Progressive Christians speaking up

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by -Cp, Jul 20, 2005.

  1. -Cp
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    -Cp Senior Member

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    Progressive Christians speaking up




    When pundits dubbed conservative Christians "values voters" last year, churchgoers on the losing side took notice – and offense.

    "Those of us on the left looked at each other and said, 'We're values voters. We love Jesus Christ,' " said the Rev. Tim Simpson, a Florida minister.

    Now, like-minded Christians are getting organized.

    They are preaching tolerance and a focus on helping the poor. And they want conservatives to know it's possible to believe in abortion rights, gay rights and God. Long outgunned by the religious right's political machine, progressives are proclaiming that fundamentalism isn't the only brand of Christianity, with new grass-roots groups and Web sites such as www.iamachristiantoo.org.

    This clash of competing Christian values is spreading from pulpits to campaigns as those on the left try to blend prayer and politics. And as the country wrestles with weighty questions ranging from who should serve on the U.S. Supreme Court to when life begins, Christians on both ends of the political spectrum are digging in and speaking up.

    Conservative Christians, though, aren't particularly concerned about the emergence of progressives. They say that it's not their place to judge who is a Christian – but that there's only one way to interpret the Bible, and it's theirs.

    "They are misinterpreting the Scripture," said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, one of the largest conservative political groups. "If they read the same Bible, I don't know where they're coming from."

    Progressives said there are millions of Christians who share their views. But questions remain about whether this formerly loose-knit group can be transformed into a political force that can compete with its conservative counterpart.

    "It's a pretty steep hill," said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio. "It took the religious right many years."

    Progressives' challenge is made tougher because they tend to be a more independent-minded and diverse group, Dr. Green said. "To get them all working together is very hard," he said.


    In the beginning

    Still, progressives say they need to start somewhere.

    Last month, Mr. Simpson helped launch Christian Alliance for Progress, a national effort to advance a "progressive vision of Gospel values" and to counter what its members call a polarizing political agenda. The alliance and other groups are stealing a page from conservatives' playbook, modeling their outreach strategies on right-leaning groups such as the Christian Coalition.

    Alliance organizers said they have been thrilled with the initial response but concede that follow-through is essential. In the past, "we just haven't been very well-organized," Mr. Simpson said.

    Progressives have long shied from mixing religion with politics.

    "They have hemmed and hawed and stared at the floor and shuffled their feet instead of looking in the camera and saying, 'I believe in God,' " said Mr. Simpson, the alliance's director of religious affairs. "They seemed embarrassed about their faith."

    For many, that changed in November.

    After President Bush's win, Christian conservatives became the stars of the post-election show. Analysts labeled them values voters and credited religious Republicans with keeping Mr. Bush in the White House. In return, these voters expect the president to appoint conservative judges and to push several policies, including a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

    Tired of seeing Christians characterized as a monolithic group, many on the left decided to try to close the God gap.

    Across the country, groups with a liberal bent have begun to emerge. A coalition of religious leaders recently launched a national movement called "The Beloved Community: Building a Responsible Society," aimed at countering conservative policies.

    These groups, which prefer the progressive label, describe themselves as tolerant and open to diverse viewpoints; conservatives call them liberals out of step with mainstream voters. Since progressive Christians haven't been highly organized in recent elections, pollsters haven't really tracked them or tried to quantify how many there might be.

    And just as fundamentalist Christians are closely but unofficially linked to the GOP, many progressives eschew partisan labels while acknowledging that their views are more closely aligned with the Democrats' agenda.

    Dr. Green, who has studied religion and politics, said progressives would be wise to ally themselves with the Democratic Party.

    "We only have two parties that matter in the United States, and if you want to win elections, then you've got to be on one side or the other," he said.


    Presence in North Texas

    The Rev. Eric Folkerth, senior pastor of Dallas' Northaven United Methodist Church, said that progressive Christians are finally recognizing the importance of standing up for their beliefs.

    "Otherwise, you just sort of let the other side define you," he said. "Conservative Christians have defined us almost right out of being Christian."

    Mr. Folkerth, who describes himself as progressive, said the religious right had laid claim to morals, values and Christianity itself, leaving many with more liberal views feeling unwelcome in their churches.

    "We get a lot of folks who say, 'I didn't know there was a church like this,' " he said. "They're glad to find a spirituality that connects with their social views."

    While conservative groups have focused on a few social issues, progressives' priorities are wide-ranging – for example, protecting the environment and ensuring economic justice.

    "I want to broaden the conversation," said the Rev. David Carr, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Kaufman. "We need to determine how does the Christian faith impact those issues."

    Most progressive groups support abortion rights and equality for gays and lesbians.

    On the other side, many evangelicals consider opposition to abortion and to gay marriage top priorities, said Stuart Shepard, a spokesman for Focus on the Family Action, the political arm of James Dobson's influential conservative group.

    "If we lose marriage, the culture is doomed," Mr. Shepard said. "If we don't respect the sanctity of life, nothing else matters."

    The Rev. James Rowe Adams, president of the Center for Progressive Christianity, said conservatives' hard-line approach to social issues has turned off many would-be Christians.

    "As a result, all of Christianity has gotten a bad name, " he said.

    Mr. Adams is critical of conservatives' economic agenda, saying the religious right has done little to help the poor. "Love thy neighbor" is a mantra among progressives, and many question how Republican policies regarding war and tax cuts square with Scripture.

    What the Bible says and what it means are questions that divide those on the left and the right. Like many progressives, Mr. Carr argues that multiple interpretations are possible.

    Scripture is filled with parables, metaphors and inconsistencies, most progressives argue, saying they take the Bible seriously but not literally.

    Most conservative Christians recoil at that, saying they adhere to a single, literal reading of Scripture. Mr. Shepard said that progressive groups have tried to recast the Bible to fit a liberal ideology.

    Progressives have a right to share their views, he said, but he expects their involvement in the political fray to be short-lived.

    "They primarily exist to oppose groups like us," Mr. Shepard said. "If that's the reason for their existence, I don't think they'll be around for very long."

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/071705dnnatprog.18a0913.html
     
  2. theim
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    theim Senior Member

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    I would feel a lot worse for them if they weren't either altering the Word of God to fit their agenda, or refusing to spread said Word (indeed, also attacking those who do).
     
  3. Nuc
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    Nuc Senior Member

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    Progressive Christians will always be a weaker political force than "Conservative" Christians. "Conservative" Christians like to tell people how to live, who to have sex with, etc. and that fuels their desire for political power.
     
  4. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    There will be a lot of progressive christians in hell.
     
  5. Nuc
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    Nuc Senior Member

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    The Pope said there is no hell. Everyone goes to an afterlife which is at worst neutral and then varying gradations of pleasurable. He said there is no punishment in the afterlife.
     
  6. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    First, IF I gave two rats' asses what the Pope said, I'd care.

    Secondly, I doubt the Pope said that. Catholicism believes in the concept of Hell.
     
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  7. Nuc
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    Nuc Senior Member

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    I was searching for it and found this instead:


    For Friday, December 8th, 2000 the London Daily Telegraph states:


    Heaven open to everyone, says Pope
    By Bruce Johnston in Rome

    THE Pope has amended a Vatican pronouncement that the Roman Catholic Church was the "only way to salvation", saying that Heaven is open to all as long as they are good.

    He said at an audience that "all of the just on Earth, including those who ignore Christ and his Church" were "called upon to build the kingdom of God". His words repeated what was pronounced at the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago, but were clearly intended to repair harm to religious dialogue caused by a document issued in September.

    The document, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope's chief of doctrine, said that the way of salvation was "only in the unique and universal Catholic Apostolic Church". The amendment follows criticism of the pronouncement, which called other faiths "gravely deficient" as a means to salvation.
     
  8. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    That's much different than 'there is no hell'. Heaven IS open to everyone - everyone who believes in Christ. (shrug). Apart from Christ, there IS no salvation.
     
  9. Nuc
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    Nuc Senior Member

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    Jeffrey Dahmer repented and became a Christian before his death. Are you really trying to tell the world that Dahmer is in heaven and Ghandi (or insert any other good non-Christian) is in hell?

    If so there is a flaw in the system.
     
  10. dmp
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    dmp Senior Member

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    I'm here to tell you that if Dahmer was sincere - and only GOD knows for sure - God will be faithful to forgive us our sins. Ghandi? If he didn't know Christ, there's no way for him to enter heaven.

    (shrug). I don't make the rules. The system is NOT flawed. It's perfect and easy to understand.
     

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