At the end of December, I posted my new year’s resolution:
To quit the Progressive Christian Internet in 2014.
The post generated a good deal of conversation, which was surprising since it felt a little more like a personal rant, a brief window into an internal gut-decision that I was making and thought very few people would understand. I posted it at like 1AM. Thought no one would even read it, honestly.
But people did read it, and people reacted strongly. I learned from the exchange and felt clearer – and stronger – about my conviction when all was said and done. And, in keeping with the nature of the resolution, some of the reactions proved the point that there is, in fact, a conversational problem of unhealthy affect, arrogance, and aggression that seems to dominate segments of the Progressive Christian Internet.
That said, the ensuing month or so of keeping this resolution has given me a better grasp on where I have gotten caught up in the problem. In fact, I did a little editing of the resolution itself and softened the section about a certain “schism”-related post. Note that my disagreement with that post has not softened, but I don’t want to go too far in judging personal motives. Because that only contributes to the problem. I want to appreciate the author for his good work while being able to “quit” the conversations that cross the line, in my opinion.
But, guys, seriously: I did quit.
And, I still do.
Which brings me to Patheos.
When I recently announced that I would be moving my personal blogging from a self-hosted site to the Patheos Progressive Christian Channel, several folks were quick to humorously call me out: “So much for quitting the Progressive Christian Internet! Good job on almost making it a month with your new year’s resolution!” And honestly, I get it. I mean the channel is called “Progressive Christian.” To any Internet onlooker it would appear that I hastily “quit” only to come back begging for my old job.
But I want to make it clear that there is no hard and fast “Progressive Christian” organization or brand. The label is a loose one, and loosely applied to the Christian category that is, at least, not conservative or fundamentalist in nature. And so the “Progressive Christian Internet” I described in my resolution post was an exercise in ironic branding, as it really refers to a conversation that often seems loudest among the vast, general, loose category of “progressive Christian.” (Indeed, the unhealthy conversation that I resolved to quit is that which so often wields the “progressive” label as a weapon against anyone less “progressive” than the person who happens to be tweeting/blogging/etc.)
So with that clarification in place, it is with great excitement that I join the bloggers here at Patheos Progressive Christian! Thank you so much for having me! And let me say with 100% certainty that I see wonderful and necessary conversation and critique happening here among those who are something other than conservative and fundamentalist. (Sidenote: instead of “progressive Christianity” I think it would be great if we adopted the provisional label “other Christianity.” Some layered meaning in that word “other” too. But that’s for another post.) Thus, it’s nothing less than an honor and a privilege to write alongside folks like Benjamin Corey, Nadia Weber, Christian Piatt, Brian McLaren, Fred Clark, and yes…even Tony Jones :).
And, I hope I can contribute something unique, if not exactly new, to the conversation.
I’m an evangelical. Now, I know Patheos has a channel for evangelicals, but I’m an “other evangelical.” Perhaps I’m more of a post-evangelical, having grown up and done ministry primarily in the evangelical tradition but finding myself out of sync with most of evangelical church culture. I live in a liberal city and state and love it. I don’t vote Republican (Warren ’16 - PLEASE). I do ministry with a United Methodist church.
That said, I remain committed to an evangelical orthodoxy. And I identify theologically as a missional Wesleyanabaptist. Yes, I desire my friends and neighbors to experience rescue and restoration in Jesus the Messiah and his messy-yet-beautiful church. Yet I also just want to be a good friend and neighbor, and to love and enjoy those around me with no agenda or expectations. Yes, I want to live a holy life in the midst of a hurting and unjust world and to encourage my family in doing the same. But I also want to be part of an ecclesial movement that graciously brings greater wholeness to the world itself without judgment or antagonism. Yes, I definitely want to protest the notion that civil religion on the right or left is at all a viable option for anyone following the subversive Prince of Peace, and the merging of God’s kingdom and American politics is nothing less than doing empire business in the church. And still, I want to participate in my community and in the world in such a way as to add salt and light to the civil – and even political – conversation. (That’s why I choose to vote.)
In this sense, my life and ministry are increasingly about going beyond the black and white options of conservative and liberal to follow Jesus as faithfully as possible into something “other.” The nuance lies in realizing that gospel and kingdom cannot be co-opted by polarized ideological and political interests. To be missional is to be sent outside of these prevailing options on the right and left, to call the world into a different kind of hope.
If I can contribute anything unique here (and again, it is not really new), it would be a passion for the missional church to emerge out of the polarized, politicized, post-Christendom rubble.
Thanks for reading, and for joining me here at Patheos Progressive Christian.
Should be a fun ride ahead :).