David Hayward shared a cartoon today depicting the church as a deliberately slow and obstructionist entity:
He notes that this is not something that the church is by definition, nor something that it must be.
And so I want to take a moment to remember some of the progressive voices in the Christian tradition:
- the precursors of Christianity, the prophets of ancient Israel who challenged the notion that God belongs to one people (or vice versa), and the ethnocentric and nationalistic religiosity which goes along with such a view;
- Jesus, who crossed religious boundaries separating clean and unclean, male and female, Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile, friend and enemy;
- his early followers, who stood for table fellowship and accepting Gentiles as they were, rather than requiring that they convert and be circumcised;
- the Christians who’ve stood against militarism, against dictatorship, and who’ve been at the forefront of movements to abolish slavery, give women equal rights in society and in the church, and do the same for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people.
It doesn’t seem as though the Christian tradition has ever been without a slower-moving form. But it also seems to me that, in every age, there have been other voices which both the fundamentalists and the outside critics of Christianity or religion in general would happily forget.
But we ought not to forget, nor to surrender Christianity identity to its slowest-moving versions, nor allow churches to be held hostage by their most backwards-looking members.