10 Reasons I’m Glad I Came Out As A Progressive Christian

Living authentically with who you are is a risky thing to do, but I believe it’s the most direct path to peace. When we vacillate between a version of ourselves that is true and a version that is not true, we continue in a cycle that leaves us feeling more lonely than when we started living that way.

I know many of you are in this position because I read your emails every day. One of the most common emails I receive states to the effect, “I’m secretly a progressive but if I’m honest about it, I’ll lose my friends and probably lose my job”. These emails are hard to receive, because I know how true this is. However, I wanted to address this as someone who is further along in the process, and who can now look back and see that “coming out progressive” was actually the path to peace for me. In a future piece I’ll talk about some of the risks (and how you can mitigate them) but for today I want to share why I– and why so many others like me– are actually glad that we came out and embraced authenticity by no longer hiding the fact that we’re actually Progressive Christians.

Here are the top 10 reasons:

1. I’m no longer the person in the room with the strangest views.

The downfall of secretly being a progressive is that you’re always aware that you’re the person in the room with the strangest or most liberal views. The longer this goes on the more isolated you feel from always being the one person who appears to be straying from the pack. This is a situation that creates a deep sense of loneliness, and ultimately depression. However, once crossing over into a progressive form of Christianity, chances are high that you won’t even be close to the person on the team with the strangest or most liberal views (seriously, have you met all of us?). Since coming out progressive, I no longer feel so alone or like I’m the only person who doesn’t belong.

2. I don’t have to vote for the Republican candidate for president simply because they’re a Republican.

Seriously, we don’t care who you vote for. Ross Perot or Ralph Nader? Have at it– it’s your vote. As a conservative evangelical, voting for any candidate that wasn’t pre-approved by the group was a major party foul. Now that I’m completely open about being a progressive, I’ll vote for whoever I want and don’t have to worry about tribal leaders pushing me to the margins for not following the unwritten rules of membership.

3. Having the freedom to openly re-explore and rediscover my faith is exhilarating.

In the previous paradigm, there was no such freedom– the tribe only permitted exploring one’s faith within preset parameters with a long list of questions remaining closed for discussion. Breaking with this norm, results in being ostracized and having your faith called into question (Exhibit A: Rob Bell). We were always warned what questioning would lead to, but you know what? They were wrong. I’ve learned that Jesus is a big boy and can handle my tough questions and that the process of rediscovery has actually been life giving. Today I feel more passionate about my faith that I ever did before.

4. I’ve been welcomed by a community that doesn’t insist I become a clone of them.

This is perhaps my favorite part of being openly progressive: the other progressives don’t care that I’m not exactly like them because they aren’t exactly like each other. I’ve never met two progressive Christians who were identical and everyone seems to not only accept this reality, but embrace it. Yes, we like to talk about theology and ideas– sometimes quite passionately– but no one cares that you’re not exactly like the rest of the group, because no one is exactly like the rest of the group.

5. I now know the new friends I make won’t one day walk away because they find out I’m progressive.

This speaks to an issue that I plan to write about in the near future: the price of coming out progressive. Trust me; you’ll lose friends. However, the people who I become friends with now? They all know I’m progressive when they become friends with me, so I no longer have to live in fear that they’ll see an article come across their news feed on Facebook and realize who I really am. The new friends I’m making simply like me for me, which make for safer friendships.

6. I no longer have to find creative theological arguments for why I’m excluding people.

In my old belief system, there seemed to always be a heavy focus on drawing lines between who was in and who was out– something that never sat well with me. I was never able to figure out how we were able to justify the exclusion of so many people- LGBT, women, and even men who didn’t fit the exact mold of a ‘leader’. Being openly progressive has allowed me to rediscover the Jesus who told his followers to “go out into the streets and find all the excluded people you can, and bring them back here to my party”. Today I’m able to let my focus be geared towards creating ways to include, not justifying who I am excluding.

7. I’ve learned how diverse the body of Christ is, and I’m actually free to express how much I appreciate that.

Diversity of theological thought within the group was always seen as a threat to the group. This is why so many churches and traditions have extensive, 28 page “Statements of Faith” that new members have to sign. Having all beliefs laid out in a black and white manner helps to reduce the chances that someone might think on their own and cause “trouble” for the group. As a progressive, I’ve learned that diverse theological opinions aren’t a threat at all, but that there’s a lot I can learn from listening to others who think differently than I.

8. I’m free to follow the teachings of Jesus wherever that takes me.

 Perhaps the craziest realization of my paradigm shift was that as a conservative evangelical I actually wasn’t free to completely follow Jesus. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Following Jesus meant loyalty to community norms instead of living radically to shake up the culture– the latter being what Jesus actually invites us to do. Think you’re actually free to follow Jesus in your conservative setting? Just try teaching people nonviolent love of enemies– one of the core messages of Jesus– and see where that gets you. Trying to teach Christians to actually follow Jesus was nothing but trouble making for me, but now I’m free to follow wherever his teachings lead, and the rest of the group doesn’t care.

9. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.

I hate being fake– there’s so much freedom in authenticity. However, until I was ready to be open about being a progressive Christian, I forced myself into a double life where half the time I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t in order to keep the peace, and keep my life in order. Living this way for a season is a matter of self preservation, but eventually it leads to a form of death because it only increases a sense of outsiderness and loneliness. Today I am free, because I am done pretending and done hiding. I am who I am, I’m happy with who I am as a Christian, and people are free to walk away if they need to– because I’d rather live in freedom.

10. I’m comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.

Once I stopped trying to dance the line and still fit in with my old tribe, I realized that I was happy for the first time in years. Yes, ‘coming out’ came with some painful losses, but in the end I realized that doing so resulted in me feeling comfortable in my own skin. While some of the losses are still painful, I’m learning the comfort and peace that comes with being true to who I am is actually worth it. Scripture says “as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” and I am discovering that “everyone” also includes living at peace with my own self. Today, I am at peace with myself.

Yes, there are some risks in “coming out progressive”, but all things considered, I think living authentically is always the most direct path to peace. I pray that all of you who feel isolated and alone because you’re not currently in a place to embrace this openness will eventually find a path to live at peace with your own self.

I’ll save a seat for you and be here when you’re ready.

(For further dialogue– why are you glad that you came out as a Progressive Christian? If you haven’t, what’s holding you back?)
 
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  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    Nice.

    Speaking to #5, though: My “new friends” tend to walk away because they find out I’m not as progressive as they are. They lack the patience (or the hope) that I’ll get there someday. And y’know, maybe I won’t. Should that make any difference?

  • R Vogel

    This is such a great point I hope doesn’t go unnoticed. If ‘Progressive’ simply becomes another label used to enforce a new us/them paradigm it will fall into the same problems that previous labels fell into. The point is to pull down power structures not erect new ones.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

    I am about as progressive as it gets in my neck of the woods but take the girl out of the south and my Christology or call to be a bridge buidler gets me in hot water with some “progressive” folks. In my estimation, they are no more progressive than rigid fundies and they sure ain’t my friends.

  • http://ChristAlmighty.net K.W. Leslie

    My problem is similar: I’m no fundamentalist, but I still believe the scriptures to be the inspired word of God. So I’m responsible to follow them as best I understand them, and not push them aside or reinterpret them when they become politically inconvenient. It’s entirely possible I’m interpreting them wrong, but it’s out of earnestness, not out of pragmatism.

    Yet conservatives and progressives both seem to have no trouble picking and choosing which verses to get literal about, and which to see as nullified by progressive revelation. (Even though conservatives would never, ever call it that.)

    So what puts me in the progressive camp? Grace. Lots and lots and lots of grace. I need it, you need it, we all need it. It’s what makes the good news good.

  • buricco

    I guess even progressives have their fundies…

  • JenellYB

    I’d say such ones themselves fail in the very most basic definition and criteria for what progressive even means.

  • Elizabeth Parkinson

    I am still at the thinking stage when it comes to Progressive Christianity, but your post gives me hope that if I do decide that is the way to go, I will be able to do it. I have several “dark secrets” that almost no-one in my church knows about. In fact, more people in my 12 step group know about them!

  • JenellYB

    We all have dark secrets. Some admitted, some not. And contrary to what some might think, many keep dark secrets close not only for self interests, but to protect others, as well. And most of our dark secrets really are no one else’s business, and are rightfully held on a need to know basis. But also, no one should have to fear their dark secrets becoming known, for that others would abuse them for it, use it to hurt them. Neither has any the right to demand to know other’s dark secrets, or spread them about. There are some real problems with these things in many church communities.

  • Elizabeth Parkinson

    Thanks Jenell, these dark secrets aren’t even bad things, they are things people would judge me foe – quite a bit of it is around the gifts of Spirit. I have my own couple of friends who I do talk to, plus Christians from other churches who do “get it”. I was a bit out of sorts when I wrote the reply above – I am doing a theology course through my Methodist circuit, and i had a phone call from one of the course leaders saying the “some people” objected to the things I say/share, particularly about “personal” things. Not been told who complained or precisely what about – I cannot think of anything I said which was personal! The guy who rang me was nice about it, but I am rather cross.

  • Moni

    Hi Elizabeth, I don’t normally reply to posts, but just wanted to offer my thought to you. I’m a very liberal Christian by anyone’s definition, and just in the process of ‘coming out’ like this article describes, although it’s always been obvious to everyone anyway. I’ve been in 12 step for three years now and I’ve long since learnt that it is a far safer place to share those ‘dark secrets’ and if my church friends never know then so be it. In 12 step fellowship there is a lot less judgement, other people are in similar boats so they give far more helpful advice, and there is a practical solution to issues which people support you in, ie to take the 4th step and follow through to making amends as appropriate. I wish you the best of luck on your journey to finding who you are in God, we are all created uniquely and that’s what makes us so special!! Moni

  • Michael Brian Woywood

    I’m glad I came out Progressive, because it allowed me to see clearly for the first time how hateful some of the old thought patterns were. When you’re no longer trying to justify the reasons that some people “need” to go to Hell, or why some people “need” to be excluded from our community, you really start to see it for the anti-Christian attitude it is.

    I’m also glad I came out Progressive, because it gave others the courage to come out. Since becoming public about my journey – and being vocal about my convictions, no matter how unorthodox or even “heretical” they are – I’ve received messages from SO MANY people who either say, “I’m a Christian. I feel the same way as you on many things. I’ve been afraid to say it, because of my family/friends/church. Now, I’m not as afraid” OR “I’ve been driven away from the faith by fundamentalists. I’ve lived as an atheist for years. What you have to say about faith gives me hope, makes me want to try again.” That’s not me they’re drawn to, man. That’s Jesus. So, coming out Progressive has made me finally able to be an effective evangelist.

  • Ruaidhrí Ó Domhnaill

    So far I’ve lost my job, my rented home and my best friend. Most of my family won’t talk to me except to try and proselytize me and my 86 year old father calls me only to remind me that I’m destined for hell and should do anything I can to hurry the process along because I’ve brought shame on him and the family. No, I’m not kidding.
    Yeah, I can live authentically, but since it’s just me and my wife right now, it’s an awfully lonely road to peace.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

    Yep, sound a great deal like what I experienced when coming out as gay…

  • Ruaidhrí Ó Domhnaill

    It’s always hurt me deeply how gay people are treated in the conservative church and by American society as a whole. I’m sorry for what we’ve put you through and for my part, I’m trying my best to change.

  • gimpi1

    That’s so bloody awful. I invite any nice conservative Christians to explain why it’s OK to fire someone or evict them based on their politics or faith. Here’s a hint; it’s not, ever, ever, ever. It’s also illegal. If you can prove you were fired or evicted for religious or political reason, you have been the victim of a crime. Sue their asses off.

    Your father is, frankly, not worth your time. I’m sorry you still have to share a family with someone who is so cruel. I wish you well.

  • Ruaidhrí Ó Domhnaill

    I could prove the eviction but probably not the firing. Neither is worth the stress or dragging Jesus’ name through the mud over.
    I read a lot of righteous indignation in your reply and that tells me that I didn’t communicate well. Please don’t feel angry about the way others have treated me, I’m a big boy with a fairly thick skin and I can be angry enough all by myself – trust me! The challenge for me is to end a call from my Dad with “Alright Dad, I need to go now. Love you!” and hang up the phone instead of responding to his anger in kind.
    I see the kindness and the protectiveness in your reply… thank you! You seem to have a pastor’s heart to protect and that’s always a good thing!
    Thank you for your well-wishes and I’m sorry if my poor communication skills caused you to become angry. Be at peace.

  • Katrina Blakely Dunkin

    Why do we have to mirror secular society by having political parties in the faith. This is not what God wants…it’s just more division and criticism of those who think differently than you do (e.g. “fundies”)? God wants unity among all believers…nobody has it all figured out and nobody does it all right. There is nothing in the Bible that says we are to divide. Everything says that we are to be like-minded and united. So, come out of the closet if you feel the need. By doing so you separate yourself from those who think differently than you do…how is this any different from those you criticize? Now I understand the whole pointing the finger thing people keep talking about. Denominations, religious parties…there are no rules dictating who you can vote for and it’s nobody’s business. Much of what has been said is only half true and one-sided. Which is often the case when people write things like this about those who think differently. I am no great theologian. I am not a fundamentalist. I am not a religion, denomination, progressive, or a political party. I am a believer and I want to love as Jesus loves…I want to be able to love those who hurt me. I want to be able to show compassion to the lost. I want to glorify God with how I live and I want to share the gospel with anyone who will listen. Isn’t that what we all should be doing? One body? There are sheep and goats in all parties and denominations. In the end it’s important that you know whether you will be counted with the sheep or the goats because in the end…those will be the two groups. One will be discarded. The other will live as one Body in Christ…as it was intended from the beginning.

  • Vikki Wilhoit

    That is the question that everyone is asking in this discussion, “why do we have to mirror secular society by having political parties in the faith?” It has been my experience with the church ( which is mostly republican) that a person is not accepted unless they are republican and agree with everything the republicans do and say. They are teaching people that the republican side is “God’s side”. As long as this continues to be taught in the church, then there will be division in the church. God says that we are a Christian if we trust that Jesus died on the cross as payment for our sin and that we can have a relationship with him and go to heaven if we turn our lives over to him. It does not say that we become a Christian by accepting the republican party as the gospel when it comes to how we should think and act. Some of what this party believes in is actually contrary to what God’s word says.

  • Katrina Blakely Dunkin

    I don’t think anybody is trying to communicate that the Republican party is God’s side. I tend to vote republican because the republican party seems to be aligned more with what I believe….therefore, when in doubt, I will vote that way. Regardless…God isn’t interested in parties and I’m sure it grieves the Holy Spirit that the church continues to splinter over things that do not concern Him. Our main concern is to reach the lost for Christ and to rightly divide the word of Truth as we disciple. It is not right for any church to tell anyone how to vote. I have never belonged to a church that did and I am conservative. I would not belong to a church that did. However, they do tell us what the Bible says and that when we vote, we should vote in light of that. I don’t have a problem with that. I vote on my God-given convictions and that’s nobody’s business. If you don’t agree then fine. Find a place to go where you think God wants you to be….but don’t criticize where you came from because all believers are on the same side. Satan causes us to see one another as enemies…he doesn’t have to do anything to take us down because we do his job for him when we quarrel among one another and divide. Divide and conquer is the plan of attack from our enemy. Unless we stand together and stop dividing…we are only making our army weaker.

  • Vikki Wilhoit

    We must always be willing to stand up to people within the church that are causing division and alienating others just because they do not believe in the republican side of the story on everything. Jesus himself stood up to this kind of stuff, and we are not helping the church if we deny that a problem even exists. This way of thinking has been going on in the church for the last 20 years on the local and national level. The church is not a puppet to be manipulated by the republican or democratic party. God wants us to think for ourselves and act with love and with the same character of Christ.

  • Katrina Blakely Dunkin

    I totally agree that we must stand up to those who are practicing unbiblical things. If a church is forcing anyone to vote for any party and alienating them because they don’t..then most certainly, this issue needs to be dealt with but, those “offended” are choosing to be “offended”. The war is not flesh against flesh. We keep forgetting that. And people have different definitions as to what it means to love as Christ did. Some think that means we should never hold anyone accountable for the sin that will hurt their walk with God…confrontation with the Word in love with the other’s best interest at heart..in hopes to draw them into a deeper walk with God. From what I understand, sin is always at the root of disagreement and there is usually an element of sin with both sides. Leaving the church and forming a new “party” or “denomination” doesn’t fix the problem. People are going to disagree. It’s not important to bring the opposing party to your side. It is important to deal with the difference in love. If an agreement can’t be reached, then refocus on common ground and continue to love the other person and pray about the differences…that God will bring unity…and He will. We keep taking things into our own hands, further splintering the body of Christ into new dysfunctional communities that will continue to divide when they disagree. Just look at history and think about it. The church is so weak because we are fighting among ourselves and killing our own cause…winning the lost to salvation for the glory of God. That’s what it’s about. So what if your feelings get hurt…get over it. I am part of an international evangelistic organization made up of all denominations. The organization is careful to focus on common ground…evangelism. We do not discuss our denominational differences or politics. We only focus on praying together, unity, and sharing the gospel…and our organization is exploding. Why do we have to get so side tracked by so many details? Loving doesn’t mean you always agree. It means you love despite the differences. It’s really not that complicated.

  • http://thephyseter.wordpress.com The_Physeter

    Really? Just for coming out progressive Christian? You’re not an atheist or anything? You still believe in Jesus, but they still treat you this way. That’s disgusting.

  • Katrina Blakely Dunkin

    This article is one side of the story. There may be some churches that practice this. It may be some people in some of the churches. I go to a church that is much more conservative than I am. Many of them think if you are not a republican you are going to Hell. My answer to them is that many republicans will go to Hell..and so will many democrats. The only people who are going to heaven are born again believers whose names are written in the Book of Life when they die. I don’t think like most of the people in my congregation. I keep my political preferences to myself. But, I have never gone to a conservative Christian church in my many years of being a believer…where they tell me who I can and cannot vote for. Change churches if you don’t seem to connect. Maybe that’s not where God wants you. But, to start a religious political party over this and attack those who “pushed” you into it….that is just as bad as being a close minded “fundamentalist”.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

    Very nice post!

  • Nighten Gayle

    Good word of encouragement to those of us still straddling the proverbial fence. Peer pressure goes both ways. Sometimes, I feeling like that “double-minded” person that James talks about.

  • Lori Cipot

    Thank you so very much for this article. I left my local church a little more than a year ago because I realized I had become too progressive for this New England community. I’ll be searching for a new church when I move to North Carolina. A place where I can genuinely be me!!

  • Tammy K.

    I just realized there was a name (label) to what I “was” – as if I had some form on incurable disease- this past fall. So, I was in figurative heaven when I discovered there were other people like me – of course in varying levels. My husband is more conservative than I am, but he has embraced my “coming out” this winter as a progressive Christian. After I was shunned from another church because I questioned why they shamed a homosexual couple; I questioned why they treated women as sex objects; I questioned why God’s love was only for mirror images of themselves. Needless to say, I was pretty crestfallen….but now, I’m enthralled :)

  • Ashlee

    Wow…this sounds so much like myself. I’m not fully “out as a progressive” yet, but I’m getting there. I’m kinda taking baby steps online and in conversations with friends, but I’m in a student ministry leadership position at a megachurch, so I can’t go too far. Basically, I’m a small group leader for high school girls. I’ve already promised myself and expressed it publically to friends that once my girls graduate out, I will leave also. Right now, they’re sophomores, so I still have a couple years left with them and while my girls are more than worth the sacrifice, I’ll admit I’m counting down the days until I can walk away without looking back.

  • JenellYB

    Isn’t it interesting how similar so many is us talk of the matters of coming out as a progressive in much the same ways as LGBTQ coming out?

  • gimpi1

    “One of the most common emails I receive states to the effect, ‘I’m secretly a progressive but if I’m honest about it, I’ll lose my friends and probably lose my job,’ These emails are hard to receive, because I know how true this is.”

    I read this and was genuinely shocked. Then I read the post by Ruiadhri Ó Domhnail. This is beyond belief.

    As I asked earlier, I invite any nice conservative folks to explain this. Do any conservative Christians think this kind of blatant discrimination is OK? How so? If it’s not OK, why does it happen in your faith? What are you doing to fix it? Do you “unfriend” anyone who has differing beliefs from yourself? Why?

    If you’ve jumped ship, can you explain, when you were a conservative Christian, how you felt about this kind of thing. Did you do it? Did it push you away?

    Also, while I’m sure a few progressives do the same thing, I think we all know it doesn’t happen to anywhere near the same degree. I have conservative friends. I don’t black-list them. I can disagree with someone without fearing or hating them. I can have a political discussion, even an argument, and stay friends. I employ people more conservative than myself. I would have never thought to consider their politics or faith in hiring or job assignments. I own a rental unit. I have never considered the politics or faith of any tenant. Doing so would be illegal and simply wrong. Why do a fair number of conservative people appear to think it isn’t? Does anyone know?

    Also, an aside, when there is a disagreement, why is it always the progressive person encouraged to back down, shut up or make peace? Why must I keep my views to myself while my uncle pontificates at the Thanksgiving Dinner table, or risk family scorn? He won’t be scorned, people just shrug and say, “That’s Bud, we all know what he’s like.” It’s especially galling when I’ve cooked the dinner!

  • Scarlet

    Yes, it absolutely happens. I am grateful for my current job working for a democrat being I know that I won’t be fired for having different ideas.

    Expanding on that, I went to a CMA university where many people I know have gone into ministry. One friend in particular became a pastor after a few years. He also recently had posted on facebook asking for prayers for a teenager girl in his congregation because she had gone astray. He told the parents of this young girl to cut off all contact with her to make her aware of her sinful ways. I told him he was one of the most horrible people I’ve ever met… telling parents to openly forsake their child in an attempt to “convert” her to their point of view.

    It’s absolutely not uncommon. I’m not welcome in many places because of my progressive views. Family hates me and flies into fit of rages when I point out them mixing up right wing politics with biblical truth. It comes down to this idea that they feel like being hateful towards people is for “their own good”. They MUST reject those who have “fallen away” so that they understand the depth of their sin. It’s a manipulation tactic that has been taught in the church to control the masses and suppress the uprisings.

  • gimpi1

    This is astonishing to me. I have to say it’s unflattering in the extreme to conservative Christianity. It also makes me put the breaks on BIG TIME regarding Christianity in general.

    I’ve mentioned “damaging your witness” before. This is the most damaging thing I’ve ever heard.

  • Michelle

    Yes, it definitely happens. I grew up in a very fundamentalist family. I was pressured into getting married while in high school bc they THOUGHT I was sleeping with my boyfriend of a few months. They told me I was going to burn in hell and fall out of God’s favor if I didn’t. When he turned out to be extremely abusive, and I desperately wanted a divorce, they, my family and the church, supported my husband. They told me that I would be sinning by divorcing him. I did it anyway. No lawyer. I had to get the papers and go before the judge with no help. My 4 younger sisters were told I was a bad influence and a “black sheep” and couldn’t talk to me for a while. Even now, our contact is shaky with my dad still having “prophecies” and “dreams” about me…In there was a girl who looked just like me that was a witch leading my sisters astray…I also lost my job and a lot of friends, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way bc I probably wouldn’t still be alive today and have a wonderful husband and son otherwise.

  • gimpi1

    OK, this is disgusting. To pressure you into marriage because of gossip? To use emotional blackmail to try to keep you in an abusive marriage? Your father casting you in a featured role in his bad dreams and blaming YOU? Someone firing you from your job? And these people think they are “right with God?”

    I have no words. I have nothing but contempt for a belief-system that works like that. I am truly sorry your family is so toxic. I have great sympathy for you, and respect for you as a survivor.

    It’s not my place to say, but If I were in your shoes, I would cut my birth-family and so-called friends off and never look back. You don’t need the craziness, or cruelty they bring to the table. You deserve better. Far better.

    Are there no conservative people who don’t do this kind of thing? Can no one explain it? I don’t understand how anyone can see this as positive. How is what has been described here Godly in any way? Anyone?

  • Michelle

    Thank you. I’ll go months without talking to him, and then I’ll start worrying about my mom and younger sisters. So, then I have to talk to him in order to have any contact with them. One of my younger sisters just got married to a guy they originally wanted me to marry when I was 16, and the guy was in his mid twenties back then and slightly less crazy…I still have 3 more sisters left at home. Right now, we’re in another no talking phase. At least we don’t live anywhere close to one another any more, and my husband’s job in the military is about to move us to a foreign culture. Most people are sad to have to move away from family, but I’m actually happy to be moving farther away from my father. I’m also glad I live on a base bc that means I would have to go to the gate that has armed guards and approve any of my family to be let in (or just tell them on the phone not to allow them in). Once all my sisters are out of the house (most likely married off), I’ll probably never talk to him again.

  • http://stephenmatlock.com/ stephen matlock

    I “left” the way I walked for forty years, incrementally at first, and then all at once, over a four-year period.

    The short story is that I re-evaluated what I actually believed against what I was saying I believed. I’ve always believed the creeds and the scriptures, but went along with all the baggage of the fundagelical church. Because, who was I to question the conservative Republican hijacking of the American white Christian church?

    It came to a head in 2012 when my state (Washington) had marriage equality on the ballot. I simply came out and said, Given what we know of scripture and law, there is no reason for any Christian to support discrimination over marriage equality.

    There was some pushback (well, there was a lot of pushback), and some talk, mostly behind my back, but I stayed with my determination to walk the scriptures and not the culture.

    Mostly everyone I held as friends back then have gone their ways and I’ve gone mine, and that’s the way it is.

    I didn’t make my move because I wanted to be “progressive.” I wanted to live out my faith. It appears to be more “progressive” than before. But it is only that I scraped away the Americanized culture of my beliefs.

    The Kingdom of God is quite a radical idea, and I am puzzled how it came to be identified with such a distressingly conservative & domineering culture.

    Well, it’s all to the good. I have had the greatest freedom over the last two years to proclaim the Gospel to my friends and not have to explain how Jesus really didn’t hate gay people or liberals or women or science or what-have-you. I get to proclaim the risen Lord Jesus, and get to share my faith, without carrying along all the baggage that the right wing has added to the faith.

  • NCRunningGal

    Thanks so much for putting into words so much of what I have been thinking and feeling regarding why I had to leave the “US evangelical Christian camp,” the process for me 2008 to 2012, the final point (Marriage Amendment Act vote spring 2012 in NC), and the freedom of living in the Kingdom of God with more integrity/honesty/truthfulness to the life-giving redeeming love of Christ Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead…. w/o the anti-this, anti-that, judgmental, hypercritical exclusionary stuff. Nice to know there are others who have taken the “leap of faith” and perhaps saved our faith.

  • NCRunningGal

    I should clarify the last sentence on saved our faith… for me I was at the point where the right wing political highjacking of evangelical Christianity and all the judgmental, harsh anti-this, anti-that, bullying/discrimination stuff got me so disgusted and discouraged by Christianity that I was becoming blah, cold and “dead” to my faith experience…thus… taking the leap of faith to leave the evangelical camp (in its current US form) helped me to stay alive to faith in Christ Jesus.

  • http://stephenmatlock.com/ stephen matlock

    Since I became free, I have had the best experiences of freely sharing the Gospel. I don’t have to continually apologize for the misogyny of the church, the hatred of gays, the exclusion of minorities, the love of the rich and the lust for money, the worship of power, the authoritarian streak of the church, the very “Republicanity” of the message. I don’t have to explain how the gospel of the Prince of Peace is used to cover the armed camp and aggression of “believers.”

    I am free to talk about Jesus and his message, his life, death, and resurrection, and I am free of having to be fearful that those in political power might find me subversive.

    And I’m free to live the Gospel as well, to love the people around me, not seeing them as potential converts to my way of thinking (and attempting to lay on them a burden I myself cannot bear), but as the men and women created in God’s image.

    It’s all rather liberating, and it is as if it is the secret message of Jesus I never heard.

  • sharon autenrieth

    This comment is beautiful.

  • Meghan Prescott

    Fundagelical. Yep. Excellent word.

  • Peter Moen

    The either/or dichotomy is troubling. You want to avoid the labels and stigmatism of one group only to fall in line with the stigmas and labels of another. What does this accomplish? Where is the dialogue? And don’t come back with the excuse that their closed-mindedness is the problem because that response is just as closed-minded.

    The real work is done in the middle of these two extremes. This is where real growth as a Christian happens, not in complete denial from where one came and where he/she is going. It also does damage to the body of Christ which is the WHOLE church and not the faction that gets it “right.”

    We are in a time of tribalism where we camp in our own comfort zone. The author should know this from his studies in missiology. He should do better for his readers and himself.

  • BrotherRog

    Good stuff Benjamin! I’m a progressive Christian largely because the denomination that I grew up in and remain active in has evolved that way (at least the congregations that I’ve been a part of). IMO, it’s the best way to remain Christian in light of the influence of postmodernism in today’s context.

    Some readers of your piece may not know what progressive Christianity is. I’d invite them to read the description(s) of it on Wikipedia; and I’d also invite them to consider reading Marcus Borg’s book, “The Heart of Christianity,” and also my book “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity” – as it’s a primer/introduction to progressive Christianity. Blessings on all of our journeys! – Roger Wolsey

  • BrotherRog

    It’s also important for us to remember that progressive Christianity isn’t the same thing as progressive politics. See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/progressive-christianity-isnt-progressive-politics-2/

  • Jeff

    This article makes me consider the straddling I’ve been doing for years. As a gay Christian, it is often hard to have people on both sides of your fence to understand how you can be one…and the other. Understanding and tolerance is a two way street, and that is an understanding which is missing with a lot of people.

  • Talea Fraemohs-Mitchell

    Thank you thank you THANK YOU! It is so difficult for me, as I am, because of all people CONVINCED I can’t be a gay christian. My church is convinced I’m a sinner (I’m still allowed to go, but they have unfortunately adopted the whole “Love the sinner hate the sin” approach) and the LGBT group I attend are all fierce atheists, who hate all of Christianity because of how they were shunned before. It’s not a nice place to be in.

  • dangjin1

    #1. Sounds like you are trying to please people instead of God. Holding ‘strange views’ is not a sin and Christians do not have to please man, they are not holders of eternal life nor have the power to judge sins.

    #2. Again,sounds like you were trying to please people instead of God and using that as an excuse to chase after alternative ideas.

    #3. Not sure what you mean but it sounds like you wanted to be free to chase after false teaching instead of holding on to the truth. Pts. 1-3 sounds like you didn’t want to pick up your cross and follow Jesus.

    #4. You are to be Holy for God is holy. Is that being a clone of God? Again it sounds like you were attacking human ideas and ignored God’s in order to leave Jesus for false ideas.

    #6. You were not excluding people. God was and is. God wants all to be saved but what he excluded was SIN not people. it is not his fault that many do not want to give up their sin for salvation in Jesus.

    #5. (an eye skip) You went after false teaching, they are commanded of God to leave if you do not repent.Do you want people to be disobedient to God just to make you feel better?

    #7. No, you have learnt that there are many false teachers and teachings. Remember broad is the way to destruction.

    #8. No you are not. You are following bad copies and not the Holy Spirit. If you were following the HS you would see how wrong those alternatives are and hurry back to God and the Bible.

    #9. So are you saying you were pretending to be a Christian? Evil masquerades as angels of light, did you do the biblical tests to discover the source of those influences that were leading you away from the truth and God? Then take the appropriate action?

    #10. Sad because you are becoming comfortable with false teaching.

  • Al Cruise

    You have given ten steps on how to be a hard core right wing fundamentalist.

  • dangjin1

    in other words, you want to disobey God and follow after false teaching

  • Al Cruise

    In other words you want to be “God”.

  • dangjin1

    no. I only side with God and his word.

  • Lamont Cranston

    The fact that you don’t really see any difference between yourself and god tells me all I need to know about you.

  • dangjin1

    where in those few words do I say that I see no difference between me and God? I said I side with him which means I believe him over science and humans.

    you have a comprehension and distortion problem, along with an honesty one as well.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Do you even have a day job? Seems like you’re spending 8 hours a day on my blog. Not sure how folks like you have the time to do it.

  • dangjin1

    in other words, you only want to preach to the choir and do not want to see where you err. you can’t handle critical thinking when it is applied to your reasoning so you attack the person disagreeing with your.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    Yes, as an atheist who stands against almost everything Ben stands for theologically, I’m certainly part of the choir he’s preaching to.

    No wait, I’m someone with the ability to hold discourse with someone I disagree with because I’m respectful of his intellect, I listen, and I don’t plug up his comments sections with ad hominem attacks and screeching about how I’m the persecuted voice of god.

    Get real. You’ve made yourself the butt of every joke here, evangelicals, progressives, and atheists together. No because of what you say, but because your behaviour belongs on the primary school pitch.

  • dangjin1

    the problem for you is that I made no ad hominem attack but made comments trying to get to the heart of the issue.

    if you read his words, you will see that he is attacking other people, their beliefs and not living as the Bible said. There is a big difference between the two.

    He is taking it out on God what humans have done and that isn’t fair to God. Especially since he never tried to live like God wanted.

    I haven’t made myself anything. I stand with God and if people do not like it, that is their problem and they express that problem with comments like yours.

    You accuse me of acting childish yet I have said and done nothing childish. That assessment comes form those who do not want the truth but want to to follow after those who claim God has lied and is incapable of knowing what he did.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone has a little crush…

  • guest

    Well, I’m not a progressive Christian; I’m an atheist. I’m never really been anything else and my father is also an atheist, my mother an atheist who likes to go to church at Easter and Christmas, so this idea of being shunned for my beliefs is totally foreign to me. I don’t really have any views which would shock the people around me, except maybe being in favour of animals in circuses and kind of against abortion, or at least not very comfortable with the idea of abortion on demand, for any reason.
    I guess I count as progressive for most things. Most of the people I meet share my views and if we disagree we don’t shun each other, we avoid that topic in the future. Kind of boring, I guess. I can’t think of any view I could hold that would make my family shun me; maybe if I became a Jehovah’s Witness or a Scientologists? But even then, they’d argue with me rather than shun me, I think.

    It’s a great shame the way you were treated by your fellow Christians.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    I’m half in the closet. Out on line, mostly in, in real life. My family knows I’m the religious oddball, and accepts that, my co-workers, my friends, my church members do not. Living in a community that is staunchly conservative, mostly southern Baptist or evangelical, and not knowing another soul in your personal circle of friends who are also Christians who also view faith from a somewhat similar viewpoint, just has me, keeping most of my religious opinions to myself.
    Plus its none of thier business who I vote for, if I read a bible or not, if I agree with their personal theological views or not,. I’m comfortable with my beliefs, unorthodox as they are, it is not a threat or a danger to anyone else, and I’m certainly not going to try to convert anyone to my way of thinking. (although its been tried on me numerous times)

  • Willis Weatherford
  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    Agreed completely. I still identify as Evangelical and Pentecostal as well–those are as much terms that define my relationship with God as any other term I might choose, but being open about my Progressive stances actually ended up earning me a great deal of respect from some of my more conservative friends as well. And yes, I get to talk openly with people who have no faith, or another faith, or a different form of Christian faith, and it all is so much easier.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    I won’t identify with either conservative or progressive Christianity. If I could find a church that accepts my lesbian neighbors who also have concealed carry permits, I’d go to it. But both conservative and progressive church members are mean as f**k if they find out you are a card-carrying member of the ACLU or the NRA. I have both cards, and, so strange nowadays, happen to like the whole Bill of Rights. Not a single church I know does. I’ve been called horrible names by both Christian flavors.

    All churches are today is religio-political CNN or FOX groupies who cherrypick the verses they want for their agenda. Hell with ’em all. I’ll be like the third US President who found people of faith mostly repulsive too:

    “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819

  • Tlynn

    First off, I really enjoy reading your posts. I was raised Roman Catholic, but I never felt any real since of community or belonging. I also didn’t agree with a lot of their beliefs on homosexuality or roles of women in the church. I felt like I was always trying to defend the church beliefs to outside groups when I knew in my heart they were damaging to other people and to my own soul. I feel a weight has been lifted off of me since leaving the religion. I think I have a better understanding of what it means to love and accept people as they are as a folllower of Christ.

  • Freedom

    Would Christ be in either camp? It is interesting to note that both conservative and progressive religious leaders hated Christ based on what we read about them in the gospels. Christ challenged the traditions of the conservatives that excluded people such as the Samaritans and thinking they were better than the people that hung around Christ not seeing that they were just as desperate for Christ to save them as the sinners that they looked down on. This same Jesus offend a lot of people because he challenge also challenged the teachings of the Sadducee which mocked the supernatural. Christ angered the religious leaders the most because he exposed their sin since they pretend one thing while being the other. This same loving Christ who spared the woman adultery told her not to continue in her sin knowing it would continue to destroy her if she did not change..

    One of the last words from Christ to his followers was that the world would hate his followers since they woudl be the light that expose their darkness. The message of Christ that he came to save us because we all desperately need him. His instructions come down to two things first a love for God that leads to holiness which also means that we did not determine our decisions by what my nature wants but what God want from us. Second it is about a radical love for others especially for those that are the hardest to love like my enemies and to use my resources to help the forgotten and desperate of this world especially the orphans and the widows.

    I am writing this because I am seeing two camps forming in modern Christianity one which prizes its pious religion formality while forgetting the call to radially love others and the new camp that places a great emphasis on serving others while ignoring the heed to love God by abstaining from the natural inclinations of our sinful state by finding our new life in Christ’s cross and resurrection. Lets not forget that Paul’s message was on this truth as he also called us to live it out by a radical love for others.

    The road with Christ is narrow and few will be on it since it is a radical call to death of self by not giving into the natural desires of my fallen humanity but instead living out radically the love of Christ.

  • Michelle

    I grew up in a very strict United Pentecostal Church family. It completely drove me away from Christianity and my family and caused me a lot of pain-emotionally and physically. I studied up on world religions (even attended some different religious meetings), and then I tried to go to church again. This time I tried out other groups like Baptists, Nondenominational,… (There is NO way I’ll ever go back to the UPCI.) However, even in these churches, I had not found the fit bc I was (as you have now given me the words for it) a more progressive Christian. I don’t think the LGBT community is going straight to Hell or that we should them differently. I’m not racist, a Republican, and I didn’t grow up in an “American dream” middle class family. I don’t think women should be treated as lesser than men and prohibited from praying over a group or leading them simply based on gender….My husband is the same as me, and we ended up giving up on going to church again. Now, I’m questioning my faith and trying to find where I fit in the world…again. I think about giving church attendance another go sometimes, and then, as if on cue, a hateful “Christian” comment (or even better-a “fire and brimstone prophecy” just for me) will come from my family or something of that sort will pop up in my FB newsfeed.

  • http://stephenmatlock.com/ stephen matlock

    I’m sorry for all this pain. Really.

    I can’t make God out to be something he is not, but the more I grow the more I see the joy and life from God, the love of God, the call of God, and the fullness of God.

    Why we think hurting each other is the way to show God or to show the way to God is just beyond me.

    Most of the people I talk to about faith and spirituality and connection with Jesus are hungry for meaning and justice and even a sense of being on the “right” side. I don’t hear 0.000001% of the things that seem to fascinate most Christians–all the nonsense of pointilistic theology, all the behavioral commands, all the endless rules and guilt and shame.

    I can’t imagine that Jesus, when he walked this earth, was attractive to people because he shamed them and yelled at them and made them feel worthless, that he praised the powerful and the rich, that he built a kingdom of oppression and fear. It’s not what I read in the scriptures.

    I hope you find the solace you are seeking, and the home you can find rest in.

    My god, you’d think the whole point of Christianity was to sit in lecture halls every week and be taught yet another lesson on what we should be doing–with little attempts to make it something we can do–or would even want to do. What is the point of that kind of faith?

  • Michelle

    Thank you. I’m not an expert, but from what I interpreted from reading my Bible, Jesus would be very upset with the religious leaders of Christianity today worrying too much about the “letter of the law” and not the “spirit of the law” just like he was upset with those in Judaism. They knew all the rules and wanted to force them on everyone, but completely missed the message. Jesus was kind and loving towards ppl that the religious considered filth. Jesus emphasizes love above all else. Even Paul goes to great length in saying you could give your body to be burned, give away all that you have to the poor, and have an enormous amount of faith, but if you don’t have love, it all means nothing. (1 Corinthians 13) James talks about not just telling ppl things, but actually showing your love through serving and helping others. There are many places in the scriptures that talk about how important it is to love others and do good to others, but I feel like some ppl just skip over all of that. They’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, but what are the rules?” or “What’s in it for me? (money, power, etc.)” or they want to belong in an exclusive club and make it that way. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would have wanted.

  • Meghan Prescott

    I’m from an Anabaptist background. My family line can be traced back to the earliest days of the Anabaptist movement, fleeing Switzerland due to persecution and eventually settling in Canada as some or the first settlers in Waterloo County, Ontario. I still have many family members who part of the very distinct old fashioned Mennonite culture–often confused with Amish. Long story short, I left he Mennonite church because I needed to at the time, (my immediate family was never part of a traditional, old fashioned community, though my father grew up in a closed Mennonite community), and spent many years pursuing what I thought was a more righteous way. I became a zealot in the “fundagelical” camp and saw the whole world as black and white. I thought I knew it all. What I’d rather do now is just apologize for holding so vehemently to what I thought was true–what I was conditioned and convinced was true.  Too many years as a clanging symbol.

    Thank God for letting me see through the dogma. I’ve been vacillating in a sea of uncertainty for a number of years now, slowly coming to the surface and beginning to reconnect with Jesus. I’ve struggled with my identity. Not a fundie, not a traditional American-style evangelical, but not a totally emergent or mainliner either. Somewhere in the middle? Just tonight I’m realizing that it might be my Anabaptist roots calling me back. I like the sound of Progressive Christian, but I’m not real interested in a new label either. For the sake of those who need that clarity I could use the term. I’m glad to be in a state of rediscovery. It gives me hope. 

    In a way, I have lost some old friends and people I formerly looked up to as spiritual leaders in my life.  It’s not that they want nothing to do with me at this point, it could come to that, but I’m sure if they knew where my thought s were today they’d be concerned for me and would eventually think I’m on the road to perdition (if they ever actually cared enough to ask, that is). Losing relationships due to becoming progressively progressive really happened more or less by osmosis over a couple of years because of my own disillusionments and dissatisfaction with the pat answers I got to my desire for dialogue.  I’m sure if I told them what I really think these days they would send me a long letter to show me where I’ve gone off track. 

    I think it’s kind of like when I got all fired up as I discovered evangelicalism when in highschool.  I just drifted away from my other friends because my focus changed, and they weren’t interested in coming along for the ride.  I drifted away from my old church for a couple of years, and no one seemed to care as long as I looked the part and didn’t miss too many Sundays in a row.  I’m not really bothered by it, and I’m not interested in starting a fight when I don’t have to deal with these well meaning people face to face any more. My husband and I moved across the country last year and landed in a church full of a lot of folks like me.  My husband is still pretty conservative.  He tells me, “baby steps” please.  He grew up from birth in a fundagelical environment.  I have lots of patience for him and he’s come a long way already :)

    I’m very sorry to hear the stories of those who have been shunned from their families. It sounds an awful lot like the extremism we hear of in many of the world religions.  I guess extreme fundamentalism is the same crap wrapped in different packaging, no matter which faith system it comes from.  I have to stop rambling.  My apologies! 2 a.m. and I do have to be up for church tomorrow.  At least I look forward to it now, instead of finding every possible excuse not to be there!  Thanks again for the blog, this post, and sharing the journey.  Peace out.  

  • http://stephenmatlock.com/ stephen matlock

    Thanks for sharing this. Welcome to the journey!

  • ichuck7

    This is a really good article. At one point in my life it applied to me. You really want to find a genuine and exhilarating experience… Try coming out as an atheist. :-)

  • BrotherRog

    Amen, amen and amen. The water truly is better to swim in and to drink from when one chooses a pool where one can drop the masks, and truly be authentic and be one’s self. My shift to progressive Christianity wasn’t quite as dramatic as it was a logical extension and flow from the liberal mainline Christianity I had been raised in. However, even in those settings, I felt like I had to bite my tongue and hold back and not share my true self with others — to avoid ruffling too many feathers. I’m now active in two overtly progressive Christian congregations and it’s liberating to now be surrounded by truly kindred spirits who fully get me and accept just as I really am. Blessings to us all as we continue to progress in Christ.

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity