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Polarization and Progressive Faith

October 28, 2016

Are you alarmed? Almost everyone is! We’re alarmed (rightly, I think) at how incredibly polarized America has become.  It’s cultural as well as political… the two are heavily intertwined, though not completely the same.

Are you also alarmed about the nature of religious faith these days? If you’re more to the conservative or traditional side, you may fear loss of religious freedom or “attacks” on Christians or Christianity.  If you’re toward the more progressive end of the spectrum, as I am, you may be concerned about too close an alignment of Christian institutions and their constituents with right-of-center politics, sometimes even the fringe-right or “alt-right”.

I believe that Mainline and all progressive churches (Christian or otherwise… I’ll speak about the Christian ones) have great opportunity and responsibility to help resolve this attack and counter-attack toxic atmosphere that most people perceive but know little how to resolve. Not that improvements will be fast or easy.  They likely will not be.  But our own growth and that of our faith communities and our entire national community will benefit through our efforts.


(Above are photos of mine of the cathedral in Ulm, Germany – just above, well up the 500′ tower – the ancient, begun in 1377, overlooking the modern.)

We’ve got to take a “high” view, from above the ground level conflicts, respecting the diversity of our neighbors, whom Jesus called on us to love and serve, regardless of their personal views or social status.  

So what can progressive churches do to make a difference? For one, we can upgrade our educational systems and content.  We’re certainly not known for achievement in this area and we should be! Not just “religious” knowledge, but much more depth on developmental and personal psychology and how these intersect with spiritual wisdom, growth, and expressions of compassion.   

Then, more sophistication on things like “systems theory” or how the “domination systems” of the world work. It has many levels and stubborn patterns… If the “realm/kingdom of God” is anything, it is a 180-degree alternative to this.  The Gospels, and Jesus’ words and actions are not primarily other-worldly….  They were meant for everyday living in a social structure and economy that was far more oppressive than is ours today.  

Sure, we’re often in the mix as activists for social justice, but one of the reasons that very term is a “bad word” in some conservative circles is that we’ve failed to openly approach and listen carefully, non-judgmentally, to the issues of concern to many of our fellow citizens. Just maybe, once we’ve listened well and shown we care and understand their perspective, we can help them understand some of our perspective which they perhaps never get in a positive light.

This is just a beginning: more to come in days and weeks ahead.

What are your thoughts? 

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