Awhile ago I wrote about the irony of tolerance. It didn’t stop on my blog, however, as I included the same argument in a paper for my philosophy and spirituality class. The professor had great feedback, but argued that progressive Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists are tolerant towards people of other religions. So what is this progressive-ness and how does it work?
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, progressive, in terms of people and ideas, means “favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.” I will look at liberal in theological terms, which Oxford also defines as “regarding traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change.” This can get out of hand–you’re telling me that “liberal” believers (I’m using the term believers generally) better represent their own religion and mankind than those who hold the history, traditions, and cultures of the past in high regard? That’s a bold suggestion.
But there we have it. Academics and politicians have it all figured out–people can have religious beliefs but should be aware that said beliefs can and most likely will expire because of the superiority of modern man. I understand this type of statement to simply mean that anyone can believe what they want but it isn’t necessarily true unless someone other than a religious leader defines it as such. Wow. I might have lost myself on that thought.
I see this “progressivism” in many “Christian” denominations today. The Mormons used to believe that polygamy was acceptable. Over the years, the visions of Joseph Smith have changed and the progressiveness of the Prophet on his television show has changed along with the marriage bit. Methodist and Presbyterian churches ordain homosexual ministers and pastors, a progressive thought in terms of Biblical mandates that men should not have sexual relations with each other, and women should not have sex with each other. Progressive Muslims may say that modern Jihad is one of the mind rather than body. That’s a pretty big variance from Muhammed’s direction.
So here’s the problem I have with this progressive business: there is no concrete standard by which to live. I believe that Jesus died so that we can have the ultimate gift of grace in eternal life. Many people would now shut me out and call me closed minded just for believing this. Be my guest, but there’s more. I believe the Bible to be the true and holy word of God. More shunning. This can open up doors to discussions on how I can say the Bible is true but the Book of Mormon or the Quran or the Four Noble Truths are not true. I will say this before moving on: I will talk about any religious belief and doctrine with anybody, but I will always measure it against the words of the Bible. Some say this is closed minded and my prof would probably say I need to be a bit more progressive, but that’s what it is.
But back to progressivism (I love this word. The spell check doesn’t. I wish I was a pioneer here, but I doubt that I am). I choose to live my life by standards outlined in the Bible. Unfortunately, so do the people who hold up signs outside of voting booths that read “God hates fags.” Those people should actually try cracking the binding to see what the Bible and the character of God is really like in the grand scheme of things. Again, I digress. If I live my life as closely as possible to the command of “Love your neighbor more than yourself”, (this includes glbs, Muslims, atheists, druids, and first graders) my hope is that I can have some sort of positive impact on those around me. But, in 100 years when I’m either dead or REALLY bald, what happens if some progressive pops up and says that Jesus really only meant that we had to love them in our mind and not our actions. Then I would have lived my life under false pretenses.
With that said, I think a dynamic Christian should be forward thinking and go out of his way to share the love of Christ with everybody. This doesn’t mean that I necessarily tolerate the person, but that I love each person as a member of God’s creation, purposefully building relationships in the pursuit of truth. This isn’t progressive thinking or anything new. It’s the will and desire of Christ established over 2,000 years ago.