A Progressive's Three Great Loves
Editor's Note: This article is part of the symposium, "What Is Progressive Christianity?" presented by the newly launched Patheos Progressive Christian Portal and in partnership with the Wild Goose Festival (June 23-26). Like us on Facebook to receive today's best commentary on Progressive Christianity.
Years ago, a sign mysteriously appeared in the sanctuary of my hometown church: "If a government hostile to Christianity took over and put you on trial for being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to convict you?" I had to wonder why our sleepy little congregation would show so little evidence of their faith since they prayed the Lord's Prayer each week. Didn't they realize that praying, "Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven" is tantamount to praying for revolution?
In 2004, I set aside my natural reticence to add any modifier to the word Christian as a personal referent and adopted the "progressive" label because it seemed that Progressive Christians did, in fact, know what they were praying for. I also felt that "progressive" might be a way for some of us to indicate that we are "post-liberal," and others of us to indicate that they are "post-evangelical," bringing together the best of both sides of the theological swimming pool while leaving behind the worst.
My personal definition for Progressive Christianity, which found traction with some, was: "A progressive Christian is one who takes seriously the Three Great Loves identified by Jesus (God, Neighbor, Self) in his command to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. I felt that a progressive Christian is one who rejects the notion that 'two outta three ain't bad.'"
This assumption is most fully reflected in the Phoenix Affirmations—twelve principles that are widely acknowledged in the Progressive community as constituting the backbone of their faith. I had the pleasure of writing the first commentary on the Phoenix Affirmations, and a follow-up book, Asphalt Jesus, that chronicles a walk across America by Progressive Christians to raise awareness of the Phoenix Affirmations and explores the Affirmations "in action."