10 Reasons Why Reading The Bible Makes Us More Progressive

In a piece I published yesterday, (Study Shows: Reading Your Bible Often Makes You More Liberal), we took a look at a study I read the other day which showed the more often people read their Bible, the more liberal/progressive they become. (In yesterday’s article I used the term “liberal” but in today’s I’m using the term “progressive” since that’s what I identify as). Looking back on my own journey out of fundamentalist thinking and into a Christianity that is life-giving instead of life-sucking for me, this trajectory of moving away from the hard right the more I read my Bible, has been a daily reality.

From getting to know so many of your stories, it sounds like many of you have experienced similar paradigm shifts of predictable right-to-left movement the more you embraced the Bible as well.

(Quick point of order: I’m not saying that reading your Bible will make you all the way left, because certainly I am not on many issues. The argument is simply that for those of us on the hard right, when we read our Bibles more often, it tends to move us in a leftward motion on certain issues.)

The question becomes, why?

For those family and friends still stuck in a paradigm we have already left, when we move ever so slightly out of the far-right corner of the field we are assumed to be not taking the Bible seriously, accused of being “relativists”, and other assumptions are made as to why we are changing. The ironic truth however, is that so many of us have arrived at being Christian progressives not because we decided to set half the Bible aside, and not because we decided to stop taking the Bible seriously, but as a gradual process that resulted from taking the Bible more seriously and deciding to try to follow those often neglected parts.

We became Christian progressives because we read our Bibles, not because we put them away. It’s okay if you’re not here yet or if you ever will be, but it’s important to understand the truth about how and why we arrived here.

While this isn’t all comprehensive, based upon my own experience, here’s my list:

10 reasons why I think reading your Bible more frequently will make you a more Progressive Christian:

1. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that I don’t have it all together.

Growing up I was frequently reminded that the Bible, through the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin… and you know what, it’s true. The more I get to know my Bible the more I realize how deeply flawed I am… which makes me see others more compassionately, because I am reminded that they are just like me. The more I see others as being just like me, the more progressive I become because I move in a trajectory of love, tolerance, and am way less likely to pronounce judgment on someone else than I was before. (Obviously, I still struggle with Mark Driscoll, but I am working on it.)

2. The more I read my Bible, the more I develop humility.

The Apostle Paul says that we should view our sins as being worse than anyone else, and that we should view ourselves as walking examples of how patient God is with people who can’t get it together. When I am honest about my life, that is absolutely true. I am a walking example of someone who knows how to test God’s patience, and my sins are just as bad as whatever yours might be. This realization made it too difficult to stay in my old paradigm; yes, I want to spend my life inviting people to experience Jesus (in that regard, I am completely still an “evangelical”), but I want to do it in a new way– a more humble way. I’m not always there (see #1) but I desperately want to get there.

3. The more I read my Bible, the more I discover that justice for the poor and oppressed is at the heart of it.

I wasn’t all that concerned about the poor and oppressed until I opened my Bible… and discovered that commands to care for them are all over the place from the Old Testament, all the way through the New Testament. I tried to escape it and explain it away, but I can’t– God wants us to care for, serve, and love these people.

4. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize “redistribution of wealth” wasn’t Obama’s idea– it was God’s.

That redistribution of wealth stuff? Yeah, it’s in the Bible and was actually God’s idea. In the Old Testament we have years of Jubilee, restrictions on gleaning your garden more than once, a command from God that there should be “no poor among you”, and prophets who came to denounce the nation when the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer. Let’s not give Obama the credit– God thought of it first.

5. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that the early Christians actually practiced this re-distribution of wealth.

Those early Christians? Well, for a time they actually practiced some radical economic principles. And, guess what? The book of Acts tells us that there weren’t any poor people among them. They rejected individual ownership, gave their wealth to leadership who in turn, redistributed it according to need. There weren’t any mandatory drug testing programs, just assistance according to need. While this still seems too radical for me, it moves me in a right to left trajectory as I read it.

6. The more I read my Bible the more I realize Jesus taught we need to pay our taxes.

After reading 4 and 5, some are probably saying “yeah, but that was never supposed to be the government’s job”. Well, in the life of Jesus we see him tell someone that he should “sell everything and give it to the poor”, and to yet another we see that Jesus commands us to pay our taxes. So, it looks like we’re not getting off the hook either way– we need to pay our taxes AND give private charity. It’s not an either or proposition. I’m not a fan of that either, but it’s in the Bible.

7. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God wants us to be people who are quick to show mercy.

The prophet Micah says that “loving mercy” is actually something God “requires” of us. Jesus tells us that justice and mercy are the “more important” parts of God’s law. This means that when it comes to issues of justice, economics, poverty, the death penalty, etc., I have become more quick to take the default position that sides with radical mercy.

8. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God cares how we treat immigrants.

Whenever God lists out a group of people that he wants his people to take care of, immigrants make the cut. The more I read about God’s heart for the immigrant, the more I realize that I might be held accountable for how I treat them, and how I talk about them.

9. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God will hold us accountable for how we care for the environment.

The more I read my Bible, the more I see that God’s original mandate for humanity, was to care for creation– we were designed for and given the task of being environmental conservationists. In the end? Well, we see that God is going to judge quite harshly those who refused:

“The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev 11:18)

Not sure how to escape it– God wants me to care for and protect the environment, so I will.

10. The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God isn’t judging us by whether or not we get all of our doctrine right– he’s judging us by whether or not we get the “love one another” part right.

This aspect wasn’t a major player in my faith before, but the more I read the Bible the more I realize that God is less concerned with us all sharing the same doctrine but is heavily concerned with whether or not we love each other. In fact, Jesus said this would be the calling card of his followers, and how others would realize we’re actually following Jesus– that we love one another. The more I read my Bible, the more I want to defer my position or preference and instead side with what is in the best interest of others– because that’s the loving thing to do.

These are the 10 reasons why reading my Bible more made a more Progressive Christian. How has reading your Bible more often changed your worldview? Has your experience been similar or different?

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  • http://www.livingonthefarside.org/ Derek Helt

    As is often the case, I find much to like about this post, but also a few things to quibble with. For example, #4 is “The more I read my Bible, the more I realize “redistribution of wealth” wasn’t Obama’s idea– it was God’s.” Yes, in a very real sense, but this reminds me of a Facebook friend’s declaration that “socialism is just ‘sharing’.” No, when I share voluntarily — or voluntarily choose to live communally — that’s what God was talking about. When a government entity tells me I need to “share more,” they take what I have, whether I do it voluntarily or not. Now, I believe we should/need to/are commanded to pay our taxes (but the question of “how much is too much?” is left out of your comments) and that we are charged with voluntarily redistributing our own wealth, but I have never been convinced by the argument that goes “since the Bible enjoins us to be giving, generous, compassionate people, we should love the modern implementation of socialistic concepts.” So, I have some quibbles, but I do agree w/ much of what you’ve written in this post. Keep up the good work.

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    Agree with Derek… if the US government or the state governments were institutions motivated by love of humanity and love of God (something we both, I think, can agree is a falsehood) then I could understand and, perhaps, even support a government sponsored redistribution. But we know this is not the case, nor should a top-down imposition of morality be the proper way of doing things, so I have a problem with a secular government sponsored redistribution.

    Now… as a community of people living in relationship with each other and the world around us, motivated out of love for “the neighbor” who is “other”, and inspired by the love that God showed us… yes, definitely… redistribute away…

  • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

    This is huge logistical question, so don’t feel too pressured to answer it, but..:

    Given what we know of the church (that its focus on deciding who is good enough causes problems, that certain people aren’t accepted, etc..), even if churches could logistically handle taking care of the poor in the US (which I hope you’d agree they can’t), what reason is there to think that poor people that aren’t straight, Christian, and white would be helped at all? How many months would it be before poor people, who hadn’t given into the pressure to convert to whatever denomination was supplying the help, were written off because “we’re just enabling someone who’s rejecting God?”

    I’d suggest that that kind of stuff would happen almost immediately, and is one of many good reasons that government is a far better method of attacking poverty.

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    An excellent question and challenge and one, to the shame of the church, strikes very close to the mark. This is why I’m not necessarily against the government agencies doing such things… it is a matter of whether or not the church should, as a priority, aim towards advocating for such things. Note, “priority” as the key phrase… we may do so, but there may be other more important things to address… you know, like fixing the problems you already mentioned about how even our charity efforts are exclusionary.

    The challenge of the Samaritan stands… if a rejected, disgusting Samaritan is a better neighbor to the one needing help than the righteous people, we’ve got a SERIOUS problem… and please note I’m using those rather strong terms because that is how it would have been received by Jesus hearers… I know that government folks aren’t “disgusting”… :-)

  • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

    I love your answer, thanks. I am not a theist, but I LOVE the message of people like Ben Corey because he’s preaching a systematic approach to social issues that I agree with completely, even if our motivations are different. Your Samaritan comment is right on the mark. We (Americans) still have a huge problem with “the other.” Jesus, as portrayed in the NT, did not. Not hard to get behind that.

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

    What’s crazy about your comment, is that I have a whole chapter in Undiluted dedicated to the concept of “the other”. I even use the term in quotes each time.

  • LeonMoyer

    No, that is the exact reason that gov’t should NOT be pretending to help the poor–they are only enabling sinners to commit more sin! The church would help them spiritually and physically. And we really do not have many poor–I have been living off homeless shelters for nearly 10 years now, just because I do not believe they should exist–but they will until all you evil liberals quit making gov’t your god and using gov’t to provide charity, which is the domain of religion.

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

    I love you, Leon. Glad you found the blog.

  • Pascal Redfern

    Yeah, hmmm, Jesus said you shall know them by their fruits. What are the fruits of government attacking poverty? Jesus said, You will always have the poor.

  • JackQuirk

    I often hear liberals also complaining about the legislation of morality–when it comes to abortion and gay marriage. Step back from politics for a moment and imagine St. Paul complaining about getting taxed for government programs that ensure food, clothing, and housing for the poor. It’s hard to imagine is it not? That’s because it wouldn’t happen.

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    You are correct… and I hope you note my response to Ryan that I, personally, don’t really complain about the government doing good. What I DO complain about is the sheer idiocy and corruption I see in government in which the good is not NEARLY as good as it has the potential of being and the manipulation in which politicians of all stripes engage so that their own political future and power is maintained.

    But for me, if the government wants to do good, great! Kudos to them. Meanwhile, my priority is elsewhere. I don’t have time or money enough to invest in trying to reform a system that is not only a broken system but a system which bows in loyalty to the idols of ego, power, and money. Rather, I’d prefer to work in community with others who don’t share those idols… with really, honestly, the hope being that eventually that broken system will get “starved” of such corrupt people and, perhaps, it WILL actually do the most good.

  • runnadaroad

    In a world, Robert Martin, in which most of the finance were controlled by the majority (that is a much more economically equal society) it might be possible to organize it in another way. But in the world we have, where the economic rules are set by those holding most of the money while the great majority of the population is close to poverty, the majority doesn’t have the resources to do all necessary to achieve that goal. Bear in mind that the Walton heirs make more in a minute then 4/5ths of their workers will make in a lifetime of labor for them. If the Waltons (and by extension, their rich friends) are not REQUIRED to contribute something to the effort then most of God’s bounty will be held by them and away from the poor.

  • http://abnormalanabaptist.wordpress.com/ Robert Martin

    I can’t argue with those numbers, really. If everyone who had more than they could possibly need gave of their excess, then yes, we’d have a LOT of problems fixed.

    But, and this is where my theism comes to play and some of that silly stuff like grace, mercy, compassion, patience, and, yes, even pacifism, happens…

    To force someone to do something against their will is as bad, in my opinion, as those folks not doing anything to help the poor. Why? Because the God I believe doesn’t want a bunch of folks just simply following a bunch of rules because “If you don’t, gonna burn you in hell”. I don’t like that picture of God very much and, honestly, I don’t find that picture to be particularly faithful.

    If people want to be held to a bunch of rules that have punishments, God is not going to stop them. In fact, it’s going to be more like, “OK… you want those punishments, your choice.” But what I see God REALLY wanting is people who openly, willingly, with no apparent obligation, with no threat of punishment or retribution, of their own free will, motivated out of the very basic love of one person for another, doing good.

    As I responded to Ryan, I have no complaint about the government doing good. It’s a good thing to see the government doing good. But I don’t see it as a priority to advocate for it, nor do I see it, really, in keeping with God’s character to force people, by way of government, to do good.

    So, yes, I agree. If the Waltons did what you propose, things would be a lot better. But they are not going to and, unfortunately, the way humans work, if you throw a bunch of laws at them, they are rich enough to find a way out of them… including picking up their toys and leaving.

  • Jonathan Lucas

    I like the idea of people willingly being motivated to do good. But our societies, since the dawn of human existence, have been organized in some fashion. There are some rules that we have to follow so that we play nice in the sandbox with one another. As a person of faith, I believe my responsibility lies in ensuring that whatever system of government or organization our societies take, the needs of the, “orphan, widow, and stranger” are taken into account. The churches aren’t capable of doing it alone, most of their capital is wrapped up in buildings and staff (a point of contention for me) or in performing acts of charity ( a good thing, but not nearly enough). The government, which encompasses all of us, should be held accountable to a higher standard. I’m not suggesting a theocracy or that there is anything that could be considered a “Christian” government. But I am suggesting that our faith communities can radically change the system to a more fair model, that doesn’t leave people in poverty, doesn’t leave people hungry, etc.

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    Many politicians ARE motivated by a love for humanity, or at least a love of their country. I don’t agree with all of them… but I can still honor their passion.

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

    But it wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t write it in such a way that you had nothing to quibble with :)

  • James Faehr

    Sell all that you have and give proceeds to the poor then you can turly follow me !

  • http://www.livingonthefarside.org/ Derek Helt

    Leaving aside arguments regarding the context of that particular command, notice it doesn’t say, “The government shall take from you that which it deems necessary to support the poor at a level that they have grown accustomed to.”

  • James Faehr

    We theprople are the goverment

  • http://www.thecrossdifference.com Joe Cross

    “We the people” of the United States are not all part of the Church however. As Robert defined so well below, our government is not centrally motivated by the love of God and His people. If they were, well, we could perhaps trust them to take our wealth and redistribute it to those in need. As it I understand the context of Scripture and the book of Acts, the Church corporately has a responsibility to care for the poor and needy. Jesus points out we will always have the poor among us, but He asks us to give sacrificially to care for them.

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    “As Robert defined so well below, our government is not centrally motivated by the love of God and His people.”

    I’m not even certain that many Christian churches are motivated by this.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Yes but the problem is that if donations are completely optional, the poor are most likely to starve.

  • Mark Armstrong

    I will have to agree with Mr. Cross. God wants joyful givers to redistribute money through the church. Other than individual messages to Old Testament kings and a few proverbs to princes, I am unaware of any commands from God to government regarding the support of the poor.

    Nonetheless, since you (Mr. Corey) did mention Obama, what is your take on the abortion-pill mandate within the Affordable Care Act? The verses that speak toward caring for the poor often mention “widows and orphans.” Wouldn’t the Affordable Care Act be a direct attack on the youngest of orphans or would it be more akin to the verses addressing making children “pass through the fire?”

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    You might have a point since the communist system reported in the Acts of the Apostle was based on FREE giving but not on a coerced one.

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

    > voluntarily redistributing our own wealth

    The early church’s wealth redistribution was not voluntary, as the terrifying account of Annanias and Sapphira being summarily executed for excluding some of their private wealth demonstrates.

    But the market, so often called “free,” isn’t so very voluntary either. Redistribution is forced many times, starting with Land taken by brutal genocide. I can still find arrowheads on my land. And markets are forced open by gunboats and war, such as the beginning of Hong Kong’s market economy, so often posited as a libertarian example.

    Entitlements? The first big-government here in the US was redistributing the wealth of the Land that was taken from the First Peoples by a brutal genocide. So call me “entitlement minded,” because I own a government entitlement, Land Title, to rather more than my fair share of the earth’s surface.

    What I’ve discovered is that the libertarian right and the progressive left both do the same thing: 1. call out coercion in the other group’s favored sociopolitical plan, while 2. denying any coercion in their own sociopolitical plan.

    Both sides’ critiques of the coercion in the other group are valid, and both sides are in denial about their own system’s coercion.

    No wonder politics are so acrimonious; everybody’s wrong! ;)

    And my seeing a few things correct from either side only brings vociferous denouncements from both sides. I’ve been called both a goddam librhul and a crazy rightwingnut on the same day, sometimes at the same table of conversation, more times than I can count.

  • Kyle Matthew

    I agree that people could give better and more genuinely if done so voluntarily. However, the question then has to be asked. If people, more specifically Christians, can give more effectively then why is it NOT being done? If people, even believers, will not help those in need then someone or something needs to step in and help. Hence government involvement.

  • Bill Bess

    Seem to remember the redistribution of jubilee was not individually voluntary, but mandated by God. We just decided we knew better how much was enough?

  • Christopher B Clarkson

    As part of a nation we voluntarily choose to provide for the general welfare of our community/nation. You may immigrate to a country where this is not a foundational component but until then you DO share voluntarily and do voluntarily choose to live communally.

  • Christopher B Clarkson

    We are called to be giving, generous, compassionate people regardless of circumstance. Too often ‘it is socialist/modern/etc.’ becomes a rationalization to not DO that giving, generous, compassionate work.

    Do we love him? Then feed his sheep already. Get ‘error DONE.

  • Laura Mae Shattuck

    Once again your words have blessed me beyond measure. I can’t say I always understand or agree with everything you teach but Ben, I believe that you teach with a greater understanding of God’s grace and mercy than anyone else I have heard before which makes me continually yearn for more teaching and understanding and a more effective life of ministering to the people God puts in my pathway. It also makes me eager to meet people, not that I was ever an introvert, but now I realize that grace and mercy are not always expressed in huge ways but in simply meeting people where they are. I know this is the most I have ever said about one of your posts but I finally found my words.

  • http://www.myfullemptynest.wordpress.com/ myfullemptynest

    THANK YOU!

  • Art Hawley

    From reading the comments, I see that the only arguments against your article all center on having to reach into your wallet to help others.

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

    In their defense, I’m hearing all but the troll say that we should– the question comes to “how”. There’s often the argument that it should be done voluntarily and privately, to which I agree this is the ideal. However, it’s simply impractical in our cultural context. Therefore, I recognize that God appoints governments and one of their Biblical roles, is to defend the vulnerable. I will be very happy, however, if we give so radically that the government no longer has to step in.

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    I’m fairly certain the government would like it if we gave so radically that it didn’t have to help, too. It has other things to spend on, after all.. and tax cuts are always politically convenient for either party.

    But sometimes, we just have to understand that we are imperfect humans, in an imperfect society. And we don’t give enough– money, time, effort, love– to the poor and the needy. So we have government help us do it. Government’s imperfect, too. But it’s not bad. It’s just another part of our imperfect society.

  • http://www.livingonthefarside.org/ Derek Helt

    Oh, I have other quibbles, but I just offered the one that bothered me the most. A friendly rebuttal: Reluctance to view government entities as the means by which we exercise Christian generosity does not necessarily equate to stinginess or an ungenerous person.

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

    I agree with this. If folks notice, in this article I didn’t advocate for the government to do it– I just said, it’s not a new idea. In other articles I have pointed out that my preference is for the church to do it, but as of date, we have not been able to do it at such a scale that government help is not needed.

  • JenellYB

    I think there is a real problem focusing on ‘charity for the poor’, whether the government should do it or the church should do it, that ignored the realitty, that the huge and growing imbalance in income and wealth distribution is the SOURCE of our increasing rate of poverty, and falling income and quality of life for even middle income, and that is definitely not something the church can address or deal with. Too much of the “income redistribution” rhetoric going on in discussions such as these is about ‘taking money from us hard working people, or even from the rich, to give to the poor,’ and that is just flat out WRONG. We have an economic system structured to siphon wealth away from the middle class and poor, disproportionately into the hands of a tiny few ultra wealthy. Tax payers, including middle and even lower income classes are having to subsidize the low cost labor of such mega-rich corporations as Walmart and McDonalds, when even full time employees of those corporations have to have government assistance such as food stamps and housing costs assistance in addition to their wages just to survive.
    Our nations Consitution charges our government with the duty to assuring the welfare of the citizens, and allowing them to be defrauded and exploited is certainly not doing so. We can lay aside any and all arguments about who thinks it is ‘biblical’ or not, or ‘Christian’ or not, this matter of whether care for the needy is the ‘job of the church or the government, because our nations CONSTITUTUON declares it! Maintaining a civil and stable society, and a stable economy REQUIRES it, as well. As more fall into poverty, and deeper poverty, stress increases, people become increasingly desperate, which increases violence of all kinds, making us all less safe, family violence increases, crimes of property increases, as more and more desperate people seek any way they can just to survive, provide basic needs for themselves and their families.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    The wealthiest folks on the planet are greedy progressives who have rejected Jesus, and live for themselves, not others. If they would simply open their wallets generously, there would be no more hunger anywhere on our privileged planet, and everyone would have clean water! Genuine disciples of Jesus, such as Franklin Graham, of Samaritan’s Purse, live simple lives of humility as they serve others in Jesus’ Holy Name! Samaritan’s Purse is the first organization on the ground whenever there is a disaster anywhere on Earth! Why do we not hear that in the news???

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    in this whole discussion about the government, I wonder why nobody mentions Romans 13. We are to obey government, period. Whether or not it’s a democracy, a tyranny or what not. In a democracy we control the government but this rises the question how one can have paid “enough” while there are still poor people living on the streets.
    But I wanted to say something different. Maybe it’s because I have ever been liberal (in more than the mentioned points) reading the bible made some doctrinal points clearer for me, which supported my liberal views in most cases anyway. Wonder if there are doctrinal changes too with conservatives who read their bibles…

  • Nick Rekieta

    Well, the context of Romans 13 is probably important. Like, maybe the part where the average citizen had zero say in government. Where there were numerous uprisings and associating the budding church with an uprising against the Roman empire would be dangerous to the church and its people, not to mention crippling for its mission.

    Maybe those are important factors; maybe the letters that paul wrote to the early churches had contextual reasons for existing. Maybe we need to be aware of that context when we try and derive meaning that applies to our lives today.

    Shockingly, Jewish and roman societies 2000 years ago aren’t directly comparable to our society today, and maybe that informs our approach to these verses…

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    Sure the situation back then was different. But we know what we are to do as Christians: Love our next, even our enemies. And what we are to do regarding to government. We are to follow it. So in today’s democracy we are to support those politicians, who follow the ideal of loving the next and the enemy and turn the other cheek. And we are to follow those politicians when in power. And if the conservatives are in power we are to follow, too. In both cases as long as government does not go against God’s commandments. I think that’s true back then and today.

  • Nick Rekieta

    Yeah, except the context of Romans 13 is not comparable to what we have now. Paul is talking specifically about not rebelling against the Roman Authority. There’s a helpful clue in the text when he uses the word: “Rebellion.”

    See, in our government, dissent is not rebellion, dissent is not a crime. Dissent is part of the government process. So, while we are called to abide by the law, we aren’t called to be content with the law.

    Paul’s letters are specific in nature. They may have general principles which we are to abide by, but they are targeted to specific groups of people with specific problems at specific times.

    The letter was written well before Christianity was accepted in the Roman state. If the budding church came out in ANY semblance of “rebellion” (even the mere questioning of authority) the church would be destroyed and the Christians would be executed. We actually see this happen in Rome over the next two centuries until Constantine.

    Also, your last lines are absent from Romans 13: “In both cases as long as government does not go against God’s commandments. I think that’s true back then and today.”

    Paul doesn’t qualify this statement as “so long as [they don’t] go against God’s commandments.” That is NO WHERE in the text. So, you can’t make that assertion based on Romans 13.

    Again, Paul’s letters had SPECIFIC audiences with SPECIFIC meanings. Applying them to today requires context and careful study. We are not a fledgling church in a Hellenistic/hedonist society that routinely executed swathes of people for political dissent.

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    Yeah, except the context of Romans 13 is not comparable to what we
    have now. Paul is talking specifically about not rebelling against the
    Roman Authority. There’s a helpful clue in the text when he uses the
    word: “Rebellion.”

    I don’t know which bible version you use. My mother tungue is not English so I use a different language and to be sure I looked into the greek text. The word used can mean rebel but can also mean oppose or dissent. I consider “to rebel” a bad choice if it is supposed to mean rebellion like we see the Syrians rebelling against their government.

    See, in our government, dissent is not rebellion, dissent is not a
    crime. Dissent is part of the government process. So, while we are
    called to abide by the law, we aren’t called to be content with the law.

    From a worldly view, yes. In a democracy, you are the one in power, you are the one in charge, you cannot say “evil government”, you ought to change something yourself as you have the means to. Part of this process is dissenting and saying that.

    But then again, there’s the faith and God’s commandments. And I think while we agree that we are free to dissent with the government, we are still bound by God and His commandments. And Christ named love the biggest commandment. And the call to support the weak is at least as old as the prophets in the OT. So as a Christian you are not free what to demand from government and in how far you use your influence there. You are bound by God, and you are responsible before God for what you do. That’s what I wanted to point out.

    Paul doesn’t qualify this statement as “so long as [they don’t] go
    against God’s commandments.” That is NO WHERE in the text. So, you
    can’t make that assertion based on Romans 13.

    Right. I got this from Acts 5,29. I know this is not Paul, but still I think Paul did not want to say: Follow your government no matter what. At least this became common sense here in Germany after many Christians refused to rebel against Hitler based on Romans 13…

    Again, Paul’s letters had SPECIFIC audiences with SPECIFIC meanings.
    Applying them to today requires context and careful study. We are not a
    fledgling church in a Hellenistic/hedonist society that routinely
    executed swathes of people for political dissent.

    So you’d say Romans 13 doesn’t apply anywhere, because we are not in the situation of back then? Then nothing in the bible would apply, because all was written long ago in completely different contexts.

    I AM aware that one has to study context, but I do not see in how far I had not done that. All I said was:

    1. In our role as citizen that are bound to the laws of the state (Romans 13, and if Christians would not care about laws at all they’d still give a bad image of the gospel in public, so I think it still applies), we are to abide by those laws (unless, you know, Acts 5,29).

    2. In our role as voters and possible candidates for the state administration, we are bound by God to use our influence in His sense. I claim love of the next and thus support for him is part of it. You didn’t attack that part ;)

    Now do please tell me in how far I am wrong and not caring about context?

    that routinely executed swathes of people for political dissent.

    This didn’t happen in Paul’s days either.

  • Nick Rekieta

    It doesn’t matter how you translate the word, because it’s used in context against the authority. Rome was authoritarian, as were most governments of the time. Nothing existed that granted power to the common man in the way that western governments now operate.

    “And the call to support the weak is at least as old as the prophets in the OT. So as a Christian you are not free what to demand from government and in how far you use your influence there. You are bound by God, and you are responsible before God for what you do. That’s what I wanted to point out.”

    You’re now mixing concepts of compassion for the poor with political action. Nothing textually supports the utilization of government to achieve compassion as a Christian. Jesus’s teachings don’t make that suggestion, nor do Paul’s writings that follow.

    I argue that compassion is the duty of the church, and to pass that duty off to politicians (as you seem to suggest) runs counter to the purpose of ministry that Christ calls us to.

    “Right. I got this from Acts 5,29. I know this is not Paul, but still I think Paul did not want to say: Follow your government no matter what.”

    Except, that is exactly what Paul says. There are several possible reasons for this. I mentioned how important it was for the church to be law-abiding; how dangerous political dissent was. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and [presumably] executed. We know that Peter was executed by Rome, along with several other Christian Martyrs.

    Another possible reason is that the early Christians believed that Jesus was literally coming back within their lifetime. If Jesus’s return was imminent, it would be less important to rebel and dissent against existing authorities and instead spread the message of Christ.

    “So you’d say Romans 13 doesn’t apply anywhere, because we are not in the situation of back then? Then nothing in the bible would apply, because all was written long ago in completely different contexts.”

    This is not at all what I said.

    “Now do please tell me in how far I am wrong and not caring about context?”

    The problem is that your suggestion of “obedience” to the authority SEEMS to infer that disagreement or discontentment with current law in a democracy or a republic is not allowed. I disagree that we are to “obey government, period,” to the extent that obedience means we aren’t free to dissent and work to change.

    I think we are absolutely called to observe all laws that are instated. I don’t find ambiguity in Paul’s writings on this topic, nor in Jesus’ teachings. However, abiding by the law does not equal unquestioning acceptance.

    Further, if it did, then your own suggestion of electing leaders who honor the weak or agree with our church-mission would contradict that message. Because to elect leaders who want to change things would be to employ political force against existing authority.

    This is an insurmountable logical problem with your assertion.

    “This didn’t happen in Paul’s days either”

    Except it actually happened to Paul, and Peter, and several other Christians living in Rome. Oh, and Jesus, and John the Baptist (living in the roman Empire, but not Rome itself). Along with any number of other political dissidents.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire

    It’s Wikipedia, but it’s pretty commonly accepted that 0-200AD Rome was not a friendly place for Christians. So, I’m not sure how you can assert that it didn’t happen during Paul’s lifetime, especially considering it likely happened to Paul.

  • http://blog.debenny.de/ De Benny

    Rome was authoritarian, as were most governments of the time. Nothing
    existed that granted power to the common man in the way that western
    governments now operate.

    Oh, that’s what you meant by “authoritatian”? Because in my eyes there is still a bit of space between the system of Rome in Paul’s time and an authoritarian state. Rome was not a dictatorship, there were laws people did abide by. It was not like western governments today, but still, it was also far from the authoritarian dictatorships we know.

    Nothing textually supports the utilization of government to achieve compassion as a Christian.

    You only need to look into the OT. There the kings were in charge of government, so yes, not a western democracy as we have, but still you can name people responsible: Back then the kings, now we the people.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but one reason for God’s wrath at Israel and Judah with the consequence of military defeat and exile was the lack of compassion for the weak on side of the powerful. In a democracy we are the powerful, we the people. That’s my point here.

    I argue that compassion is the duty of the church, and to pass that duty
    off to politicians (as you seem to suggest) runs counter to the purpose
    of ministry that Christ calls us to.

    In how far? Because I think you are making up a wrong distinction. Who are the politicians? At least in the USA they mostly seem to be faithful church goers, aren’t they? And if not, still, we the people can all become politicians, even if we are Christians. It’s not politicians that take up the work of the church, it’s the church that acts through the politicians that belong to her and through the voters that vote for or against those politicians… you cannot separate that. Why should the church, i.e. the communion of the people who live in a democratic state use the democratic structures to do their duty? Did Christ ever say to avoid certain structures in order to help? I’d say no, I’d claim that we’re to use anything we can to the best ends.

    Except, that is exactly what Paul says. There are several possible reasons for this.

    That’s the way you read him. What he exactly says is to abide by the state, and that in a rather general way. So you’d claim if the state back then had said to bring offerings for Zeus or Jupiter, Paul would have wanted the Romans to obey?

    how dangerous political dissent was. Paul was imprisoned in Rome and [presumably] executed.

    So he himself had limits to in how far he would follow the state, right?

    If Jesus’s return was imminent, it would be less important to rebel
    and dissent against existing authorities and instead spread the message
    of Christ.

    Here you have a point, though if I remember right, there are traces that Paul abandoned the Naherwartung (what’s the English term: near expectation?) in the end…

    This is not at all what I said.

    Thanks for pointing that out, because I wasn’t sure.

    I disagree that we are to “obey government, period,” to the extent that
    obedience means we aren’t free to dissent and work to change.

    That’s not at all what I meant.

    I think we are absolutely called to observe all laws that are instated.
    I don’t find ambiguity in Paul’s writings on this topic, nor in Jesus’
    teachings. However, abiding by the law does not equal unquestioning
    acceptance.

    That’s more what I meant. But some comments I read here appeared to me that laws made by “leftwing tree-hugger commies” such as Obama were not to observe (yes, that’s the word I meant, not obey) at all. Reminded me of Delitsch, the bishop of Berlin who claimed that he would not even observe a speed limit in Eastern Germany as it had a unrightful government which had not right to make laws at all. I don’t agree with that. Speed limits are to be observed in Europe, America, China, Iran and North Korea equally.

    Except it actually happened to Paul, and Peter, and several other Christians living in Rome.

    Political dissent didn’t lead to being executed. You had to do something more than this. And the reason for executing Jesus, Paul and the gang wasn’t their political dissent. There was more. And the persecution of Christians in these early days of Christianity wasn’t very high either. It was not systematic, rather motivated by prejudice than by state authority and happened here and there from time to time. Of course Christians died. And that’s evil. But take todays western democracies. How many Muslims are killed by xenophobes here in Europe? Or I can guess there are also some similar crimes in the USA. Even state authorities sometimes cross the line and misuse their powers, even in western democracies. So yes, there were persecutions, but not for political dissent and not as organised and controlled as in an authoritarian state, at least not at that time.

  • Brenda Finnegan

    I experienced a similar change in thinking as I grew in my faith. Granted I grew up in a Democratic, pro-union household, but the political beliefs held by my parents came to be more grounded in Scripture as I grew in my faith. I abandoned the Fundamentalist Pentecostal church of my early twenties to return to the main stream United Methodist church. As I deepened my studies of Jesus, my focus became how to live more like He did. Asking myself the somewhat trite but still true question WWJD? has been transformative.

  • Roberta Klingler

    Very similar! I definitely need to copy this off, in order to stay progressive/liberal. Thank you for sharing!

  • Al Cruise

    The irony is the wealthy are receiving more social assistance from the government than anyone else, it’s just cleverly disguised. You are right on all your points, the effect of them when put into practice proves it.

  • A. W. Thules

    Funny, reading the bible has nearly the opposite effect on me; it makes me reject all things ‘progressive’. Incidentally, I’m not an American, so I don’t tend to see politics in such a false dichotomy as ‘left’, ‘right’. Regardless, the more I read the bible I see the humanistic basis, or specifically the French Revolutionary basis for liberty (liberté), equality (égalité), and fraternity (fraternité), the three pillars of progressivism. Accordingly, the more I read my bible, the more I want to run away from such ‘man-centeredness’. Commenting on your points though:

    The more I read my Bible ….

    1. .. the more I realize that I don’t have it all together.

    It’s not clear how this insight is either left or right, progressive or not. It’s certainly not a progressive insight alone .. so suggesting it leads one to become a progressive is a non-sequitur.

    2. The more I develop humility.

    This is excellent! However, it should have this effect on everyone who reads the bible regardless of their politics, that is unless you’re suggesting ‘humility’ is a hallmark only of the left .. which is clearly false.

    3. The more I discover that justice for the poor and oppressed is at the heart of it.

    Justice for the poor and oppressed falls out of ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’. So it’s certainly a part, being the second greatest commandment, but herein lies the danger – there is a greater commandment still! “Love the Lord thy God … [Luke 10:27]”. The reason loving one’s neighbour as one’s self is merely second to loving God is because one’s neighbour isn’t God, but is merely the image of God [Gen 9:6] so one should always have as the primary object of one’s love God first. Loving the image of God is secondary. That said, in this age of human liberalism, people often mistake loving one’s neighbour as that at the heart of the Gospel. What is at the heart of the Gospel is is loving God. The rest is on the periphery.

    4. The more I realize “redistribution of wealth” wasn’t Obama’s idea– it was God’s.

    There is some faulty logic going on here. (Also, I’m not American so Obama has nothing to do with it). The bible makes it clear that man is not to horde wealth, or worse, to worship it. It also makes it clear that ultimately man does not possess the power to derive eternal benefit from wealth. Real treasure lies in heaven. However, the bible is also not saying that we are to be foolish with it either giving it only to Babylonian like governments (it is not good stewardship to allow corrupt or ineffective governments the power to monopolize wealth even in the false hope that the government is looking after the poor, which is an individual Christian’s duty). Nor is our goal merely to give all our wealth to the poor. The distribution of wealth, like management of the environment, is something God expects us to steward wisely [Deut 8:18]. It is God who gives nations their inheritance power, and wealth, [Deut 32:8][Exo 34:24], but it is the people of those nations, and not civic Babylons who are appointed its stewards.

    5. The more I realize that the early Christians actually practised the re-distribution of wealth.

    This is not all they did with their property, but the point is that the voluntary re-distribution of wealth is a function of faithful believers – not the purview of civic governments.

    6. The more I realize Jesus taught we need to pay our taxes.

    This is a a superficial, perfunctory view of Jesus’s comments. Jesus was not making a civic statement, rather he was pointing out the dichotomy between God and man. By pointing to the coin, which is created in the image of man and points back to man (so is fundamentally humanistic), and then discerning that man is created in the Image of God, and so points back to God Jesus was actually avoiding the question about taxes in favour of his mission, glorifying God. Accordingly, the image of man and the image of God should not equated, conflated, or mistaken for one another.

    Only by missing Jesus’ point can we conclude “Jesus was saying we should pay our taxes”. However, on this point, Jesus (in some sense) suggested we should pay our taxes when he said all authority is ordained in heaven [Rom 13:1] but even there we must look beyond the mere veneer of his words to see he was making a more important point about getting along in the world.

    7. The more I realize that God wants us to be people who are quick to show mercy.

    Agreed, however it is irrational to suggest this leads to anything but mercy itself.

    8. The more I realize that God cares how we treat immigrants.

    Yes, of course, but treating immigrants humanely also goes beyond mere political caricatures.

    9. The more I realize that God will hold us accountable for how we care for the environment.

    I assume you know that the first comprehensive set of environmental laws in Europe holding people accountable for their treatment of the environment was legislated by the National-Socialist government of Adolph Hitler? The NAZIs, were decidedly not a government associated with what Americans consider ‘Progressive’.

    Your sense of all of these points seems to deal with a somewhat naive view of what is, and what is not ‘Progressive’. By the simplistic logic being offered here, knowing that God will hold us accountable for how we treat the environment should just as easily lead us to become Nazis.

    10. The more I realize that God isn’t judging us by whether or not we get all of our doctrine right– he’s judging us by whether or not we get the “love one another” part right.

    Agreed, but again, this insight should direct us to Christ, not some particular segment of a political spectrum.

    Of the 10 reason you provide above lead you to ‘progressive’, either faulty logic is tricking you towards this destination, or the destination was pre-determined to begin with, and the reasons themselves have nothing to do with it.

  • Jakeithus

    I have to strongly agree with you A. W.. Reading the list of reasons provided by the author, I struggled to find the link between the items he raised and a progressive ideology. Maybe it’s because I too am not coming at it from an American perspective.

    Mercy, justice, humility, environmental stewardship, care for immigrants, loving others, and a respect for government/taxes all fit nicely within the classical conservatism that I personally identify with (I might say better than they fit in the progressive left). The political spectrum in America is somewhat distorted however, so I think that certainly plays a part in the somewhat erroneous conclusion that gets arrived at in this post.

    Believers of all sorts should have the same goals in mind, politics is where we disagree about how to best achieve those goals, but I’m not sure the Bible always offers the best guide into how you get there.

  • JenellYB

    Jakeithus, RE your second paragraph here. I am 65 yrs old, was raised in what was then ‘conservative’ Texas family and community, in both applications, politics and religion. I’ve always considered my self a moderate independent, have probably voted Republican as often as Democrat in my life, thought definitely more Democrat in recent years. I am still that, I’ve not really ‘moved left’, but there’s been such a rightward tilt in recent years that I now seem to be a flaming liberal to most those around me that are joined into the crazy rightward tilt. I have found myself throwing hard left at times, in a sense of when too many have rushed over to the right side of the boat, those sitting center had better start throwing hard left if they are going to help keep the whole boat from rolling over to the right and dumping all of us into the ocean! What “conservative” meant in my parents time, and even just a few decades ago in my own lifetime, is entirely NOT what it has become today, in either politics or religion.

  • Ed

    you hit it right on the head with your comments!

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    “That said, in this age of human liberalism, people often mistake loving one’s neighbour as that at the heart of the Gospel. ”

    Whereas when I hear Jesus’s words about “the least of these my brethren,” I always think of the Koch brothers.

  • A. W. Thules

    Well that’s a false dichotomy if I’ve ever seen one .. so if one read’s Jesus’ words “the least of these my brethren,’ and doesn’t become progressive one must embrace the Koch brothers?

    What about embracing Christ instead? Christ did not come to make us Democrats or Republicans (and in fact my country has neither) – he came to make us Christlike.

    And also ‘the least of these my brethren’ is not the heart of the gospel. There are actually two great commandments, Love thy neighbour is the lesser of the two. Love God with all thy heart, soul and mind is first and foremost.

    To make humanity itself an idol is still idolatry, and voids the first and greatest commandment. ‘The least of these my brethren’ means nothing without a triumphant consuming love for God!

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Christ did not come to make us Democrats or Republicans (and in fact my country has neither) – he came to make us Christlike.

    Okay. But he warned us Christians that wealth was an obstacle to leading a moral existence, and invited the suspicion of the authorities because he preached among the poor.

    It just doesn’t seem like such a stretch to hear Christ’s words as a progressive message.

  • Guest

    (Editing since I thought more on it)

    I think the difference in our views on Scripture (or you difference with the OP) are based in our differing views of how to interpret it. You seem to hold the high Rob Gagnon type view that Scripture is Infallible, Inspired Word of God. You seem to be more interested in what is explicitly said and, thus, draw your meaning from that without reading between the lines at all. I approach the Bible from the Historical Critical Method measured against my conscience where I determine what is real and what is myth using archeological evidence, scientific evidence, personal conscience, and historical context. Because I don’t read Scripture in a systematic, logical way as I might a treatise on engineering a bridge or some other schematic or guide, our views would be far different.

    For example, I reject the entirety of Genesis as creation mythos passed down by the Jewish people from their early days having the same use as the story of Gilgamesh and Ekidnu does when understanding the ancient Mesopotamians. Since my view of Scripture is one where I view it as Inspired Truth (or, more precisely, methods to finding your way to it) hidden in a menagerie of man made imperfections, I can see how your view would lead you to your conclusions. Different kinds of Christians and all.

  • A. W. Thules

    You’re making assumptions about how you believe I read the bible evident in your use of Genesis as a strawman counter example. How do you know I don’t believe the same as you? Even so, the OP didn’t cite Genesis so I’m going to recognize your comments as the red-herring it is.

    Tell me, when your doctor writes a prescription that says “Take no more than 2 per day and avoid driving heavy machinery” .. or “Liver damage can occur if not taken with food.” do you take this as an example of a message hidden in a menagerie of man made imperfections? Do you allow your conscience to object to the plain meaning of the words and ‘read between the lines measuring it against your conscience determining what is real and what isn’t’?

    The problem with the post-modern idealism you’ve professed is that it is inconsistently applied (also according to the whims of your conscience) and lacks methodology about when we are to ‘believe our conscience’ and when we take words at face value.

    Although the genre of what we are reading should inform us of how seriously to take a text, and its objective ability to convey information, you and I also both use our consciences to gauge what that genre is and what it’s purpose is.

    If the bible is truly God’s word, that makes it much more like a prescription than a merry collection of stories some authors have left us. Allowing one’s conscience to object to a prescription is clearly not the wiser approach. Nevertheless in gauging the bible more a prescription than collection of stores, I’m using my conscience, and reason, no less than you. Since we’re both using the same principle methodologically, you cannot fault me.

  • dirtyrottensinner

    What he said.

  • Ron

    If “progressive” is the term you, and many others, chose to label yourself, then what exactly are the “other people/christians” out there? oppressive? regressive? I don’t even know if that’s a word or not. It just seems so proudish and elitist to speak of yourself that way. I’m probably more to the left than you on a couple of these issues. But I have my beliefs and some differences than you on others. Does that really mean that you see me as “stuck in right field”? and you as being somehow superior to others?

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    Or you could look at it another way:

    Progressive = vouching for change (ideally, for the better).
    Conservative = vouching for the status quo (seeing change as bad).

    Mind you, Republicans these days are not conservative by this definition.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    When change leads us away from the Truth which is Jesus, it is not a good thing, Melissia!

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    So I take it you don’t like either party then. Republicans and Democrats just use Jesus to get votes.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    No, I’m not a Republican, nor a Democrat. I’m simply a disciple of Jesus.

  • http://abipwu.blogspot.com Melissia

    That’s fine, though given how deeply that “Republican” is tied to “Christian” is these days, I feel I might disagree, were we to get a discussion, on what exactly being a disciple of Jesus means.

  • Abraham Yeshuratnam

    When we look back on history, the Bible has molded European culture and civilization. Barbarians who poured into Europe were tamed by the Bible and they laid the foundation for European culture. Jesus’ defiance of priesthood and authority led to movements fighting for equality, liberty and fraternity. Jesus’ attack on the business community selling goods inside Temple premises inspired revolutionary communists like Marx and Lenin. Jesus talking to the out caste Samaritan woman led to movements for class equality, especially in the struggle to abolish caste system in India and civil rights movement in America. Jesus helping the oppressed led to movements like the Boy Scouts, Red Cross etc., When floods devastated Pakistan, Christian countries were sending aid to the victims. In the recent typhoon disaster in the Philippines, Christian countries are pouring food, water bottles, clothes and shelter sheds. Hindu India and Muslim Arab countries are not visible. But Christian countries are helping the victims round the clock.It’s because Jesus’ ideology, ‘Love one another.’ I’m writing from India, and I was amazed to watch on TV how Christian countries are helping Pakistan flood victims in spite of the fact that Christians are killed and churches are burnt in Pakistan.

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

    Thanks for joining us, Yeshuratnam! I have done work in Assam, Delhi and Mumbai and hope to be back to India in the next 4-5 months!

  • JenellYB

    You must have read different history books. When I look back on European/Western Christian history, I see the Crusades, Inquisitions, horrendous tortures and murders of ‘witches’ for practicing mid-wifery and herbal medicine, Colonialism and Imperialism that devastated the cultures and economies, oppressed, enslaved, and murdered the native peoples, and raped countries and whole continents of their resources, from Africa to India, from the Americas to the Pacific islands. And then gave them missionaries and bibles and demanded obligations to tithe even out of their poverty to stuff the coffers of the church. European/western Christendom hardly conquered the world with “love.!”

  • Abraham Yeshuratnam

    Inquisition, torture etc., were not on the agenda of Jesus. Agents of Satan indulged in those sinful acts in the name of Jesus. 50 ministers recently blessed gay couple inside church. They are also agents of Satan, for homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. It is not an act of love. Homosexuality is unnatural and even bestial. The 50 ministers are whitewashed tombs and they had desecrated the holy church by blessing illicit sex (gay marriage) inside church.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    Exactly!

  • Digger

    Wow–That’s cool. The Bible aligns perfectly with every plank of the modern American Democratic party. Does that mean that all Democrats are good christians, or all real Christians are Democrats?

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

    Your comments reveal that you don’t actually read the articles you comment on. If you want to interact with ideas in a serious way, fine. However, I’m not going to respond to your drive-by’s, that indicate you haven’t first done the hard work of wrestling with the actual article.

  • Nick Rekieta

    I wonder if you are actually prepared to interact with ideas in a serious way. Your article includes several false premises and poor assumptions.

    Now, you claim that you are writing as someone on “the conservative right,” which may be true. The reason I say “may” is because many of your proclamations appear to be written like a caricature of someone on the right, not someone actually on the right. Some examples:

    “I wasn’t all that concerned about the poor and oppressed until I opened my Bible…I tried to escape it and explain it away, but I can’t– God wants us to care for, serve, and love these people.”

    “we need to pay our taxes AND give private charity. It’s not an either or proposition. I’m not a fan of that either, but it’s in the Bible.”

    “Not sure how to escape it– God wants me to care for and protect the environment, so I will.”

    Aside from the gross misassumption that these vague claims are somehow more progressive than conservative, I find it hard to believe that anyone on “the right” actually holds these views.

    You see, generally, people on the right agree with these principles, they just have different policy approaches on how to achieve them. You have glossed that key determinant to make some arbitrary point about being “progressive.”

    Well, “progressive” doesn’t actually mean anything principally, it’s about policy and implementation. Progressive is not an ethical set that we use to judge morality, progressivism requires an existing ethical set (commonly, the ethics of altruism in western culture) by which we measure progressivism on a moral level.

    Morals are irrelevant without an appropriate ethical baseline. The “correct behavior” can’t be judged without knowing the principle that guides the behavior.

    Your article presupposes ethical altruism(or maybe ethical Christianity, this is debatable), but supplants progressivism as both a moral and ethical compass. This dualism cannot logically exist.

    I’ll give you a brief example: In point number four, you mention that redistribution was “God’s idea.” Well, casting aside the reality that God is distributive, not redistributive, we come to some understanding that charitable action and communal thinking are a mandate from God. You eloquently use some great examples where God requires redistributive acts of his believers. You also conveniently gloss several possible examples of God NOT redistributing wealth, talent, or time to make your point. This is somewhat acceptable in persuasive writing, but it opens your point up for easy counterattacks. I’ll chalk it up to brevity.

    That said, we’ll assume your argument is correct and that God’s principle for believers is redistributive. That’s a principle and is EQUALLY supportable by the progressive policy of authoritarian enforced redistribution and the conservative policy of charitable redistribution.

    These two policies represent the political dichotomy of an accepted principle: that redistribution and communal concern are ultimately good things. This is a major problem with your premises that must be addressed.

    On a final note, I’m STUNNED to find out that you balk at paying both taxes and individual charity. I can’t think of a single individual on “the right” who thinks or advocates a “one or the other” system. What I can think of, and cite, are several examples of progressives who ACT OUT a “one or the other” approach and who defer to taxation as a primary, if not solely, fair method of “redistribution.”

    This is why your argument reads as an unconvincing hack-job by someone posing as someone on “the right.”

  • Tom McKnight

    Should a careful, thoughtful, consistent reading of the bible align us more with the liberal left (progressives) or conservative right (fundies)….or with the heart of God? I find Benjamin’s 10 Reasons more a reaction to his aversion to conservative evangelicals (right wing) than salient reasons why Christians should throw in their lot with the progressive movement. Jesus is Lord of all the earth. This includes the environment, economics, civil authority, human dignity and sexuality. Our culture needs a winsome, biblical articulation of God’s truth about these matters…not a progressive or conservative cause.

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

    I completely agree that it should bring us closer to the heart of God instead of an ideology. The article simply states, that for those of us who begin on the hard right, frequent reading tends to move us in a right-to-left direction, as the studies indicate. That’s all. I don’t have a liberal or progressive agenda; I’ve simply noticed that as a life-long conservative Republican, that the more often I read my Bible, the more it pulled me out of the right-wing. That’s all this argues.

  • A. W. Thules

    Or for those who begin on the hard right, frequent trending tends to move us away, not in a right-to-left direction, but rather in a secular to sacred direction.

    This is demonstrably no less true than those who start on the hard ‘left’. Someone on the hard left moves not in a left to right direction, but away from human ideology towards holiness.

    Left and right are human pigeon-holes we need liberation from, not Godly ones …

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    Amen!

  • MarshallKeith

    Redistribution is not part of the bible, God gave man free will, Christ called on the individual to help the poor, not the collective through the theft of taxation but the individual. Matthew 19

    “13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.

    14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

    15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

    16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

    17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

    18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

    19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

    21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

    22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

    23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

    When the man did not did Christ call on his disciples to steal the mans wealth and redistribute it? No Did he call on the government to do it? Again NO. Charity comes from the individual.

  • MarshallKeith

    Also on the taxes, you are misreading that passage. The person who asked the question was a government shill who knew that if Christ said no that he would have immediately been sentenced to death.

    Matthew 22

    “15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

    16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

    17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

    18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

    19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

    20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

    21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

    22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
    http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/book.php?book=Matthew&chapter=22&verse=

  • MarshallKeith

    From a good piece on the subject of taxation.

    “All three synoptic Gospels open the scene with a plot to trap Jesus. The questioners begin with, what is in their minds, false flattery — “Master [or Teacher or Rabbi] we know that you are a true speaker and teach the way of God in truth.”
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/2010/03/jeffrey-f-barr/render-unto-caesar-amostmisunderstood-newtestamentpassage/

  • Pascal Redfern

    Many errors of this piece. I could easily have written a piece that states 10 reasons why reading the Bible makes us more conservative.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    AMEN!

  • ChuckQueen101

    I agree with all the points made. I can easily identify. I too am a progressive Christian (check out my, “Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls” at http://www.nurturingfaith.info/?p=1297/ ) However, as the old adage goes, every viewpoint begins from a point. Reading the Bible can easily make one a conservative on any number of issues . . . We all read the Bible through a particular grid, we all bring our biases with us. It’s not an issue of setting aside our biases; we can’t. The question is: what kind of biases do I bring to my reading the Bible. The difference between a progressive and conservative is how we read the Bible, the presuppositions and assumptions we bring to the process. I seriously doubt that simply reading the Bible will make one a progressive. It’s much deeper than that. It’s the hermeneutic we bring with us, the openness, the readiness to question . . . just reading the Bible will not do it. I know. I grew up in the Bible belt and most of my relatives are Christian conservatives and they read the Bible frequently.

  • Heith Bar Alan Wetzler

    My Response to Mr. Corey’s 10 Reasons (from my blog):

    I saw this post in Scott McKnight’s blog, by a guy I’ve never heard of named Benjamin Corey. So because I’m a guy he’s never heard of (I’m sure), I thought I’d hazard a quick response.

    First, Corey’s list is an oversimplification of almost every single issue he brings up; this includes politics, his generalized assessment of evangelicals (right wingers?), his theology in both New and Old Testaments, and the presumptions he brings to the table (e.g. in #2 that right leaning conservatives aren’t humble). The trouble is, a comprehensive answer is beyond the scope of a single blog entry, so my response has the potential to embody essentially the same faults. But, my desire is to start (or join) an ongoing conversation in goodwill. Let’s get to it.

    I want to make clear that I have no problem with the substance of the majority of ideals in these ten points: humility, justice for the poor, redistribution of wealth, taxes (or being a good citizen?), mercy, concern for immigrants (foreigners), care for the environment, and etc. I do believe that we can see the threads of these ideas woven into the teaching of Jesus and the early church, to an extent.

    And this leads me to my main criticism: most of these ideas, from Jesus and/or the early Church, are highly contextualized (which I’ll elaborate on below). Corey seems to assume direct parallels from antiquity to today. Further, he often commits a logical fallacy called the Fallacy of Temporal Primacy (credit to Nick Rekieta) and/or Presentism (projecting present day ideas into the past), which states the fallacy of assuming that one’s current environment, worldview, belief system, politic, etc., is superior or holds primacy over all other time periods. In other words, not only does Corey insinuate that progressivism as we know it in the 21st century is, or has always been, the goal of Jesus’ teaching, but he reads progressive values backwards upon the historical characters, contexts and beliefs of Jesus and the Church 2000+ years ago (Presentism)–he assumes that what he believes is a progressive value, e.g. progressive ideals on immigration is corollary to what Jesus thought about immigrants.

    I maintain that not only is this viewpoint simplistic, creating untenable generalizations, but it narrows the vibrancy of ideas presented by Jesus into the political platforms of today. Further, at worst it positions modern ‘progressivism’ as the Biblical ideal, which I argue, is close to allowing culture to dictate Biblical understanding, where progressivism is the goal, ideal or culmination of Jesus’ ideas. At best, the use of the term ‘progressive’ is unfortunate because, by being invoked, brings all the baggage of the liberal platform and jams it into first century, Christian, Jesus teaching.

    It would be better to acknowledge that progressivism has admirable tenets that occasionally align with Biblical principles, and that these tenets are inherently Christian first and progressive secondarily, or in some cases, incidentally. Further, it would be less than fair to ignore the fact that many of these beliefs are also shared by conservative representatives of the ‘right’. Thus, to classify these inherently and primarily Christian ideals as ‘progressive’ ignores the nuance and presence of these in conservative belief and is disingenuous.

    The more I read my Bible:
    1. The more I realize I don’t always have it together.

    There is no intrinsically progressive corner on tolerance, humility or the recognition of limitations–these are not exclusively progressive values. I’m also including number 2 in this. This is either ignorance or misunderstanding of the conservative position, or it is a pretty obvious demonstration of the fact that, even in the assumption that progressivism ‘gets it right’ by being humble and not having all the answers…Corey promotes progressivism as being right and having the answers. Maybe this wasn’t the author’s intention, but it is certainly an obvious implication.

    3. The more I discover that justice for the poor and oppressed is at the heart of it.

    It will quickly be apparent that many of these ten items qualify for the same mistaken assumptions. Just as the first two falsely assumed progressives portray humility better than conservatives, this one also incorrectly assumes that progressives care more about the poor than conservatives because they promote a blatant socialist agenda (and we should be clear, socialism is NOT motivated by a desire to help the poor, historically, we can argue that this has merely been incidental, rather, the concern is for control, but that’s for another post). What’s hilarious to this is that recent studies show that conservatives out-give liberals by 30%. It does not logically follow that not supporting a government program automatically means hatred or ambivalence to the poor and vice versa.

    4-5. The more I realize “redistribution of wealth…was God’s [idea]” and “early Christians actually practiced this…”

    First, Obama was hardly the first liberal espousing redistribution. Second, again, the fallacy of Temporal Primacy & Presentism apply here. It is fallacious to assume that what progressives today understand redistribution of wealth to entail was what first century Christians understood it to be.

    We have one clear presentation of this ‘redistribution’ in Acts. We have a few other petitions and admonitions by NT writers, urging believers to mutuality providing for needs. The case can be made for early Christian’s believing in the mutual sharing of goods and resources, but this was set primarily in the context of kinship/family (not government, in fact, it is a rejection of reliance upon Caesar for sustenance, which is one of the provisions imperial cults worshiped him for) and was voluntary, open to the choice of the giver concerning amount, and not mandated by an outside, non-Christian entity.

    This is a difficult case to make if the assumption is that what we see early on in Acts was indicative of every church in the first century (fallacy of composition). Further, there is some discussion as to how much of the actions of the early church in Acts were…embellished, so to speak, to highlight the success of their Gospel mission (this doesn’t mean it isn’t true or didn’t happen, but simply that any disagreement or conflict could have been potentially glossed over–we don’t know–and that the portrayal we see of this mutuality could be idealized). But the main point is simply–mutuality as a Christian value is basic, but it’s also worthless if it’s mandatory and not accompanied by the Spirit softening our hearts.

    6. The more I realize Jesus taught we need to pay our taxes.

    Again, fallacy of composition; assuming that the single time Jesus is recorded as ‘teaching’ paying taxes indicates he always taught exactly this. We have no other instance where Jesus, or any other Christian leader in the NT teaches paying taxes as a fundamentally Christian requirement. Christians are instructed to submit to, pray for, live peaceably under, their rulers, but taxes? No.

    Additionally, these admonitions don’t necessarily mean that Christians should simply bow to whatever form of government they find themselves in; it seems the best explanation of many of these texts is to avoid further persecution (either way, interpretation of this is hardly a absolutely settled issue). Moreover, this statement neglects the context of Jesus’ response which was that religious leaders concocted the question to trap him, and assumes this is a universal admonition, assuming, even if we concede it is a universal admonition, that it applies similarly upon those in a participatory democracy as those in a provincial state of the Roman Empire, and etc.

    7. The more I realize…God wants us to be…quick to show mercy.

    Again, same issues. See number 1-3.

    8. The more I realize that God cares how we treat immigrants.

    Corey doesn’t provide any substantive examples of this, so I’ll do it for him: Ex. 22:20-22; Deut. 10:19; Lev. 19:33-34. I have no beef with this. I don’t know any real conservative, particularly a Christian, who would. Maybe Corey is playing off the common liberal portrayal of the hillbilly extremist or bigot. I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t be totally fine with an immigrant coming legally to America. I’m sure such biased people are out there, but they are in the minority that this is certainly not a conservative position.

    Further, the key here is–legally. In America today we don’t have an Immigration problem (a problem with people immigrating), we have an ILLEGAL Immigration problem (people are coming here illegally). It’s inconsistent to scold the conservative (who still pays taxes though they disagree!) for not wanting to pay double-digit taxes in the 20-30th percentile and then shrug off wanting to find a solution for those millions who come illegally into this country. Is the law only something we follow when it aligns with our side’s ideas?

    Most conservatives would agree that the laws need changing. However, holding a different view on HOW the law should be changed does NOT mean one hates immigrants and wants to cut off their access to America forever. This is the same poor logic that is applied to conservatives not endorsing redistribution as a solution to poverty–since when did having a different idea for the solution to a problem make someone wrong, ignorant or ‘less-evolved’? And, according to Corey’s logic, apparently such difference of opinion is also un-Christian too. (It’s probably also sin, right?)

    9. The more I realize God will hold us accountable for…the environment.

    Yet again, (sigh), see number 7, 1-3 above. In fact, just re-read everything to this point. I cannot stress enough that this is still another example where conservatives simply have different ideas about what it means to steward the environment. But unless we buy into global warming fear-mongering, buy a stupid Smart car, wear hemp undies, and damn oil companies to their rightful hells, we must hate the environment.

    Another way of putting the progressive position: unless you believe and do exactly what I do, you’re wrong, evil, hateful…(and now, as I said, un-Christian). And I’m not trying to put words into Corey’s claims–there are plenty of liberals who espouse nearly these exact sentiments (watch any news show), and they are definitely either implicit or the logical derivation of his statements.

    10. The more I realize that God [is] judging us by whether or not we get the “love one another” part right.

    I agree. Conservatives agree. Right-wing Christians agree. See 9, 7, 1-3 (and yes, re-read the whole thing). This is embarrassing. Not for me, for Mr. Corey, who, according to his bio, is a very educated man (the assumption is that more education indicates smarts). I have no reason to doubt that, except that he has either set logic aside in an effort to make a popularly appealing blog post, or that his own presumptions blind him to some of these logical missteps.

    I write this assuming Corey is a nice, loving Christian guy who is simply trying to encourage people to be more loving, more merciful, concerned with justice, etc. I also don’t know where on the progressive spectrum he stands–in response to his usage of the term, I have addressed the common progressive opinion, which may not be his nuanced stance.

    But the trouble is he makes these broadly generalized assumptions based on narrow categories of what is or isn’t progressive (most implied obviously) and worse, he equates what are originally Biblical, Christian concepts with modern, political, socialist progressivism. The logical conclusion is that if one is not progressive, one is also a bad Christian. He may not have stated this outright, but it’s not a huge leap to see this is the next logical step. And, if this conclusion is scandalous to him, he should take more care to outline his purposes.

    As I’ve stated numerous times, I have no issue, nor do I know of any conservative who would take issue, with the ideals upheld as good in these ten items. My concern is a mis-characterization of the conservative position, a misleadingly perfect presentation of progressivism, an extrapolation of Biblical principles into the political realm–I maintain that every single one of these ideals ONLY finds its proper place within God’s Church Community; any other institution is pretending and usurping Kingdom principles in what will always result in twisted, manipulated, grotesque outcomes.

    One final caveat: in my address of Corey’s points, I played off a conservative vs progressive dynamic. Any notion that only one of these two options is the right one, or that they are the only choices, is false. My intention was not to promote Conservatism, it was simply to counteract fallacious implications and highlight the error of assuming that progressivism is superior. As a Christian, the perspective that is superior is God’s, Jesus’ ethic–this may align with progressivism or conservatism at points, but let’s be honest, it is not, never will be, the same and we should stop pretending this is so. My admonition is much like Stanley Hauerwaus’ in his masterful “Resident Aliens”: the Church being the Church is political–it is enough to create a subversive, counter to our culture, to demonstrate the Kingdom way, not simply adopt as Gospel, flawed and inferior policies as substitutes or ‘the best we can do for now.’

    I’m sick of the false dualism promoted by such lists as Corey’s, where we end up fighting about worldly, political platforms rather than uniting on the Gospel. I’m tired of the falsely dichotomous choice our society is forcing us to make between two parties, two ideologies. Let’s be clear: neither party, neither ideology is, or will ever be, good enough for the Christian, will never replace Gospel ideology, will never mimic Gospel ethics enough to be enough.

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    Ben,

    Glad you are continuing to wrestle with the Scriptures and apply them to your life. I think it is important for all of us to approach God and His Word with that goal.

    That said I didn’t see these 10 reasons as all being “progressive”. I wrote a slightly more lengthy response to this here.

    http://wp.me/p1yQHz-1OJ

    But the summary is that reasons #1-3 are not progressive characteristics (nor are they conservative characteristics). They are (or should be) characteristics of a follower of Jesus. And while there is some truth in what you say in reasons #4-5 they miss principles that the early church used in applying help to the needy.

    Would love to hear your take on “tolerance”, what it means and how it should be applied to both church and public policies.

    Thanks for creating the discussion, and sorry I was a bit late to the party.

    Mike

  • Nick Rekieta

    Great post, Mike.

  • Heith Bar Alan Wetzler

    This is excellent. We share some parallel critiques.

    It’s interesting that Mr. Corey seems to be ignoring the more substantive interactions with his list…

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

    Thanks for the input, Mike. I don’t always have time to respond to all reader comments or emails.

    It’s important for the article to be read in light of personal experience– that is the quantifier that was at the beginning of the article. I started on the very far right, and on some issues, moved leftward from taking scripture more seriously– as many others have.

    In this way, it simply made me more progressive, for lack of a better label. It doesn’t mean that I have a progressive agenda I’m trying to implement or that I side with the left politically (in 20 years of voting, I’ve only voted with the left in one election). It also doesn’t mean that all people should have the same experience– which is why I invited dialogue at the end of the piece.

    Also, simply becoming more of a progressive doesn’t mean that I think government is the solution to all problems– I don’t. I do however, believe they have a biblical role in looking out for the vulnerable of society. Since the church has largely abdicated this role, I don’t see an alternative to government in our cultural context (something I’ve written about previously). However, I wish this were not true.

    I also agree that most characteristics mentioned, should be characteristics of Jesus followers and that they are not exclusively owned by any political party or label. I don’t have any loyalties to party (I’m a registered independent) or particular movement (I only accept the progressive label because I’m not sure what else would be a more accurate descriptor at this point in my journey).

    My definition of tolerance: love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn’t mean you agree with everything your neighbor thinks or does, it just means that you are radically loving and inclusive toward them– like Jesus.

    I think part of the sticking point becomes “what does it mean to be progressive?” which would probably be a good public discussion to have. I think everyone has their own definition, so when someone like me uses the term, everyone filters it through their own definition.

    Thanks for participating in the discussion-

    Ben

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ Mike Barlotta

    Ben

    Appreciate the response, but it was not necessary. I understand being busy and you have more than a few comments here to work with. And you certainly do not owe me an explanation of how you are registered or how you vote, but that helps see where you are writing from more clearly.

    I understand you are writing from a right to left movement, but you nail it when you say – what does it mean to be progressive, which is certainly a loaded term. Suggesting that readers of the Bible should adopt a more left-ward view on social policies (a way of hearing/understanding what was written) was what I reacted to. That said, we might find we probably agree on more than we disagree if we dig deeper.

    Identifying humility, recognition of not having it together, and desire to help the poor as characteristics of being progressive may have been misreading your intent but it certainly appears to describe those who are more right-leaning as less serious and sincere followers of Christ.

    And words like tolerance, love, and mercy can also be used in a variety of ways. Certainly many today define and advocate for a tolerance that essentially means no one can say anyone else is wrong (even nicely) and we have to encourage and pay for everyone’s lifestyles. Freedom to choose is not the same as all your choices should be “free”, which is part of the problem (IMO) with the larger federal programs.

    And using key words like redistribution of wealth, lack of means
    testing, and focusing on taxes suggest support for many policies that sound great but are not as Biblical as they might sound.

    The key difference is how to help not whether there should be help. And while it would be foolish for people to suggest the government should not be involved at all, it is just as foolish to continue to have one size fits all, financially unsustainable, debt laden programs that are prone to abuse and waste (if for no other reason than their magnitude of size).

    Thanks for opening up and continuing the discussion.

    Mike

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

    Yes, I think if we sat down for a beer we would probably agree on 90% of the principles, but that it would come down to “how”, where there is always room for healthy debate (FYI, I’ve never advocated for one-size-fits-all programs). The piece didn’t intend to say that folks on the right are less serious Jesus followers. There are certainly some areas I think are black and white where the right is not following Jesus (like guns and the willingness to use violence, hoarding wealth, etc.) but I think there’s room for debate on how we enact certain economic policies.

    The goal at the piece was to spark discussion on principles– i.e, that the rich caring for the poor, and the government having a role in caring for the poor, are biblical values. “How” that all plays out, is up for debate.

  • Heith Bar Alan Wetzler

    Your title explicates: “How Reading the Bible Makes US More Progressive.”

    You mention that you speak from your own experience, but then seem to generalize for everyone. If this were about you, wouldn’t ‘How Reading the Bible Made Me More Progressive?” be more appropriate? The difference is that the former title suggests that these are perspectives we should all, as Christians adopt. Maybe not your intention, but that’s how it comes off.

    What would an essay on “How Reading the Bible Makes us/me More Conservative” look like?

    Utilizing loaded terms like ‘Progressive’ seems to undermine the paradigm shift Jesus calls for: Identification with his Kingdom first.

    If the Church as abdicated this role (have they? really?) then why give up on them? Why not advocate the Church acting as it is supposed to?

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

    The title was worded that way because of a previous post which gives it context– a study that shows frequent Bible reading causes people to grow more liberal on certain issues. This post was the second part in that series.

    So, I wouldn’t write a piece on why reading the Bible makes us more conservative, because this piece was based on a previous study which actually shows frequent Bible reading to have the opposite effect.

    Has the church really abdicated? I would say yes. When evangelicals only give about 2-3% of their money to charity, while complaining that the church should be caring for the poor, I’d consider that abdication (and hypocrisy). The old argument that “government shouldn’t do it, the church should” is essentially moot until the church actually does. I’d love to see that happen, but it doesn’t. I think both government and private charity have a role– and that this dualism is actually the biblical model. The debatable question comes down to “how”, which the article doesn’t address.

    So, I do advocate the church acting as it is supposed to, and haven’t given up on them (which is why I spend my days writing to American Christians in hope the church will reject American Christianity in favor of Jesus). I’ve written about that before (the church doing her job), and that we need to be giving so radically that the government doesn’t have to step in.

  • Heith Bar Alan Wetzler

    I get the context of the study you referred to. But as a counter-point, such a piece would be entirely plausible. Then again, maybe it would just be partisan.

    I’d be interested in what report you refer to with the quote on Evangelical giving (Barna?) I think I recall seeing something similar. It would be interesting to see how this correlates to the study I cited in a previous comment that shows conservatives out-give progressives.

    “The old argument that “government shouldn’t do it, the church should” is essentially moot until the church actually does.” If the logic is A is moot if B doesn’t follow as a response, then the gift of salvation is a moot point: (e.g. people should get saved, but if they don’t it’s a moot point). Ok, extreme example, but it can be applied to almost anything: people should adopt, but if they don’t it’s moot; Christians should be generous, but if they aren’t it’s moot, etc.

    My point is simply that if results determined the veracity or priority of any propositional truth, there wouldn’t be any. Imagine if God operated this way: I’m not even going to provide the ideal, the perfect way, because humans (e.g. Israel) have proven they can’t, won’t do it.

    Thus, the only moot point is in the acquiescence of the Church’s role to government. This presumes that God is entirely results oriented. If this were true a) why would he pick unreliable humans to do what he could do better, faster, etc? and b) why wouldn’t God have gotten frustrated after 2000+ years of the Church screwing up and stepped in? If the point is simply results, it doesn’t explain why thousands of orphans starve every day, why human trafficking continues, etc.

    Further, when we look at Jesus’ mission, the very thing the Jews expected was a socio-political divine conquest. Jesus rejected that because there were bigger fish to fry (so to speak). In other words, Jesus’ life demonstrated that his mission could not be completed through political dominance. It seems contradictory to this to assume God wants to switch horses (Church to government) mid-race.

    “I think both government and private charity have a role– and that this dualism is actually the biblical model.” I agree that government does have a role and it is fair to discuss what this looks like. The trouble comes when we invoke terms like ‘progressive’; it’s too easy to move to the assumption that government should take the entire role, or that the Christian mission should look like the progressive platform.

    Beyond this, are you saying the Bible provides a specific model for Government or simply that government is ordained, in the Rom 13:1-2 vein?

    I completely agree with your final paragraph. I also read your bio and back story – I relate to growing up with some fundamentalist perspectives. In the last decade I’ve certainly progressed past those. But for me, I’m not moving left on the spectrum from conservative to progressive, I see being Christian as operating on an entirely new spectrum. Thus, when we qualify Christianity with political terminology, I think we end up playing platform games and accepting a bunch of false premises that we should easily and obviously discard.

    I appreciate your interaction.

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

    — My statistic comes from Rah, a fellow missiologist. I believe it’s in the book the Next Evangelicalism. He probably got it from Barna.

    — I’ve never said the government should take the entire role, and I don’t know any “progressives” that are arguing that.

    –I agree that we’re called to do things by a different way, not the worldly way (i.e, the Kingdom of God is not of this world). However, we live in a world that names things– I don’t like labels anymore than the next guy, but I don’t know how we get rid of them completely. If we discard “progressive” (a term that in our culture is used both to identify politics and a branch of Christian thought) shouldn’t we discard all the other labels as well? Which, I’d be fine with– but I just don’t know how we navigate a world that uses terms to make general identification and categorize data. Categories aren’t perfect, they just serve as markings on a trail, so it’s always important to dig deeper.

  • Nick Rekieta

    Your defense of the term “progressive” ignores the overt politicization your post engages.

    Christian progressivism is far different from political progressivism but you seem to switch between them in stride to support whichever point you are presently making.
    You use specific linguistic tags like “redistribution,” “means testing,” and etc. to illicit a political response, not a Christian one.

    The disconnect may come from the natural reaction to apply the principle of the converse to your statements. Converse interpretations can have problems, but here I don’t see them.

    A converse interpretation is simple: If you have two classifications, we’ll use P and C, that are diametrically opposed, then to say that being more P makes you more X infers that being more C makes you less X.

    So, you’re making declarative statements about what it means to be more P and less C…but you’re declarations are erroneous because P and C are not principles, but policy approaches.

    You’re speaking about principles, generally (charity, humility, compassion) but you ignore the reality that principles are higher order than policy approaches(which are ways to pursue principles). Both conservatives and progressives can hold those values, they just differ on how to approach them.

    The problem with failing to frame this properly between principles and policies is that you end up advocating (intentionally or not) that one policy approach is superior, or, in this case, more Christian.

    In essence, you’re setting this up as a false dilemma fallacy, but you seem to be doing it unintentionally.

  • Heith Bar Alan Wetzler

    I’ve read Rah (Next Evangelicalism?), but a while ago; he belabors some of his points, but I have agreement with him.

    I did cursory research that shows Evangelical giving is down due to the poor economy. A strong case can be made that progressive policies, i.e. higher taxes, govt spending, govt healthcare, has contributed to the dire outlook affecting giving; but significantly, there has been no substantial increase in substantive efforts by the govt to take the place of the donations not being given. In other words, more money is taken from people (or the threat of this is perpetuated), thus people give less to charity, all while government doesn’t fill any real gap (see the dismal failure of ACA). But again, the presence or absence of giving doesn’t disqualify charity as an explicitly Christian prerogative, nor does this justify a larger governmental role, in itself.

    You were never accused of saying govt should take the entire role; but the logical progression of the progressive (hard to see how it’s not socialism) platform is that government replaces privatized efforts. Further, there are plenty of people out their who see no place for the church or private charities in modern culture; e.g. Bill Maher.

    I agree that we must work within certain terminology. But consider the criticism against this post of yours; it illustrates how charged terms are. Besides this, as I’ve pointed out, you accept some premises of progressivism that are essentially problematic; e.g. the assumption that humility, generosity and etc. are exclusively progressive values.

    The ideals you present are fine, but the way we present things is important. I’m convinced too many Christians simply accept premises that sound Christian, assume they are, without really checking to see what a Biblical prerogative is. Thus, the equation of the progressive platform for Christian values is categorically incorrect.

    Any response to the church’s giving being a moot point or a clarification on the duality you spoke of?

  • Greg

    Very interesting, but I wonder what effect do the textual corruptions of the bible have on our understanding of the bible and thus whether it makes us more progressive or not?

    http://voices.yahoo.com/textual-corruptions-trinitarianism-12113265.html?cat=37

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

    I would disagree with the premise that textual corruptions have the impact this piece asserts they have.

  • WVBORN56

    Progressive Christian = Oxymoron

    There is no way a spirit filled believer could support the Obama agenda unless they are completely in the dark regarding his policies on the issues. No wonder our nation is in complete moral slide when “Christians” twist the scripture to support his vile policies. You do realize he is a Marxist.

    What does your Bible reading say about the unborn, blessing Israel not cursing them, going into the whole world to preach the gospel, dying to self, the rule of law, justice, prayer in school, ten commandments in school and public places, homosexual marriage, wasteful spending, unbalanced budgets, encouraging out of wedlock births and promoting people to live together and not get married. The Bible I read promotes work not generations of welfare. Giving away money endlessly without any expectations or responsibilities attached leads to dependency and encourages laziness and slothfulness. My service business is begging for workers and can not find any.

    Remember when Jesus rules from Jerusalem during the 1000 year Millennial reign he will do so with a rod of iron. He came as a Lamb the first time but will rule as a Lion. While much of the republicans are corrupt too they at least have a platform that more closely resembles the Bible I read. I fear many here are not going to be real happy with the way Jesus rules.

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

    You’ve missed it chief. PLEASE, keep reading your bible.

    You do realize, that the things you mentioned for the most part, are not adequately addressed by scripture, right?

    That abortions were practiced for 500 years before Christ, yet he never mentioned it… that he never mentioned gay marriage, prayer in school, having the ten commandments in public places, balanced budgets, or having birth out of wedlock, right?

    And giving away money without expectation? You do realize that the bible teaches that we’re to give it away without expecting folks to pay it back, right?

    What you’re mentioning are cultural values of American Christianity, they aren’t biblical values. The bible doesn’t teach to put the ten commandments in public places, or that public schools need teacher led prayer. That’s simply NOT in the bible.

    The things you’re talking about are part of Christian culture, but not scripture. Also, you should read my previous post on Israel– the bible does not encourage us to support the modern state of Israel.

    What you are selling is called “dispensationalism” which is different than orthodox Christianity, which is what I’m selling. You’re also selling a violent Jesus, which is not the biblical Jesus– the biblical Jesus was 100% nonviolent, showing us that God is nonviolent.

    I’d encourage you to keep reading that bible, because those things are not in it.

  • WVBORN56

    Thanks for the reply Ben. I’ll keep you in my prayers. It is clear we are miles apart on a variety of issues. I’ll respect your domain here but I clearly grieve for the church and our nation.

    What do you think Jesus meant when he said in Luke, “When you begin to see these things take place, look up your redemption is drawing near”? He chastised the pharisees for being able to read the weather signs but not the sings of prophecy.

    We are living in the last of the last days brother. We need to be about our Fathers business. Time is short and eternity is a long time to be wrong about our eternal destination. I’m concerned many are being led astray from repentance and knowing the Jesus of the Bible. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

    American Christians have evangelized the world and have been the most compassionate and giving folks the world has ever known. We have enjoyed God’s abundant blessing because we have sent missionaries to the entire world and we have protected and blessed Israel. When we quit doing those two things God’s blessing will cease.

  • Nick Rekieta

    While overall this post is ok, you make argument from silence, an informal fallacy, a huge part of it.

    Jesus not mentioning abortion (actually, abortificants…modern abortion is hugely different) gay marriage, prayer in school, ten commandments in public places and etc. does not mean that these are de-facto unimportant issues.

    Ancient Jews valued children immensely, viewing offspring as a direct measure of God’s blessing. Abortion, while “practiced,” would likely be a mark of shame or the result of another shameful act (adultery, prostitution, and etch).

    Similarly, the temple being the source of schooling AND public gathering, the 10 commandments were likely integral in education and public discourse. Prayer in school (being in the temple) would be SUCH a foregone conclusion as to not merit comment.

    Your statements on gay marriage are similarly situated. History does not actually show a widespread practice of homosexual “marriage” for commoners; it was a decadence and extravagance of the ruling classes at times, but this notion that ancient history was a homosexual utopia is nonsensical. Again, it’s entirely likely that Jesus didn’t comment on it because in ancient Judea, under mosaic law, the practice of homosexuality was generally included in sexual immorality and not a doctrinal question that needed to be addressed.

    You’re right that American Christianity is distinguishable from Biblical orthodoxy, but you make terrible logical leaps in this response and in your main piece.

    Argument from silence is an invalid criticism in a vacuum. It is ABSOLUTELY invalid in the context of this discussion.

  • Jonenred

    The heresy of Protestantism

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Again, the article you refer to is in Christianity today. That article confuses two articles:
    (1) a recent Southern Baptist survey focused on the uses of the King James Bible — and Bible ownership and reading. It has not been peer reviewed. See my comment in the last post.

    (2) 2007 Baylor Religion Study which itself is controversial.

    I see no evidence that reading the Bible makes you liberal at all. Well, except your post-hoc anecdotal explanation for why your are liberal.

    The reason I object to this is that the lingering notion that the Bible is Magic seems behind this thinking and you seem to have used false evidence to support it.

    That you have moved liberal and such is all very good. But the explanation is based on false data.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I went through a similar experience and now realize there is a huge gap between the behavior and priorities of most Evangelicals and those of the writer of the NT.

    We all owe you much for this post. While facing the challenge of the New Atheism, it is important to point out that the Bible is not the utterly horrible book they were taught during their fundamentalist childhood and youth.

    Cheers.

  • BrotherRog

    Excellent piece! On a related note, here are 16 Ways that Progressive Christians Interpret the Bible: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/16-ways-progressive-christians-interpret-the-bible/

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

    Thanks Roger– I enjoyed the piece!

  • sb

    1)The author says “I become progressive because I move in a trajectory of love, tolerance, and am way less likely to pronounce judgment on someone else than I was before.” Actually, just because an individual pronounces judgment and doesn’t love or tolerate people, it doesn’t mean that they’re conservative. What it means is that the individual doesn’t read their Bible more closely. Just because they don’t understand that God is only judge and that Jesus commands us to love our neighbor doesn’t mean that they’re right-wing. The author’s statement is basically saying that conservatives are unable to love and tolerate – this is offensive and actually the author here is the one being judgmental.

    2)The author says he wants to evangelize in a “new, more humble way.” Sounds to me that the author was just being a jerk and trying to force Jesus on individuals. Last I checked, just because someone’s conservative it doesn’t mean that they force Jesus on people. Actually, what that means is that they think that their influence over people is more important than God’s influence over people and they take offense when the audience doesn’t accept what is said about Jesus.

    3)“God wants us to care for, serve, and love the poor.” Well of course, conservatives wouldn’t disagree with this. The questions is: how do we do it? Apparently this author disagrees with the politics behind a conservative’s method of how to take care of the poor and seems to think that conservatives don’t care. Another offensive and judgmental comment.

    4)“Prophets denounced the nation when the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer.” That sounds to me what a conservative says. A conservative argues that capitalism is the answer to redistribute the wealth since it provides more jobs and allows the middle class to donate more – sounds to me that this author disagrees with the politics behind the conservative’s method and seems to think that a conservative doesn’t care for the lower or middle classes. Another offensive and judgmental comment.

    5)“The book of Acts tells us that there weren’t any poor people among them.” This is assuming quite a bit within Scripture. In the few instances that the group of disciples redistribute their wealth, there is no scripture explicitly saying that poverty is cured. There is no scriptural evidence that this continued more than a generation. Yes the disciples redistributed their wealth among themselves, but this was because they loved Jesus more than their material possessions, not because they were progressive or liberal. This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. We all love our material objects so much that we have a very difficult time giving everything away in the name of Jesus. This is something that everyone needs to work on, not just conservatives.

    6)“We see that Jesus commands us to pay our taxes.” Actually, we don’t. Jesus says to give Caesar what is due to Caeser. He says this because we need to stop focusing on material objects, much like in the previous point. He doesn’t say “thou shalt pay your taxes.” He just merely says that you pay what is due to the government and get on with your life so that way you can do something that is more important: give God what is due to God. The conservative viewpoint is to give what is due to the government and using legal laws that are set in place to benefit business owners so that they don’t have to give more than what is due. They are not loopholes, they are laws that are set in place to benefit business owners. What the business owner does with the extra money is not a conservative issue. It then becomes an issue of the business owner’s heart and relationship with God.

    7)“When it comes to issues of justice, economics, poverty, the death penalty, etc., I have become more quick to take the default position that sides with radical mercy.” The only thing that is applicable here is the death penalty. Everything else he says in this point is completely irrelevant and backed with absolutely no scripture.

    8)“The more I read about God’s heart for the immigrant, the more I realize that I might be held accountable for how I treat them.” Who says that conservatives treat immigrants poorly? Author, are you referring to illegal immigrants? If so, now we’re going to have to head into discussion of how we treat criminals. Again, come on, where is scripture here?

    9)“I realize that God will hold us accountable for how we care for the environment.” Sure, I agree that God would not want us to harm the environment, but before we point fingers at conservatives let’s take into consideration Obama’s mandate for light bulbs that are more harmful to the environment when disposed. Besides, the use of the verse from Revelation is quite out of context. The entire context of the chapter doesn’t address the environment – this is open to interpretation when we only see the word “earth” once.

    10)“The more I read my Bible, the more I want to defer my position or preference and instead side with what is in the best interest of others– because that’s the loving thing to do.” So the author seems to be implying that conservatives never act in the best interest of others. And the proof of this is?

    Come on. Get real, this blog post is misleading, inaccurate, and just plain insubstantial. As a doctorate student in theology you have absolutely no excuse for not quoting enough Scripture to state your case. The Bible doesn’t make anyone more conservative, more progressive, or more liberal. There are no politics in God’s love, and Jesus was not a liberal or a conservative. Stop trying to make it that way, and if you’re going to view the Bible through a liberal lens then do a favor to your readers and make it clear so that you don’t mislead them.

  • Perspective

    I have a few problems, mostly that none of these things are actually progressive

    1-Realizing i don’t have it together
    well YEAH, good job, nobody has it together. thats called being human! so we can completely disregard this one

    2-The more i develop humility
    this is tied in to number one, you’re supposed to be relatively humble anyhow. This one is equally stupid

    3-The more you discover justice for the poor and oppressed
    RELIGION IS THE BIGGEST OPPRESSOR OF THE POOR AND OPPRESSED!
    this is something that everybody should have realized a very long time ago. the oppressed people are still being killed daily because of religion. the fact that people are still denied rights because some religious people get uppity about it is not because they haven’t read the bible enough. it’s because they are sexist, transphobic, homophobic, racists, and more often than not they use the bible as actual support for what they are doing. its sickening.

    4-Distribution of wealth wasn’t obama’s idea
    WOAH, hold up. you needed to read the Bible to realize that the idea of redistributing money was a concept? That just shows how out of touch most religious people are. They see a similar concept used in the past and say “Woah God did this, good job God.” That is bullcrap, people used the idea because it worked, it wasn’t just christians in the past who used this idea either. Being “less-than-ignorat” about past events isn’t being progressive.

    5-More about the redistribution of wealth
    this still isn’t being progressive. its opening an actual history book. this has nothing to do with being progressive, and more to do with actually educating yourself about historical practices.

    6-Jesus taught we need to pay our taxes.
    well duh you need to pay your taxes, it doesn’t matter who says it.
    this isn’t being progressive, its being a regular human being. You don’t get pat on the back for functioning like a regular human doing the things your supposed to do anyway.

    7-quick to show mercy.
    This one also goes with “good job on finally being a regular human being”
    the writer of this article said that now he just defaults on taking sides with mercy because of the bible….instead of actually using logic and reason to figure that out, but then again if he was using logic and reason in the first place he wouldn’t need the Bible to tell him what is right and wrong.

    8-the more I realize that God cares how we treat immigrants.
    once again DUH! you should probably care about what happens to people regardless of who they are. The fact that this had to be brought up is a terrible statement on most christian’s mindset that they wouldn’t bother to care in the first place. the writer says “The more I read about God’s heart for the immigrant, the more I realize that I might be held accountable for how I treat them, and how I talk about them.”
    so if there was no god he wouldn’t care? wow. this is ridiculous.
    Its another “way to function as a normal human being”….seeing a pattern yet?

    9- I realize that God will hold us accountable for how we care for the environment.
    ….do christians actually need to be reminded that we should take care of the world around us? this isn’t being progressive. this is saying that you’re progressive to cover up the fact that you’ve had your head in the sand the whole time and now realizing that things matter. You don’t need god for any of this. This is just normal human decency.

  • klhayes

    This is a really nice post. As someone who now identifies as agnostic, I feel that many of these reasons are why I did. I believe from reading the Bible that Christians are taught to do this. But many Christians do not and I see the religion getting meaner and meaner to the point of justifying discrimination to “protect religious liberty”. Jesus did not discriminate and associated more with those on the margins than with the “pious” people.

  • MysticBlueRose

    This so paralleled my path out of right-wing-fundamentalism. Thank you.