To better help people understand the difference between liberal Christianity and progressive Christianity, I’ve referred to what I call the “The 11 Ps of Progressive Christianity“:
* Postmodern * Passionate * Poetic * Prophetic/Political * Prayerful * Practical/Practice/Praxis/orthoPraxy * Paradoxical * Pro-LGBTQI * Peaceful/Pacifist * Panentheistic * Pluralistic. It is the third of those three that I intend to convey at this time. Over the years I’ve put forth the following assertions:
“..Christians rightfully honor and celebrate Jesus as a unique and fully incarnate (poetically speaking) manifestation (poetically speaking) of God. We are devoted to him, we cherish him, we revere him, we are endeared to him. But we pray to the God Jesus prayed to, not to Jesus. Being a Christian is putting our trust and reliance (having faith) in the way, teachings, and example of Jesus (that was informed and inspired by the Hebrew prophets before him) and to live with holy boldness as we seek loving and just right relations with ourselves, our neighbors (near and far), all of Creation, and with God.” Nov. 2, 2013
“People today know that theology is poetry – and that it provides meaning – not facts.” – May 14, 2015
“The trinity is a beloved Christian poem of who God is to us. But poems don’t literally define things. Like all art, and theology, they point to what is beyond them.” – May 21, 2015
Fr. Richard Rohr wrote: “All language about God is necessarily symbolic and figurative. ..The Bible uses metaphors for God, such as rock and shepherd. Jesus describes himself metaphorically as the bread of life and the light of the world. The Spirit is portrayed as breath and wind. God is not literally a rock or an actual shepherd on a hillside somewhere, yet we need these images to “imagine” the unsayable Mystery.” – January 11, 2017
And I put it even more simply as “The Bible is poetry. All theology is. The sooner people realize that, the fewer arguments and the less conflict we will have.” Dec. 6, 2017
Granted, a case could be made that this last remark is a bit overstated, but I let it be clear that cases supporting it can readily be put forth as well. Bottom line: progressive Christians are called to error on the side of multi-valent interpretations understandings instead of on the side of legalistic and exclusivistic ones. I’m going to share a “spoken-Word” slam poetry sermonette that I preached about this time last year. It is as true now as it was then – frankly, even more so. You may notice the other “10 Ps” infused within.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
What in the dickens did he know?
What did he know?
He knew what Time it was.
That tale of twin towns was the time right before the French revolution
and all that led up to it…
Do we know what time it is?
I said do we know what time it is?
Some of us thought we did.
We thought it’s the time of the dawning of the idyllic age of Aquarius.
We imagined we’re entering a utopian new age of “higher consciousness”
We dreamed it’s the era of ever-integrating, spiritually elitist spiral dynamics where people deemed “green” are “more evolved” than those deemed orange, blue, red… and so on!
…. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
And we fantasized a rise of “Indigo Children” – a new generation of super sensitive more fully evolved humanity present among us!
The past 8 weeks [12 months] have shown us who we really are and what time it really is.
On the left and on the right – we’re a bunch of freaked-out Henny Penny Chicken Little’s running around with our heads cut off hollering, “The sky is falling!, Abandon ship! It’s the end! Let’s move to Canada!”
All 9 Enneagram types have regressed to our respective stress and fear states — and brother — that ain’t good.
‘Cause if we’re stressing and act out of fear we manifest the monsters that we loathe and despise.
Our demons become self-realizing prophesies and none of us look like the beautiful souls we really are.
Instead, of intentional deep thinking about what time it really is, we react pell-mell!
— Pell-Mell: “In disorderly confusion; rushed with reckless haste.
“The contents of the sacks were thrown pell-mell to the ground”
Like a hyper-reactive human pinball game with deadly consequence…
Pell-mell — we react to the xenophobic rhetoric and scapegoating of Jews and allow them to be sent off to be gassed
Pell-mell – we attack a naval fleet in Hawaii
Pell-mell – we drop atomic bombs on cities in Japan
Pell-mell — we create the modern state of Israel
Pell-mell – we commandeer Palestinian lands and bulldoze Palestinian homes
Pell-mell – we wage war on Israel with volleys of rocks and rockets.
Pell-mell – we fly planes into buildings in New York killing 2,977.
Pell-mell — we invade Iraq without just cause resulting in 251,000 deaths
Pell-mell — we create ISIS to fill the vacuum of leadership that invasion caused
Pell-mell — we react assuming the worst about black citizens who might be criminal suspects, shooting first and asking questions later.
Pell-mell — we ambush innocent cops as vigilante justice for what other cops in other states did to black citizens saying, “if black lives don’t matter, then neither do blue!” [Pell-mell – we rally for white supremacy without white robes and hoods in Charlottesville, and pell-mell – we ironically don we now our black masked apparel seeking to punch Nazis and Nazi sympathizers in the face Pell-mell – we shoot hundreds of country music fans in Vegas, and pell-mell – we buy AR-15s in record numbers and stocks in bump-stocks skyrocket like never before!]
Pell-mell – we elect a human-aggravated blowhard who pledges to unleash more coal-burned global warming gasses into the sky
Pell-mell – we fricken frack turtle island and threaten our aquifers with oil, gas, and fracking fluids containing chemicals they still won’t name.
Pell-mell – we focus all of our energy to prevent one pipeline from being constructed … as an Indian-headed token wooden Burning Man nickle so that we can absolve ourselves from not saying a damn thing about the other pipelines that are being planned and constructed during the time we’ve been virtually standing with Standing Rock with our armchair activism – and as a palliative pill that helps us sleep at night after taking our sweet time to provide clean water to the people of Flint!
The lead sinkered sacrifice of a population of mostly black fellow citizens – mitakuye oyasin (mitakia wahsan) “all our relations”- – on our watch!
On our watch…
on our watch… tic toc .. tic toc ….zzzzz
…But it’s not time to sleep people. It’s time to wake-up!
It’s time to get woke!
Getting woke means gaining perspective – historically and spiritually.
It’s time to get historical perspective – seeing that at 240 years, we’re but a teenager within the global family of nations.
It’s time to wake up to see that our collective torrid twitter tantrum is an adolescent rebellion.
Teens do dumb stuff. They push limits, test boundaries, and act impulsively – with brains that aren’t fully developed. Their frontal lobes haven’t thickened to put a needed check to their hormonal outbursts and eruptions.
The global community looks on with dismay – but they aren’t freaking out.
They raise their eyes and roll them. They’ve seen it all before.
Over the centuries, they’ve seen imperial young bucks flex their muscles, thump their chests, and strut around like cocky red bulls in a china shop with impetuous arrogant swagger saying that they’re Number One & that God Bless Whateverica has a special hard-on for them.
The world wise web knows that we learn and grow through the dynamic process of
* thesis * antithesis * synthesis.
Thesis – learning the cultural norms, values, and conventions that are presented
Antithesis – rejecting those norms, values, and conventions
Synthesis – reinterpreting norms, values, and conventions in new ways, with needed adjustments, on our own terms in our own ways that make sense today.
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
And are we ever in the midst of antithesis!
We, changed our clocks back for Daylights Savings Time and then we pell-mell voted to set progress back 50 years or more!
And it’s time to get spiritual perspective – seeing that we don’t have to view chaos as unwelcome or to be avoided. Seeing that chaos is an essential part of real authentic life.
We don’t need to numb and distract ourselves with television or drugs of choice to take the constant edges off —
instead we can own and shred the edge!
we can learn to be with it
we can grow toward being a less anxious presence
we can learn to calmly tread water amidst the chaotic floods
we can learn to relax, float, and breathe though we’re surrounded by the dangerous derelict debris of political, economic, and environmental train-wrecks
we can learn to see that “this too shall pass”
we can embrace Sojourner’s truth that “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence — and watching the evidence change.”
I’ve seen things of great value lost – We don’t know what we have until it’s gone … get found again – and then transform into something entirely different and unexpected. “No one saw that coming!”
Can I have a witness?
We can learn to see that we can help hope’s evidence change by applying the theory of Spiritual Relativity
You know it right! E = ??? … E= MC2!
E – the Energy to do what it takes to move us into action toward health and transformation
M – the MASS of US! The collective all of us. Combined we have mass – critical mass. The people together shall not be defeated!
C – the constant.
What’s the constant?
C is L.
The constant is Love — and squaring it is redundant – just a poetic flourish.
And we have enough of it to inspire and move us from freaked … to fine.
and C is also G — God.
God is love. And there’s no fear in love.
And nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below— (Romans 8:38-9) Nor a trumped-up bragadocious oligarchical ginger white-bred Corinthian leather wrapped, faux-wood veneered alt right administration!
Love is what defines us
we were born in love
we live in love
we die in love
and rest assured love is where we’ll find ourselves whatever may happen after that!
We weren’t given a spirit of fear or timidity but of power and love (2 Tim 1:7)
Sometimes love is tough.
And when you’re trying to raise a teenager- it’s time for tough love and logic.
Our self-parenting love calls us to set boundaries and provide a container where we remind ourselves that there is such a thing as facts and facts matter
There is such a thing as lying and telling the truth matters
There is such a thing as nepotism, good ‘ol boy cronyism, and Richy Rich oligarchy and plutocracy – and they’re to be resisted!
There is such a thing as Civil Rights
There is such a thing as the rule of law
There is such a thing as science
There is such a thing as global warming
There is such a thing as good stewardship of Creation
There is such a thing as grace
There is such a thing as God
And when we aren’t perfect in love, when we do fear, when we forget about perspective, energy, hope and love,
may we take turns reminding each other of who and Whose we are.
We have the time. The time is now.
Like Jesus’ mother Mary, let us ponder these things in our hearts and may we know when it’s time to become great with child and know when it’s time to give birth to who we really are — and grow past our adolescence into the full maturity of God’s people
– God’s grown-ass men and women.
Amen. XX – Roger, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity“– Originally preached Dec. 4, 2016 at Wesley Chapel, Boulder, CO [Updated Dec. 11, 2017]