Monday, July 13, 2009

PROGRESSIVE THEOLOGY


My father was born and raised in Appalachia, but was determined to get an education. He did. He was an educator, minister, and missionary to Africa. He was my teacher while I was at Mashoko Mission in what was then Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe. My college education is more like an old time quilt made from leftover rags than a fancy new store bought bed cover. I am 60 and still have never completed a degree. However, I am an ordained minister and Elder in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ and a member of the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church, Glen Alpine, NC. I say all this to let the readers of this blog know who is making these statements and that I make no claim to be a major scholar on the issues. Then why am I making them? Because in a comment to a previous blog I wrote (Mad at God) Bill Chadwick on 7/11/2009 in a reply addressed to Becca raised some very interesting points that I simply could not ignore.
First, let me say his comments were most respectful and written by a person I can only describe as a thoughtful gentleman. The comments seemed both genuine and heartfelt.
Second, I was touched by what I felt was a note of pain I noted in the last paragraph of his comments when he mentioned personal attacks and being blocked from making comments by a poster. If I am right then I regret that anyone in this blog community is made to feel uncomfortable or to experience pain from what is suppose to be a place to find community.
Third, I also read in that last paragraph the words “progressive theology” and “progressive Christians.” Now let us see if we can figure out what is meant by these words.
In a paper, I found on the internet titled Progressive Theology: Some Musings from a United Methodist Perspective by Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan I found these words, “Many of us have said that the division within The United Methodist Church goes beyond the issue of homosexuality. We recognize that our division goes to the very core of our theological divide. We need to recognize further that our theological divide is rooted also in our biblical interpretation and the nature of the Bible as sacred text.” Well no big revelation here. He simply stated the obvious. I guess we will have to look further.
“As an ethnic biblical scholar, I know and have experienced how the textual interpretation of a dominant group has been used as a means to silence and deligitimize the interpretations of other groups. The same is true of theological discourse. Instead, what we need to do, as progressive theological thinkers, is to set the framework and parameters of our theological discourse. Simply put, how do we do theology?” Now we are getting somewhere. They want to set the rules of the game. I think I have seen this before. On the playground in grade school.
“A framework for doing theology that is both critical and constructive, individual and communal, contextual and incarnational, and that takes seriously the values of pluralism, feminism, liberationism, post-colonialism, and ecological and environmental responsibility impacts our biblical interpretation and what we see as the nature of the Bible. In my life as a student of the Bible, I have come to a conclusion that biblical interpretation is public discourse. Robert Allen Warrior talks about the reference to Native Americans as Amalekites and Canaanites by many Puritan preachers. The implication was clear, namely, that the Native Americans, like the biblical Amalekites and Canaanites, if they would not be converted, were worthy of annihilation. The annihilation of Native Americans during the colonial period was grounded in irresponsible biblical interpretation and bad theology. In doing “as if” and responsible readings, we will find ourselves in situations where we must speak and preach against the text, unmasking and rejecting harmful ideologies and bad theologies.”
Long quote, but now I think I get this progressive theology and Christian thing. Progressive means leaving the Bible in the dust and building a theology to your liking in a dust storm. Well I am what they call a folk theologian and philosopher, but even I can see the disadvantage of trying to study the Bible without believing in it or even wanting it in the room.
If progressive theology meant how to move closer to the Lord our Redeemer, then that is real progress, which is the root word of progressive. If being a progressive Christian meant walking in the footsteps of Jesus towards the foot of the cross where one finds the grace God is waiting to show us, then I am a progressive Christian. If progressive means being like Christ and living a life of radical compassion for our fellow man then let me on the boat with Jesus, but not on a sinking ship with those who want to write their own rules to the game.
My friends God wrote the rules when He created all that is. Grace is progressive. It moves the most unworthy into the very presence of our Creator. That is the definition of progressive.
Frances Perkins was Secretary of Labor for FDR for 12 years. The first woman to hold a Cabinet post. A true political progressive. She chaired the committee that drafted and developed the Social Security Act of 1935. She said she had an earnest desire to “to live for God and do something.”
The United Methodist Church may splinter into multiple pieces, but God’s Word to His people will remain. People will still be helping people in each church around the world. They can come up with term after term. Progressive theology. Liberation theology etc. The only thing that will stand the test of time is the Good News. The Gospel. The most radical and progressive movement on the face of the earth started on the day they hung God’s Son on the cross. When He broke the bonds of death and hell on Resurrection Day, we all won our freedom if we will follow in His footsteps. Now that is progressive.



*Quotes came from a paper on www.progressivechristianwitness.org
** My Website www.projectdreamagain.com

No comments:

Post a Comment