During the past few months, I have been disturbed by the identification of the Bush regime in the USA with Christianity. The toxic executioner from Texas seems to represent a very different understanding of Christianity than that with which I would wish to be associated. Around him have been a veritable collection of homophobes and the so called 'faith' approach to AIDS seems to have been as negative towards condoms as anything that comes from the Vatican.
Furthermore, we have seen a foreign policy based on violence which seems to me to be in total contrast with Christ who is the Prince of peace. Meanwhile he has done nothing to reduce the scandalous prison population which in Britain, our own Christian Prime Minister is also increasing.
I have long believed that for the sake of Christianity we must create a different perspective of faith than that which comes from Bush and those associated with him. Interestingly some hope comes from USA. I have long admired the work for peace and justice which comes from Jim Wallis and the Sojourner community.
Another group which I find myself challenged by is 'The Centre for Progressive Christianity.' I hope to set up a link to their site over the weekend. For now, I simply print their statement as to what progressive Christianity is.
By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who…
1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus;
2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us;
3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples;
4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
believers and agnostics,conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,women and men,those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,those of all races and cultures,those of all classes and abilities,those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope;
5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe;
6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes;
7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers; and
8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.
The Center (oops American spelling and English spelling are not like Bush and Blair in always agreeing) talks of its mission as follows;
The mission of The Center for Progressive Christianity is:
» To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up on or are unacquainted with it. »
To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace. »
To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to the advocates of progressive Christianity . »
To support those who embrace the search, not certainty.
Currently, we are working to fulfill our mission by:
» Creating open and welcoming communities of faith. We are developing strategies for evangelism that do not assume the absolute superiority of Christianity so that we do not contribute to the worlds tragic divisions.
» Reclaiming the symbols of our faith. We are finding effective means to be heard and to influence the behavior of the churches.
» Building an international network of progressive Christians. We are working with independent networks in other countries to provide support for people, especially the isolated, who hold to the principles that we believe are central to the Gospel.
» Being a constructive force for social and environmental justice and peace in the world. We are finding allies in the struggle to bring social and environmental justice and peace to all people, especially those who have been oppressed and powerless.
I certainly find this vision attractive and to me it speaks of the mission of Christ. I hope to read more from this organisation because we certainly need a progressive Christian witness in our world rather than the idolatry that is destructive of human life and dignity.