What do progressive Christians have in common with the Westboro Baptists?

Found on Facebook yesterday: “So-called progressive Christians and Westboro Church members are just two sides of the same anti-Christian coin.”

When asked to elaborate, the author of this pithy statement said, “One group is a caricature of God’s grace and the other side is a caricature of His judgement. In other words: Both sides distort God’s character.”

The temptation to engage in negative reciprocity is overwhelming… But I’ll resist for the moment.

I have my own problems with the term “progressive Christian,” simply because it implies an air of superiority. If certain Christians view themselves as progressive, that means other Christians are regressive or, at best, stationary.

The thing is, we all tend to think of ourselves as progressive, as having an edge over people who disagree with us. We all think our theology represents the most reasonable interpretation of reality. Why else would we hold to it?

So if progressive Christians (which, it turns out, includes all of us) and the Westboro Baptists have anything in common, it’s the temptation to define ourselves over and against the evil or retrograde “other.” And when we succumb to this temptation, we really do become two sides of the same anti-Christian coin.

So maybe my Facebook friend is onto something after all. He just doesn’t realize every coin comes from the same mint.

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About Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer who has applied his craft to numerous documentaries, feature films and shorts. Recent projects include "The Chicken Manure Incident," "Hellbound?," "Drop Gun," "No Saints for Sinners," "spOILed," "Sex+Money," "With God On Our Side," "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," "After..." and the upcoming biopic "The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton." In addition to his work in film, Kevin has written, co-written and edited over 45 books. He lives in Kimberley, BC, Canada with his wife and four children.

  • http://andhup.wordpress.com/ Leslie

    “…the temptation to define ourselves over and against the evil or retrograde “other.”
    Well said!

  • Rexae

    I have been using the term ‘progressive’ very comfortably since 1967. Actually prefer ‘liberal progressive’. Kevin, pity you don’t remember meanings are in people, not words!

  • http://vmwishes.com mike

    You make a valid point about the bias implied by the qualifier “progressive.” Just curious if you have a proposal for a different adjective. As far as the conclusion that we are two sides of the same coin, I would point out that EVERYONE falls into this category. We believe what we believe because we believe it is correct. Otherwise, it would not be called belief.

    • Kevin Miller

      I prefer the term “progressive-conservative,” because we are all trying to conserve some things and move forward on other issues. And we often move forward by rediscovering something that was forgotten.

  • Kim

    This piece and the comment that provoked it isn’t about critiquing “the temptation to define ourselves over and against the evil or retrograde “other.”” It’s comparing those of us who call ourselves progressive, in contrast to those who call themselves conservative, Christians (or, more accurately here in Dallas, Christian progressives) to those who protest at funerals and hold signs saying “God hates fags.” No progressive Christian I know does anything even close to the heinous actions of Westboro and I consider the comparison to be a form of false witness.

    • Kevin Miller

      I hope you realize I’m arguing AGAINST the idea of equating progressive Christians with the Westboro Baptists.

      • Rick

        Except I didn’t get that when I read the opening post. You finished the article with “maybe my friend is onto something,” and I really don’t think he is. Progressives, like pretty much everyone else, can get sanctimonious, but do we do anything that equates to disrupting soldiers’ funerals?

        • Kevin Miller

          I’m saying no one is immune from the temptation to define themselves against someone else. And when we fall into that sort of behavior, we are merely imitating those we are against.

  • Michael Valentine

    I’m sorry but it sounds like we are equating being obedient to Christ as being a progressive. You know that old socialist Jesus who wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick.

    • Kevin Miller

      Conservatives also feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick. We can be both sides of the same bad coin or the same good coin. What I’m saying is, as long as we cling to “us” and “them” thinking, we are two sides of the same bad coin.

      • Lee Ann

        Kevin – I think you make a good point. “Us” and “Them” thinking has become really pervasive in this country. We are dreadfully polarized into “liberal” and “conservative camps, and on both sides we fall into the habit of surrounding ourselves primarily with like-minded people, whether in terms of theology or politics. When we do this, we can fall into habits of assuming what “they” think – usually uncharitably – and congratulating ourselves on what “we” think. The ugliness of the Westboro folks is, in some sense, this unhealthy mentality taken to an extreme. Few of us go to *that* extreme of hatefulness, but most of us can, if we are honest and introspective, admit to falling into the “us and them” thinking that is a slippery slope toward being judgmental and hypocritical, rather than tolerant and loving. Thanks for the post.

  • jean alain

    HELLO EVERYONE. God tells us that the a good tree does not grow bad fruit and viceversa, so i think that more then stay here defending a name that we use and how others might see it, we should meditate around the scripture so to grow our faith in god and receive the holy spirit which will guide us in all the choices we will make and give us clear undertansding of the word of God.
    without it we cannot succeed in resisting God enemy, with all his sedutive and tempting desires of the flesh. The Devil is the prince of this system of things, we can see how his power is influencing everything in the world today but it also true that God is much more powerful then Satan and he knows that he has very little time left, we cannot GIVE UP .
    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism,enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning YOU, the same way as I did forewarn YOU, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.
    On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impaled the flesh together with its passions and desires.
    If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another. (Galitians5:19-26)