Friday, September 7, 2012

"Progressive Christianity" - Is there a better way to say it?

We use words to define and describe.  Words are only symbols used to explain what we are trying to communicate.  When we use them, they are "our" words and we assign the meaning behind them.  They may be misused or inaccurate descriptions of what we are really trying to say, but usually they are the best we efforts we have.

But some days we all yearn for different and better words.

I find myself substituting other words for the word CHRISTIAN.  Given the larger understanding of that word on our contemporary scene, and especially how the media pushes that particular understanding, I have to say that if that's what it means to be Christian, then I don't want to be one.  So I usually stammer and stumble and try to come out with something like FOLLOWER OF THE WAY...or...FOLLOWER OF JESUS' WAY.  That usually requires more explanation, but at least for now, it gets me away from the overused and abused term that is most popular, namely CHRISTIAN.

I try to no longer use the word CHURCH.  Same arguement.  Given its present understanding, especially in the realm of it being a place to which one "goes" with a particular address or with denominational/doctrinal/creedal expressions, then I don't want to be associated with that.  A COMMUNITY OF FAITH works better for least in this present moment.  A body of folk, trying to figure it out together, growing in their struggling faith, and somehow making a difference for the good in surrounding circumstances, all as they try to follow the Way of Jesus and even learn from other traditions.

Then it becomes a matter of where one places or finds oneself in the human scheme of things.  This usually revolves around how we think and act; what is important to us and what we ignore or refuse.  The big terms here, in realms religious and political, have been CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERAL, and varying degrees thereof (even these terms can be broken down into different categories).

I have long understood myself to be liberal and unashamedly so.  I want some good, conservative friends to help me keep my thinking in check, but the liberal ground is where I stand.  But that word has fallen on disrepute in the past half-century or so and I find that very regrettable.  It is a good, noble word (from liberation) and has been vital in the thinking, behavior, and progress of our common life.  (It's polar opposite word, conservative, is also a good word that has been ship-wrecked by some with a streak of meanness and a need for terrific control).  So, LIBERAL doesn't work as it used to when it comes to describing my particular stance.

Enter PROGRESSIVE.  There is now Progressive Religion, Progressive Christianity, Progressive Politics, etc.

But I must confess that particular word just doesn't do it for me.  As a friend told me last night, it is just so "ambiguous."  Those who stand on opposite ends of the measuring stick all see themselves as progressive.  The left would lay claim to being progressive.  But the right, and even the extreme right, would say the same thing about themselves.  They are moving forward in what they see as important.  They are progressing.  You know, "Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on BEFORE."   There you have it.  PROGRESSIVE.

So I pose a question and I seriously would like some answers and conversation about it.  You may leave a comment on this blog or even email me your thoughts.  I then will share them with others.   Most of us know what we are talking about when we speak of being PROGRESSIVE.  But if that word doesn't really work for us, is there a better one?  Is there a series of words that form a better descriptive term? 

Help me out here.  Who knows, maybe we can even start a new trend.


1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, I was pilloried by my fellow Democrats for using the term “Obamacare” in a conversation. I was told angrily that the proper name was “Helping Humans to Live Through Socialized Medicine” or some such nonsense, even though it was clear that NO ONE could remember the catchy-acronym-poor name, and most of the people I would find myself talking to would NOT know what I was talking about.

    And then there is my friend Pam who calls herself a Practicing Episcopalian, and then quickly submits that she’s still not very good at it.

    What we call ourselves will be much like the history of what we call the group of people that have physical challenges. We went from refering to them as Handicapped, to Disabled, to Challenged, to (and who can forget the period of) Differently Abled. What those terms mean was not so important as it was to force people to think in new ways about their fellow human.... to not not allow other people to define their language about themselves.

    As a father of a 24 year old son who is on my health insurance, and who falls down and stops breathing if not properly medicated, I now proudly sport a “I (heart) Obamacare” bumper sticker on my pick-up. Neither should we allow others to define “Christian”.