What does it mean?


I did a search on “Progressive Christianity” last night, and I was amazed at how little the term has to do with Walter Rauschenbusch or Friedrich Schleiermacher. On the first Google page, I found sites that embedded themselves with “Progressive,” while they touted the inerrancy of Scripture. Same thing over at the iTunes store. The podcasts revealed the same phenomenon.

So what does “progressive” mean now? Does “progressive” simply mean that you have cool graphics? That you’re culturally progressive? That you meet in a theater instead of a sanctuary?

What about the progressives who have a commitment to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, seeking social justice, and welcoming all people? What about the religious activists whom we could always count on to raise our country’s consciousness about a host of things, including women’s rights (okay, so Walter’s record’s not so clean on that account) and the environment? What about that great Protestant tradition which has been doing these things in our country for centuries?

Have we lost our name to some culturally savvy fundamentalists who own a Mac, and happen to know what to do with it? Are they embedding our name because they know that most twenty-somethings are much more politically progressive? And, how weird is it that I have to find out what a term means in our culture by googling it? Was that even a verb ten years ago?

It reminds me of the college student who said, “I used to go to a really conservative church, and now I’m going to a really liberal one.” She used to attend a traditional UCC congregation, and she began attending a very conservative Evangelical church…with a band.

Alright. It’s World Communion Sunday. Enough of this “us against them” rant. It’s not about that. Especially today.

But still….

photo’s by Martin Krzywinski

7 thoughts on “What does it mean?

  1. I think that it is impossible to call oneself progressive and believe in the innerancy of scripture. That would be an oxymoron. This is what I do not like about the post-modern ideology. Words do mean something. People have suffered persecution because they have been courageously progressive and the word no one wants to utter “liberal.”

    Hope you have fun at the table today!

  2. I had no idea that some fundamentalists were co-opting the term “progressive.” I wonder what progressive means for them? But weren’t some of the 19th century social progressives (and I’m thinking William Jennings Bryan) also evangelical? (Not like now.)

  3. WJB? Really? And to think I’ve seen Inherit the Wind a hundred times and never picked up on that!

    You’re right, of course. I mean, there’s the Salvation Army, the Prohibition movement, etc.

    I’m thrilled when fundies are doing good things. But I don’t think the site had much to do with helping the poor. I think “progressive” means something else now. Or at least more than one thing….

  4. I’m asking these same questions over at my place, since I had a conversation with an evangelical pastor today that was both reassuring and unsettling.

    Congrats, btw, on the good Tribal Church feedback. Still waiting for mine from Amazon….

  5. Wow! I will appreciate the author first because of his wonderful explanation about Progressive Christianity and I totally agree with his explanation on this topic and thanks for sharing valuable information.

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