In the last entry I spoke about how my son experienced deep emotional harm from the words of a Bishop. There was actually another tradition in Christianity that hurt us more in the wake of that incident. I was still a minister at the time. I was no longer an evangelical, I had not been for a few years at that point. Now I was a Progressive Christian and heavily involved in the Emergent Church Movement and an Outlaw Preacher. My son and I were about to have more pain foisted upon us by the Progressive world.
This one is going to be very hard to write about, frankly. I was in this movement deep. I was the Great Lakes regional director of the Progressive Christian Alliance, midwest director of the Outlaw Preachers, and the co facilitator of Up-Rooted, which was the Chicago area chapter of the Emergent Village’s cohorts. Now, back to the story.
My son refused to take communion and let his opinions be known to his relatives when the Catholic Bishop called him an abomination. He faced criticism from the family for that. Never mind the fact he was never baptized or confirmed in the Catholic church. Anyway, my son’s hurt and my anger and grief was so deep that we had turned to my progressive tribe.
We were told by fellow leaders in the movement that my son was wrong not to go to the communion table. It would have been an act of grace on his part to come to the table and take the eucharist served by the same man who thought him to be an abomination. Communion would somehow resolve this and my son would be taking the lead in grace as he bows before this man to receive what I would best describe as moldy bread and poisoned wine.
I pushed back. I was told that this is the path of inclusivity. They reminded me how Jesus said to turn the other cheek and if a soldier makes you carry his gear for a mile, take it two miles. They were putting the onus upon a 13 year old child and not the full adult Bishop who said evil words. I continued with my push back. I asked if you would ask a rape victim to approach her rapist or a jew to come to a nazi for bread. Then I was told, in so many words, that this was the path to grace.
This was not the path to grace, this was the path to co dependent abuse sans boundaries. I also had a wake up call as to one of the two dangers we presented not only to the LGBTQIA movement, but female. The first was our warped definition of grace and radical inclusion. We wanted the lion and the lamb in the same temple and we assumed that if the lamb approached the lion in peace, the lion would be so moved by the gesture he would not want to eat the lion. As the insurance ad says, that is not how this works, that is not how any of this works.
This is worse than the Evangelical mindset that tells abused spouses and children to be more loving and obedient wives and children and the husband will be so moved by the love they will respond with kindness in return. When someone is being victimized and oppressed, the first thing that needs to be done is to remove the person from danger, then you work on their healing from the trauma. This is victim care 101 here. This is the opposite of what we asked of people when we were in the progressive movement.I was party to this. In 2010 we were having a Outlaw Preacher Reunion. The leadership thought it would be a swell idea to invite and anti LGBTQIA conservative Christian radio show host to the event. Many of the LGBTQIA christians in the group balked about this. They had been traumatized by his show. They had been hurt. We told them that they need to show him grace and love. They said they came because this was inclusionary for them. We told them that if it was to be inclusive for them, we had to be radically inclusive and invite this jerk. We invited him. He interviewed some gay people. He twisted the facts. They were hurt. No one apologized or took responsibility. I was not the one who invited him, but I apologized for thinking it was a good idea. Profusely.
The second thing we did poorly as a movement, and they still do, is being really horrible allies. Somehow the story of being an ally for the oppressed becomes the white cis person’s journey. Look at me. See how amazing I am standing with the brown people, the women, the gays. I am so brave, this is costing me friends. Here is a selfie of me helping them. Here is what I say they need even though I did not ask anyone what they need or want.
The last thing I will toss in is that if you speak out about someone in leadership, especially if they are a published author, they will go after you, gaslight you, and then shun you and paint you in a bad light. I would love to give specifics, but I saw a peer who goes by Naked Pastor get hurt badly by standing with victims who faced abuse. Though I do not have much left to lose anymore, but it ain’t worth the risk.
I wish there were more training in the progressive movement, I wish they would study and understand good ally practices and healthy boundaries more. There are a lot of things on my wish list with them. But they are a group that I have too much personal pain associated with to trust. I have some dear friends from that time. Most of them are like me now. We left it. It was a necessary bridge from our road from evangelical christianity to atheism or something completely different.
Until they can build some consistency and uniformity of healthy practices, I would advise caution. If I sound bitter, it is because I am. My son hates having been a pastor’s kid not because of my time as an evangelical, but because of the people he met when I was a Progressive Christian leader. When I bring up that time he likes to point out the quote by MLK. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” He then points out that my mainline friends were just silent, but the progressive ones told us to love our enemies was to let them hurt him.
I will share a quote from a dear friend who used to be in the Outlaw Preachers with me. “I was asked to be a part of factions of this part of the church. It was toxic and abusive. All I saw was power struggles, king making and infighting. Just a bunch of yuppie and hipster white folks feeling guilty and feeling mad but taking their anger out on everyone that didn’t deserve it. It was sad.”
Not all progressives are like this, but there are enough to make it a dangerous and deadly trend. On paper, the Progressive movement in Christianity shows the most promise. The reality is sometimes horrific and the road to trauma and pain is paved with good intentions.