As the weekend approached I was mulling over writing a post critical of the recent political events in which White Evangelicals played a huge role. The fact is, I had been thinking about it for over a week and just couldn’t seem to find peace about it. Something was off. I was missing something. Then I read an excellent article by Vance Morgan on his website:
“The ever-present danger of Christian political advocacy is that, due to the necessarily public nature of such advocacy, it is very possible for the advocate to mistake a set of political positions or the elements of a social agenda as necessary and universal hallmarks of being truly Christian. It is very easy for the advocate to confuse her or his own purposes and agendas for the message of Christ. The “true message” of Christianity then quickly becomes something to be argued about in the public arena by persons equally convinced that their own agenda best matches up to the demands of Christian faith, entirely undermining the description of early Christians in the Book of Acts as remarkable because of how much they loved each other. The best firewall against this is to always keep in mind that the “message of Christianity” is the lives lived by those persons who profess the Christian faith in their daily private and public lives. Christianity is a way of life that is not reducible without distortion to a political or social agenda. We are the Christian message.” (Vance Morgan)
The article stopped me dead in my tracts. Vance raises a lot of questions and has started some serious soul searching on my part. For over a 150 years Liberal and Conservative Christians have quarreled in a very public display of animosity and ungraciousness that has done nothing but sully the reputation of Christianity. I realize I too, have been a part of this debacle. At times on Facebook and the Patheos site I have been like a big-rig driver having seizures!
Having lived within the Evangelical “bubble” for 60 years I have inherited some good things mixed with some bad habits. One major failure is my belief in intellectual/spiritual certitude. You believe the right things, you’re a Christian. Believe the wrong things, you’re not. Its Evangelical 101. Guess what, its also Progressive 101! And I’ve been guilty of it sometimes…well actually quite often!
As I blog and enter into discussions with other Progressive Christians it is easy to get caught up in a shark feeding frenzy. There’s a Fundamentalist! Get him! Likewise, when I wander onto Evangelical sites, I end up being chum, although I don’t go down easy! Every once in a while I will get into a long satisfying discussion with an Evangelical where there is respect and good listening skills present on both sides. The fact is, neither of us have all the answers. It is ok to have questions, even doubts. The Bible is a very complex series of books. It doesn’t always speak with One Voice, but in truth, exhibits many voices. Its human nature to pick out the voices we best identify with. Refusing to listen to the other voices just creates deaf Christians. This election has not proved Evangelicals are wrong any more than it has proved Progressives are right. But it has shown how poorly we, as the Church, communicate with each other. People brandishing pitchforks and torches are out to destroy something, not build something beautiful.
Another thing I am realizing now, is that, although I identify most with the Progressive Christian “tribe,” theologically I am a “mutt.” My DNA includes strains of Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, Methodism, the Charismatic Movement, Anabaptist/Mennonite, Neo Orthodoxy, Egalitarian Theology, Progressivism and a dash of Reformed theology. In some ways this has its advantages. Mutts live healthier lives than pure-breeds. It should, however, if I were more intellectually honest, allow more careful listening to each voice, each tribe, to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice in each of these traditions. Just how these revelations will work out in my life remains to be seen. Will I stumble, will I offend? I will attempt to minimize those, certainly, but I am excited. Seeking God is a journey, and an exciting one at that.