“Hope has two beautiful daughters – their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” St. Augustine
Being at dis-ease with injustice is why progressive Christianity seeks to be engaged in the world in order to transform it. “Accepting what is” may be a generic spiritual value, but moral quietude is not a Christian value.
That said, progressive Christians would do well to be a LOT more discerning about what we choose to be outraged about. Over the past week, the progressive Christian vanguard reacted in hyper-vigilant lock-step as they expressed their collective outcry against the *idea* that conservative Christians in the U.S. were *apparently* in a dither about Starbucks simple red coffee cups for this year’s holiday season. We got hot and bothered, red in the face, and showed-off the twitching veins in our faces to each other — to point out how “we’re not like *those* sorts of Christians!”
Except… by doing so, we proved that we are.
If there’s some truth to the notion that too many conservative evangelical type Christians engage in angry epic adventures in missing the point about what really matters when it comes to following Jesus; if there’s some truth that fundamentalist Christians too often rally their troops to tilt at windmills and charge at imaginary monsters of their own imaginations — the same can be said of us.
We progressive and emerging Christians tend to lead with “I’m not like those sorts of Christians! See how idiotic and wrong they are!” – instead of leading with seeking to be the best ambassadors of Christ and his unconditional love, grace, and compassion as possible.
The viral memes that state “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate” – was created – for us.
Yes, it is the case that Jesus wasn’t always Mr. Nice Guy and that he did in fact chase some corrupt and exploitive religious folk who were complicit with Roman occupation from the courtyards in the Temple. However, that wasn’t Jesus’ primary m.o.
Jesus spent far more of his time proclaiming and describing the counter-cultural Kingdom/Empire of God and inviting people into a new and better way of seeing and living in the world – than he did bashing the misguided and unhelpful teachings of his rivals.
Those of who follow Jesus – would do well to ponder how Jesus actually spent his time — and do likewise.
It’s a new-agey, but accurate, truism that “that which we put our attention upon is what we manifest.” People who drive cars or motorcycles know this – as our vehicles tend to go in the direction that we’re looking. If we’re busy looking at the idiots who just crashed on the side of the road, or at the clown car that is the current cast of GOP candidates, etc., we’ll likely end up in the ditch too.
As I’ve said before,
“A Christian campaign to stamp out sin will always bring about less light and love than a campaign to promote being loving.”
This applies to our tendency to spend so much of our time attacking conservative Christians — in the effort to show the world that “those sorts of Christians don’t represent us!” I suppose there’s a place for some of that, but dammit, too dang many of us spend too dang much of our time and energy blogging about “those idiotic conservatives” than we do promoting the good that we really seek to bring forth in the world.
And quite frankly, I’d like to think that progressive Christianity and emerging Christianity have each been around long enough now that we’ve grown past all of that constant felt need to attack those who formerly oppressed us or our loved ones. Yes, they deserve to be held accountable — but who the hell made us the ones to do that? That’s Jesus’ job – not ours.
To the extent that over 50% of our progressive Christian blogs and/or social media posts are attacks against conservative Christians who say or do stupid things — we are no different than those we think we’re differentiating ourselves from — and the growing agnostic and Spiritual But Not Religious masses end up seeing us all “as the same.”
As a decidedly not Christian, but hugely insightful, philosopher put it, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
Those who follow my blog, The Holy Kiss, will have noticed that I haven’t written much lately. There are many reasons for this, but one of the chief reasons is my realization that I don’t wish to be caught up in the “Progressive Christian Outrage Machine” – and be another Johnny-One-Note whose bread and butter is bashing conservative Christians whenever they do or say things that seem butt-headed, wrong, and/or offensive.
This recent tirade about certain “Christians being up arms about Starbucks’ Holiday cups” proved to be much ado about nothing. It seems that the ONLY conservative Christian who as upset about it was a “pastor” whose primary ministry is posting self-glorifying rants on Youtube. This fellow loves to hear the sound of his baritone blatherings than proclaiming the Gospel. But you know what? The same could be said of progressive Christians who clutter up the blogosphere when we smell blood in the water and go into our feeding frenzies of self-congratulatory moral outrage. That ain’t proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.
In order to not be a hypocrite, (merely criticizing others), I’ll close by saying I commit to following the Way, teachings, and example of Jesus that give life, hope, and renewal to me and to many. I commit to Jesus’ values of compassion; unconditional agape love; mercy; radical hospitality, acceptance, and inclusion; loving-kindness; forgiveness; grace; appreciating God’s creation; loving our enemies; and pursuing restorative justice. I commit to promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ – which I take to be this:
God created the world and the people in it. Life has the potential for real joy and beauty, but due to our free will, humans have a tendency to not act wisely or in our truest best interest. We abuse our free will and oppress and limit ourselves and others. Through the life, teachings, and example of Jesus, God has provided a way for humans to transform from a more reptilian – fear-based – way of living, toward a more trusting, just, and compassionate way of relating to ourselves and others. To the extent that we follow the Way of Jesus, we can know and experience salvation/wholeness. And the good news is that we don’t do it all on our own. God’s grace provides when our efforts can’t — but again to the extent that we allow and receive it. And the Good News is that each day is a new day, a fresh start, and we aren’t defined by or limited by our past.
May we protest well – and may we proclaim even better.
xx – Roger
Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who directs the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity
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