“You have to believe in (insert Church driven dogma) if you want to consider yourself Christian.”
The way I see it, progressivism and fundamentalism don’t mix. I mean, like oil and water, you can put them together, but ultimately they are much too different to exist together.
Sooner or later, they separate.
It may be helpful to talk a little about what I mean by “progressive” and “fundamentalist.”
Books can (and have) been written on what the two terms mean. So, keep in mind that I fully recognize what I’m doing here is little more than establishing cursory parameters for the discussion. Quite naturally, there will be those who disagree with my understanding of these concepts. Nevertheless, these are the understandings I’m working from for this post.
For me, the linchpin of progressive thought is open-mindedness. Well, open-mindedness based on rational thought.
In contrast, fundamentalist thinking establishes certain bottom lines that must be accepted as truths.
Right away, you should be able to see the odd partnership that is made when you try to add certain fundamental beliefs into progressive thought.
Outside of definitive proof, progressive minds are always open to possibilities. Yes, those minds may also be fairly certain about particular things (things like “God is love”), but they are also always open to the possibility of new information pointing them in a different direction.
That should make it very difficult to entertain dogma within Progressive Christianity.
Dogma is a set of beliefs defined by an authority figure as unquestionably true.
That kind of certitude leaves absolutely no room for certain questions, which is actually one of the attractive aspects of fundamentalism for some people.
You see, living in the questions makes some people very uncomfortable, particularly those who may have grown up in the certitude of traditional evangelicalism.
It may be that the natural instability of life causes us to be attracted to things that we can clearly see as more stable. Religious traditions that teach fundamentalism tend to nurture our need for “certainty.” The teaching is so strong that even when reality, life and love slam up against irrational fundamentalist beliefs like “God hates fags,” and people start questioning many of the beliefs they were taught, they still have this deeply seated need to hold on to some fundamentals to help them feel stable and provide answers so there isn’t so much of the living in the questions.
So, while I have sympathies for evangelicals who grew up in traditional churches, but who now identify more strongly with Progressive Christianity – please stop trying to straddle the line by adopting the established Progressive Christian community and then inserting certain fundamentalist beliefs (such as the Trinity or Substitutionary Atonement) as “essentials” which must be believed in order to call yourself Christian.
In the Progressive Christian world, you can question those things and even strongly doubt them and still be considered Christian. It’s just how open-mindedness based on rational thought works.
I would like to say you can’t have fundamentalist beliefs and also call yourself a progressive – but that wouldn’t be very progressive of me, would it?
So, for now, I’ll just say that I have a very hard time understanding how a person can rationally call themselves progressive but have certain fundamental beliefs that they use to define who is and who isn’t Christian.
Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.
Facebook continues to make it increasingly difficult for me to let you know about new blog posts like this. Please consider signing up for my mailing list where we can insure you are notified. Just click here!
Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!