Years ago I remember a story about a kid who wanted to do the grocery shopping, It could have been in fact most likely was on one of those kids shows that used to be on the radio. I remember Saturday’s riding in the back seat of the car while we went grocery shopping or out to visit kids in my parents Sunday school class or whatever we would do. Anyway the kid in the story was supposed to do the grocery shopping and prepare a meal or something, money in hand she (I remember it being a she) found a cart full of cans that had all the labels torn off. She saved money and got stuff she wanted at the same time. Of course when it came time to make the meal she had all sort of things from the cans that didn’t go together. There was some sort of moral involved, you can grab whatever that is on your own. I’m using the memory more as a launching point for my thoughts.
You look at a label and it tells you what is inside…that’s how it’s supposed to work, except as I have been going over the labels I have lived under over the years I have come to a realization…
A few important definitions:
: of or relating to a Christian sect or group that stresses the authority of the Bible, the importance of believing that Jesus Christ saved you personally from sin or hell, and the preaching of these beliefs to other people
: having or showing very strong and enthusiastic feelings
: believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism
Conservative : of or relating to the conservative party in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada
: not liking or accepting changes or new ideas
Republican : a member of the Republican party of the U.S.
: a person who believes in or supports a republican form of government
: believing that government should be active in supporting social and political change : relating to or supporting political liberalism
Liberal : of or belonging to the liberal political party in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom
: not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted
adjective pro·gres·sive \prə-ˈgre-siv\
: moving forward
: happening or developing gradually over a period of time
: using or interested in new or modern ideas especially in politics and education
The list is actually longer, and includes different types of political leanings, different sects of Christianity, different ideologies that become subsets under these main headlines. Taken in turn it’s safe to say that I have lived under each of the labels at different times throughout my life.
Believe it or not, for a brief time at the end of college and for a couple years I would probably have identified as a Evangelical Republican…I would say a soft right winger, but things always bothered me on the right, still do. The problem with these two labels well three actually is at some point they became interchangeable to many in each of those movements. If you were an evangelical Christian you were a republican, only thing you could be. You stood for all sorts of things that the Bible tells you to stand for, except that if you were to dig a bit deeper into the Bible you may find that things that people in power in the popular evangelical movement say are important or things we should be standing for may not necessarily be there.
Then there was that time when I decided I was going to be emergent, except you can’t really decide to be emergent, because the moment you label yourself as emergent you are becoming part of what emergent people try to not become.
The whole progressive thing is still sort of around, as is the liberal label I guess, except when it’s not. I’m a bit conflicted there but that’s okay.
I get frustrated with people who have messed up my labels as well. Names like Dobson, and Franklin, and Jerry have destroyed the evangelical label for me in some ways, they aren’t alone either but they seem to be the most vocal. People who look at right wing evangelicals and get frustrated I’m okay with but when those same people begin to get antagonistic and start telling people that they have to be more progressive and ignore heart felt convictions and practice tolerance without being tolerant well that is equally annoying.
The thing that gets me is that on both sides of these issues regular every day people are not the ones that I have issues with. I have found that on both sides regular every day people are very understanding, willing to listen, caring, and not militant in their interactions. It is as always the vocal minority that makes the issues larger than life.
Case in point. I am for gun control. I don’t have a problem with the second amendment, I don’t mind you owning a gun, however it shouldn’t be as simple as strolling down to the nearest Walmart to buy one. Or heading to a gun show to avoid a background check. Now to hear people that make the most noise on both sides you would think that everyone that is for common sense gun control laws wants to march into peoples homes, grab up all the guns and leave, you would also think that anyone that is a member of the NRA and owns a gun wants to own an assault rifle or sub machine gun with armor piercing rounds. Real conversations however yield different results. With several gun owners not only willing to have background checks but for them, and gun control advocates not saying take them all away but use common sense. These voices of reason are drowned out by the louder elements of each side who are alarmist and make their money and points by stoking the fire of partisanism. (Yes I know that’s not really a word.)
In issues of faith though, this trend really bothers me. It bothers me that all the flavors of Christianity tend to look at each other with anything from misunderstanding to outright hostility.
Listening to people who claim to follow Christ “hold the line” on things as they watch a world full of individuals they claim to love and have answers for shake their heads and walk away from both sides of Christianity be it conservative or liberal has lead me to a discovery and a statement.
I am not an American Evangelical, Nor am I an American progressive. I am determined though.
No matter where anyone in the Christian faith stands, this is the anchor point, at least it should be. If we are all striving to make this the jumping off point for everything we do I believe that the differences that separate us don’t have to alienate us. There will be differences. We will not agree on things, we will see things differently, we will reach out to people differently. That’s okay, but if we make this the foundation that we base all our interactions with each other on, we will be able to disagree on things and still find common ground for a common mission, the only common mission we were given. Preaching the gospel. That ultimate act of love, made by the God we serve. The acceptance of which will, by necessity, dismantle the life we know and have so carefully built and guarded and championed, only to be put back together by the One who designed humanity in the first place.
So no I’m not Evangelical, I am trying to follow Christ. No I’m not Progressive, I am trying to follow Christ.
No I am not a Republican…but you already knew that. No I’m not a Dem…wait yes, yes I am…
Thanks for reading.