Before I get started talking about those who proclaim the Progressive Christian mantel I thought it would be best to give you what I see as the foundations of both Evangelicals and Progressive Christians. Of course, in about 500 words, so this has to be a truncated version of the story.
Progressive Christianity has been around for more than 500 years now. It sprang out of the Renaissance period when science and logic began to clash with religious dogma. The Renaissance was centered on the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge. It was also about advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, and separation of state and religion.
The current version of Progressive Christianity is based on looking at Christian dogma and doctrine by using scientific and historical facts as opposed to myth, and fantasy. In short, a Progressive Christian concedes that science calls the shots when it comes to reason, evidence, and facts. But, since science is silent on questions of meaning, morality and value they look to religious documents for meaning in those areas, and they particularly look at the words and teachings of Jesus. They look to those teachings as completing their foundation for morality and how God intends us to treat each other.
Most cling to Jesus’ moral radicalism about the poor deserve to be rich and the rich deserve to be poor, and loving each other. These inspire their battles for social justice and for reigning in wealth accumulation among several other such areas. Most also say that actions rather than beliefs are what Christianity is all about.
By contrast, the born-again version of Christianity is compatible with the conservative, authoritarian, and individualistic mindset, according to which they can call upon Jesus alone to save them. To them, there’s no salvation by any mortal effort. Only God can improve our situation, so the hope for social progress by following reason, using technology, and learning to cooperate is futile, maybe even sinful.
Evangelicals believe that their salvation and future life beyond death depends entirely on their proclamation that Jesus died on the cross for their salvation. They believe that all people are morally defective and self-centered. None of us are capable of doing anything that might please God. Only by declaring their allegiance to the Bible will gain them salvation and eternal life.
How this somehow aligns with Evangelical right-wing nationalism, and authoritarian bigotry is the major topic with Progressive Christians. If Evangelicals believe that man-made institutions are evil and an abomination to God then why doesn’t that result in them seeking to live in the wilderness away from all the sinfulness? Why don’t they sell all their possessions and abandon any illusions of earthly power?
Before Ieaving this topic I want to say that there is probably as much difference between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical version as there is to the Progressive version. I will cover that difference in a near future post.
Finally closing out this post, I want to remind you that Christianity has never been a cohesive entity. There are now about 40,000 versions of Christianity in play today. That is primarily because of our disagreements on most all issues.