Progressive Christianity from my understanding is very focused on social justice issues such as LGBTQ, Feminism, Racial Justice, Environmentalism, Decolonization, etc. They’re focused on political change and minorities.
Progressives see Jesus as very social justice focused. He chose the outcasts and lowly to become his disciples. He was baptized by a radical outside of established religion (John the Baptist). He healed the sick and raised the dead back to life. He fellowshipped with sinners.
These things are all very true. I think many of theses issues are neglected or opposed by evangelicals. I think we should address and focus on these issues. But, I think there’s some nuance missing within progressive Christianity as well.
Progressive Christians can become a new kind of fundamentalist. They are tolerant of people within social Justice movement or deconstructing Christians, but intolerant of more fundamentalist Christianity. Their tolerance is conditional and they can be as radically hateful as evangelical Christians.
I also think that Jesus was more than a social justice champion. He often asked people about their heart and faith before healing them. I believe that his healing wasn’t just physical, but spiritual at the core, which had physical ramifications. The Jews thought that Jesus was a political leader who would lead them out of the oppression of the Roman Empire, but that’s not what he came to do.
I do think Jesus understood and wanted political and social change. But I believe he understood that you couldn’t force it. He understood that by giving up the power game, that the path of peace, actually was more powerful and created lasting change in the long run. He took the long game. Jesus may not have changed the political and social landscape at large in his lifetime, but it is obvious to see how powerful and changing his life and words were for the whole world in the long run.
The problem with the political focus is that it assumes that change stems from politics. In my view, politics is just a power game that swings back and forth. The way to bring true change is by focusing on inner heart change. That starts with ourselves, and then overflows in how we treat other people.
Forcing other people to act a certain way through political policy will create resentment and eventual blowback. It won’t really enact the change desired. Does this mean we should ignore social justice or politics? Not at all. If that is where your gifting lies and what God has called you to be involved in politics. And of course we’re social creatures and every interaction is a political thing. We all have the freedom to vote. It’s good to have a certain level of understanding of politics.
But I also think that politics can take the place of religious proselytization. It can create a lot polarity and tribalism. We can become entrenched in our views and not see the other side’s perspective. Our mind was never meant to be saturated with bad news 24/7 trying to solve the world’s problems. Its very unhealthy for ourselves.
So where do we go from here? What’s a deeper layer than both Evangelical and Progressive Christianity? The rest of the course I will be trying to answer these questions and help us move forward.