Why I’m not calling myself a Progressive Christian.

Progressive Christianity is basically a subset of Christianity which I think was probably established partly as a rebellion against the type of nasty and small minded fundamentalism that we see in certain pockets thought out the world today. The basis tenets of it are here but within it there is a lot of variation. Can you be a progressive and still believe in the virgin birth? The divinity of Jesus? Demonic possession? There’s a lot of wriggle room within it from what I’ve seen and you’re not going to get told that ‘YOU’RE NOT A REAL CHRISTIAN’ for asking questions and while you might get a slight dismissive sneer for accepting that exorcisms are an actual thing you’re not going to get voted off the island.

So am I a P C? Yeah, probably. Mostly. When I’m discussing my faith with people, will I be making sure that I clarify that I am a ‘Progressive Christian’? No.

See I’ve spent all my life being disdainful and mocking of Christians. When I’ve met a ‘good one’ I’ve assumed that they were funny/smart/ amusingly sarcastic in spite of their faith and admired the fact that they still retained a spark of their true self despite the awful truth of their religious beliefs. Since I’m going to take a shot at this Whole Christian Thing then I need to embrace it; the good and the bad. I think that if I start off by labelling myself as a ‘progressive’ I will be, still, distancing myself from Christianity. Not as absolutely as I did when I was an atheist of course, but I will still be keeping a mental wall between my own, super special and unique and groundbreaking way of being a Christian and the poor delusionals that aren’t as enlightened as me. It’s a broad church (boom boom) and I need to make peace with that and slot myself into that framework, not announce that I have to change the framework in order to embrace it.

I need to stress here that I absolutely don’t think that Progressive Christians are doing this. I do not think that Progressive Christians all feel this way and if I lived in a fundamentalist area of America and could only find a Baptist church to attend then things would be very different. But I’m lucky to live in an area with what I think is a fair amount of balance and the church that I (barely ever) attend isn’t one where I will feel alien. The fact that I’m not labelling myself a PC is a reflection of my awareness of my tendency towards arrogance and superiority. I often need to work on my own humility and starting off my Christian life by mentally setting myself apart from most other Christ followers is a really, really bad start.

Does that make sense? God I spend a lot of time describing my bad qualities. I think my next post should be ‘Why I am Fantastic’.

While writing this post I found this quiz which tells me that I’m a Brian McClaren Christian and probably subscribe to Sojourners and Relevant (yes) and place a large emphasis on social justice (yes) and while I might be progressive I’m probably post-evangelical. I don’t quite know what that is but I suspect I’m not going to like it.
Also, Joel wrote a post based on this quiz over on The Progressive Redneck if you want to check it out.

Re-defining Christianity.

My friend Eric recently wrote this article on the redefinition of the word ‘Christian’ and Progressive Christianity. It’s a great article and certainly worth the click over (come on, it’s 2 seconds. Unless you have my internet reception and then there’s a whole peddling monkey effort to be dealt with).

This paragraph, particularly, resonated with me;

If you have been sitting on the side lines trying to avoid the word Christian because of the stigma it carries, or because you can’t wrap your mind around many of the intellectual barriers, I bring you “good news” that the word is changing (in a way I believe Jesus would appreciate). I invite you to come on over and join the movement of “progressive” Christians who are swimming against the current, making space for education and reality within Christianity, and defining our own creeds on our own terms.

It would seem at this stage that I’m not going to be labelling myself as a ‘Progressive’ Christian even thought I think that I probably am one according to the definitions, but I’ll write more about this next week.

Slightly awkward.

I wish that I was vaguely skilled at writing book reviews. There are so many books that have been important to me on this whole ‘spiritual journey’ caper that I would love to be able to honour and do justice to. But sadly my review writing skills atrophied at about age 11 and will never move past ‘a great book for girls of all ages who love ponies and adventure!!’

But of course it’s been a series of fits and starts; reading one book that stated firmly and authoritatively that if you couldn’t accept substitutional atonement then there was no place for you within the faith set me back quite a bit, believe me. But eventually I came to see that what I thought was my own substandard and cobbled together theology of ‘less original sin and more moral influence’ wasn’t just ‘mine’ at all, and if fact actual (gasp) real Christians had thought along these lines for hundreds of years. The voices that are evangelising the loudest within our culture at the moment aren’t necessarily the bearers of the ultimate ‘truth’, apparently.

Who would have thought it?

There are a great many different schools of thought amongst those who are, at the heart of it, ‘followers of Christ’ and some of the elements that I’d thought were deal breakers are, in fact, not. But, just like a marriage, even if you don’t like bits of it, it’s the whole that’s important, isn’t it? If you get too bogged down in the detail of what doesn’t work, then you miss the overwhelming completeness of what does.

Reading ‘Convictions‘ by Marcus Borg in early December brought all the ideas that hadn’t quite connected yet together for me, and helped me realise in a quiet and unspectacular way that first, I actually am a Christian and secondly, I’m not embarrassed about it. I’ll let you decide which of those is a bigger deal…

Anyway, this is a bit awkward. Let’s just pretend it never happened and carry on as normal except for the fact that I’m a christian now, ok?

Advent.

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So far, I’ve completed a PB of six days of Advent devotional readings- in a row! My chosen devotional has short readings- today’s is James 1:22 which is literally a sentence and the reflection is only a page or so. Although getting to fully digest these is not guaranteed, because I have this need to have quiet time in my favourite chair with a coffee while reading.

If I dropped my standards and settled for ‘devotional in kitchen making breakfast with Micah on bench packing lunch boxes and finishing spelling homework while putting on make up for work and and trying to get emergency parental help for sick child AND drinking coffee and reading bible passages’ then I’d have no problems getting it done but DAMMIT I WANT IT MY OWN WAY.

But I’ve managed to have it my way for six mornings in a row so I kind of feel like Queen of the World right now.

Do other people have special readings or reflections that they enjoy at this time of year? Tell me what you’re reading.

Act Justly, Tony.

Like many Australians I’ve been increasingly dismayed at Tony Abbott’s leadership of this country, and the decisions being made in his name which are resulting in the heartless treatment of the vulnerable and at-risk in society. The United Nations this week found that Australia’s detention of refugees, including children, is ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ which is forbidden by international law (report here)

That’s a fairly big call, isn’t it? A supposedly advanced and civilised country treating people in way that actually breaks international law and sends asylum seekers back to countries where they have a ‘substantial risk of torture’. We are acting really badly not by some arbitrary yardstick created by the lefties of Australia but by international standards.

And I’ve been wondering how a christian man, a man who spent three years training to be a priest, can have moved so far away from the message of the gospels. How does this happen? How can someone who believes in god and believes that Jesus died because of what he stood for (although I have the feeling that Abbott is a Substitutionary Atonement kind of guy rather than a Moral Influence one) and I’m asssuming has understood and internalised what the New Testament is actually about make these decisions which completely fly in the face of what Jesus was here to talk about?

I was reading James 1:27 this weekend and I came across this;

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless in this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world

Now I suspect that most commentaries will see ‘pollution’ as being lust or immorality or something along those lines (because isn’t it always?), but what came to my mind is that ‘polluted by the world’ is actually referring to a person getting so caught up in the dominant paradigm of their world (in this case, the Liberal Party) that they lose sight of the deep values that should be an intrinsic part of their make up. Tony Abbot has lost the ability stand up for what is right, because he has forgotten what that actually is.

He has become ‘polluted by the world’ and the opinions of those around him have become more important than compassion. If questioned, I’m sure that he would talk about pragmatic and practical and economic concerns but that is just my point. When you forget what is at the heart of what we are here on this earth to do, then you have truly lost your way. He has lost the ability to act justly and to love mercy, which is a bit of a pity because he actually could do something about it if his vision cleared a little.

It’s such a waste of a Prime Minister, really.

 

“More than Watchmen for the Morning”

Eva:

I’ve just read that Gary died last night. He was an early encourager of my blogging efforts and I wanted to share this, his last entry.

Originally posted on It Is Written!:

My soul waits for the Lord

More than watchmen for the morning

More than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV)

While this post has nothing to do with the stated purpose of this blog ( I posted it on my other blog) I wanted to place it here, because I hope it’s message will resonate with some of my readers who do not subscribe to my other blog.

For many years I felt I possessed an insight into this verse that a lot of people could not appreciate. Whenever I read this verse, invariably an image would come to mind of experiences I had in Vietnam. I remember being on guard in Vietnam, staring out into the darkness, praying that I would see nothing throughout a long and fearful night. Most of the time, the night would pass uneventfully, although it was not always to be so. But it’s that…

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Mysterious ways and all that.

If you’ve read here for a while, you would know that I like a bit of god/religion/bible talk, and I don’t get a lot of chance to do that in my day to day life. (Well, theoretically I could get more of it would involve a lot more ‘all christians are delusional and religion starts wars’ than I’m comfortable with).

Now, we have a ‘granny flat’ on our property and recently a friend and her family have moved in to rent it for a while. If you’re an introvert, you will understand that having people living 10 metres from your front door and sharing a washing machine is EXACTLY THE SAME as living together, so we’re basically living together. I knew that she and her husband were real-proper-christians which is something I find a bit intimidating because in my mind christians = all life figured out and probably quite eye-rolly at me and my ill-conceived notions of god and my cobbled together belief system.

But of course that’s just me projecting and my stereotype of what a ‘christian’ is has been proven wrong time and time again. I’m having a lovely time hanging out with an actual grown up and our two year olds LOVE each other and she cooks meals for my husband which quite frankly he isn’t used to at all and had better get un-used to in about six weeks when they move out.

Then yesterday I discovered that they are creationists and don’t believe in evolution one little bit. At all.

Yep. I’m living with creationists.

Actually, I’m friends with creationists.

Do you ever get the feeling that God engineers situations purely so she can have a good old laugh about things from time to time?

Shermer the Splitter

Well, not quite, but a vague Monty Python allusion is always a nice start, don’t you think

This article is interesting. A bit ambiguous; I don’t quite know what’s going on with it, and I can’t seem to find any commentary. Michael Shermer was part of my holy trinity (Shermer, Dawkins and Harris, thanks for asking) back in the day and I have a pile of Skeptic magazines upstairs that are still good if I need to rebut a homoeopath or anti-vaccer.

But is he saying that this was a paranormal experience? In the past he has explained occurrences away with the precise ‘billions of things mean that a coincidence will happen’ explanation that he seems to dismiss in the article. I’m annoyed by the fact that he admits that he would dismiss it out of hand if it had been someone else. YES, WE KNOW. It’s always the skeptics arrogantly telling people that they didn’t have the experience in the way that they think they did because, well, science and the dominant paradigm and all that. But ‘shook my skepticism to its core’. Really? or hyperbole? I’m expecting him to reveal it as a social experiment or similar next week.

The comments aren’t particularly glowing, are they? Skeptics are such poor losers. Much arrogance, many rudeness. It reminds me of when Anthony Flew came out as a Deist in the 2000s. Of course he had to be suffering mental decline, didn’t he? No possibility that his lifetime quest of following where the evidence leads could direct him to belief.

God I sound cranky tonight. I must go and carry some water.

Chopping wood for God.

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So the other day I was getting into one of my BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEEEEAN?? tizzies. And although I nearly completely definitely believe in god, I realised that I don’t live my life as if I do.

And then I though ‘How does someone live their life as if they really and truly believe in god in a life shaking and world changing way?’.

And then I decided to meditate on what it actually means but clearly I feel asleep because that’s what happens when I start my meditations at 10pm

And the next morning, when I went out to buy a (fairtrade) cup of coffee I saw the following Zen proverb (I think it was in The Guardian but I’m not sure)

Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

And I laughed and laughed at my own earnest ridiculous and went home to hug my children.

Just say No.

I’ve just read a meh-don’t-bother book called Love Skip Jump; Start Living the Adventure of Yes (what can I say, I’ve got a thing about Evangelical American women who write forgettable books). It’s about…oh god I can’t even be bothered, but basically it reminded me of the swathe of books recently that have ridden the bandwagon of Yes! Say Yes to Life and Wonderful Things Will Happen!

Now the little tricky fine print with this (because otherwise we would eat cheezels all day and get many ill advised tattoos, amirite? ) is that the Yes is a yes that is in line with what God wants for your life and you will have to carefully listen because you will need to discern between your own selfish desires and God’s true and perfect plan.

Now I don’t know if I’m just really crap at discernment (although I do love me some Ignatius) or if the lessons that I’m supposed to be learning are just too high brow and abstract. Message to God- simplify dude, simplify. This is me you’re dealing with.

So let’s look at a few personal examples to see just how wonderfully well saying Yes! pans out in the experimental petri dish that is my life.

I said yes when; my neighbour rang and asked me if I’d take the box of newborn wild rabbits that they had just accidentally dug up from their burrow. That ended precisely as badly as you would have expected it to. But slowly, over a two week period that included getting up at night for eye-dropper feedings.

Lesson here? No idea. Everything dies, maybe?

I said yes when; my boss dobbed me in to be interviewed because apparently I’m an amazing techno-wizz star type person who uses technology amazingly brilliantly in the classroom (I’m paraphrasing here, clearly) and therefore should be interviewed to model ‘departmental best practise’. Guess what? In front of the camera I babble like a lunatic and my chest goes red and blotchy (true fact; the director type guy felt the need to give me a big hug at the end, it was that bad).

Lesson learned? Disobey your boss, maybe? Call in sick when under pressure? Don’t pretend to be competent when you’re not?

I said yes when; I was asked to help judge a Romantic Short Story competition despite the fact that I a) am not romantic b) don’t like romance stories c) don’t know anything about writing short stories. Somewhere out there there’s a legitimately talented writer who was crushed by their failure to place and probably never wrote again. And somewhere else out there is a really crap writer who is either still elated that they won or perplexed at why they can’t get a book published. Sorry, by the way.

Lesson learned? Feign illiteracy when asked to judge short stories.

Now given that these are all, on the face of it, helpful acts, I assume that they would be God Mandated. Saying Yes to them, according to current wisdom was exactly what I should have been doing and the goodness in the world would have exponentially multiplied (yea verily) by it.

But to my mind they all ended badly (and I’ve just included the ‘G’ version ones. Believe me, I’ve missed out a few) and I’ve had no great insights or clarity or epiphanies except ‘conversing or mixing with other people often ends badly, limit where possible’. Which I’ve always suspected so again, no epiphanies.

So this is my permission to say No! Don’t be guilted into going out of your way for other people just because you think god might want you to. God may very well be playing Bridge with Zeus while you’re making these decisions so basically, assume that you’re on your own and take it from there.

What’s the worse that can happen?