Friday, March 01, 2024

Orthodoxy and Progressivism: The Two Rooms


                                   (I took this when Linda and I were teaching AME pastors in Trinidad.)

(This is from the Introduction to my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity.)

This is a book about beliefs.

Progressive Christians are introducing people in our churches to a heterodox kind of Christianity.  

I have officiated at many weddings over the past five decades. That’s a lot of great eating at the wedding receptions! Several of these have been memorable. Here’s one I will never forget. 

Jessica and Jason’s wedding ceremony was beautiful, especially because of the spiritual beauty of this couple. Linda and I love being part of weddings where the bride and groom are passionate Jesus-followers. That was us, too, at our wedding on August 11, 1973! Jason and Jessica had their reception in a banquet hall in Toledo. The hall had two large gathering rooms. These rooms were identical twins, mirror images, of each other. I did not know the other room that was set up exactly as the one we were in. This is important to understand. 

Connecting the two rooms was a long hallway, with rest rooms in the middle that were utilized by both rooms. So, we have two identical rooms, with shared bathrooms between the rooms. Do you understand?

During the reception I needed to use the rest room. I walked out of the banquet hall, down the hallway, and turned right into the rest room. Upon leaving, I turned right and walked down the hallway, through the door, and back into the banquet hall. Can you see where this story is going? 

While I knew many of the people at Jason and Jessica’s wedding, they had several guests and family members I had not yet met. As I walked around the banquet hall there were people I did not recognize. OK. That’s to be expected. Then I saw the table Linda and I were seated at. She was not there. OK. I’ll look for her. What was weird was that strangers were seated where we had been sitting. I admit to feeling upset about this.  

As my eyes scanned the room, there was no one that I recognized. The wedding dance for Jessica and Jason was beginning. I strained my eyes and looked closely at the bride. It wasn’t Jessica! And Jason wasn’t holding her in his arms! I thought I heard the four notes from “The Twilight Zone” in my head. Here I stood, in a room identical to the one for Jessica and Jason. But something was not right. I exited that wedding reception, walked back down the hall, past the rest rooms (where Ishould have turned left), and into the correct room. There, Linda was seated at our table. My friends were there. Jessica and Jason were finishing their wedding dinner at the main table. What a relief! 

This is how it is, for me, with “progressive Christianity.” Some of the furniture seems identical to what I believe. Indeed, some things are good, such as the desire for greater community, and working to bring God’s justice upon the earth. And there’s more than that. But, as I have met with progressive Christians, and read their literature, some things don’t feel right to me. Indeed, some things seem downright wrong, dangerous, and, if I may use the word, heretical. Heterodox. It feels like another religion to me, an offshoot of Christianity. I see Progressive Christianity as being in a different room, with a different story, with different beliefs.