I do not consider myself a “religious” person but I am interested in religion and it’s impact on people and societies. Like many people reading this, I think of myself as more “spiritual” than anything else these days. As a kid, I sang in a church choir in Spokane briefly. As a teenager, threatened with Viet Nam, I explored my spiritual beliefs and came to the conclusion at that time that most religions taught peace rather than war. As an adult, I met Milton at Metropolitan Community Church in 1982, which I was attending for the purpose of singing and meeting new people rather than out of any strong convictions. Later, in about 2000, Milton and I attended a welcoming and affirming First Christian Church in Vallejo and really did feel welcomed and affirmed.
My mom was always anti-fundamentalist. She believed in science and taught her children the importance of critical thinking. I don’t remember her ever attending any church. My dad was raised a Southern Baptist but I don’t remember him ever attending a church service either.
Here, I want to talk about Christianity, seekers, and progressive vs traditionalist Christians in this country. My feeling is that There is a culture war going on in this country and progressive Christians need to be on the front lines, not on the sidelines. Many people are not even aware there are “progressive Christians.” I want to help answer the question “Who are progressive Christians and what do they believe?” All Christians are not fundamentalists.
I believe that the religious right is more visible than the religious left. I believe that a large part of this visibility has to do with the religious right being more willing to use modern seeker /alternative/ contemporary/ multicultural/ multi-generational styles of worship services. I want to answer the question “Why should progressive Christians care about seeker worship and other new modern styles of worship that effectively reach the masses?”
In his book about “framing” discourse, “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” author George Lakoff says there are eight kinds of progressives and we all share many mutual interests and goals.
2. Identity politics progressives..
4. Civil liberties progressives.
6. Spiritual progressives have a nurturant form of religion or spirituality, their spiritual experience has to do with their connection to other people and the world, and their spiritual practice has to do with service to other people and to their community. Spiritual progressives span the full range from Catholics and Protestants to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Goddess worshippers, and pagan members of Wicca.
Mr. Lakoff discusses how the various types of conservatives have put their differences aside and says that the eight different types of progressives must also put their differences aside. The political right works in concert with the religious right. The political left must do the same. The political right has learned to frame the discussion in metaphors and terms that are user friendly.
The religious right has learned to present their theology in user friendly terms and popular rhythms and this is often referred to as “seeker” worship. The religious right has been able to connect with “unchurched Harry’s” and have grown exponentially while the religious left gets smaller and smaller. When the subject of “values” are brought up during elections, the religious right dominates and controls the conversation because they use media and services that speak to the masses. Sadly, the religious left only preaches to the choir. Unchurched Harry can’t relate to the intellectualism or traditionalism of most liberal left churches. Unchurched Harry needs to “feel” something in church before he will be open to theological ideas and progressive concepts.
Progressives lose if we allow conservatives to control the conversation either politically or spiritually. There are many websites about progressive Christians and there are many websites about new forms of worship.
Broad Generalizations Regarding the Culture War
|Conservative/ Right wing/ Republican/ Fundamentalist||Liberal/ Left wing/ Democrat/ Progressive|
|Anti-science/ pro-creationism- “intelligent design”/ anti-intellectual||Pro-science/ evolution/ intellectual/ pro-education|
|God defined with human attributes: male/ white/ angry/ jealous/ petty/ etc.||God is a concept that is not defined by human attributes|
|Males dominate and define what women can do with their bodies||Pro-Choice- women decide what can be done with their own bodies|
|More concerned about pre-viable fetal tissue than about real children||Pro-children- for funding programs that benefit children- real “culture of life”|
|Anti-social programs/ pro-corporate welfare||Pro safety-net social programs/ anti-corporate welfare|
|Big profits for pharmaceutical companies and hospital industry||Pro one-payer national health care and fair access to medicine|
|Anti Social Security||Pro Social Security|
|Wants Christian religion in schools and government||Believes in separation of church and state|
|Anti-public education/ pro-government money for private Christian schools||Pro public ed; Anti government $ for religion- pro separation church & state|
|Intolerant of those of different race, religion, class, sexual orientation||Tolerant of others; embraces diversity|
|Intolerant of different religions- non-Christians will burn in hell||Tolerant & respectful of all faiths. No condemnation of non-believers|
|Big emphasis on personal “sin” – judgemental||Less emphasis on judging personal behaviors of others and personal “sin”|
|Divides black against white; men against women; straights against gays etc||Unites people together|
|strict father model/ punishment/ obedience/ children born evil||nurturant gender neutral parent model; children born good|
|self interest/ “me against them” attitude||group interest/ “us”/ what can we do together to make things better for all?|
|Superficial understanding of Biblical text- literalism; Uneducated clergy||Studies Biblical text in context of history, language, culture, etc.; Educated clergy|
|Pro capital punishment/ revenge mentality – culture of death||Anti-capital punishment/ pro-rehabilitation- real “culture of life”|
|Teaches Old Testament “an eye for an eye”; Moses values||Teaches New Testament golden rule; Christ values|
|Militaristic; pro-war||Diplomatic; pro-peace|
|Rush Limbaugh||Al Franken|
|Exploits and depletes environment; protects big oil- drill anywhere||Protects environment|
|Doesn’t “believe in” global warming- disparages “tree huggers”||Comprehends the intelligence, logic and science of global warming-|
|Chooses big money interests over interests of endangered species||For protecting endangered species|
|Isn’t concerned about gas mileage when buying new vehicle- considers Hummer||Takes into consideration gas mileage when buying new vehicle- considers hybrid|
|Pro censorship- they know best what others should hear or watch||Anti-censorship- pro-individual rights- right to privacy- parental rights|
|Talk about “values” but at same time are primary audience of Fox network trashy television shows||Don’t talk as much about their values or try to impose their values on others. Are the primary audience for intelligent programming on PBS.|
|Believe in the myth of a “liberal bias” in corporate media||Understands that corporate media primary interest is profits and the “liberal bias” myth is nonsense & most corporate media is conservative.|
|Think that Fox news really is “Fair and Balanced”||Get their news from various sources that really are more fair and balanced.|
|Anti-family planning & sex education which is proven to result in ignorance and more unwanted pregnancies and increased abortion rates||Pro-family planning & sex education which is proven to result in fewer unwanted pregnancies and decreased abortion rates|
|Anti- hiv education and dessimination of info about condom use which results in keeping hiv and std rates higher than they need to be||Pro- hiv education and dessimation of condoms and info about proper use which results in lower hiv rates|
|Wants U.S. out of the United Nations-||Pro- United Nations and International Law and Diplomacy|
|Simplistic infantile black & white- good & bad- right & wrong perspective||Understands complexities of the world, nuanced positions, critical thinking|
|Uses Orwellian language that means the opposite of what it says-i.e. “blue skies initiative” that is actually anti-environment||Says what they mean in straight forward language that doesn’t try to disguise hidden agenda|
|Actually buys into idea that the economy is better under Bush than it was under Clinton- think they get to keep more of their money because they are bribed with small tax refunds, ignoring the record deficits that result||Can comprehend the fall of the American dollar and understand how Bush economy has resulted in record deficits and that their grandchildren will be paying for those tax cuts that went mainly to the ultra-rich.|