Wednesday, June 28, 2006

the thing that is wrong with progessive faith

Maybe it was the drive back from St. Louis, maybe it was the experience of another General Assembly and reading about the summer gatherings of Presbyterians ("accept" the report but don't "approve it" or "reject" it lol, in reference to their study of homosexuality and the church) and the Episcopalians, maybe reading the book "The Phoenix Affirmations" on progressive Christian faith (good book as far as it goes)...but somewhere around Joplin the line hit me--what is wrong with progressive Christianity, or progressive faith in general (UU know who UU are) is that it is progressive.

We are so busy investing ourselves in the next big thing, or the new and improved thing, the cause around the corner that we don't realize how this keeps us from being grounded where we are and to hear the calling of our context. Progressives love progression, I think, because it keeps us in the life of the mind--the future will come to us as an idea, we think. Not sure I want to blame this most recently on Whitehead, blessed be his name, and Process Thought, but there is something to how the Creator as Creativity comes to us Cultural Creatives, and becomes something like a mind-hit, an addiction to the next idea and the next, etc. (you will no doubt remind me to read my James Luther Adams and my F.H. Hedge and my George Huntston Williams on Hedge to know this is nothing new but of course the predictable failing; I am just wondering if we have forgotten it).

I prefer the term Ancient-Future faith to Progessive Faith these days because it keeps the ancient in the mix, which keeps us in the world, and makes us wonder where are we in the intersection of the ancient and the future and what is that intersection calling us to do. Maybe for you early 20th century theology buffs you will get a whiff of Tillich and dare I say Barth here moreso than Whitehead. Emerson to Whitehead to the church grave?

Maybe this is a reason why there is so little concern or conversation about church planting among us? We, progressives in many religious affiliations, are focused on getting our existing churches to catch up with us and our enlightenments, and spend much energy on transforming the old wineskins to handle the new wine of various causes. We stay attached to the "churches that are" in order to have a place for us to continually reinforce and act out our identity as progressives.

If we worried equally about how the ancient would be incarnated in the future, as we do about how the present can be transformed to better fit our current ideologies/theologies, then we would have church planting perpetually on our agenda. It would be one of our reasons for being. Ancient Christian faith has the Great Commandment and Great Commission at its core (two liberal commandments by the way) and so it compels us to be so committed. The committment to plant and relate to new people comes first--the particular kind of church planting, or relationship-creating, will come afterwards. Our progressive understanding of right relationships comes afterwards and answers the question of how we plant. The why and the must comes first.

More to come as I go into vacation mode, and instead of the beach I plan to visit some nice blogs.