I have been trying to find where my outside church ministry in Fort Wayne and Indiana is leading me – that ministry you do because you are called to just a little bit more than just being a preacher, hospital visitor, and administrator – and I found myself attending a presbytery justice advocates group.
As we talked, I found myself hearing the politics and concerns of the groups and found myself agreeing with them, not in a surprising way but in a, “Yes, my people. I found my people.” Then one of the people call the group “progressive.”
I was a little bit taken aback. I’m a moderate, certified fence-sitter. I have strongly held political beliefs, but they don’t fit neatly in the adversarial binary off the American political system. The only thing “radical” about me is my insistence that those I minister to and I myself love radically and the sheer volume of coffee I drink. I don’t lean left, I never have. I used to lean right, but I’ve centered myself. My positions tend to be more logical than anything, seeking first to love than to actually see things work.
If you see me or talk to me, you don’t think progressive. At all.
But I realized something in that meeting: I have become a progressive, in a way. I didn’t change all that much – I fleshed out more theology and stopped giving benefit of the doubt to one side, which didn’t really change all that much about me – but I can easily be labeled a progressive now.
I didn’t change, but the line moved, and I’m on that side of the line.
Here are some things it became progressive to believe or observe:
- That all people – all of God’s children – should be able to participate in the fullness of the church, no matter their lifestyle, brokenness, or who they love.
- That there is still racial inequality in the United States of America and Christians are called to speak out against it despite their political allegiances.
- That there is economic inequality in the United States of America and Christians are called to speak out against it despite their political allegiances.
- That people should be able to go to the doctor and not need to make a decision between eating or healthcare, rent or healthcare, or any other necessity of life or healthcare.
- That people should be paid a fair wage.
- That the rich should not gain their wealth by the abuse of their workers.
- That Christian allegiance is to the cross, not a flag.
- That Christian allegiance is to Christ, not a world leader.
- That all Christians are broken, all Christians desperately need the saving love of our savior, and that none of us can cast a stone against another sinner.
- That Christians are called to protect, lift up, hear, and speak out for the vulnerable and the weak, using whatever privilege and power we have to help those and speak for those who do not have that privilege and power.
- That wealth is not a blessing from God but simple a resource for use to better God’s creation and show Christ’s love.
- That Christians cannot act in fear and are called to act against their own well-being when it comes to showing love.
I used to believe that the vast majority of these things were boilerplate Christian values. There may be some deviation if we really want to break them down to the most minute subtleties, but I thought this was pretty basic Christian doctrine for the mainline.
The reality, I’ve learned over the past few months and even couple of years, is that these believes and observations make me progressive politically.
I was taught that not being strongly conservative made you a liberal. I was taught that being liberal was evil. I was taught that being a liberal Christian meant that I didn’t believe anything. I was taught that the progressive church was the coming of the Antichrist. I was taught that disagreeing with the narrow doctrines of the conservative church was tantamount to being not-Christian.
And our binary, adversarial political tribalism has made it to where a prophetic voice is discounted and ignored because it is simply seen as an attack from the other.
When did being a moderate make you progressive? I don’t know, but it has, and I guess I’m a progressive now.
I guess being a progressive means that you value showing love above all.
29Jesus replied, “The most important one is ‘Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
– Mark 12:2-31 CEB
I guess being progressive means following the Greatest Commandments.
I guess I’m progressive now.