I used to say that being a Christian was the easiest thing you could do. At a base level it sounds simple, right? Believe in God the Father. Believe in Jesus the Son. Live a good life, and wait for heaven.
Of course, I certainly wanted it to be that easy, and who doesn’t? Salvation without really having to do anything, the easy path to heaven, smooth sailing for eternity, it all sounds great. Sign me up! Sure, the Bible has a list of do’s and don’ts, but it’s not about right and wrong, it’s about your character and inner feelings, isn’t that it? You don’t even have to go to Mass if you don’t want to. As long as you have a connection with Jesus and hold on to those core beliefs, you’re good to go.
This is — in my paraphrased nutshell —the basis behind Progressive Christianity: a modern day extension of the Social Gospel movement that puts a liberal spin on the faith.
Progressive Christianity isn’t all bad, and in fact, can be helpful for skeptics new to the Christian faith. It puts most of its emphasis on tolerance and acceptance, while focusing heavily on the life and love of Christ.
These are good things, and should be a part of every Christian’s life, but Progressive Christianity falls short when it eschews traditional doctrine. By ignoring these very important pillars of Christianity, we risk adopting unauthorized tenets– and it becomes a sort of make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of thing.
For example, Roger Wosely, Author of Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity, states that Progressive Christianity…“emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later” …. That we are “being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell”.
Where my Church— The Catholic Church —promotes discipline, Progressive Christianity presents a more “whatever” attitude to the faith…. “ it doesn’t endorse or condemn hip-hop, it doesn’t endorse or condemn polyamory, it doesn’t endorse or condemn marijuana, it doesn’t endorse or condemn premarital sex, it doesn’t endorse or condemn inter-racial or interfaith marriages, and it doesn’t endorse or condemn stevia, quinoa, mustaches, single-speed bikes, skinny jeans, or PBR.”
Obviously, not everything quoted here is wrong, or bad, or dangerous, but there’s an overall tone that would lead one to believe that when it comes to Christianity, you can have your cake and eat it too, and this isn’t true.
To follow Christ means being willing to sacrifice. Christianity is not a humanist philosophy. It is the exact opposite. Christianity requires a balance — to appreciate life while being willing to deny life. The Progressive spin can lead one to believe they can live a Christian life without sacrifices, which is appealing if sacrifices are viewed as burdensome.
One of those sacrifices is following the doctrine. Doctrine provides us with guidelines and restrictions that come with being a Christian. When Wosely says Progressive Christianity doesn’t endorse polyamory or pre-marital sex, he’s right. But when you don’t condemn these things, things that God condemns, you’re creeping into dangerous territory. Pilate didn’t endorse or condemn Christ’s crucifixion, but that didn’t make him free from sin.
Perhaps the Progressive Christian viewpoint comes as a push back from the religious right and fundamentalists who tend to use their own interpretations of the Bible to promote oppressive rhetoric. In truth, there is no Conservative Christianity. There is no Liberal Christianity. There is just Christianity, and there is significant danger in leaning too far to either side.
Look, I’m no different than any other Christian. Some aspects of my faith seem right to me, but I struggle to understand others. Instead of endlessly searching the Bible for justification of my standpoint (or worse, ignoring the Bible altogether) I’ve found it better to study the Bible, the catechism, and the writings of the early Church fathers. In the process I can better understand why my God asks me to sacrifice certain indulgences in life, and better understand what it is that God has called me to do.