Theological and Political: An Interview with Jarrod Cochran
You can call it whatever you like—the Holy Spirit, your conscience, or the cricket on Pinocchio's shoulder—but there is a voice inside our heads and our hearts that continues to push us forward, to push and break these limits that we have built that deny us from fully understanding and embracing the true love, grace, and inclusion that is found in and encompassed by the Creator.
What vision of the kingdom of God are we aiming at?
I'm striving—as I know many others are and have—to recreate and advocate for that community that was described in the book of Acts (4:32-34) where "all were one in heart and mind. No one laid claim to any possessions, but shared freely all they had . . . God's grace worked through them all that there were no needy among them." I personally see God as the only authority, period. If the laws of whatever land I happen to be living in command me to obey something God has already called me to do, then great; I was doing it anyway. But if the law of the land demands I obey a law that goes against God's conviction in my heart, I must disobey it. I think that's what got the early Christians in trouble and it should cause us modern day Christians to get into trouble too.
How many of us are standing opposed to our government's blatant use of torture and violence to get what they want? How many of us are standing with the poor and marginalized in the world instead of making excuses as to why it's their fault they're in the situation? We as Christians have lost our collective backbone; we've contracted Stockholm Syndrome with this nation, falling in love with the lunacy of America and forgetting that our true citizenship is in God's kingdom.
What role does obedience have in the process of Christian discipleship?
Obedience. That's a word that makes so many of us cringe, doesn't it? I think it's less about obedience and an attempt to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. We're all going to mess up; we're all going to fall short of what we're capable of being. But that's where love comes in. We're only human, after all. The point is that we continually make a honest effort to follow God and do the things that create love, justice, and equality in this world.
What does it mean to be a "welcoming" community?
I think the modern context of this phrase is that the community is welcoming, open, and affirming of the GLBT community. I think this statement is very important as these brothers and sisters are some of the most marginalized and persecuted people in the world who are constantly told how much God hates them. God loves and accepts these people for who they are and we should all grow up and do the same.
What is the Church for? Why does the Church exist?
As I and my fellow brothers and sisters in the Progressive Christian Alliance have always advocated, the Church is not a four-walled institution, but but a ministry without walls that surrounds and encompasses everything, everywhere we go. Church does not begin only when there is a pulpit or when the message of Jesus is conveyed through spoken word; it extends to all places and is conveyed by our actions.
How should Progressive Christians relate to other kinds of Christians? To those of other faiths? And what is their theological basis for so doing?
We should always be willing to join hands for the common good and understanding of God. I personally believe that it doesn't matter the name you use to call God (how many names are attributed to God in our Bible alone?)—even if your name for God is "Science." As long as you're on the same journey of grace, justice, and inclusion, you are our brother/sister and we are honored to walk alongside of you.
The theological basis for this is Jesus reaching out to the Samaritan at the well and Jesus' teaching to his followers that "whoever is for us cannot be against us" (Mk. 9.40). If they're following God by practicing love, justice, and inclusion, then we're truly following the same God, even if we happen to be on different paths.
What do you see as the future of Progressive Christianity?
Progressive Christianity, to me, is just the first step into a new and greater understanding of the Creator and our role in the universe. My prayer is that we continue to grow and create the community that God desires us to create and reveal God's great love for the world and every individual.
Jarrod is a rough-around-the-edges mess of a minister who enjoys a laugh, a drink, and an occasional (often) cuss word. Most importantly, Jarrod is a lover of compassion, justice, equality, peace, and the pursuit of God's kingdom. Jarrod attempts to pursue his passion of justice and activism in all that he does as a writer, a speaker, musician, and an activist for peace, justice, and social change. Jarrod has served as an interim pastor for an evangelical church and is currently serving as the associate chaplain and firefighter for a local Atlanta, Georgia fire department and a volunteer chaplain for an organization that assists the homeless and poverty-stricken. During his time of serving in these positions, Cochran has had the opportunity to see firsthand that Christ has called his followers to something more than just a religion; Jesus has called them to further the kingdom of God on this earth and be agents of his great change.