The Growing Voice of Progressive Faith

The Growing Voice of Progressive Faith March 28, 2017

Progressive Christian voices are gaining power on the political scene. And lately, I’m seeing reports to that effect from some unlikely secular sources. Like

High Noon for the Religious Left, from the Bloomberg News;

and “Religious Left” Emerging as Political Force in Trump Era, from Reuters.

On the one hand… like we been sayin’. In many ways, this is old news. These stories cite the influence of leaders like William Barber II and the Moral Mondays movement; Jim Wallis and the Sojourners set; and other spiritual, religious and academic voices who are re-shaping the landscape of faith-based politicking. If you run in these circles, you’ve long known that there is change taking place in the way we engage our faith in the public sphere, and the ways we are reclaiming the language of “values” as the imperative for governing with compassion for the vulnerable. These articles are preaching to the choir.

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Still, it is nice to see this broader affirmation appearing in wider circles. Fundamentalists hijacked the Christian narrative a few decades ago to manipulate certain elements of public policy. It’s gratifying to see an acknowledgement that those voices do not speak for all people of faith; and it’s an even greater victory to see those who do represent our values, gaining traction in public policy. The message is finally getting out there, that “progressive Christian” is not an oxymoron. Those on the right can no longer dismiss our positions as some far-flung, leftist radical fringe.

 

I’m not just reading about this growing influence in the papers. I’m seeing it in my own community. I witness organizers in the daily work of relentless engagement–insisting that our representatives listen to our concerns about healthcare and education. I see the interfaith community creating intentional dialogue around refugees and poverty and non-discrimination. And I meet the growing wave of people who actively seek a community–whether faith-based or otherwise– for the important work that our faith demands of us at this exact time.

So today, for this moment, I just want to acknowledge the faithful voices who have led us to this place of hopeful movement.

Here’s to every small town church who welcomed their LGBT neighbors, and endured the wrath of the larger community. 

Here’s to every pastor who’s ever gotten a passive-aggressive note about being “too political” in the pulpit; when all you were really doing was quoting the Beatitudes. 

Here’s to every faith-based organization that has risked its tax-exempt status by speaking up for the poor and vulnerable. 

Here’s to every woman of faith who resisted and persisted; to every man of faith who will proudly call himself a feminist; and to all of us who scream into the void that women’s rights are, in fact, human rights..

Here’s to every public school teacher who has fought the creationist movement and continued to teach actual science–no matter what the school board said back home. 

Here’s to every faith blogger whose every post has been hijacked by trolls demanding to know “BUT WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT ABORTION????” Even if your post had nothing, whatsoever, to do with abortion.

Here’s to every one of you out there: fighting for gun control and climate protection with a Bible in your hand; insisting that care of the poor is a primary gospel directive, far more than gender exclusive bathrooms; and speaking a word of peace to your neighbors from other faith traditions. This victory is yours.

It matters. Every time you say what’s true; every time you speak for those who can’t speak; every time you push back against the wall of hate and violence and intolerance of the other that so often comes couched in “family values…” Every step of the way, remember that you are part of this growing cloud of witnesses. You are not shouting into an empty chasm, but adding your voice to many. Our presence and influence is growing, because you have not given up. If you’ve been doing this work for decades, then thank you. These small wins are the fruits of your labor.

And if you’re just arriving to this neighborhood, then know it is not a political or ideological point on a map. It is a deeper belief in the words and way of Christ, and that transcends any party or single issue. While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we do believe we’re asking the right questions…while holding space for all the sacred ambiguities that this work requires. Glad to have you along.

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