A few weeks ago blogger and professor Roger Olson wrote about why he is not a “liberal Christian” and he stated that while he was not a “Fundamentalist” he was definitely not a progressive Christian either giving several reasons. There have been several reactions to his post including one from Tony Jones. This morning United Methodist pastor Rev. Talbot Davis added his own take on Olson’s post by writing about 5 reason he is not a “Progressive Methodist.” It seems that the terms “liberal” or “progressive” and “conservative” or “evangelical” are only used verbal grenades to be tossed at enemies like verbal grenades. We all have those friends on Facebook or Twitter that enjoy railing against one side or the other and perhaps we are guilty of the same. Personally, I think it is time to stop attacking and start listening at least within the Church. As the Church, we must do better than those around us and so, with that in mind I want to offer a respectful rebuttal to Rev. Davis’s Top Five Tuesday with my own Top Five.
The Top Five Resons Why I Don’t Care If You Are a Liberal/Progressive or a Conservative/Evangelical United Methodist
1) The United Methodist Church is a big tent housing many different views and opinions. One reason why I became a United Methodist is because we have a rich diversity of opinions and views on many different issues. The UMC encompasses a wide range of cultures, understandings, and viewpoints from the very conservative to the very liberal, but one thing that should unite us is our love for God and for each other. Diversity is beneficial because encountering and discussing with those with differing ideas helps us to grow and deepen in our faith. Proverbs 27:17 reads “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The only way we can sharpen each other is if we are vulnerable enough to listen and learn from each other instead of automatically condemning each other. Imagine if Reconciling Networks could sit down with the IRD and have a reasonable adult conversation. What could they learn from each other?
2) This divide and the animosity it creates is killing our Church. As our politics have become more volatile over the last decade so have the debates and disagreements within the Church. I watched debates at each level of the Church including local, district, annual conference, and General Conference that were not only unhealthy, they were downright unChristian. The animosity between “progressives” and “conservatives” help to create mistrust within each level of the Church and this mistrust was palpable at last year’s General Conference. It is destroying our Church like a cancer from the inside out. If we do not trust each other then we cannot cooperate and if we cannot cooperate then nothing gets accomplished and we all have seen where that leads.
3) Labels do not really matter anyway. What makes a progressive a progressive? What makes a conservative a conservative? Despite what they believe, Mr. Olson and Rev. Davis cannot really define “progressive” or “liberal” because there is not set definition and the same is true for conservatives and that’s a problem. When those from the opposing side define their opponents it is almost always done negatively. You cannot define someone else, only you can define yourself. I have found that very few people are 100% one way or the other. We all have progressive and conservative ideals within us whether we want to admit it or not. We all want the same things. We want people to come to know the love of God in Jesus Christ and we want our Church to grow. Labels only serve to divide and conquer us.
4) We need unity not division. Our Church faces so many problems and issues today. There are so many people hurting who need a place to come and find refuge. How will we face our problems if all we do is fight and bicker? How will people see our light if it is dimmed by discord? We must face the problems of our Church and our world with a unified front. We will not always agree on everything, but despite what you read on the Internet there are more things that unites than there are that divide us.
5) People are really sick and tired of those “liberal” vs “conservative” crap. We just finished the most contentious presidential campaign in recent memory. Our Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and inboxes are inundated with political vitriol. “I am 100% right and you’re 100% wrong and that’s the end of the story.” All people see is Democrat vs. Republican, Blue vs Red, conservative vs liberal and they are sick and tired of it. They come to Church hoping and praying for something different and only find more of the same. No wonder people are leaving the Church in droves. They would rather sit and home and watch football or a movie than go to Church and hear more arguing.
There is nothing wrong with holding firm beliefs and viewpoints, but when we attack those who disagree with us, when we call them heretics, when we call them unChristian, when we blame them for all the ills of our Church then we become the problem and not the solution.