Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can We Blog?

I was reflecting on Conversations with Bob, and I came across this post on Faith in Public Life, Progressives and Evangelicals Together Speak Out.

There's been a lot of buzz in the media this year about the broadening of the evangelical agenda, and attempts by some progressives to reach out to evangelicals and vice versa. Evangelicals who have sought to broaden the agenda to include issues like poverty, global AIDS, human rights and torture, immigration and global warming have been fiercely attacked by some conservatives who claim they are distracting attention away from issues like abortion and gay marriage. On the other hand, some progressives have dismissed the efforts of religious progressives to reach out to evangelicals around these issues, accusing them of seeking meaningless common ground and ignoring core progressive issues, or of attempting to build a conservative religious coalition within the Democratic party. This week, we are asking evangelicals who are reaching out to progressives and progressives who are reaching out to evangelicals to speak for themselves. Read More


  1. It's a fascinating subject, and I as a proud progressive am still torn.

    The Cliffs Notes version of my sob story goes like this: I grew up in a suburban PC(USA) church in Georgia. In the 90s, the church shifted rightward (after a large part of First Baptist split off and joined us), to the point where the Blue Hymnal was rejected because of its subversive messages. My dad had been on the Session before I was born, and my mom was Sunday School Superintendent. I was in choirs and classes and preached on Youth Sunday twice. Our longtime pastor retired and was replaced with a board member of PFR. I came out, and the message was "either remain silent or consider being pastored to elsewhere". After some soul-searching, I did the latter and haven't regretted it one second. I love my new church and they love me.


    That having been said, while I am pleased to see that many evangelicals (like Rick Warren) are waking up to issues of poverty and the environment, I am still shell-shocked enough by my own encounter with conservative evangelicalism that I feel I can't trust them completely.

    The Religious Right gained a power in American politics in the 80s and 90s that was inconceivable thirty or forty years ago. It had the ear of Republican and Democratic leaders alike. It got its agenda moved forward (DOMA, the failure of ENDA, the Federal Marriage Amendment, conservative judges, the Terri Schiavo disaster), and powerful pastors had backstage passes to the corridors of power (Ted Haggard had weekly meetings with President Bush, James Dobson STILL gets foreign policy briefings from the President).

    The thing is, as a small-d, small-r democratic republican, I don't want the Religious Left to have the same kind of power the Religious Right had. It is bad for democracy, and I feel ultimately bad for the church. Devout evangelical Christians, in order to advance their agendae on gays and abortion, also ended up advocating cuts in the capital gains tax, welfare reform, and dismantling of environmental protections.

    I welcome sensible evangelicals into the fight for environmental stewardship and raising families out of poverty. However, I can't help but feel like I have to look over my shoulder. I also don't want to see progressive and mainline Christianity corrupted the way that the conservative evangelicals (a la Haggard, Dobson, Bakker, etc) were.

    It's something I pray about.

  2. Hey Flycandler,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I share your frustration. Glad you are here!

  3. Interesting post flycandler. My experience as an Evangelical in the PCUSA is a mirror image of yours. I got a lot of flack in my home presbytery for attending Fuller. After my ordination the presbytery exec of my presbytery said he didn't want to talk about, (and the message seemed to include with) Evangelicals. I have experienced prejudice because of my theological positions in some presbyteries and know that I was not trusted by the elite to serve on certain committee because I was an Evangelical. (No John, I don't mean Utica Presbytery. You weren't part of the elite in Utica either.)

    Still, I have found friends from all over the theological map. John is one of them. This is why I think what John and I do here is so important.

    You will discover in my next post that I think we all should work with anyone with whom we share ethical commonality on particular issues and not only Christians but people of all faiths including atheists! (I think atheism is a faith) I'll even work with Progressives! But my past, like yours, does haunt me.

    Finally I don't trust either the Republican or Democratic party to represent my viewpoints. It isn't just that I agree with some of what each party says it supports and disagree on some other issues. I think both parties are neck deep in secularism and the search for power and I don't want to get used. I am deeply suspicious of the Republican party's use of conservative Evangelicals to gain power and if I was a Progressive, (worse, if I was African American) I would be just as suspicious of the Democrats.

  4. Bob,

    Thank you for that. There is obviously a deep level of distrust within the church from both sides. As hard as it is to do, keeping the conversation going even if in fits and starts is important! Thanks, Bob, for participating in that with me.

  5. Bob, I can certainly appreciate your feelings, but am unfamiliar with a Presbyterian Church in which evangelicals are treated with such hostility. An age gap may certainly be a factor--I came of age in the late 1990s, and Amendment B was no triumph for progressives in the PC(USA). I was not yet born during the trials of the PCUS-PCA schism and a mere infant during the UPCUSA-EPC split and the UPCUSA-PCUS Reunion.

    My journey has taken me from one church to two more. For sake of discussion, let's call the conservative suburban church "A", the large progressive suburban church "B", and the small urban progressive church (of which I am now a member) "C".

    After getting the "don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya" treatment at A, my family and I started attending B, a larger church with a leadership committed to openness and inclusion. My mom got into some famous Sunday School debates with a very conservative man, but Rob was always part of the B church family. While the majority of the congregation disagreed with his political viewpoints, he still served on the Session and he and his family loved by all. The pastor left B to preach at a large church up north, and I never did join B.

    Said pastor ended up back in Georgia to be with her family and was installed at C, a small urban church that was looking to make a bold statement of inclusion. I've joined C, and it has grown by leaps and bounds as others find the love and welcome I have.

    I've attended Covenant Network conferences all over the country, and conservative and/or evangelical speakers are always invited to have their say. While this is not always true in the secular liberal/progressive arenas, I've found that in the religious progressive area, people with differing views are typically embraced and welcomed as sisters & brothers in Christ--I admit it's a fine line between hugging and strangling sometimes ;-)

    I submit that one will rarely find a MLP or Covenant Network speaker at a New Wineskins or PLC event.

    I can certainly understand that an evangelical pastor might have trouble in a more mainstream or progressive presbytery (again, my experience has been in the biggest of all big tent Presbyteries in the denomination, so I have a very different perspective). However, there is a big difference between that and being forbidden from participating in Sunday School, Communion Guild, or directing a choir because of who one is and how he was created.

    I think on the larger point that you and I can agree that allowing the church to get too entrenched in the halls of political power in the ends harms the church just as much as it does government. As some guy once said, "render unto Caesar...."

    BTW, thanks for continuing to contribute here, Bob. You might be surprised to learn that on theological issues, my pastor is probably closer to you than she would be to John; though she is obviously much closer to John on issues of inclusion, politics, etc.

  6. I think a lot of what's going on here, in terms of the past shaping the present, is the whole forgive and forget mentality. Say someone has wronged me, and I forgive them. But I also don't associate or trust that person anymore. Is that true forgiveness? After all, the relationship isn't back to status quo, and won't ever be again.

    I would answer that as long as you don't hate or harbor resentment against the person who has wronged you, and still treat them in a loving fashion then, yes: you have forgiven that person. But you're also smart, and don't ever want to be in that situation again, because you don't want to be in harm's way. But it's a fine line.


    **The thing is, as a small-d, small-r democratic republican, I don't want the Religious Left to have the same kind of power the Religious Right had.**

    I very much agree. I think history has shown that religions don't do well in the political arena, regardless of the theological position. I want a mixture of Left and Right, so that each side can keep the other in line.