What It Means To Be A Progressive Christian

Progressive-TheologyNow and then, someone will ask me, “How can you call yourself a Christian with some of the things you say and do?” There are two reasons for that: one, well, I’m not really all that good of a Christian. And, two, I am a progressive Christian. Progressive Christianity (also referred to as PX) isn’t hung up on a lot of the stuff traditional Christianity has harped on in the past, I mean, worried about: sex, drugs, alcohol, rock and roll, etc; it’s more concerned with grace and love. So, it all works out. Especially that “grace” thing; I need lots and lots of grace.

While there are several very good books and articles out there regarding what progressive Christians believe, there isn’t much about what this means in your daily life. Lets see what we can do about that.

  • You can drink beer at religious functions. There is a downside to this, however; I’ll get that later.
  • You can drop the f-bomb without fear of being scolded. Hell, in some circles, that kind of language is even encouraged.
  • You meet some really interesting people. Like an ordained Baptist pastor who just happens to be gay. Or tattooed Pentecostals who just happen to be progressive social justice practitioners.
  • Most PX’s are incredibly open, loving, accepting folks. I have been in conversations with people way out of my league both educationally and financially, and never felt like I didn’t belong. Which is pretty cool when you think about it.
  • Because of that loving, acceptance and openness, the PX world is incredibly diverse. You never know who you might meet, from well-to-do executives to Jesus hippies who live in a commune (sorry, “intentional community”), they’re all there.
  • Progressive Christianity embraces mystery. In other words, everything doesn’t have to be explained or justified or proven. That makes certain aspects of the faith a little easier to deal with.

It’s not all vegan cookies and soy milk, however. Like any theology, progressive Christianity has its downside.

  • You can get the stink eye in certain quarters if you’re not a vegetarian…, at the very least. And, vegetarian/vegan fare is heavily represented at PX gatherings (sometimes exclusively so). Which can be a problem for an unrepentent carnivore like myself.
  • That beer I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s often accompanied by hymns. Yes, a fixture in the PX world is something called “Beer and Hymns”. That’s where a bunch of hippies (and/or hipsters) get together and, you guessed it, drink beer while singing hymns. I love beer. Hymns? Not so much.
  • The music is not so great. Progressives are overly fond of Sufjan Stevens and Gungor. Sorry, but I’m a bit of a punk and that kind of stuff makes me itch. It’s not easy being a rocker in this crowd. (kind of puts that remark about hymns in perspective, huh?)
  • There is an inordinate amount of angst. Most people in PX world are pretty educated and with education often comes an awareness of privilege and the problems of the world. It doesn’t help that social justice is a big part of progressive Christianity. “Angst” is defined as “a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Well, except for that “unfocused” part. Most PX’s are very focused in their angst.
  • The PX world is incredibly diverse. If that sounds familiar, it’s because I copied it from the first list. You see, that diversity I was raving about means irritating people like hipsters are also included in the mix. Unfortunately, when the J-man said “love your neighbor”, he didn’t exclude irritating people. Damn, this following Jesus thing is hard.
  • Progressive Christianity embraces mystery. In other words, everything doesn’t have to be explained and justified and proven. That makes certain aspects of the faith a little harder to deal with.

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, it’s just a bunch of crap I threw together after the piece I had intended to write failed to come together like I wanted. That said, feel free to add any  ideas of your own in the comments. Or, disagree wholeheartedly with everything I said. Shalom ya’ll.