I am deeply proud and honored that there are many who would call me “progressive” and include me in their fellowship.
Those that know my heart and are familiar with my writings understand me to be an outspoken voice standing in fierce solidarity with those bullied, marginalized, discriminated against, and condemned by significant segments of conservative Christianity and privileged society as a whole. I have been highly critical of conservative Evangelicalism and a passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Having been, years ago, an anti-LGBTQ, racist, conservative, Evangelical pastor myself, the radical change of mind and heart I experienced in regard to these and many other issues came solely from revelations of divine Truth. I have no skin in the game, only that first and foremost, as a lover of the Gospel of God’s pure Grace through Jesus Christ, I am also fervently convinced that all humanity is beautifully and wonderfully made, affirmed, and euphorically delighted in by our Creator. Grace is the great equalizer—none of us better, only different—all of us, divine.
As a Grace-guy, I find myself resisting and even cringing at both conservative and progressive entities whose seemingly chief desire is to assimilate me into their ideological Borg—discerning my value and worth and their interest and affiliation with me based primarily on my willingness to conform to their scrolls of codes and creeds, blindly echoing their every sentiment to the exclusion of my own.
Grace makes me a free thinker, believer, soul, and human being. I fit in no box, nor can any label affixed upon me, perfectly stick. I am unique, beautifully complicated, and wholly divine—Grace has made me so. I will protect the sacred diversity that is me and seek out a unity and community that is founded on a love, not of what we share, but on so much of what we don’t.
Thankfully, among “progressives,” I often find such a place. So many of us are beautifully inclusive and humbly hospitable to those who harbor differing beliefs. We fully understand what it’s like to be a toy on Misfit Island and to be on the receiving end of condemnation’s fiery darts. With boldness and bravery, our ethos stands for so much of what Jesus extended His arms. To be sure, I am a proud “progressive.”
Yet, at times, it seems there are nuances among certain segments of the “progressive” movement that solicit in me concern and even a desire to create some distance. With an unsettled spirit, I wonder if there will come a day when these questionable observations are found to be truly indicative of where things are going and what will be required to be a real-deal “progressive,” knowing that if this is who I must become in order to carry the banner—then sadly, I’m going to have to bow out.
For example, if I have to become a Smug, Pretentious, Elitist—respectfully, I’m out.
Is there a good bit of ignorance within our culture today? You bet. Are there people who are determined to misunderstand even the clearest of common sense and truth? Yes, and amen. Are there those who blatantly refuse to examine important issues from perspectives outside their own? Absolutely. Are there conservative Christians I want to punch in throat? Damn straight I do.
However, is everyone who disagrees with me a stupid, ignorant, uneducated redneck? Absolutely not. Am I somehow better than them because I have come to believe certain things and adopt certain views? Never, no way.
I find nothing “progressive” about holding onto ones beliefs so tightly that we become an ideologically constipated, self-righteous jerk in the process—creating exclusive clubs of like-minded people who conveniently house a double-standard of tolerance.
We can’t expect those with whom we disagree to truly listen and consider our message from the high tower of a self-aggrandized, ego-ladened enlightenment or closed-knit, hifalutin communities. When Jesus was given all power and authority—the sum of all enlightenment and progress, His first action wasn’t to smugly declare how astute and empowered He is and how juvenile and impotent are all others. No, his first action was to humbly serve, and that—washing feet, even of those who would deny, disagree, and betray Him and His cause.
There are serious levels of ignorance, evil, and systematic deception that must be boldly and aggressively corrected in our culture, but only a default attitude of humility and true inclusiveness will create the needed posture.
If I have to become an Impulsive, Ill-informed Alarmist—respectfully, I’m out.
We have serious problems in this world, many stemming from conservative, religious circles—particularly Christian. There are real people dying, being abused, discriminated against, marginalized, and even taking their own lives at the hands of religiously-driven hate. For our cities, states, country, and people everywhere, these are terrible realities and constant threats that must cause us alarm and solicit our assertive action.
Yet, in my mind, this urgency is all the more reason I must resolve that my words be credible, and my positions and actions be accurately informed. In the heat of battle, it’s easy to cast aside restraint and settle for unfortunate instances of misguided collateral damage in the wake of our rage. This is almost unavoidable in our social media-driven culture where the truth, is at times, hard to ascertain.
However, if my default position has to become one where I swing at every pitch that comes across the plate, swallow every “breaking news” report, buy into every Facebook post—crying foul and screaming “fire” with every perceived action of the enemy, then with all due respect, I’m out.
Grace teaches me to never bury my head in the sand nor ever believe that silence is always a virtue. Indeed, sometimes the sky is truly falling and someone needs to shout it from the rooftops, even taking up arms for the fight. Many times I have been that very person, saying the tough things that need to be said, and risking much in doing so.
But Grace also teaches me not to strike at everything that moves. If I have to take a default position where any piece of information that casts a negative shadow upon those with whom I disagree is automatically assumed to be true in whole or part, out of lust for more of that which can further justify my positions and my plight, then with all due respect, I’m out.
I get it, for so many of us, myself included, our radar screens are set on high alert, and rightly so. These are dangerous times and there are sure amounts of defensiveness needed to be taken, paranoia to be had, rage to be expressed, and rants to be written. Nothing reddened the face and swelled the neck veins of Jesus more than religiously-spirited, bigoted and discriminating people who withheld Grace and sowed seeds of injustice and violence.
But that doesn’t change my responsibility to see good where I can see good, give the benefit of the doubt where I can grant it, cast off fear where it’s safe to do so, wait for the facts where waiting is what’s needed, proclaim innocence where there is innocence, and render benign that is which is benign—especially where in doing so corrects my perceptions and even disarms my rage.
If I am going to be taken advantage of, abused, or discarded, I’d personally rather it be while living a life from a default posture of believing in the best than a life imprisoned by always assuming the worst. Never is there a more important time to believe in hope and love then when we are tempted to conclude that worshiping fear would be better. And never is there a more poignant way to spit in the face of our enemies then when we are still yet determined to believe in the good when our enemies would have us to be consumed by the bad.
If I have to become a Pro-Choice Militant—respectfully, I’m out.
There is perhaps no more complex issue of debate in all of our culture today than abortion.
I understand the fragile and polarizing nuances of this issue and continue to vigorously study them out from the perspectives of both sides—biblically, scientifically, and psychologically. I totally respect all people of all viewpoints who know where they stand regarding this sensitive topic, and do so boldly.
Yet, if being a “progressive” means that I can’t settle, at least for a season, in an area of grey and have serious inhibitions about prematurely pitching tent in any one camp regarding such a multi-layered and important issue, then with all due respect, I’m out—lest I find myself succumbing to an all new form of fundamentalism masked in “progressive” veneer, where I’ve simply jumped from the narrow-minded ovens of conservative, Evangelical Christianity into a whole new kind of legalistically-spirited frying pan.
On one side, I can’t silence the voices nor bleach the images of real mothers crying in my office wishing they had never been granted the choice to abort their child—for them, the guilt and regret is life destroying. Nor, on the other side, can I silence the pain of real mothers who have been raped or forced into ultimate situations of life and death, and fathom the retraction, in those moments, of their right to chose.
In the same way that love, is love, is love, at times I wonder if maybe also—life, is life, is life. Right now, it’s all fading to grey, and if that can’t be o.k., with all due respect, I’m out. For if it’s not the issue of abortion today, it will be another complicated issue tomorrow of which, for a season, I may be uncertain or undecided.
If I have to become an Ideological Slave—respectfully, I’m out.
Having traveled around the block a few times, I have determined that I’m just not going to be owned by anyone or anything. I’m not going to be dragged around like a dog on a leash by the ideological expectations of others, no matter how noble.
If being a “progressive” means I have to surgically hate all the right people, disagree with all the right things, and oppose all the right viewpoints—carefully making sure to color within all the “progressive” lines, then with all due respect, I’m out.
If it means, for the sole purpose of keeping informed by their posts populating my timeline, I can’t “like” the Facebook page of a person or entity with whom I or another disagrees without being threatened the loss of “progressive” support, friendship, or association—respectfully, I’m out.
Spiritually speaking, God’s revelation throughout history and over the span of our individual lives is a progressive one—God is continually revealing more and more truth through our awakening to more and more Truth. This requires me to be open and never leaning upon my own understandings to the exclusion of my willingness to consider things anew.
I’m a human being on a journey for crying out loud—not a “progressive” project where the primary goal is to conform and carbonite me into a set of beliefs, positions, and behaviors. That is regressive, not progressive—an act of the Empire, not the Rebellion.
There is a complexity to each of us on our paths to encounter God, ourselves, and the world—seeking to arrive at the Truth of it all. If being a “progressive” does not allow for people to be where they are at, wander along this path of enlightenment, and still find, at some level, inclusive community among us at all points along the way, then with all due respect, I’m out.
If the fruits of being a “progressive” is in the creating of peasants, cloned to simply serve an Empire under a spiffy new name, I’m out.
If I have to become a Hyper-Offended Watchdog—respectfully, I’m out.
I have no reservation nor restraint in declaring from the mountain tops that nothing is more offensive to the person and cause of Jesus Christ than conservative, Evangelical Christianity and the violent, discriminatory, bigoted actions and attitudes of many of its adherents.
In the same way, as a communicator and writer, I firmly believe nothing is perhaps more important than the words and terms we use, requiring our educated carefulness and intentionality while giving priority to how our vocabulary is received and internalized by the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The common phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” is a sure lie from the pits of hell and a convenient copout for the privileged. Words carry with them the power of life and death, and far too many, with intention or not, use them in ways that hurt, abuse, destroy, belittle, demean, and demonize the very people and things God loves and affirms so dearly. This is a severe, epidemic in our culture and world as a whole, and many are dying from the mere weaponizing of words.
Yet, if my default posture when navigating what can be a very ignorant, discriminating, hateful, and careless world, must become one devoid of common sense while focusing every creative fiber of my mental being in the seeking out and connecting of discriminatory, racist, privileged, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic, and condemning dots where there are none in reality or intent to connect, then respectfully, I’m out.
There is far more than enough in our world for which to take necessary and appropriate offense without having to fabricate or make much out of what is truly benign or all together nonexistent.
I know I will always be a Grace-guy and most certainly a “progressive” in heart who passionately wants to be a contributing member of this important movement, but if these are the kinds of things I must become to keep the keys to the kingdom, then with all due respect, I’m out.
Grace is brave, be brave.