Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity   by Roger Wolsey

published January, 11 2011

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Postlude

            What I have presented as progressive Christianity isn’t new.  I haven’t invented something from out of the blue.  It’s just as biblically based as other Christianities that are out there in the marketplace of ideas.  I should make it clear that progressive Christianity goes far beyond the notions and ideas that I’ve stated in this book.  It’s a diverse and eclectic approach so no single text could ever capture all of its variances. 

            Progressive Christianity is about loving more deeply and living more meaningfully.  It’s about following Jesus’ invitations for practicing radical compassion and loving-kindness, living-out Jesus’ Kingdom values, and experiencing a fuller, more profoundly connected and meaningful life.  You don’t have to believe in any of the theologies about God that have been used to damn, judge or exclude people.  You don’t have to believe in Satan or the Devil.  You don’t have to believe in Heaven or Hell.  You don’t have to believe in a virgin birth or a physical resurrection, or that someone walked on water, or that Christianity is the only way that God is at work in the world (though many progressive Christians believe many of those things).  Instead, it’s about cultivating a sense of appreciation for what God has done for the world though Jesus.  It’s about nurturing direct experience with the Divine and practical actions to inclusively live in right relationships and make a positive difference in the world in the name of Christ – without denying that God is at work in the world in other ways.

Both Conservative and Progressive Christianity feed people’s souls.  Both are “bread” – even if they’re on different ends of the table.[1]  It’s not an either/or situation, and they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.  Both perspectives have their strengths and they each have certain dangers.  The risk of Conservative Christianity is that it reduces things to shallow sentimentalism and symbolism or depicts a God who is too harsh, demanding, exclusive and mean – a god who many can’t worship.  The risk of the progressive approach to Christianity is that it reduces things to overly cerebral universalism or depicts an impotent, amorphous, fuzzy sort of God who doesn’t seem to be worthy of worshipping.  I’d like to think that depiction of progressive Christianity is unfair and that the theology presented in this book is more robust, specific, and compelling.  This will be up to each reader to determine for him or herself.

A mature Progressive Christianity acknowledges that God works in many ways and that no one perspective can claim to have the corner on the truth.  Jesus said that people who come to him with a child-like faith are okay (in fact more than okay), and we’re pretty sure he’s okay with those who approach him through other ways too.  People are saved and come to God in different ways.   A man who’s drowning doesn’t care who tosses him a rope!  There’s nothing wrong with a simple, concrete, “Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it” sort of faith and there’s nothing wrong with an intellectual approach to the faith.  There’s also nothing wrong with a contemplative, mystical take on things.  And there’s nothing wrong with a charismatic, Pentecostalist approach to the faith (I’ve even heard of “Progressive Pentecostalists.”[2]).

Progressive and Conservative Christianity share common ground in that we all place our hope in something greater than ourselves.  We hope in a God who loves, cares, and intervenes on our behalf, and we hope in a God who loves us enough to show us an alternative way of connecting and living.  So it’s not conservative vs. liberal.  It’s not “Right vs. Left.”  Perhaps it’s combined Left and Right = LIGHT, and does this world ever need more of that.  Amen?

            In the non-dualistic, paradox-embracing words of Brennan Manning, a contemplative-minded Catholic priest:

"If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own.  We listen to people in other denominations and religions.  If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna.  We focus on both-and, fully aware that God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition.”[3]  

Perhaps this could be part of the meaning of one of U2’s songs: Two Hearts Beat as One.[4]

 

I’m going to guess that for many people who might come across this book, this progressive Christian understanding of Jesus probably sounds a bit different than how you’ve heard him talked about before.  I’m also going to guess, that if you’ve gotten this far in the book, certain “bells of truth” might be ringing in your ears.  Perhaps some of what I’ve shared is what you’ve been thinking for years but never heard anyone say out loud and you’re feeling validated - maybe like you’ve “come home.”  If this is you, we are kindred spirits – fellow progressive (“Kissing Fish”) Christians, fellow followers of the Way of Jesus.  Blessings to you brothers and sisters.


For all who see God, may God go with you.

For all who embrace life, may life return your affection.

For all who seek a right path, may a way be found,

And the courage to take it, step–by–step.

Robert Mabry Doss


May God bless you with discomfort,? at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,? so that you may live deep within your heart.??  May God bless you with anger, ?at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,? so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.??  My God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,? so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.??

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,? to believe that you can make a difference in this world, ?so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.  Amen.

 A Franciscan Benediction

 

And yet many of us who revere that same Jesus who was crucified on a cross for the crimes of 'sedition' and 'blasphemy' are all too guilty of sacrificing bodies on the altar of orthodoxy.

May we learn to grant each other the same grace that we ourselves are saved by.

The Progressive Christian Alliance

 

Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.  

Robert Frost



[1] To remind us, that there are “other” (moderate) Christianities “in the middle of the table.”  The range from Conservative to Progressive is a continuum.  The continuum involves some “picking and choosing.”  It’s not just a matter of us marking a spot “on the line,” it’s a fluid process and where we locate ourselves will shift.

[2] http://pewforum.org/Christian/The-New-Face-of-Global-Christianity-The-Emergence-of-Progressive-Pentecostalism.aspx

[3] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/4242

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