Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive ChristianityLiving the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity

This morning I’m suffering somewhat from intellectual whiplash. I recently published two book reviews on Goodreads. The liberal Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity challenges all our traditional beliefs. The conservative What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality assumes a very defensive position for the evangelical literal Biblical tradition. Reading those books seemed like the authors live in two different worlds. I won’t repeat the reviews here since they also already have appeared on my Facebook and Twitter pages thanks to Goodreads.

What concerns me the most is that these authors exemplify the pattern of people talking past each other, trying to win debating points, defending their theological positions, and with very little effort to reach out in some type of Christian reconciliation. If we are so adamant and disagree on so many issues, how can the Christian Church thrive? We already have hundreds of Protestant denominations that have fractured the church into slivers of divisions both theologically and organizationally. Of course, there are even divisions with the Catholic Church. So why do we get so hung up on dogma?

I guess it’s the human quality to want to prove that we’re “right”, and whoever disagrees with us must be wrong. The popular philosophy of a decade ago of finding “win-win” solutions to social problems seems to have dissolved into the partisanships beyond our politics. As Americans we can’t seem to agree on anything: religion, politics, economics, national defense, race relations, public safety, guns, etc. While we long have been a culturally diverse nation with an amalgam of immigrant cultures and traditions, we used to be able to compromise and cooperate at least at the basic functioning levels of government. We’ve become so dysfunctional that we can’t even agree literally on what time it is. Whatever became of civil discourse?

Of course there were fights (some literally) in the early stages of the creation of the United States, but eventually we passed a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. We’ve only amended the Constitution a handful of times so it seems to have worked reasonably well over almost 250 years. Our threats from international terrorism, income inequality, and lack of social mobility seem pale in comparison with the struggles our forefathers faced. Certainly the cataclysm of the Civil War was the low point in our struggle as a nation. Are we sliding down that path again?

Within the Methodist Church we have made an effort at dialogue and discernment, but I can’t see that it has produced much in resolving social or church legislative issues. We keep kicking the can down the road, whether it’s reorganizing the boards, ministries, or the role of the bishops. General Conference has become a 2-week long morass of budgeting and policy debates that are no way to run an organization effectively. The statistics of declining membership in the mainline denominations indicate an issue of lack of relevance in the everyday life of people and their need or understanding of organized religion. Certainly these unresolved debates about dogma can only drive people away from the church.