A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Following the religious news and over the last few years, including the breakup of the anglican communion, has made me face the stark reality of how liberals are situated and viewed within the greater church. We are seen as apostates and worse and while small in relation to the whole church, we're a threat to be removed. The resulting clashes from this has worn my faith down a bit. Preliminary conclusions come to mind after following such fights.

I think the bishop of Uganda is right when he questions whether it really is the case that we have more which unites us than divides us in the church? Do liberals and evangelicals mean the same thing when we talk about God, Jesus, the church, and salvation? Is there any religious symbol which solicits a common response? Thinking there is commonality where little exists, gives some liberals an inaccurate view of the crises, that somehow church unity is just around the corner.

On the other hand many evangelicals believe that liberals have no religious convictions and simply act to curry favor with the culture. I doubt whether culture can somehow be separated from any religious expression, including their own. I suspect the southern baptists are more faithful representatives of our current culture than episcopalians. In any case the right seems surprised when liberals stand for their convictions, even when punishment is heaped on them.

One comment posted on this site proposed that the best thing to do was to be the church. Question is, how do we become the church, when you have denominations who for the next decade or so will be caught up in damaging fights. It's hard in such a context to go about the church's business, which is to point people to obedience to that creative work acting in the world to transform and save us. I'm tempted to think that the only way to do such a thing and not to become consumed by the conflicts is some form of separation.

But such a separation represents a failure on part of the whole church. I have my doubts that any corner of the church is fully sensitive to God's workings in the world and I believe (thinking of Paul's example of the body) that we need each other, to correct, to broaden how each part of the church does it's work. But if we're caught in continual conflict, we're not learning from each other as it is...and one can't force oneself on another. Robinson wants a church with Akinola in it, but the reverse is not the case. Thus the dilemma.

I'm not sure of the solution, but for myself, I will remain the protestant I've always been, but I won't join a religious body unless they have gone past the gay wars, which a small handful of groups have done. If we are to do the church's business than having church councils debate the status of persons in such a manner is no longer appropriate. Question: what do folks think of the idea of a new protestant denomination, a united church?

2 Comments:

At 10:19 AM , Blogger Alan said...

Your post reminded me of the phrase Janie Spahr uses, "maybe we're talking about a different God." I could stand next to any conservative Presbyterian and recite the Apostles' Creed. And I would, in fact, mean every single word of it, as I suspect would the conservative. However, I doubt we'd agree on very much about what that creed means.

"Question is, how do we become the church, when you have denominations who for the next decade or so will be caught up in damaging fights."

1) We don't have to become the church...we ARE the church. 2) As for the denominations fighting for the next 10 years, Who cares? No, really...who cares? Every Sunday I go to church. Where is the denomination? I take communion. Where is the denomination? I was ordained in the PCUSA. We didn't ask permission, we didn't beg to rescind Amendment B. We acted, because it was right and it was just. Where was the denomination? My husband and I were married in my church. We had guests, a minister, and a beautiful liturgy...where was the denomination?? I'll be damned if I'm going to beg the denomination for permission to live my life. That doesn't mean that I think denominations are unimportant...I'd be much happier in the UCC if I thought that. But where they are wrong, I'm not going to let them rule my life, when in fact, they mostly don't matter in the day to day operations of the church. In fact, that's very Presbyterian, I think.

A couple posts I've written in my blog about this very topic:

http://homepage.mac.com/akiste/blogwavestudio/LH20040708130033/LHA20050308101115/index.html

http://homepage.mac.com/akiste/blogwavestudio/LH20040708130033/LHA20040709092916/index.html

I don't mean to sound flip when I say "Who cares?" You're asking a very important question. But, I just think we need to move on. It has gotten to the point where the topic of the argument is no longer important, only the argument matters. I think we need to stop getting goaded into schoolyard fights by denominational bullies. This fish doesn't rise to such cheap bait.

 
At 5:16 PM , Anonymous ralph said...

Very interesting blog you have - I don't agree with some of the content here (I belong to the muddy middle of the mainline), but I like the tone very much, as you show a lot of thoughfulness and respect for those who would disagree (probably vehemently) with you.

On this comment

"On the other hand many evangelicals believe that liberals have no religious convictions and simply act to curry favor with the culture. I doubt whether culture can somehow be separated from any religious expression, including their own. I suspect the southern baptists are more faithful representatives of our current culture than episcopalians. In any case the right seems surprised when liberals stand for their convictions, even when punishment is heaped on them."

I think it is a misnomer to assume the ambient culture is some monolithic force. Right now there are at least two major strands(baptised "red" and "blue" by the media pundits) with subcultures in each one. I've noticed liberal and conservative acquaintances often see themselves in opposition to what they deem is the current culture, by focusing on aspects of the major strand they dislike. From what I've observed, conservatives see hollywood and east/west coast urban values as representing culture (because they presumably control the news, entertainment industry, and educational systems), while many liberals see the heartland and their seemingly slavish approval of the Bush administration as being the ambient culture (because they've elected a republican president, house, and senate). In sense both views are right. Southern Baptists very much represent 'red' culture, and many Episcopalians (particularly the clergy) seem perfectly at home in 'blue' culture america.

I would like to see conservative christians stop giving Mr. Bush and the Republicans a pass on issues of social justice and require accountability on the iraq war and other issues. And I would like to hear more religious liberals be critical of the secular left's follies and the entertainment industry's general trashing of decency. There certainly are a few lone voices that do this, but for the most part everyone seems to have chosen a camp and out of a sense of solidarity keeps quiet about fellow political travelers.

Puts people like me out in the cold. I personally don't think Christians should feel particularly comfortable in any political camp. Because that means overlooking some type of injustice or problem.

- Ralph

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home