Friday, October 19, 2012

I am a Progressive Christian - What does that mean?

First off, I want to thank Dr. Bruce Prescott for such a wonderful explanation of the Progressive Christian faith. His words are inspiring, and I will sum up my thoughts on his characteristics of Progressive Christianity...
My faith is growing daily... it is a progressive faith. I strive for depth - meaning I don't want a "shallow faith." I want a faith that includes meaning and purpose, that shows love and understanding. My faith is never finished, never satisfied with its progress - I constantly yearn for more. I am an imperfect being, striving for a strong relationship with God, that leads to strong relationships with those around me, so that others may know Him as I do.

My faith is conscientious. Meaning, I am conscious of those around me - I am aware of the fact we are not all the same, nor do we believe the same, and I understand that's okay. I try to step outside myself - I am not afraid to understand things that clash with my own beliefs. I strive to be sympathetic to the perspective of others. "Walk a mile in my shoes." Progressive faith requires an act of reflexive self-conscientiousness - the ability to put yourself in the place of others, and to look at yourself through others eyes. How do you want to be seen? And "do unto others as you would have done unto you" (Jesus) - but the Golden Rule is not unique to Christianity... The concept of the Golden Rule or a standard of respect for others is common to all religions and philosophies.

My faith is a chastened faith. I am able to, with open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart, see and acknowledge the pain and injustice that my own religion has inflicted upon others. We need to, again, look ourselves through the eyes of others, but in this case the eyes of other faiths. Christians need to see themselves through the eyes of Jews. Specifically Jews who were herded into box cars and slaughtered like cattle during the Holocaust -- if I hear one more Christian in American claim persecution, I will scream. We all need to look at ourselves through the eyes of the homeless, the hungry, those in poverty... if we can learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others, we can begin to see how blessed we really are as a Christian faith - and begin to view things as God views them.

My faith is a hopeful faith. I am hopeful that we will have peace on earth. That we could all learn to live together, to coexist and to be tolerant of one another and our different beliefs. That we would be more loving toward each other. Jesus did more than just coexist - he ate with those who were rejected and considered unclean. He healed them and cared for them. That's the Jesus Christ I know. Not the one portrayed by "fundamentalists" to be so harsh, cruel, and bigoted... I've read the bible and know the real deal, and I wonder how they can be so grossly mistaken of who Christ really is, and how we should be as Christians. I am hopeful that Christianity can be reclaimed - that we can turn it around from how it's been perceived due to the actions of the extremists, to what it is supposed to be. I strive to be aware of those around me - a sense of community, not just self. I am supportive of justice and equality for all mankind. If life is just an endless cycle of violence, conflict and strife, then there is not much reason for a hopeful future.

My faith is a strong faith. I am strong in my beliefs, I am strong in my relationship with God - I am passionate about loving others as Christ did. My faith is strong enough to demand both equal rights in civil life and genuine respect in social life for those who have other convictions and different worldviews -- while remaining firmly committed to its own convictions and worldview. I will not serve a weak faith that has to compensate for its inadequacies by scapegoating those who are different from myself and my faith. I will not judge others or condemn them based on my faith - we are taught that this is wrong through the words of Paul and Christ. I can be strong in my faith, but also considerate, understanding, and tolerant of others and their beliefs or values.

My faith is a humble faith. I understand the fallibility, the imperfections of all mankind - myself included. I make mistakes almost daily, but I strive to learn from them - and to be humble and to accept my mistakes, admit my mistakes, and take responsibility for myself before God. I understand that all forms of communication and understanding fall short of perfect comprehensibility - someone always misunderstands something that is said or written - it is about how it is perceived or interpreted. Different faiths make undenied claims for the absolute authority of their sacred texts and practices... their holy text or rituals are divinely inspired and without any error. Generally, it is not necessary to directly challenge the authority of these differing truth claims. It should be enough for all to acknowledge that no matter how sacred, perfect and privileged these texts, practices and rituals are believed to be, all historical faiths are subject to differing interpretations and understandings by adherents within their own faith tradition. Humility, therefore, is proper for people of all faiths. -Prescott. No system of communication is perfect - it is inadequate to fully express the meaning of the Divine. Thus, infallibility is an attribute best reserved for the Divine.

My faith is a questioning faith. Progressive faith welcomes doubt and raises questions because it knows they are necessary for the extension of understanding, for spurts of growth and for the testing and strengthening of genuine faith. Progressive faith questions to understand - not to reply, overturn, or trump the response with a "better one." This is hard as a human being - especially with all the political debates out there right now. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves, or a sense of "being right" about something, especially when paired against someone who has this same attitude. Like when we respond with our point of view on an issue, and then someone rips it apart piece by piece, word for word. But a questioning faith is undaunted by critical thought. It is not a blind faith that expects supporters to surrender their intellect - and even more so, it is not a blind faith that expects everyone to support them. Instead, it desires to be more than a projection of human wishes and desires, more than an stimulant for the masses, and more than merely a slave revolt by which the weak seek to gain power over the strong.

 My faith is a dialogical faith. It appreciates discussion, critical thought, and exchange of ideas... It refuses to extend itself by force. Instead it extends itself through kindness, compassion, and mercy. When it seeks to convert others it does so through example, actions and genuine dialogue. Thus, my faith is an active faith. It gives more than "lip service" to love. It seeks to show love, not just say it loves. It wages peace and seeks justice. It is faith with the courage to put itself at risk by publicly opposing injustice and by actively resisting it by non-violent means.

My faith is an interdependent faith. It is unified, harmonious, and connected. It is a faith that affirms and honors the claim that future generations have on the present by responsibly stewarding the resources that make life possible on this planet. It strives to take care of our planet, our resources, our livelihood and to care for our environment so that it will still be livable for future generations to come. We should care about our planet, the environment, and everything around us. We should do good works to care for other human beings, but also for our animals, our plants, our water, our air - because without them, we cannot feed the hungry... we cannot live and provide care for others, help the impoverished, so that they may live as well.  

My faith is not inside a box... my faith is in my heart, it is in my mind, it is in my thoughts and actions. I am pro-equality because Christ wants us to love everyone - to follow his example, and that example was to treat everyone with tolerance and respect. I am pro-choice (NOT pro-abortion) because I believe we as women are valuable and we deserve the freedoms and rights this country offers just as much as the next guy, and that things like marriage (who can marry whom) or pregnancy should not be dictated by a government. Just because Sally Jane goes and gets an abortion doesn't mean my faith is shattered, my relationship with God changes, or my life is altered in some way. Her life changes - and that is between her and God. It is her choice - God gave us freewill to make our decisions in life and we will answer to Him, and no one else! God is too divine for us to possibly understand Him through a book - and that book does not actually take a stance on gay marriage or abortion - we twist and cherry pick scripture and assume we know how God thinks, when we couldn't possibly begin to imagine how God actually works - he doesn't fit inside a theological box.

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