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Progressive or Reactive?

Fred Plumer writes at Religion Online

I have always assumed that the progressive church was a response to God’s truth as revealed in Jesus and other enlightened teachers and prophets. It is a response to the slow unveiling of the secrets of the universe that continue to expand our understanding of this awesome and often unfathomable creation. It is a response to the ongoing scholarship that has exploded our understanding of biblical times, the historical Jesus and the development of religions in general. I have always assumed that the progressive church was both a response to and a search for truth....

Progress by definition means "to move forward"... Progress always means change, and change is seldom easy, especially when we are dealing with subjective and even sacred issues in our lives.

The truth of the matter is that the Christian movement, or what we now call the church, was always progressive. Jesus and his followers were change agents and that frankly, is what got them all into trouble. According to Mark, Jesus said, "The Sabbath law was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath law," as he intentionally broke the sacred Sabbath laws of his religion. It is hard for us to understand how jarring that would have been to people of his time. You can get some idea, however, if you go to Israel today and break a Sabbath law...

Plumer is making some important points here. If you read the article in full (it is quite short) you will see he is contrasting this approach with the idea that Progressive Christianity is a reaction to fundamentalism or the religious right. Adopting a "progressive" stance as a response to these misunderstandings of the faith is not to be progressive. It is to be reactionary. Christianity, by its nature, calls us to be progressive at the core of our being.

Plumer quotes Karl Rahner.

"...what is called knowledge in everyday parlance, is only a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled... Hence the existential question for the knower is this: Which does he (sic) love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?

Again we see a contrast between being progressive and reactive. Reactionary faith may still be a small island of our own knowing which we value more than the "sea of infinite mystery." Being "progressive" as a response to fundamentalism falls into a trap which Mitroff and Bennis outline for us. Plumer quotes them also He says that in their 1989 book The Unreality Industry

They suggest that the "fundamental dialectic of our times is between reality and unreality, especially now that we have power to influence and create both." The reason we are creating "substitute realities", they argue, is that the world has become so complex that "no one person or institution can fully understand or control it."

"If humans cannot control the realities with which they are faced, then they will invent unrealities over which they can maintain the illusion of control." The question is, they write, do we have the courage to face directly and honestly the complex realities we are capable of creating and discovering or will we turn away from reality and invest our energy increasingly in the denial of reality?

As we disagree with, or even ridicule, fundamentalism, how much have we created our own "unreality" which is substantively no different to the unrealities of fundamentalism. How much, by contrast are we truly progessive?

A progressive faith is one that is willing to challenge the assumptions and to test the paradigm under which we are operating. It is not afraid to ask hard questions and to admit to doubt. Read on >>>>

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