Progressive Christian Resources?

I have a friend who grew up in fundamentalist and evangelical circles and has never been exposed to Christianity outside of that. She told me recently that she isn’t sure she can call herself a Christian anymore, and I asked what she meant. She told me that still believes in God, and in sin and the need for redemption, and in Jesus’ saving sacrifice. But, she said, she also supports GLBTQ rights and gender equality. When I told her that there are Christians who believe the same, she was surprised.

And then she had questions. How do these Christians reconcile gay rights and gender equality with the Bible? How do they interpret and understand the Bible? How do they understand Jesus and Christianity differently from the conservative circles in which she has spent her life? She wanted websites, articles, books. She wanted resources and information. And so I thought I’d put that question to any of my readers who consider themselves progressive or liberal Christians. What websites, articles, or books would my friend benefit from reading? What resources can I offer her?

Note: I understand that some of my readers may think I should be trying to move my friend toward atheism rather than looking for progressive Christian resources to offer her. However, deconverting my friend is not my goal.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Rebecca M

    Definitely direct her to a book entitled: What Does a Progressive Christian Believe? by Delwin Brown. It is only around 100 pages long, but for a person coming out of that type of situation it is like water when you are parched. I ended up becoming an atheist anyway, but this book really helped me understand that not all Christians are bigoted a**holes and gave me hope that I wasn’t along while I was still on the fence about it. I have recommended it to friends and they have liked it as well.

  • Gordon

    I hear Rob Bell is one of those progressive christians, maybe his resources would help.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    I very much recommend John Shore’s blog. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I like his overall philosophies and approach to religion. He’s very LGBTQ-affirming and has written a book on the subject that got a recommendation from Dan Savage.

    http://johnshore.com/

    Another good resource specifically on the subject of Christianity and LGBTQ issues is the Gay Christian Network.

    http://www.gaychristian.net/

    And finally, as evidence that there is such a thing as the religious left, I give you the website of The Christian Left.

    http://www.thechristianleft.org/

  • Noelle

    Matthew Paul Turner’s blog as a good mix of humor and liberal Christian stuff. Here’s the link:
    http://matthewpaulturner.net/

    I like it because of the humor and mixed subjects. It also attracts a varied crowd of regular commenters with liberal and conservative Xians, agnostics, atheists, and more. And if that’s not her thing, the many links to other blogs on the right-hand column will allow easy browsing to find something she does like.

  • http://www.soulation.org Jonalyn Fincher

    Great question!

    I’ve found my cousin’s 34 year old ministry helping gay Christians well-researched and very inclusive: http://www.ecwr.org/
    Also, http://soulation.org/MyFaithHurdle/?p=99 for a civil and kind dialogue btw Christians with different views on the gay community.
    For gender equality: http://www.rubyslippers.org and http://www.eewc.com/

  • kisekileia

    For general progressive Christianity, and progressive Christian politics: Slacktivist!!! I can’t recommend him highly enough.

    If she’s looking for resources specifically on sexuality, I highly recommend William Countryman’s book Dirt, Greed, and Sex. It’s a rethink of Biblical sexual ethics that takes the Bible seriously without treating its every word as prescriptive for the modern era. I also strongly recommend Soulforce as a Christian organization that does pro-LGBT activism and provides relevant information. <a href=http://sarahoverthemoon.com/Sarah Moon is a feminist Christian blogger who might be of interest to your friend.

    For general progressive Christianity stuff, Marcus Borg is a serious theology scholar who also writes books suitable for a popular audience. He might be a bit too liberal for your friend on the sin/redemption/Jesus stuff, but his books would probably still be worth a look for her.

    I wish your friend well!

  • Jason Dick

    A super-short reply is simply to point out that there are lots of things in the Bible that nobody believes any longer. Like the acceptability of slavery. Or the proscription against wearing clothing of mixed fabrics. Every Christian picks and chooses from the Bible: it’s impossible not to.

  • Emily

    Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian is a great place to start, and two books follow that one. Tony Campolo, Lauren Winner, Donald Miller (more surface-level postmodernist Christianity than the rest on my list). Shane Claiborne. Anne Lamott. N. T. Wright. Walter Bruggeman. Wright and Bruggeman are upper-level undergrad/grad level texts, so recommend with your friend’s educational background in mind.

    Finding some friends who are exploring (or have hung out for awhile) in this reimagined faith is really helpful. I got introduced to every author I just named in college, through other people. Having graduated, I haven’t quite found a new community.

  • Dianne

    I’m an atheist and don’t have any real resources, but in terms of the philosophy of reconciling progressive ideals and the Bible, I think George Takei’s facebook post sums it up nicely. Judge not lest ye be judged and all that. Who’s to say what God considers a sin or not? Our job as humans is to help each other and leave the judgement to God.

  • http://www.pasttensepresentprogressive.blogspot.com Latebloomer

    I like Donald Miller’s book “Blue Like Jazz”…it’s kind of a low key storytelling approach to learning to see the world as a big and beautiful and complex place…..not so tidy and black/white like in fundamentalism.

    I was also going to recommend the Slacktivist but I see someone beat me to it.

  • Conuly

    Note: I understand that some of my readers may think I should be trying to move my friend toward atheism rather than looking for progressive Christian resources to offer her. However, deconverting my friend is not my goal.

    Taking her questions as an opportunity to proselytize would not only be disrespectful but also counterproductive. Anybody who thinks you ought to do that isn’t thinking it through very clearly.

  • Michael Busch

    You might try referring her to religioustolerance.org . They cover just about anything from a wide range of perspectives.

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    johnshore.com is also a good resource. Plus the community there is quite active. He also has a facebook group named “Unfundamentalist Christians” she may wish to check out.

  • Caitlin

    Anne Lamott is a progressive Christian with some wonderful books on faith–I have read Traveling Mercies and Plan B and enjoyed them very much, finding much wisdom there even though I don’t identify as Christian myself.

  • Rosie

    faithfromthefield.blogspot.com is a blog written by a progressive Christian friend of mine and her sister-in-law. I’ll bet she has all kinds of resources also, but I haven’t asked her about them as I’m no longer a believer myself. Also, somewhere along the line I must have signed a petition by a group called Faithful America, because now I get all kinds of emails from them decrying the insane conservatism of some Christians, and urging me as a “fellow Christian” to stand up for social justice and tolerance. I haven’t asked to be removed from their mailing list because it’s comforting to me that such Christians exist, even though I don’t identify as one.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    The Slacktivist is also worthwhile.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Ooh! And Rachel Held Evans – author of Evolving in Monkey Town and popular blogger:
    http://rachelheldevans.com/

    And Sarah-over-the-moon:
    http://sarahoverthemoon.com/

    And the Sarcastic Lutheran:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/

  • Reader

    One author I really appreciated was John Shelby Spong. His Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/John-Shelby-Spong/e/B000APLGFS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
    I also liked “What Paul Really Said About Women” by John Temple Bristow.

    But now we are in the youtube era, so one of my favorite channels is “TheraminTrees”, this video called “Instruction Manual For Life” is a good start for anyone questioning if there is one right way.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAIpRRZvnJg

  • LRJ

    Rachel Held Evans (rachelheldevans.com) and her books (although I have to admit I haven’t personally read them), could be useful.

  • Hypatia

    The documentary For the Bible Tells Me So does the best job that I have seen of explaining how a respect for the Bible and a pro-LGBTQ point of view can mesh together, and how the anti-homosexual passages in the Bible have been misunderstood by many conservative Christians. When last I checked, it was streaming on Netflix.

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen

    Irecommend Word of a Woman regarding homosexuality and female equality. http://wordofawoman.com/
    Also Elizabeth Esther on recovering from fundamentalism. http://newsite.elizabethesther.com/
    My own blog is pretty good (I think!) on female equality and principles of Bible interpretation. http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com
    With regards to progressive politics from a Christian point of view, there’s Sojourner’s Magazine. http://sojo.net/

    I’m not sure I’d recommend Spong unless she really wants to move away from belief in things like a literal Resurrection.

  • Meggie

    My first thought was to go to one or two of the local, liberal churches and talk to the minister or one of the elders. I know that in my church there are many people who would be happy to talk to someone about what they believe without making any attempt to force those beliefs on someone else. (Your American readers would have to recommend suitable churches.)

    I would be quite happy for you to pass my email address on to her, if that is any use. I am not an expert but I am happy to explain what I believe and how I reconcile what is in the bible with modern day life. (Summary of my beliefs: Genesis matches up really well with evolution theory, Old Testament law is all irrelevent thanks to Jesus, different even opposite religious practices can all be correct according to Paul and LGBT is fine. I try to live by the two commandments Jesus left – love God, love everyone and trust that God’s grace will sort everything else out.)

  • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Patheos’s own ultra-liberal Christian, James McGrath:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/

  • Sal Bro

    I have since moved away from this frame of thinking, but at the time I was deconverting from fundamentalist Christianity to something more liberal, I found Stephen Jay Gould’s Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life to be deeply comforting. It focuses on reconciliation of scientific topics (e.g., evolution) with faith and centers around his concept of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), commonly described as “different ways of knowing”.

  • Adele

    It sounds like your friend is no longer attending church. I agree with Meggie that her best bet would be to contact a liberal Christian church. They would have a wealth of resources on this topic. For online research she could start with the websites of some liberal Christian religions. UCC/Congregational would probably be her best bet. Here is a main page: http://www.ucc.org/ From here she can link to many interesting pages. For example, here is the site of Believe Out Loud, an organization of Christians supporting LGBT rights: http://www.believeoutloud.com/

  • Scotlyn
  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    First of all I would suggest that she learns about what the bible says about homosexuality, it is not as clear as conservative Christians like to pretend that it is. I have studied this quite a lot since I came to Christianity as a strong supporter of gay rights and as a feminist and I had to know for sure if I really needed to change my views in this, and my finding was no, I do not. Also, take time and pray and listen to the Spirit.

    http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/

    This was a page that opened my eyes although I personally do not agree with all their interpretations. Even so, it does prove that one can claim that the bible even supports gay people and that there is not just one view on homosexuality presented in the bible.

  • Clytia

    A book I read some time ago, which I found fascinating (despite having already left religion) was “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine” by Sue Monk Kidd: http://www.suemonkkidd.com/DanceOfTheDissidentDaughter/default.aspx

    It tells of her journey away from more patriarchal understandings of God to the ‘sacred feminine’.

  • Esteleth

    Well, he has his flaws, but Jim Wallis has some decent stuff to say. He’s not only progressive, but evangelical. So that might be a nice fit. He writes as Sojourners (http://sojo.net/jim-wallis).

    My own faith tradition – Quakerism – tends to the progressive. So while a lot of the stuff here is Quaker-specific, some of the books and information found at the Friends General Conference site (http://www.quakerbooks.org/christianity-theology) may be useful.

  • Anthony

    Jesus for the Non-Believer by Bishop Spong

  • http://www.lethadawsonscanzoni.com/ Letha Dawson Scanzoni

    In 1978, when Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and I wrote “Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?: A Positive Christian Response” (updated and expanded in 1994), we had in mind readers like your friend — people who were thinking, questioning, and open-minded enough to consider new points of view. (Can you imagine what it was like to write an LGBTQ-affirming book from within evangelicalism more than 30 years ago?) More recently, psychologist David G. Myers and I coauthored “What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage.” Readers can browse inside both books and read excerpts through the publisher’s website: http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/8662/Letha_Dawson_Scanzoni/index.aspx.
    Your friend might also find it helpful to read ” A Religious Approach to Homosexuality,” a talk I gave to an inter-faith group a few years ago and published on my website, http://www.lethadawsonscanzoni.com/2010/04/a-religious-approach-to-homosexuality/ She’ll find Christian feminist material on the website as well. You might also suggest she explore the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today website at http://www.eewc.com/. Thanks for caring about your friend, understanding where she’s coming from, and helping her on her own personal spiritual journey.


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