Tag Archives: progressive

The seminarian’s unexpected experience

It’s been five years since I went back to school. The goal was to finish up my undergrad so I could attend seminary. Now, three years into seminary and only 6 classes left, I have experienced some major shifts.

CST

I chose Claremont School of Theology (CST) for several reasons. First, I was attending a Methodist Church so it made sense. Second, I was attracted to Process Theology. Third, I wanted to attend a progressive seminary that was not only open but also inclusive of LGBTQ person’s. Fourth, I saw that CST was engaged in interreligious dialogue and education and felt this was important for any spiritual leader in the future.

The biggest part of that decision was attending a place that was open, diverse, and liberal leaning. I wanted to find a place where I could explore, question, and feel free to challenge and/or change any beliefs I needed to. I know this should be the goal of any religious education, but sadly it is not.

I have gone through a major theological shift since I first went back to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies five years ago. It seems like an eternity ago, but in the scheme of things five years is not all that long.

Yet, the theological shift has not been the most surprising to me. I had been on a journey for quite some time, and even though I was raised in a more conservative tradition, I had been drawn to people who were pushing the boundaries, asking tough questions, and inviting dialogue. Engaging in theology was not new.

The most surprising experience has been an introduction to contemplative spirituality and the idea and importance of spiritual formation. I had spent several years wrestling through many beliefs and views (my embedded theology) and had largely lived in my head. I think that was necessary for a time, as many of the beliefs I was given as a child no longer made sense to me. I grasped for something that worked and eventually realized that my beliefs, views, and ways of seeing the world will always be changing, evolving, and growing.  I think I’m coming to a point where I’m ok with that, and I think that is largely due to contemplative spirituality.

One of the first classes I took at CST was a class called Spiritual Practices. We engaged in different forms of prayer, meditation, and ways of engaging with Scripture that I had not done before. This opened up a lot for me. I always felt that meditation was for the few “elite” or those monks, and was never all that interested. Then I realized that true formation comes much more from surrender, from mystery, from experiencing wonder, and from releasing my attachment to all things (including my beliefs), than from developing a clear and systematic theology. My spiritual formation classes have become the one’s I have most enjoyed so far, and I look forward to taking a couple more before the end.

I understand that everything forms us. Education forms us deeply, and that has been a large part of my spiritual formation, one I am very grateful for at CST. How one is educated is a part of spiritual formation, and I have been educated alongside of those with diverse views, diverse ethnic and geographic areas, as well as people of different religions than mine. Surely this has all shaped me deeply. My beliefs have shaped me, my experiences have shaped me, my lifestyle (including diet) has shaped me, my friendships have shaped me and the list goes on and on. Yet, at the center of all this is contemplative spirituality, and I am becoming more convinced that this is perhaps the most needed thing in our polarized world of conservative/liberal, religious/non-religious, republican/democrat, etc. At the very least, it is what I seem to most need.

The idea of trying to “convert” others to my way of thinking is less and less interesting. The idea of arguing or debating about the correct doctrine, belief, or religion is less and less interesting. Sure, I still think there are destructive views out there that should be exposed, but what I am finding even more interesting is the idea of becoming a more healthy, whole, and compassionate human and helping others do the same. Instead of seeing different religions as either right or wrong, I see within each system either healthy or unhealthy – mature or immature – ways of being. The healthy or mature ways bring about a more loving, whole, and compassionate human…no matter what religion, belief, or world view they come from. My experience also suggests this to be true. I have met plenty of prickly, judgemental, and self-righteous Christians and some loving and compassionate people who are not Christian.

So, despite a theological shift, the thing that has most surprised me has been a curiosity and formational experience with contemplative spirituality. I went to an education center to realize that education, while being a part of formation, is not the only part or even the main part of spiritual formation.

I plan to write in the near future why I believe contemplative spirituality is so important.

Progressive Christianity – a critique

This is a post critiquing progressive Christianity.

First off, I don’t consistently label myself as a progressive Christian (mostly because this means different things to different people). While there is diversity within this group, most Progressive Christians would affirm evolution, the humanity of the Bible, they would be LGBTQ inclusive, and would tend not to see Christianity as exclusive. There is a lot more that could be said, but this is a very brief summary that would describe the majority.

Second, it is a critique from within. In other words, it is a critique coming from inside – not to show it is wrong, but to point out what I see as a weakness.  It is a critique to share what I believe is most lacking within.

Progressive Christianity rightly embraces science, critical biblical scholarship, the intellect, and accepts truth wherever it is found.

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My biggest critique?

Progressive Christianity has a tendency to play the same game as conservative Christianity – i.e. it is all about being right, correct, and can be a mere exercise of the mind. As Richard Rohr writes, “it is the same game on the other side of the playing field.”

As one who would best fit within the progressive camp, I think they have a political correctness and an orientation toward social justice, esp. concerning the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, that is often lacking in more conservative groups. Interesting that much of the Biblical narrative is a prophetic critique concerning those who mistake the means for the end – the religious acts (e.g. sacrifices, fasts, prayers, services) for the point. This is never the end point, but only meant to help us to become more compassionate toward others esp. and those on the margins.

As I have journeyed from a more conservative tradition I have found that sometimes (not always) there is still something lacking in many progressive places. Progressives can be passionate for social justice and fight against systemic evil (things conservatives often neglect), yet it is their approach that often doesn’t sit well with me.

Richard Rohr states, “I’ve seen far too many activists who are not the answer. Their head answer is largely correct but the energy, the style, and the soul are not. So if they bring about the so-called revolution they are working for, I don’t want to be a part of it (especially if they’re in charge).”

This speaks to my experience of some within progressive Christianity. If I’m honest, this has also been true of myself on more than one occasion. Progressives can sometimes have the same harshness, egocentricity, antagonistic attitude that comes from the other side.

What then is the answer?

I don’t pretend to have the answer, but something that I am finding extremely important personally is spiritual maturity. A maturity where the ego is no longer in control, and there is little need to defend one’s position – this is no easy thing! (This is also not the same as passivity!)

“Jesus and the great spiritual teachers primarily emphasized transformation of consciousness and soul.” – Richard Rohr.

In other words, both conservatives and progressives are tempted to work from the outside in. If we only legislate our beliefs then it would be better. If we only expose how ignorant the “other side” is then they will see.  If they are just more informed then they would understand.

Actually, seeing is more of a spiritual process that begins from within.

Both conservatives and progressives are often playing the same game.

It’s all about right beliefs.

Conservatives focus on individual salvation, and on having correct doctrine, and progressives focus on knowledge, information or reason – as if this is what brings about enlightenment!

Neither correct doctrine, nor mere knowledge or information will really transform a person. Either side can be harsh, judgmental, egocentric, and arrogant.

What is needed is healthy spirituality, something Rohr says comes more by subtraction than addition. It’s not about more; more Bible, more correct doctrine, more truth, more information, more science, more church, more Christians. All these things can be helpful, but they do not, in and of themselves, create mature, healthy people. It’s about surrender, release, and liberation – primarily from our own egos.

What does this look like?

I think that an enlightened person does not need to constantly defend their beliefs, doctrines, or worldview. Of course they will still believe certain things, but they will hold these beliefs in a very different way – they will hold them lightly. Their ego is not in control. They will work for what they believe in, but don’t feel the need to exclude others, or judge others based upon their beliefs. They will not feel superior, more intelligent, or more correct. They see that God is working in all religions, in all people, in all places. They see life as a gift and it is theirs to simply enjoy. They live in the present moment or the now.

Being conservative or progressive isn’t the point. In fact, it can be a practice in missing the point entirely.

What’s the point?

The point isn’t addition (more), but subtraction (less ego)!

Pre-rational, rational, and transrational – part 2

A few weeks ago I did a post on prerational, rational, and transrational here.

I have since come back to this on a regular basis  as I have continued to wrestle through a very specific question.

Why am I most attracted to a certain kind of person, thinker, author, speaker, or spiritual leader? Some are great thinkers, yet I still feel left lacking.

For me, there are people who have greatly impacted my life who I would say live in a prerational stage. These people focus on the heart (and often, unintentionally neglect the intellect). When questions or doubts are raised, they immediately go into defense mode. For these people, belief or faith is a house of cards – if you pull one card out, the entire thing collapses. As I mentioned, my life has been greatly impacted by many people in this stage and I am very thankful for their influence in my life. Many of these people are very passionate people who love God immensely.

Then there seems to be people who I would say live in the rational stage. They are open to questions and doubts and have very thoughtful answers to many of them. These people tend to embrace critical biblical scholarship, science, archeology etc. I am very thankful for those in this stage who have given me a way to be a Christian as I have moved beyond a prerational stage.

While I have and continue to be influenced by those in a rational stage, I find that those who I am most drawn to, those whom I find most life from, have something more.  So I have been asking;

What is that more?

What do they have that others don’t have?

Why, when they speak, do I feel like they are speaking to me at a deeper level than just the heart or the head – almost at a soulish level?

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A simple answer is to say they combine both the head and the heart, but I still feel like that is lacking. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that they combine the head and the heart and yet move beyond. Somehow, in someway, they engage my heart and my head, yet unlock so much more inside of me.

Another way to say this is to use the Webster definition of transrational –  going beyond or surpassing human reason or the rational.

Those in the prerational stage are often antagonistic toward those in other stages for they see them as wrong, relativistic, heretical, liberal etc. They often say something along the lines of, “stop thinking so much and just accept it.”

Those in the rational stage are often antagonistic those in the prerational stage. They define themselves often by what they are not – they are not prerational (not necessarily always a bad thing). Getting back to my question, those who I am most drawn to are those who are not antagonistic toward others, but somehow transcend and include both the prerational and the rational stages.

As I am thankful to those in the rational stage who continue to shape me, it has left me feeling a little…how do I say it… stale?

To help clarify I can use and example drawing from the Bible. Those in the prerational stage simply accept these stories as literal, historical and factual truth. The story happened exactly as the Bible says it happened for it is the Word of God and must be accepted at face value.

The rational stage cannot except this for it engages the mind through science, archeology, common sense and experience. The story did not happen exactly as the Bible says it happened. In some ways it takes the life out of the story because it is out to prove that the stories are false, which leaves me with the question, “what then does it mean?”

The transrational stage moves through the rational, engages the mind, yet isn’t bothered by the “either/or” statements made by the other stages. The point isn’t if the story literally happened (though they have moved through the rational and understand that it may not be historically accurate), but the truth that the story conveys – it speaks to the human even if it did not literally happen.

Another example is that the prerational often sees the world as divided by the “natural” and the “supernatural”. God is seen sitting back, somewhere in the sky, and occasionally intervenes, i.e. divine intervention.

The rational draws from the intellect and see’s the world as a “natural” state. Since they do not see arms growing or the blind seeing there is not “supernatural”, only “natural”.

The transrational embraces mystery and paradox. The world is not divided into the “natural” and the “supernatural”, yet they realize not everything can be explained by our five senses. God is working, through all things and in all places, yet not in an “interventionist” sort of way, but in another, far more persuasive and evolutionary sort of way – gently pulling us forward toward more love, compassion and inclusion. In other words, the “natural” vs. “supernatural” is a false dichotomy and the transrational embraces the intellect while moving beyond just an intellectual understanding or knowing.

Those I am most drawn to seem to simply be. They choose to widen the circle and to redefine what it means to be a Christian – without the need to push anyone out. In a way, they seem to be paving a third way forward beyond two polarizing options.

To the prerational stage, the transrational seems like the rational in that it engages the head and is seen as – false, heretical, liberal etc. To the rational, the transrational seems to much like the prerational in that it seems to focus more on the heart (though the transrational does not neglect the head) and accepts that not everything can be explained by the rational mind.

In a sentence, those whom I am most drawn to are those who have moved beyond the prerational and rational, engage the heart and the head, and yet live with wonder and awe as they experience the great Mystery I call God.

What do you think? Does any of this make sense?

Construction – Deconstruction – Reconstruction

Construction –  the act or process of building something

Deconstruct – to take apart or examine in order to reveal the basis or composition of often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies

Reconstruct –  to construct again:  to establish or assemble again

This is almost like a part three of an unintentional series. If you are reading this, you probably have recognized the fluidity of the last three posts (part 1 here, part 2 here) and have also recognized that much of it is me thinking out load and wrestling through some thoughts.

I realize that by doing this it can seem disjointed, but I really started this blog to reflect upon some things I am learning, growing in, and wrestling with.

Construction

This is a phase of life where the individual builds or puts together a world view, belief system, or way of seeing the world. Everyone begins with construction as we each need a way to see and engage the world around us.

Deconstruction

Some move past the first phase and begin to take apart their world view or belief system to examine it. In my experience, this often happens because of a crisis or tragedy of some sort, but can also happen when someone enters into a critical thinking process and begins to raise many tough questions. Often people find the answers they were given to be lacking. This is a healthy phase of life as one takes apart the “system” to analyze it and find areas that just don’t work anymore.

Reconstruction

This is a phase that one enters after they have deconstructed their world view of belief system. In many ways this is putting back together a system using the remaining fragments or pieces that are left over. This is not a neat or easy phase and it can feel awkward, almost like a young teenager whose body has grown so fast that they are still trying to learn how to walk and run without tripping.

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  • Here’s how this looks in my own life

Construction – I was given a great religious foundation from a loving and caring family. I am very grateful for my conservative upbringing. The problem with remaining in the phase of construction is that it can become merely a belief affirmation system. In other words, we simply welcome and learn from those who think like us and if someone thinks differently they are quickly rejected or worse called a heretic and thrown out.

One can see this played out in the conservative/liberal divide within Christianity. Conservatives are great constructors, but are very cautious of entering into the deconstructive phase – usually because of fear. Fear that one will “loose their faith”, become liberal, be deceived by “the devil”. All of this fear is based upon their belief in hell and that if one doesn’t believe the right things then they will spend eternity here.

Deconstruction – believe it or not, I entered this phase while completing my bachelors degree in Biblical Studies at a conservative evangelical college. While my program was primarily focused on the construction phase (belief affirmation), I found that the answers didn’t make sense. What was actually meant to enhance the construction phase, propelled me into the deconstruction phase. So, while those around me were bolstering their belief system, I was finding it just didn’t work for me anymore.

For me, it wasn’t a crisis or tragedy, but an intellectual curiosity – the world was this great big place and if God did exist than I have nothing to fear!

Here’s a summary of some questions I was deconstructing:

What about the obvious errors in the Bible? What about the human aspect of the Bible’s authors that was becoming so clear to me as I studied Scripture in more detail? What about the influence of other religious traditions and cultures on people who wrote the Bible? What about the fact that the Bible doesn’t always agree and it’s authors say different, sometimes conflicting things? What about the violence (esp in the Hebrew Scriptures) and how does that align with Jesus in the Christian Bible? Do people really go to hell who haven’t heard about Jesus? Are gay people condemned? Why does science point to evolution and it seem like we have to throw it out to believe the Bible? What about the good people I have come to know of different religions? How could we (Christians) be completely right and they (other religions) be completely wrong? Why do so many people who hold this view seem judgmental? Why do I seem so judgmental? Doesn’t it seem that Jesus loved, embraced, and included people while I am doing the opposite?

As you can see, I was given a black and white world view but the world was quickly becoming multicolored. This was frightening. Most of the people I knew at the time looked at me with concern – again they feared for my eternal security. I was walking down the slippery slope to relativism. Despite this, I saw something new, and I could not stay in the phase of construction any longer – I was quickly thrown into the deconstruction phase and found that so many answers and ways of seeing the world no longer worked for me.

Reconstruction – I think I entered this phase in my first year of seminary, but to be honest I probably bounce back and forth from deconstruction to reconstruction on a fairly regular basis – at least in the last two years.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim to be far along in the reconstruction phase. If anything I am in between. Sometimes I dip my feet in this phase only to leave it because I have again found something that doesn’t work and I need to deconstruct it.

That being said, here is my hope and intention as I reflect upon this.

The construction phase is helpful and necessary, but someone living in this phase lives in fear and feels threatened by anything different or unknown – I was just to curious to stay here and constantly being “against” everything else was exhausting. Often conservatives never enter the deconstruction phase and instead insulate themselves and reinforce their beliefs, values, and world view. On the flip side, progressives can get hung up on the deconstructive phase and never move beyond. My hope is to move beyond. I have spend the last two years in a deeply formative deconstructive state and have read from many great thinkers, but I have also found that many of them lack something. It’s hard for me to put my finger on what exactly they lack. I would say depth, though not intellectual depth – something beyond this.

I think this is why I have been drawn to contemplative spirituality, but I don’t mean to suggest that this is the reconstructive phase. In part, I think the reconstructive phase is more open than closed, is ok with tension and paradox, moves toward a more non dual understanding, embraces differences and different faiths, and while engages the intellect understands that one cannot know or explain everything. In this regard, they are open to mystery and are people of wonder and awe. They find the sacred in ordinary life and seem to see all of life on a deeper level.

In a way, I have a growing sense that at least part of my calling is to help people through the deconstruction and reconstruction phases of life. As someone who is a pastor and in seminary, I am faced with the reality that culture, society, and religion is shifting. We seem to be moving through a major transition that none of us can fully comprehend.

People will need new ways to think about God. People will need new ways to understand what it means to be a Christian. We can’t remain in the deconstructive phase forever. Something is pulling us forward. My desire is to be a part of this process of rebuilding and reconstructing.

 

 

 

Stages, states, and spiral dynamics – this has changed the way I see the world

Richard Rohr recently wrote a meditation (it’s very much worth the read here) concerning the differences between stages and states.

To summarize, he was specifically referring to the dessert fathers and mothers in the Christian tradition who, while being at a more enlightened state, where still very much at an early stage (per-critical).

This has caused me to reflect upon the connection here to Spiral Dynamics.

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If your not familiar with spiral dynamics, it speaks to the different stages (consciousness) of humanity. Each stage transcends and includes the previous stages, and as you travel through the stages each one brings more complexity and inclusion. This has really helped my understanding of the current religious climate esp. as it concerns the conservative/liberal polarities and all the stages in between.

Basically, one can be at any stage and yet become a spiritually mature or enlightened person. As someone who is personally more open and inclusive in my perspectives, it is easy for me to write off someone who is less open or who is conservative as spiritually immature, but this would be inaccurate. Usually, conservatives are at the blue stage and they tend to see the world as black and white. At the blue stage certainty, doctrine, and dogma are very important (Most AA programs are at this stage). That doesn’t, however, mean that they cannot have a deeply spiritual life or connection to the divine – in fact if someone is coming out of the red stage they are in desperate need of the blue stage.

Each stage is important and even necessary.

Confused? Let me try to clarify.

One can be in the blue stage (I think that this is the stage that most of the conservative church is at), see the world as clearly black and white, yet can be racist, prejudiced etc. We have probably all known people like this. (Blue stage, early state)

One can also be in the blue stage, see the world as clearly black and white, yet can be loving, forgiving, full of grace and understanding – even though they will likely see the world very differently than those at other stages in life. (Blue stage, enlightened state)

One can be at a green stage (I think this is the stage that most of the world, at least the modern western world is currently at), be inclusive, loving, tolerant, and yet lack spiritual depth and can easily get frustrated at those in earlier stages. (Green stage, early state).

One can be at a green stage, be inclusive, tolerant, and loving, while extending grace to those who are at earlier stages while experiencing a deep connection to the divine (Green stage, enlightened state).

Hopefully this helps, as it has truly revolutionized my thinking and has helped me understand the world we are living in.

Here a couple of ways this plays out today.

With the recent Pew Research Center religious landscape survey, it is clear that Christianity in the U.S. is in decline. I think the reason for this is complex and I do not consider myself an expert, but I think spiral dynamics can speak to this.

I think most of the church, esp the conservative church, is at a blue stage or level of consciousness. I think most of the rest of the U.S. population is at an orange or green stage. Thus, Christianity seems archaic, out dated, and irrelevant because it speaks to a world that no longer exists for the majority of the western world (where Christianity is growing, I think it is at least partially because they are at a red or blue stage). No one in a orange or green stage thinks it is better to be in a blue stage as that would mean going backwards, and it can feel like regression. But this also goes the other way. Most of the conservative church  see those in an orange or green stage as walking down the road to relativism or secular culture and is thus fighting against it. Interesting isn’t it?

A second example can be taken from how one reads the Bible. The Bible is an outdated, archaic book that oppresses and marginalizes people right? Well, it depends on how you read it and if you can understand at least some of the the different stages of the people living at that time – remember this was 2,000-4,000 years ago, of course it seems archaic! Many of the author’s were living in a beige, purple, or red stage, yet that does not mean people living in the 21st century need to be pulled back to this stage. Yet, simultaneously, many of these people were living at an enlightened state, so it can still speak to us today. In other words, they were progressive for their time and had a deep understanding and connection to the divine.

Some may object and say that God was clearly working in and through these people. I agree, yet that doesn’t mean that God approved of that specific stage as if that was the stage we all need to remain at. I think God is far more inclusive and transcendent than that and I think God realizes that God must work in and through people at whatever stage they are. I think this is exactly what God continues to do today.

I think God is pulling us forward into deeper stages where we can transcend and include previous stages. Unfortunately, we can work against God’s movement in the name of church, truth, religion, or the Bible. I think the invitation is to have grace to people who are at different stages, yet also realize that everyone can have a connection to the divine or the sacred at whatever stage they are in. Maybe for leaders, the key is not to push people to other stages, but to be aware of their stage and to help bring people to deeper states. Of course, this takes an integrated leader who has grace and patience which is no easy task.

Same sex marriage equality

In light of the Supreme Court hearings and future decisions about same sex marriages in the states, I wanted to reflect on this personally. I wrote a little about my personal journey toward LGBTQ inclusion here, and someday I may write about how to understand same sex marriage in light of Scripture, but today I felt like writing something more from the heart than the head.

Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rights of married same-sex couples will come under scrutiny at the US Supreme Court on Wednesday in the second of two landmark cases being considered by the top judicial panel. After the nine justices mulled arguments on a California law that outlawed gay marriage on Tuesday, they will take up a challenge to the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The 1996 law prevents couples who have tied the knot in nine states -- where same-sex marriage is legal -- from enjoying the same federal rights as heterosexual couples. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

While there are many nuances, there are clearly two major sides to the LGBTQ argument.

First, you have the conservative side who believe same sex marriage is a compromise, a redefinition of traditional marriage that God instituted to be between one man and one women. This group also see’s itself as defending truth (actually, somewhat ironically this is true of both sides), but more importantly they see themselves defending the Bible and 2,000 years of church tradition.

Second, you have the more progressives that see same sex marriage as a civil rights issue. Just like slavery and racial issues, it is about equality. This group wants to see equal rights given to all those in same sex marriages that are given to those in heterosexual marriages. While many are not religious, this group also contains a growing number of religious people that believe God has created each person, gay or straight, in God’s image. They do not interpret the Bible to condemn same sex marriage, but believe it is God’s desire for everyone who wants to be in a committed relationship to enjoy this.

Let me be up front, I’m a progressive – no if’s and’s or but’s about it!

But, I haven’t always been.

I vividly remember about 7 years ago a good friend suggesting that same sex marriages is the slavery issues of our day. This was the first, of many times I would hear this. Sadly, I didn’t know how to respond. I’m going to be honest here, I was raised to see homosexuality as a sin and I had never questioned this and I was in my mid 20s! When my friend said this, I was speechless. I wonder what he thought as I starred at him not knowing what to think or to say. He handled it well, but it left me with many questions.

You see my friend and I were on very similar pages in almost all theological, political,  and ecological issues so this surprised me. I am very thankful for this conversation, and many others since, that have forced me to think more deeply upon this.

As I mentioned, I grew up in a conservative Christian environment and viewed homosexuality as a sin. It was wrong and God hated it. I remember frequently using phrases growing up such as, “what are you gay?”, “dude, that’s so gay”, etc. Though it was done in  ignorance, I regret these things. There very well may have been someone wrestling with their sexuality, and I was only adding to the pain and confusion.

This also lead to a feeling of self righteousness within me. I felt I had the truth and gay people needed to hear it. It was the loving thing to do, or so I thought. I spoke out against homosexuality in ways I believed were in line with the ways God would speak out against it. I argued with those who were from the LGBTQ community, and I am ashamed to say, I added to their pain and marginalization. I alienated them. Deep down inside I felt righteous because they were wrong and I was right.

Our culture is shifting and American’s are more likely to be inclusive. This is also reflected in the religious shift where many denominations that once opposed same sex marriage have now become inclusive. There is also a growing number of evangelicals who have shifted their understandings.

Here’s what I predict.

Same sex marriage will be legal in all 50 US cities (this seems pretty clear).

Conservatives, while becoming less influential, will entrench themselves and try to stake out as much area as possible. They will continue to believe that they are standing for God’s truth and will see themselves as many have in the past who have stood against the greater secular culture.

This is where we, as progressives, have a choice.

I shared a little of my background in hope to show how conservatives think. They truly believe they are right, and progressives are wrong. They truly believe they are defending God’s truth, God’s word, in the face of relativism and increasing secularism. While I do believe this group will decrease, they will continue to push for influence and power for they believe they have a righteous cause. I think they are wrong, but I also relate to them because I understand what it is like to be in their shoes.

Here is my hope.

My hope is that as progressives, we do not debate or argue in hurtful ways. My hope is that as the consciousness shifts and we sense momentum on our side, that we exercise restraint and keep from lashing out at those who make us angry or hurt us because of their words. My hope is that we don’t take all of the pain, hurt, frustration that we have felt (Esp. those from the LGBTQ community who have been most affected) and unleash it upon conservatives. While we are tempted to do this, I suspect this temptation will only increase. I think there is a better way – the way of Jesus.

In a recent interview, one of the leading and most influential theologians,  Walter Brueggemann, was asked about the LGBTQ community and acceptance. He responded:

The only thing that will change people’s minds about this is getting to know people who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual, and what you discover is that they’re people just like us. To overcome our fears, I think it is basically fear, means getting to know people and to see that they are not a threat.

I think there is a time for clear, thoughtful, Biblical instruction, but that is most helpful when someone is open and seeking. In my experience, the majority of the time we are firing missiles back and forth and arguing biblical texts in a way that misses the point. If someone asks, we should be able to have an answer, but the majority of conservatives are not asking but are seeking to persuade. Does this mean we sit back idly? Absolutely not! But it does mean that in our dialogue what stands out above all else is not how persuasive we are or how firm we are or how convinced we are, but how loving and compassionate we are – yes our actions do indeed speak louder than our words.

I changed from one who was extremely opposed to same sex marriage to one who is fighting for it. This change was a slow process, and much of this change was influenced by those who I knew that were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  l began to see these people as…well…people just like myself.  I believe all people, gay or straight,  are loved and accepted by the God revealed in Jesus.

If you are a part of the LGBTQ community my heart is with you. You are not in an easy place. While there is a shift, it will take time and you will no doubt continue to experience pain and frustration. For whatever it is worth, I stand with you. We can have sound, thoughtful reasons for fighting for same sex marriage equality. While we continue to press forward, as progressives, let’s rise above the angry and hostile debates and seek to offer gentle and loving answers. Let’s allow our lives and actions to speak (along with our words), for our actions do speak louder. Let my story be an example that conservatives can change, but this change will not be brought about by anger or bitterness but by people seeing love within us.  Conservatives believe they are on the right side, fighting for truth and for God, let’s allow our lives to show that the divine love is shining in and through us.

May we have grace in the midst of this difficult and exciting time as we look forward to a future where our children and grandchildren will not know a time where this was ever an issue!