The Christian Thing (or Long Live the Christian Left!)

Though I am an ex-Christian nontheist Quaker, I am committed to accepting and promoting the Christian norms of liberal Quakerism. Some Quakers see a renewal of the Christian character of Quakerism as a survival necessity. Christians are the majority in our culture and if liberal Quakers are going to grow, they reason, the largest pool of potential new Quakers are Christians.

My own take on this is that in our majority Christian culture, there is an immense need for progressive Christianity. By progressive I mean doctrinally tolerant and socially engaged for peace and justice. I see the choice as an either/or. Non-Christians can try to convert people to some non-Christian view (such as nontheism) or we can try to convert them to a progressive Christian worldview. I think it will be more effective to promote progressive values as compatible with Christianity, than it is to continue to play into the divide between Christians and Progressives that has dominated our culture for decades.

This is why I get frustrated with those atheists who try to argue that progressive values are incompatible with Christianity, ie, that one can only be truly progressive by abandoning Christianity. The result of that argument is that Christians who are not progressive decide that they are right to be regressive, because progressivism is inherently atheistic. In other words, given the choice, most Christians will take their faith to the grave, rather than choose progressivism over it.

The world deserves better than that. The Christian Right dominates our politics and the only counter-movement that has a chance of succeeding is the Christian Left. The Christian Left can fight the Christian Right on a level playing field, whereas non-Christians are at a disadvantage.

What's the worst case scenario if liberal Quakerism becomes loudly and joyfully Christian? I may have to become a UU. I doubt this will happen, but I am willing to make the sacrifice, because a massive, more powerful, Progressive Christian Quakerism is better for the world than the death of post-Christian Quakerism.

The truth is, I have some doubts that Convergent Quakers can pull it off. The Emergent Church movement they so admire is limited in its own right. I was once part of a community that is considered a precursor to the Emergent Church, ie, peace-oriented, small group focused, and a dialogical business method, not entirely unlike Quaker practice. That church is still going strong and has a few sister congregations. Meanwhile, conservative megachurches continue to grow at a faster pace.

The Christian Right scares the hell out of me, always has. Us non-Christians have no choice but to seek alliances with progressive Christians if we want to turn the tide. Obama's election notwithstanding, the Right can regroup quickly, as the previous administration proved.

Views: 76

Comment by Bill Samuel on 7th mo. 31, 2009 at 6:02pm
I'm inclined to think that identification with a political ideology is a problem for the Christian church, regardless of what the ideology is. I don't like seeing the aping of the Christian Right with the Christian Left. I think that renewal lies in looking to Christ Jesus and living out the Kingdom of God he presented, not to some political ideology. I think the Christian Right and the Christian Left would both be seen as "manmade religion" by early Quakers.
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 31, 2009 at 9:25pm
Bill, the "left" is a contestable term for sure. I include in it peace, economic justice, democracy, ecology, feminism, lgbt rights, and anti-racism. Surely you can agree with some of them? I know it is fashionable in many circles, not just Christian to claim that left versus right is obsolete, but I think that betrays an ahistorical viewpoint.


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