to turn Jesus into a gnostic guru, a civil rights leader, or reduce him down to a social revolutionary, and nothing more. Liberalism at its finest.
Liberal Christianity today is really just a post-enlightenment version of Thomas Jefferson’s sanitized Jesus—a Jesus stripped of his divinity, his miracle-making, and muzzled from making exclusive truth claims.
If a person comes to believe in such things, they shouldn’t even call themselves a “Christian” anymore. If you can’t affirm Christ’s divinity, his saving power by the cross, and his literal resurrection… you’re not a Christian in any historical sense of the term. If you want to start the Church of Jefferson, fine. But please leave historic Christianity to us Christians.
Progressive Christianity has much to say in response to pop-culture evangelicalism. Progressives like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, and many others need to be heard.
I can see and hear Jesus in these guys. I’ve benefited from them.
For example, I agree that the teachings of Jesus have been neglected and that doctrine (orthodoxy) has been emphasized over Christ-like living (orthopraxy). I believe that salvation begins in the here and now, that social justice is integral to discipleship, and that evangelicalism needs a more responsible biblical interpretive method.
I’m passionate about those things!
But I must say that I particularly take issue with how “progressives” have created a synthetic fog over a handful of biblical passages dealing with homosexuality, and seem to be using a “join-us-or-you’re-a-bigot” approach to responding to evangelicalism’s overall failure to love our gay neighbors.
Progressives appear to want nothing less than full support of the LGBT community, meaning that you agree that homosexuality is an acceptable way of being human, and that Jesus would approve of gay “marriage” (going beyond civil unions to the church blessing the relationship), or you’re “homophobic” and an enemy of all that’s good.
Let’s be honest. If this is the way progressives are going to frame the issue, reflecting the typical polarities of hot-button issues within politics, they are only going to perpetuate the vitriolic climate in society—a climate they say that they lament. But I do wonder if they’re not being just as divisive and dishonest as the folks over at Westboro Baptist.
Is it “bigotry” to disagree with someone on a moral/religious issue? Is it “hate” to believe another person’s life choices are destructive to that person and to society? Is it “homophobic” to believe that homosexuality is a sin like adultery, greed, or idolatry, and oppose elevating it to normal human behavior, as if it were an obvious evolution of mankind? Is it “intolerant” to want to maintain laws (church & state) that support a historical, time-tested institution (heterosexual monogamous marriage) for the good of society?
As many of you know, all of this has been leveled at those who disagree in any way with the LGBT community and her “progressive” supporters. I see a constant stream of this stuff on social networking and online magazines, especially in light of Rob Bell’s recent affirmation of gay marriage.
This is the message I’m getting: You’re either a supporter of LGBT or you’re likely an intolerant bigot who hates gay people.
I think this is unfair and dishonest. It leaves no room for a third way of responding to the LGBT community and those in our local communities that have embraced a gay identity. It claims that in order to love your gay neighbor you must accept their lifestyle.
Why must this be the case? Do I have to accept the violence, greed, and idolatry of my neighbor and enemies in order to love them? Of course not. So why should it be any different with gay folks in our communities? One extreme (fundamentalism) doesn’t justify another (liberalism).
If you consider yourself a “progressive” Christian, I want to encourage you to consider how LGBT supporters can be more honest and fair in their treatment toward those of us who disagree with you, but at the same time want to love their gay neighbor and accept them as created in God’s image.
Listen to Tim Keller represent a third way with grace and truth.
What do you think? Do you believe there is a third way that’s being overlooked? Please share your thoughts and experiences.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.