Liberal Christianity around the Blogosphere

Bo Sanders discussed a bit of revisionist history offered in a tweet by Rick Warren, who outlandishly claimed (among other things):

 Liberal theology has never created any university. It just sucks the life our of those that were started by Bible believers.

Fortunately he received a lot of responses challenging his either bizarrely ill-informed or downright dishonest claim. And if you missed it, see the meme that he inspired – and later even contributed to – on Twitter, #RickWarrenTips.

Chris Hallquist asked how to “deal with” liberal Christians. Since his descriptions of how liberal Christians think seem to represent those who are the “liberal” end of still fairly conservative Christianity, I would suggest that he “deal with” the phenomenon by realizing that the spectrum stretches far further in the liberal direction than he ever seems to mention or acknowledge.

Finally, Otagosh shared a link to and excerpt from a recent blog post of mine, adding this clever bumper sticker:

As much as I appreciate the clever wit of the bumper sticker, I don’t think it works well as a slogan. I can see it as an aim –  trying to be less like those who focus on loudly proclaiming the most bizarre examples of human speculation as divine truth, rather than focusing as New Testament authors tend to on cultivating kindness, humility, and other such characteristics. But in the interest of doing precisely that, I think that trying to claim that this is a description that belongs to us and not to others, rather than an ideal we strive for, is a mistake, and indeed, like wearing a badge proclaiming one’s own humility, sporting a bumper sticker like this one might show just how far we still have to go in the department of cultivating spiritual fruit.

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  • Straw Man

    I applaud your response to the bumper sticker. If liberal Christianity is about loving your fellow man without exception[*], then branding the “other” as “nuts” is (1) not going to nurture love for them in yourself, and (2) is going to guarantee that no dialog ever occurs by which you might influence them to be less “nutty.”

    [*] Without exception, really? I believe so. While not a liberal Christian per se, I don’t see the positive value in hating anyone. Godwin replies, “So you love Hitler?” That’s a fair challenge question. I point out that it’s not obviously impossible to hate the Holocaust or other atrocities, and even to use force to oppose them, without hating the person. Do I have to hate Hitler to hate everything he stands for? And even to kill him in self-defense? But this whole line of questioning clearly exceeds the scope of your blog post, let alone a comment dangling from its tail.

    • Straw Man

      As Godwin also hastens to add, the conservative or fundamentalist Christians referred to in the bumper sticker, are not in fact Hitler.

  • Chris Hallquist

    Hmmm… okay, that post was probably not sufficiently clear.

    By “interpretations of the Bible,” I don’t just mean things like like liberal (relatively liberal? moderate?) evangelicals trying to cling to inerrancy while advocating nicer interpretations of as much of the Bible as possible. I’m also referring, for example, to claims of the form, “yes, parts of the Bible are flawed, but we know which parts really matter and those flawed parts aren’t the parts that really matter.” And the same question arises there as for more conservative positions: how do you know that? Why should non-believers accept your version of your religion as the right one?

    (And the example of a more liberal position is just an example, one I seem to encounter a fair amount, but yes there are others out there and the questions remain the same.)

  • Whit Johnstone

    I find that bumper sticker extremely tempting, but putting it on my car would be a sin, I think. Spiritual pride, to be specific. Who the h*** am I to judge what sort of Christianity produces “more fruit”- only God can judge that.

  • Sabio Lantz

    I forgot which author you linked to is a similar post, but one of these guys basically said, “Look, these damn liberal and progressive Christians might as well be yucky secular humanists.” I think he is right. Perhaps Liberal Christians should proudly call themselves “Secular Humanists” and help get rid of this ugly atheist bigotry. Then maybe more atheists would support progressive religionists in areas where it counts.

    I think your criticism of the bumper sticker is spot on!

    • James F. McGrath

      I doubt that relabelling, even if it were felt to be fitting, would eliminate bigotry towards “liberal religious secular humanists.” The atheists who do not simply lack belief in God but engage in hostile ridicule of all religious beliefs, even those with which they are poorly acquainted, would surely not cease to do so, even though they got most of their criticisms of superstition and popular religiosity from us! :-) And the truth is that a willingness to acknowledge the mysteriousness of our existence is a unifying thread that separates liberal religionists from more conservative ones (who tend to claim confident knowledge rather than mystery!) and to unite them with some atheists who acknowledge this as well, while others do not.

      I remember asking a while back why atheists do not self-identify as pantheists, naturalists with a mystical bent. Some detested the idea, and some thought the term was potentially just as fitting as atheist. I am not sure how those folks feel about one another, but it might give some indication of whether the wearing of a common label does or does not help eliminate hostility!

      • Sabio Lantz

        Good points, James. I largely agree. Sometimes, depending on the audience, I will identify myself as a naturalist with mystical tendencies (and certainly mystical experiences). But the problem is the word mystical — I won’t use it with some, because they will go to far. But I will use it with others because their view of a non-believer is too narrow.

        Language is funny. I like your points.