I used to think that I wanted a progressive church, and when I first started out on my church planting endeavor, that was what I tried to do. I now realize that this is not what we should be doing as Christians.
One of the largest criticisms progressive Christians have of their conservative counterparts is that conservatives create boundaries. They define what it means to be Christian; they have an emphasis on orthodoxy. On top of this, when it comes to social issues, they feel that conservatives create barriers between people—barriers between races, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. However, I feel that progressive Christianity can create its own barriers as well, especially when one requires progressive Christianity on a congregational and denominational level.
What I realize now is that I do not really want a progressive church, just as I do not want a conservative church.
- I want an inclusive church. I want a church where people of different theological, social, and political opinions can come together and worship.
- I want a church where people recognize with humility that they might just be wrong, and with the recognition of the ability to be wrong comes the ability to dialogue.
- I do not want to attend a church that is an ego trip where the same opinions are just recycled and confirmed.
The church is supposed to be a radical form of community (ecclesia) in which Christians are seen as brothers and sisters before the same Father. We don’t ignore our genetic brothers and sisters because they have different religious or social opinions, and neither should we ignore or exclude our Christian brothers and sisters for the same reason. My brother calls himself a “conservative” and is a member of the Republican Party. We disagree on so much in both religion and politics, but you know what, I can talk with him in civility. I can worship with him in the same building, and he is one of the most generous and loving people I have ever met. I don’t have a list of principles that excludes him from my life simply because we disagree.
Church is supposed to be family. It is not supposed to be progressive, moderate, conservative, or whatever label you would like. Church is a word that literally means community, and communities are diverse. Communities are composed of many individuals with their many flaws, opinions, and talents. Christian community, or church, is supposed to be especially unique in that not only are we supposed to be a community, but we are supposed to unconditionally love one another. We are supposed to be able to love our enemies and go two miles when someone only requests that we go one with them. We are supposed to come together to break bread, whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, male or female, progressive or conservative. In Christ those petty divisions are supposed to dissolve and be replaced by a radical love (agape).
I don’t want to attend a progressive church just like I don’t want to attend a moderate or conservative church. While there may be progressive, moderate, or conservative individuals within a church, those labels should not exist as generalizations of a whole population, especially when that community is supposed to be a family that loves unconditionally. We should be able to see a common human dignity in one another, even when we disagree.