Did Christ’s Own Words Justify Progressive Christianity?
I’ve explored a bit into the world of Progressive Christianity, an arm of Christianity that seems more inclusive, loving, and, thereby, more criticized.
The biggest question about Progressive Christianity to be asked, it seems to me, is this: What does Progressive Christianity actually mean?
What makes a Christian church “progressive” and what doesn’t? Unfortunately, the answer may vary depending on whom you ask.
To be honest, the definition I think of can be best summed up by this line from Wikipedia:
Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.
The biggest stumbling block to people of faith that I’ve seen and heard as I’ve read and considered different takes on the notion of Progressive Christianity is the first characterization named in that definition: the willingness to question tradition.
That’s a hard pill for many religious people to swallow. There’s a fear — at times, a completely irrational fear — to question anything that might be part of a church’s tradition. Anyone who even raises a question about why things are done a certain way or why things aren’t done a certain way are automatically cast in the role of doing the devil’s work.
If you’re among those who think that way, I’m going to ask you to consider one important point. Here’s the second line from the Wikipedia page:
Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” within the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I’ve cited that passage before, but it’s certainly worth repeating. Here’s how The Message translates the passage from Mark 22:36-40:
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
There isn’t one “greatest” commandment. There are actually three within those two lines.
The first, the most obvious, is to love God with all your heart and soul.
The second, the least obvious, is to love yourself. If God, who knows you better than you know yourself, loves you completely and justifies you as being worthy of your love, you must accept the notion of loving yourself as you are. You’re not perfect and neither am I. But that doesn’t matter to God, who meets us where we are. That’s a powerful statement of His love, isn’t it?
The third, the one that depends upon the first two, is to love others the way you love yourself. But you see, this is meaningless until you learn to love you. After all, how can you “love your neighbor as yourself” if you don’t love yourself first?
If the central premise behind the notion of Progressive Christianity, then, seems to be built around the very commandment Jesus Christ Himself called “the most important,” I think it bears a closer examination. Going forward, I’ll occasionally write more about notions of what Progressive Christianity is and my take on it.
I hope that if you’re interested in learning more, you’ll read more and we can consider these ideas together.
My goal, it’s worth noting, isn’t to change anyone’s mind per se, but rather to just have a conversation that it seems to me too many Christians don’t seem willing to have out of some fear of being ostracized for asking questions they’ve always wanted to ask.
Maybe this notion of “Progressive Christianity” doesn’t have any more answers than the more traditional, conservative factions within the church. But any such faction that seems to base itself on one of Christ’s most important teachings, in my book, is at least worth some serious consideration.
Thanks, as always, for reading, and I hope you’ll keep reading!