10 ways to describe your progressive Christian faith without saying “But I’m not…”

How many times have you started a conversation by saying “I’m Christian, but I’m not…crazy/fundamentalist/mean/convinced that there is a war on Christmas”? It is always really icky-feeling, isn’t it?

As progressive Christians, we have GOT to get rid of this precursor to all that we are. By speaking like this, we are only reinforcing that normative Christianity IS crazy/fundamentalist/mean/convinced that there is a war on Christmas–that we are the outliers.

And “War on Christmas” Christianity is not normative–it is not the true Jesus movement, it is not our religion. The way of truth and life, the way of resurrection and restoration and reconciliation, THAT is our religion. Let’s start talking about ourselves as if that’s true.

So, here are some ways that we can describe who we are that don’t begin with “But I’m not…”


I am a Progressive Christian, and I believe that God loves me and you and everybody exactly as they are, unconditionally.


Yet, God loves us too much to leave us that way–I am a Progressive Christian because I believe that God is always pushing me to grow in love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that my God actually chose to be human like us–and live the beautiful, painful, messy life of a human just like us–solely to love us better.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that God rose from the dead in order to prove how much we are loved.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that my God gives me the tools–and the command–to spread the story of resurrection and love to those who need it most.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that I–and all people–are invited to find healing from all pain, sorrow, and failure at God’s table during communion.


I am a Progressive Christian because I believe that through Jesus, God declared that death, hate and oppression are never the last word.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that, in our very busy world, my Christian faith offers me a time to slow down and take my relationships seriously.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that, in our divided and fearful world, my Christian faith offers me a way to live into connection, belonging, and trust.


I am a Progressive Christian, because I believe that racism, and sexism, and all the isms that separate us from seeing each other as full humans, are sins against God, and in faith, we are called to stand up against them.

So, the next time you have to awkwardly explain why you go to church at a party or comedy club, or some other thing where church is a jaw dropping absurdity–here are some ways to explain, honestly, without setting up the “War on Christmas” Church as normative. Here are some ways to say who you are without saying who you aren’t first.

Some of my inspiration, when I face this challenge, is contained in these inspiring pieces:

Rachel Held Evans on the “Why Christian” Conference

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Installation Sermon

This video Nadia Boltz-Weber made about how LGBT Christians make up the Body of Christ.

What other ways do you describe who you are to people who associate all Christians with fundamentalists? How are you reclaiming what the Jesus movement truly is?


112 thoughts on “10 ways to describe your progressive Christian faith without saying “But I’m not…””

    1. I could have been one of those who was prejudiced against Baptists but my very fine friend Carol Grizzard inoculated me against that. So, yes I’m a friend of JimmyCarter-MartinLutherKing-CarolGrizzard Baptists. G*d bless them all. Christy

    2. I have the same problem. I grew up in the American Baptist tradition. Here in Utah, the Mormons have a great dislike of “Baptists” because some from the Southern Baptists have harrased Mormons just outside the Temple grounds at their semi-annual conferences, telling them that they’re going to hell for being Mormon. Although I disagree with the LDS theology and some practices, I respect their right to worship as they see fit. On the whole, they are good people and good neighbors. But they don’t know a Baptist from a Baptist.

    1. So on this I would disagree with you a bit–I believe that we as progressives believe that God doesn’t hate anything, and that as progressives we emphasize the resurrection more than the crucifixion. God saves us from sin because God conquered death, not because God died.

          1. Well then Maggie, let’s just go with the Bible shall we? When we start cherry-picking, keeping the parts we like, discarding those we do not–and substituting our own more “progressive” ideas, we can end up a very long distance from the truth, and with an extremely confused theology.

          2. The cherry picking argument never works: everyone cherry picks out of the Bible. Everyone. The Bible disagrees with itself all over the place, and so there’s no way you couldn’t. Our theologies of the Bible need to be stronger than just “listen to it”. It’s sacred scripture, not a road map.

        1. Indeed! We cannot cherry pick God’s love & mercy over God’s wrath & judgement. To deny either, would be to deny the clear teachings of Scriptures. We must work through the contradictions & wrestle with the mysteries. We must study the Scriptures to show ourselves approved unto God. There’s a wealth of resources & many Biblical scholars in the history of the Church! If we do not, we will end up with this extremely confused (& heretical) theology!

          Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

        2. The Bible may disagree, but elsewhere it agrees: God is Love. Not that God is loving or loves certain things. He IS Love. Perhaps we will understand that phrase differently, but it’s worth considering what that could mean, especially in light of this conversation.

      1. Yes, Maggie, I concur. God IS LOVE. If there is hatred somewhere it is because we are not connected to our Source, God, Love. In New Thought we do not even call it “sin.” It is error. Sin denotes some sort of permanent branding, error calls for correction and forgiveness.

        1. I’m curious, Sandy, if there is no sin and only error, did God send His only Son to die for our errors? I guess, technically, that’s true, but I was always taught that sin is a separation from God’s presence, a separation that we, as humans, cannot bridge and is a permanent brand (even Paul, the great apostle, states that he is the greatest of sinners, after his conversion). And if Paul called himself a sinner after his conversion, who am I to call myself anything BUT a sinner? If I’m coming across as argumentative, I’m really just trying to understand and I sometimes get a little…enthusiastic.

          1. No, not argumentative at all. I think how we see all of this is the personalized evolution of each individual’s soul. We all come here to offer something to the collective, a contribution only we can add. I think I view it more from a different angle, Jesus came here to show us our error thinking, yes, and to show us the way of love, and, for me, most importantly to give us the Holy Spirit with the Ascension. Thus, we can know, that whatever we call it, sin or error or screw ups, we now have the saving grace of the Holy Spirit within us. Do we live by it, follow it, choose it? Ultimately that is the point, and we NEED it to live it, and yet there is our humanity, also given by God along with the same creative gift of will inherent in God. God, Itself, never keeps us from what we desire because of the gift of free will. So we can keep choosing error or we can go higher and choose Spirit. If I am here and God is there, the Holy Spirit must be the bridge. Yet I sort of thing I am here and God is here through me, as me. That still makes the Holy Spirit a bridge in a way if the two are viewed as separate. I think we mostly do view it that way. Because it is a huge concept to grasp otherwise. And yet this Wholeness between these seeming parts of ourselves is what we yearn for. Terry Livingood wrote “true Oneness with God is all that the soul of one desires.” I’ve always loved that passage. So when I’m not connected as in, one with God, the old term for that is sinner. But that term seems to be a death sentence. That can mean I need Jesus. Or it can just mean something more loving, which I think is Divinely intended, in that we are facing in the unloving direction, away from God. The Holy Spirit within us is the pure potentiality to me, the Christ within, and that seems to me to be Truth. OK, I’m rambling now (as in from the first word LOL) yet this is such a BIG conversation we are all having and also so important and valuable.

      2. But you can’t have the resurrection without the crucifixion. You can’t emphasize one over the other. They are both equal to Christ’s conquering death.

        1. True enough. Yet where does the gift come in? With the end of the body, in death, or in the rising to Eternal Life. One is for me an almost incomprehensible sacrifice and one we must all face. The other has a bit of our free will choice in it. Will we accept the Holy Spirit and Life? I know it isn’t a common view and yet it seems to me to be Truth.

        2. Amen, Michael. The whole Gospel narrative is essential to salvation. As I read all the comments on this post I keep thinking of the Apostles’ Creed…
          ” was crucified, died, and was buried;
          he descended to hell.
          The third day he rose again from the dead.
          He ascended to heaven
          and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
          From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

    2. Bishop Spong is a Progressive Christian and hero to many Progressives. Look him up in Wilipedia. He strongly disagrees with what you just said you believe.

  1. Can I offer a different perspective? I appreciate Christians who tell me up-front that they aren’t homophobic/transphobic/sexist/etc. The thing is, while whacky fundamentalist Christians may or may not be the norm, they are MY norm. They are my most familiar experience with Christianity. They are the people who have threatened me, who called me a disgusting scumbag, who told me god had given up on me, who told me I’m an abomination to god, who abused me, who rejected me, who banished me from my family, who attempted to prevent my marriage, who leave my employment and housing unprotected from discrimination. They are the reason that I get panic attacks if I walk into a church, no matter how progressive it is. They are the reason that I cringe when I find out someone is Christian because suddenly I’m not sure if they’re safe. And, in almost every case, the other Christians standing around did nothing to stop them. Over and over I hear Christians excuse themselves by saying “we’re not like Westboro Baptist Church” and then pretend that there aren’t still bigots in more mainstream churches and pews that they are silently condoning.

    Now I’m not saying this to try to imply that all Christians are like this (I know they’re not as I know plenty of great ones). And I agree that it’s not really fair that the decent ones have to deal with the splashback from the toxic ones being really noisy. But to pretend that the toxic ones are so unusual, marginal and easily dismissed is to ignore the reality and the scars that I and many others live with. And when I hear words like “I am a progressive Christian because I believe everyone can be healed from failures” or “I’m a progressive Christian because I believe god commands me to share love with everyone” all that I see is “I’m no different from your abusers; I’m putting a sugar-coating on my over-reach just like they did.” Because, I promise you, every single one of them thought they were being “loving” and some even thought they were being “progressive.”

    So, what I’m saying is, if you’re not like that, I NEED you to be explicit about it if I am going to be able to know that. I love the idea of being able to pretend toxic Christians are irrelevant and easily ignored, but that’s just not my reality, and it’s not the reality of many other people in their culture-wars crosshairs. So I think it’s great to put a positive spin on your theology rather than defining yourself by what you’re not. But please don’t neglect the other as well. If you don’t want to define yourself in negatives, it might be worth saying things like “we are gay and transgender affirming” or “we believe in gender equality at all levels of leadership in the church” or “we believe hell is fiction and that all people have received god’s grace” or something like that. Does that make sense? I’d be happy to hear thoughts. Thanks for listening!

    1. Thank you for this very honest response. I will ponder for a while and respond when I’ve thought it through. I am so sorry that Christians have hurt you in such a drastic way.

        1. When my (then)husband and I were trying to adopt a child, I prayed to the Lord, and covenanted … “… if you will give me a male child, I will name him for one of the disciples.” God already had a plan for my child’s name – because when he came to us, he was 22 months old and already had a name that was his … he was called “Andrew.”

          Andrew came to us as a sickly baby, he was cherished – absolutely cherished.

          I WAS one of those fundamentalist Christians, who told my son, “the Bible says it is an abomination – and God hates it ….” I thank the Almighty that we were spared tragedy and loss over my ignorance and high-handedness.

          I thought my world had come to an end when he was about 16 … he was pulling away, depressed, rebelling … and at 17 he made an attempt to end his life. A few years later, he changed his name – it broke my heart, and took many years for me to understand his need to change his name.

          When we began a long process of recovering the love we had for each other, when I had to accept that I would never have grandchildren, never have a daughter-in-law … it took years to give up my dreams – to make new dreams. God was faithful, and we weathered a divorce from my first husband, and the untimely death of my second husband.

          I ever hoped for a “miracle cure”. Lord forgive me … I had a miracle from the day we were introduced to Andrew – I had a miracle every day that we lived together … and I have a miracle of a son who is approaching 40, and who has all the love a mother’s heart can give .. and more!

    2. I’m sorry that you have had to experience such horrible treatment; no one should have to deal with that. The “Evergreen” associated American Baptist churches are welcoming to LGBT folks. Give one a try. Wishing you a better experience!

    3. You are heard, GE. And embraced, as another of god’s beloved children. This Presbyterian USA elder and ally sees you as an equal, respects all of who you are, cares about your total wellbeing, and sends you a spiritual hug across the miles.

      1. Why do you think I care? Ask a progressive Christian who believes Jesus actually said those things and who does not believe in hell. I believe hell is a fiction because much of the bible is fiction and there’s no evidence that it exists.

      2. I think that practically every Biblical passage can be argued for or against, solidly, and infinitely, if we choose. The approach depends on how the Bible is viewed (hopefully based on deep inquiry.) For many of us, hell is not a destination but where we reside in consciousness when we are not aligned with Love. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within us therefore when I act and think in ways that don’t extend the Love of God, I’m pushing away the Kingdom of God within me and replacing it with angst and hell. I don’t know if that is what it means to the person who said Hell is Fiction but it is what it means to me.

      3. Ther was a garbage dump outside Jerusalem called Gehenna (for valley of Hennom) where unclaimed bodies and other refuse was thrown. This is translated as “hell” in our bibles.

    4. Thank you for sharing your experiences, as painful as those experiences were. I think you bring up a good point though about Christians defining themselves more explicitedly so that people previously hurt by Christians know that a person is a safe or a Church is truly a sanctuary for all. While I have only recently started to re-explore Christianity and can’t say I have had your negative experiences, I also react with caution when someone says they are a Christian. I automatically start building my arguments as to why you can be Christian and not see the Bible as inerrant and that the majority of the world is going to burn in Hell forever.

      I go to an Affirming Church (it is on the sign out front) and when meeting with people considering membership, one of the people attending asked whether she would have to ‘tolerate homosexuals’ because her belief was that it is a sin. There was an obvious intake of breath from the people in the room as we all kind of froze wondering how to respond. Our Minister at the time said that we do not ‘tolerate’ people in our Church but that we join with God in celebrating the differences we all bring to the world. She basically said that sexual orientation was as celebrated as any other difference amongst people. Being gay or straight or bi or trans is part of who a person is and that God made each person to be who they are and celebrated within their uniqueness I know I didn’t say that as eloquently is she did but I hope you understand that for everyone in that room, the thought that we would not embrace a person because of their sexual orientation was shocking and abhorent.

      I am sorry that your experiences have pulled you away from God but can certainly understand why that is so. There are places where you would not only be welcome but would be celebrated for who you are and that is how it should be.

      1. Thank you for your kind words. For what it’s worth, my lack of faith in god is mostly unrelated to my bad experiences with Christians. Rather, I simply realized I had no reason to believe and thus was unable to believe. It does comfort me, though, to see the number of affirming churches growing so that hopefully LGBT people who are Christians will not have to go through the same thing I and others have.

    5. I think that makes a lot of sense. It’s why I’d be so proud if my church would start flying a rainbow flag and make their welcome more explicit. But in our diocese, I doubt it will happen anytime soon, and I also know that some people in the church would be upset. (Which is fine with me — let it be a learning opportunity.) The truth is that “progressive” denominations like the Episcopal Church aren’t uniformly progressive, anymore than all Baptists are conservative. Fortunately, all of us have the potential to change and grow over time.

    6. So sorry about your experience and that it turned you away from Christianity for good. I became a member of the local UCC because I’m an ally. I was told by other Christians that I couldn’t believe the way I do and still call myself a Christian. Their negativity helped me find my church family.

      We have so many LGBTQ folks in our congregation. Some were even married at the church once it was legalized in our state. Our music minister is gay. Our discipleship leader is gay. Our church truly does encourage EVERYONE to make use of their talents and treats everyone with respect and love. We are a family.

    7. Okay, so here’s a more coherent response on my behalf:

      My hope with this post is to give Christians who want to disassociate with fundamentalist, homophobic Christianity, a central core of what-we-really-are language. I think many of us are capable of saying that we’re not homophobic, that we’re not full of hate–that we abhor what our brothers and sisters in the faith do to hurt others–that it pains us to share a name with these people who so distort the message of the Christ. And as you noticed in the many replies to your comment, many of us are immediate in responding to this very issue.

      And then I want to give folks, who already know how to say “I’m open and affirming!” the language to explain *why*: the language to describe what their faith truly is, rather than being in constant bandaid mode. I hope that this might be able to give progressive Christians a central core to work from. One of the biggest ways that ultra-conservatives claim that progressives are “wrong” is that we are just “bending to the culture”–but if we can claim, from the core of our faith, that we are in fact living into our own faith–that helps us to fight the battle within the Christian faith that changes who we are for good.

      It hurts me to hear that this sounds like corroboration language to you, and I will think honestly about that. The hope in my post here is to give people who are already good at describing what they aren’t a way to take it to the next level. There are always moments when “But I’m not–” is an important statement. It goes back to reading the room. Then I hope there can be a “And then what” moment. Or, I’m not…because.

      Anyway I appreciate your comments, and I wish you well on your journey towards healing.

      1. Thank you for taking the time for a full reply. Framed in this context, a lot of the parts of the language that seemed threatening initially is much less so. If it is 100% clear from the outset what your stances are regarding LGBT people, women, etc, then your following words are much easier to hear. I like when you say that saying what you’re not is important, but you should also be able to say what you ARE and WHY. That’s a message I can get behind.

        All the best!

    8. Christianity, I believe, in its purest form, is the message of Jesus. And that message is LOVE for everyone. The religious movement called Christianity has twisted and turned throughout history into a myriad of other things, including the ugliness that you so poignantly described above. As a New Thought Christian, I have core beliefs. My upbringing was in a Progressive Christian church. And I also have the individual intuition from the understanding that God isn’t a guy but the power of Love, unconditionally, that shapes my beliefs. I know I am the love of God and yet do I walk around expressing it easily and freely everyday? Heck no. My humanity can get in the way. I get annoyed, ticked off. I want to be right (a lot of the time) and I choose that over Love. To the very core of my being I KNOW that LGBT, straight, black, white, whatever human distinction we want to apply to people based on whatever criteria, in an effort to exclude or lessen others is quite simply fears or smallness or inherited prejudice. People who use God or the The Bible to perpetuate the “less than:, anything less than Love, I believe, are in error. They are asleep. They see the Bible as some one dimensional document. It is not. It is living and breathing. It is not literal, though sometimes it is. It is sometimes historical and other times not. It is metaphor and art and it is very sad that people use it as a weapon instead of an instrument of peace. I don’t neglect those “others” you talk about. Quite honestly, they piss me off. But every time I “hate” them I’m acting like they are. So I try to hold on to the hope that they will open their eyes to the Love of Christ in their hearts. In the beginning of the Bible it says that Adam slept. It never mentions that he woke up. Jesus WAS awake. He was Love and most especially for the marginalized. That is why, as a boring hetero person LOL, I decided to be a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. And not just rights as in societal but more so for recognition, for respect, for equality. Please know that Progressive Christians, New Thought Christians are also given a lot of disrespect from certain other branches. They say we aren’t REAL Christians. Why? Because our message is about Jesus’ message of Love? My heart goes out to you. I hope that you will one day find forgiveness toward those who have been so horribly unloving toward you. The forgiveness isn’t for them, it is for you, for recognizing that they didn’t know better. And I wish the same thing for myself. That every time I’ve been marginalized and every time my journey to true faith has been considered suspect, that I too may come to full forgiveness. I want to use those bad vibes to make me better and then I want to wipe that slate clean, to not keep that crap etched in my heart and mind. I’m not there yet but I know the goal and I’m not giving up. No human can give us, precisely, what is only Love’s to give. I’m holding on to the hope that I move more and more in the direction of knowing where my Truth comes from and hopefully that will drown out the voices of the haters, those who choose to stay asleep. May we remember that Love blesses us every moment so let’s keep reaching for it, knowing it is there, trusting it is there, tucked inside our hearts and capable of full blossoming. Be well.

      1. Hi! Haha, when I first saw your comment I got nervous (my mother’s name is Sandy) but you are clearly a different sort! 🙂 I agree that progressive Christians – especially those who are outspoken- get a lot of flack from the toxic ones. And I do appreciate those of you who put the effort and risk into speaking up loudly for what you believe and in defense of the marginalized. Since I don’t place any supernatural importance on Christianity, I think it can be pretty much anything; people will build whatever ethics around it that they want to. But I appreciate those who attempt to shape it into something positive rather than a weapon, as you say. If reading the bible and following religion inspires you to be a better person, more power to you. It can’t do that for me, but the great thing is we’re all different so it doesn’t have to.

        As far as forgiveness goes… there’s no telling if I will ever fully forgive. But I am healing and moving on nonetheless and the anger and pain fades away with each year. That, for me, is enough.

    9. Galacticexplorer, I love your last paragraph. I also believe heaven and hell are fiction and I am an inclusive person. I, as an ex-Christian am more “Christian” than most hate-filled, indoctrinated and exclusive church goers.

    10. I too have been hurt by toxic Christians. It’s been enough to turn me away from church and re-thinking religion. The tea party is a toxic group and they hurt people.

    11. Thank you so much for your honest post. I belong to United Church of Christ (UCC), a denomination that has gay and lesbian pastors. I have this conversation with another church member all the time. We’re so tired of having to explain ourselves (“Yes, I’m a Christian, but I believe in marriage equality!”). And after reading your post, I now understand that I still need to continue explaining the theology I believe in. There are people who NEED to know that they are accepted and loved. Even though others might automatically associate me with fundamentalist values as soon as they hear I’m a Christian, I now realize your experience and your voice, so I will proudly explain that my church is open and affirming. Thank you for helping me to get over myself and realize having to explain my beliefs is not the worst thing in the world (personality checks are always welcome).

      I’m so sorry for your experiences. You don’t deserve them, and there is nothing that you can do to take back the fact that Jesus died for you. He loves you; you are His child. I understand you don’t go to church anymore, but I will pray for you and hope for the best.

    12. Thank you, GalacticExplorer. I think I would go yet a step further (full disclosure: I *am* a Progressive Christian).

      It’s not even enough to state, upfront, “I am not [various forms of bigotry and/or willful insanity ala Young Earth Creationism, which we may call, using Andrew Sullivan’s term, Christianism]”. The secular world, more and more, wants to SEE our active opposition to those perversions of the Gospel. In other words, the secular world doesn’t want to HEAR “I am not…” to them, they want to see us saying TO Christianists “YOU ARE NOT followers of Jesus!”. Then they, the secular world, will decide *for themselves* if we “walk the talk”.

      Then, and ONLY then, when the secular world trusts that we’re not [well] @ssholes, may we begin our “I’m a Progressive Christian because God-is-Love and versy-vicey!” kerygma. In short, we have to put out the fire, before we can build.

    13. Thank YOU for your raw and honest perspective. I wish I could get you to speak at my church… or at the very least to my pastors. I wouldn’t want you to have s panicked attack though! 😝
      I just want folks to understand that the priest who walks by the Samaritan without helping is just as wrong as the robbers who beat him.

      I am so moved by your words and want to tell you it is part of my mission and hope to create a world or at the very least a church that is your safe haven for acceptance and safety and love.❤️

    14. Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I too am sorry that Christians have hurt you so much. Hope your journey will continue to grow in joy!

  2. I identify as a ” Sermon on the Mount ” Christian”
    formerly as ” Good News”or “New Testament ” Christian. That makes someone think, rather than react to word progressive. Right wing, left wing ,same bird. Native American wisdom

  3. As a non-Christian, I appreciate to sentiment, but it strikes me as only a way for progressives to pat themselves on the back. Like galacticexplorer, I’ve endured a lifetime of being told I’m a mistake, an evil person, an abomination. know you mean well, but it’s simply not enough. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything that can be enough, because Christianity has been irreparably hijacked and damaged by the many, many hateful followers.

    1. There are so many more that do care, What Is. The hurtful ones are actually the minority, and we others need to do a better job of speaking out and being supportive. I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve endured. You are an equal, beloved, child of God, who deserves respect, encouragement, and fellowship. Sending spiritual hugs to you also, across the miles…

    2. I like your comment about Christianity being hijacked. You are correct. And that didn’t start in recent society. Ill intent has a long, long history. I don’t feel as if stating my beliefs, such as “God is Love, unconditional and all inclusive”, is patting myself on the back. I don’t choose to just sit back quietly while the controls of too many “Christian” groups are still in the hands of the hijackers. I feel compelled and obligated to share what, quite honestly, shouldn’t have to be the “alternative view” of Christianity when it is the actual message of Jesus. You don’t even need to believe in Jesus as a historical person if you don’t want, it is THE MESSAGE and the way Jesus lived his real or metaphorical life that is the point. By thinking about me in the way you described, aren’t you treating me as suspect as all those hateful others did to you? Just maybe I might be your ally.

  4. I am a Christian (period). My life exemplifies my faith in the truth of God’s word. Whether I excel triumphantly or fail miserably at living this Christian life, I am still loved and accepted by the God who created me. And I extend the same love and grace to everyone around me. Maybe that’s too simplistic, but I honestly don’t feel I need to explain or qualify it any further than that.

  5. I’m curious why you chose Christianity if you don’t like conditions. Could you not simply make-up your own religion instead of co-opting one that is full of commands and condemnations? You could just say, “I’m a Derpitarian. Our religion is based on the Democrat Party platform, but none of those icky commandments or mean passages calling people sinners from the Bible,” and you’ll be the most popular kid at the coffee shop.

    1. Living gets icky. The Love of God does not. For some, true Christianity would be that the ideal way to exist would be to live, move and have our being with the heart of Jesus as our guide. A huge divide occurs in how one views the Bible. Before even considering the Bible’s contents it is helpful and necessary to do a deep inquiry into the the many facets of the Bible’s origins and journey.

  6. Why are there groups of Christians? Everything that was said about about being a “progressive” Christian, from my perspective, what a Christian is. Either you are a follower of Jesus or you are not. Jesus was very progressive in his understanding of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness for anybody and as 21st century Christians, that is how we are to live…”progressive”, evangelicals, and everything in between.

  7. This is a helpful conversation, thank you. To me, it’s not enough to say “God loves everyone exactly the way they are.” I say “God created everyone exactly the way they are.” There’s something uncomfortable about the former: It implies that I’m being magnanimous by thinking that God accepts even the flawed. The latter implies that no one is flawed.

    1. We may not be flawed but most of us earthlings error. God gave us this magnificent gift of Free Will, to be Creators, too. And sometimes we just create crap, especially with our unloving-ness. So I’m not flawed in Essence yet in projecting and perpetuating that Essence I too often fall short. So I like both phrases. I’m still Love always even when I’m not expressing it.

  8. Reading this article and these comments, I think about all those Muslims in America that some Americans–usually white conservative Christians, I think–expect to speak out against Islamic terrorists to prove that regular Muslims don’t support Islamic terrorism. I think it’s unfair to expect the average Muslim to disassociate him/herself from terrorists, just like it’s unfair to expect all Southern Whites to decry publicly the KKK or for the average African-American to speak out against the Crips and the Bloods.

    However, are we as Christians held to a different standard–to speak out against those who publicly misrepresent Jesus and his movement? What do you think?

    1. In my opinion, no, Christians are not being held to an unfair standard. People in positions of dominance who have historically (or even not-so-historically) oppressed and abused a minority group should be vocal about their support of said group. As a white person, I think it’s my social responsibility to be vocal in my support of racial equality and do my best to listen to the voices of people of color to learn how I can best be an ally. That is because I am a part of a dominant culture that is still oppressing minorities. The racists around me need to know that, even though there is another white person standing beside them, that white person WILL NOT tolerate or support bigotry. Otherwise, my very presence is a reinforcement of the harmful status-quo, whether I want it to be or not. In the same way, Christians should be very vocal about their support of LGBT people and make an effort to distance themselves clearly from bigotry. Otherwise, the many, many bigots in your ranks will see you as silent supporters.

      Example: I volunteer at a Planned Parenthood clinic, escorting patients past the protesters and making sure they are safe. Recently, while a group of about 15 peaceful protesters were there, a man came up to me, trespassed onto the property and started screaming in my face and threatening me. He then joined the other group briefly before coming back after me to yell threats again. After he left, three of the protesters came to me and apologized for his behavior, saying that they don’t support acting like that. But, the fact is, they said nothing to him while he was there. While he was threatening to harm me, they just stood by. He probably thought that every single one of them agreed with what he was doing, because they were on HIS side and they did NOTHING. When injustice happens, silence is not neutrality; it’s support.

  9. I am prayerfully all these things but see no reason to say I am “Progressive”. I believe I strive to be as He wants me to be, as He has always wanted me/us to be. I feel no need to qualify it.

  10. I’m a Christian because I need to take my broken-ness to God, I need to be part of the Christianity emerging in this millennium, and I have been so deeply blessed by God that I want to give back as much as possible.

    1. If you can’t see that JESUS is the source of (what you call) “socialist and communist ideologies”, I suggest you read the New Testament, tls.

    2. Ah, I was wondering… I’ve never heard of a ‘progressive’ Christian before here in the U.K. Is it the next big bandwagon that everyone jumps onto like the Emergent Church and all the other movements that preceded it? One day we’ll realise that all these things just lean us over in an unbalanced direction. Plain ‘Christian’ is enough for me. I believe the Bible and live for Jesus who has reached down and rescued me from my sinful nature. I don’t need to adopt a new leaning every few years. And I don’t want to be political first and stick my Christianity onto that. I wish we would all take our ideology from the book of Acts!

  11. I firmly believe this – if you have to define yourself as fundamentalist or progressive then you aren’t guided by faith. You are guided by social norms. When you put titles next to Christian you lessen the impact of faith and Christ’s power. Just like Baptist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic – are man made religions who come between you and God so to do the monikers progressive and fundamentalist. You either are Christian or you aren’t

    1. Michael, to me that seems like saying that every American is the same in ideology and every white person is the same as every other and every (insert descriptor of choice) is like every other *whatever*. Why even use Christian? Isn’t that too a description that was originally guided by social norms and brought into being by a bunch of humans who chose to follow the message of a particular human man? Each person comes here as an individualized expression of God. To say that anyone that further defines themselves within an already socially created descriptor as without faith seems sort of unloving to me. And that, in essence, is what evolutionary Christianity is all about . . . . standing up to the unloving-ness.

      1. ‘Evolutionary Christianity’??? What’s that one? Another new bandwagon? ‘Christian’ is more than a social term. A Christian is someone who has had a personal transaction with God which has changed their life. It’s not a club!

  12. I love this, except for the repeated use of the term “Progressive Christian.” It seems to me that by adding “Progressive” in front of Christian you are falling into the same defensive trap, qualifying your Christianity in what are unfortunate and unnecessary secular political terms. If you just read the 10 items again, and delete the word “Progressive” each time, isn’t it much more powerful?

    I’m an Evangelical Lutheran and used to think it was a mistake that the ELCA kept the word “Evangelical.” But now I’m proud of it. And Pope Francis’s “Joy of the Gospel” exhortation – Evangeliuum Gladium (sp? — sorry not so good with the Latin) helped me understand that.

  13. My background in insane Christianity means I’m being naughty and heretical to even be on this page…”Progressive” is the new word for “liberal.” and the crazies know that so prepare for the nastiiness to be poured on that term too,
    As for me, I’m trying to shed all labels, walk with Jesus each day and let HIM use me as HE pleases. Maybe at 60, I have one clue and can do that one thing and finally be about Jesus…

  14. Hi Maggie! Thanks for creating this. I think your main point applies well to most Christians. There was one thing that really jumped out at me – you wrote that “God rose from the dead in order to prove how much we are loved.” and that the purpose of the incarnation was to “love us better.” In the comments you mention that God is only love, not a righteous judge of human sin.

    Our source texts and ancient traditions for our shared faith tell us many times and in many places that we are separated from God by sin, and that Christ, through his death and resurrection, brings us back to God. That seems really really different from just a need to be loved. Without sin, why do we need Jesus? Without the atonement, what just God would ever kill his only son?

    I know you stated that you choose to emphasize the incarnation and resurrection more in your view of Christianity. I can see how that viewpoint is attractive, especially in the light of what many Christians do wrong that’s hurtful.
    But we can’t just ignore sin and the crucifixion because the idea of sin and God as a holy judge makes us uncomfortable – hopefully we’re taking our cues about who and what God is from Him, not from ourselves or our culture.
    When we look at the full scandal of the Gospel – of Christ, the loser and criminal who saved the world through his sacrificial death – our faith is much more rich, valuable… and honest. We don’t have to abandon radical Grace to do it – in fact, undeniable radical Grace lies therein.

    1. Hi Chelsea,
      Yeah–I think you’re right. I also think that when I’m talking to people who don’t know much about Christianity, or people who have been hurt by Christianity, that is not the first place I am going to go. Sin is a very loaded term for these folks, and even though I do believe that sin is real and that it does separate us from God, I don’t want to load that on right away.

      I like that phrase–Scandal of the Gospel. I still do really struggle with this notion that God brought his only son here solely to get killed on our behalf. In Ancient Rome, when the people were persecuted and a struggling minority, this language was very empowering. However, white American Christians are now at the top of the world. The temptation to sin because of this idea that “God Killed Jesus” is much stronger than the temptation to sin by focusing on the resurrection, I’d say.

      I do also think that the Progressive Church needs to do some serious work on what it believes sin to be. I try to say that with #10, but I don’t think we all agree. Sin as a concept has changed drastically over the 5,000 years that we have been developing our faith, and so it continues to change now. Our God is a living God, a God who walks with us as we are transformed–and so is our text. We aren’t reading our texts like “primary source documents” in history reports or interviews. Our sacred text is so much more than that, and so it transforms in purpose and meaning as we transform as people of God.

      1. Thanks for this super-thoughtful response, this is a great conversation!
        I love the phrase “scandal of the Gospel” too, but I didn’t invent it, I got it from a book by an Episcopal priest named Robert Farrar Capon called “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus” if you’re struggling with elements of the Gospel story (and I know I am), I think you’ll love this book – it’s definitely Progressive and reframes familiar stories in a radical, Grace soaked way. It’s $5.80 used on Amazon right now!

        I think I’m confused by your comment about being tempted to sin by focusing on the resurrection – and I don’t want to mischaracterize what you’re saying. But I do think it’s important that we view the whole Gospel as one cohesive, interdependent salvation story, without unduly emphasising some sections and downplaying others, even if we don’t feel great about some parts of it. It’s good to have some tension in our faith!

        You’re right about wanting to be thoughtful about what we lead with when we talk about or share our faith, and being mindful of people’s prior experiences. It’s tough, because the message of the Gospel is always offensive to our prideful hearts. When I came to Christ as an adult, I knew I didn’t care at all for the message of the Gospel, but I also couldn’t escape that I knew it was true.

        I smiled when I read what you wrote about not reading our texts as a newspaper story, because I say that too. But I do think it’s important that we have an intellectually honest hermeneutic that doesn’t make the Bible say what we desperately want it to say. When we remake the scripture, I think we take the transformative, challenging power that you describe out of it by making it less threatening.
        I’m not sure I know what you mean when you say our texts are being transformed.

        You wrote that the Church needs to rethink what sin is and I totally agree – I we often think of sin as specific behaviors, rather than a condition, and that’s very damaging. I think it stands to reason, though that we’re in error when we change the definition of sin to line up with our 21st century western values – the Bible teaches us that we are “not of this world” and we should expect mismatch between the secular culture’s view of sin and love and our own.
        It took me a long time to come to peace with that (years!) but hopefully God is teaching me that “[His] ways are not our ways.”

        It often sounds to me like the Progressive church is embracing Continuing Revelation on a lot of theological matters. Do you think that’s accurate?

        This is too long – forgive me. I think you have my email – please feel free to shoot me a message if you’d like.

  15. I wish there were a different term. “Progressive Christian” imports all the baggage of progressive politics. I’m the former (by whatever name), but not a fan of the latter at all. Nor do like or appreciate the implication that differences among Christians are as base and unserious as an MSNBC/Fox News debate, where “progressive” means very different things. Sigh.

    1. I’m noticing that a lot of folks here are making mention of the baggage of progressive politics–and to be honest, I don’t think I have the same baggage. I’m not truly sure I know what it would be. Can you describe it?

  16. Andy McGaan. Exactly. This smarmy self-serving post tries to separate Christians and clearly implies “progressive Christians” are better than others. There is nothing in those 10 points that is not in the Bible that “regular old Christians” believe without being labeled progressive. Utterly ridiculous.

    1. I have a lot of concerns about Progressivism in Christianity too, but you want to know one of the main things that makes those ideas so appealing? Our crappy, unloving attitudes, and fearful responses. It tells people lot about Traditional Christianity, and guess what? They’re tired of our BS and looking for something new. It’s our own fault. So cut it out.
      Remember: when you fail to speak the truth in love, you’re ignoring the Bible too.

  17. Human beings have perverted the experience of ‘God’ through religion, the church, and its dogma and turned that experience into meaningless ‘professions’ of faith…doctrine and pseudo intellectual silliness.

  18. I’m astounded to see that no where on this list is your teaching of Salvation. Love, yes. Resurrection, yes. Unity, yes. All are good things. Yet, Jesus Christ came to set us free from the bondages of sin and to be restored thru grace to God. That is preeminent.

    Does Progressive Christianity ignore sin?

  19. Sorry. I consider “progressive Christian” purposely divisive. If the intent is to be purposefully divisive, then success has been achieved. My church has always demonstrated the values posted. It is how I have been brought up. The essay certainly appears to put progressive Christians above fundamental Christians and the article and follow up statements back this. The basis for the10 statements are in the Bible, which is what Christians follow. Not just progressive Christians.

    I disagree with the need to give Christians a new name. However, if it makes people more comfortable speaking about God and how they can be saved by calling themselves as set apart from other Christians, then go for it. We both believe, that is the important point.

    “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.”

    1. J, it does matter how we speak to each other, and we can have a civil discussion without downplaying the importance of what we’re talking about. Read the comments here and you’ll see that much of what’s being discussed isn’t a matter of Christian liberty; it’s essential doctrines that lie at the heart of our faith.

  20. This article seems to divide Christians and allow others to feel comfortable about what the world thinks about your beliefs. It implies that there is this large portions of Christians who are racists, sexists, bigots. There is absolutely no proof, no evidence and no real suggestion that there are any more racists, sexists and bigot in Christianity than any other identified group of people. This article is furtherance of manipulating Christians and others that conservative Christians are all of these things….accept all of the progressive one. . The word progressive does not add anything to these statements, accept put some of you at ease with your faith as the world might view it. I would like to point out being a Christian is not suppose to be easy. How terrible that Christianity has come to this…that we now find terms that make us more comfortable with saying it to the world. ” I am not one of those Christians”. If you add the word Conservative in the space where progressive is now placed in those statements it still holds true. So why add that word? We are Christians and we are known as God’s people by our actions not our words. As Christians we are striving to be Christ like not world like…and adding the term progressive is an attempt to be world like. I have been persecuted intellectually, professionally and personally for being a Christian….no one asked what type of Christian I was. My actions in these settings always reflected God’s love for us. But assumptions were made because to a minority and hopefully not a fast growing majority some people believe we are all those types of Christians. And reality is that there is a very small portion of our society (believers and not) who are bigots. Articles like these only support the media’s claims that it is the majority and that adds the pressure on us to say “No Not us!. God said you will know my children by their actions…..! So act like a Christian and no one will ever doubt what type of Christian you are. That all being said I do not agree that God wants us to self love (Statement 1). In fact he wants the complete opposite. Humility is the exact opposite of self love, the exact opposite of pride.

  21. I would have to add one glaring omission here” Any “Progressive” should be focused on the Climate Crisis as THE major threat to “Progress”; in fact, it should force us to question the very definition of Progress that has gotten us into this Crisis!

  22. Maggie’s comment that…

    “…I believe that we as progressives believe that God doesn’t hate anything, and that as progressives we emphasize the resurrection more than the crucifixion. God saves us from sin because God conquered death, not because God died.”

    In response to the comment “more Resurrection and less crucifixion” I would point everyone to the Gospel of John. (Although John’s concept is also found in the Synoptic Gospels and Paul it is most simply, artfully and most powerfully stated by John).

    John has a phrase he uses to describe Jesus’ salvation act. The term is “lifted up”. “Lifted up” refers to Jesus being “lifted up” on the cross; being “lifted up” in the Resurrection; being “lifted up” in the ascension. John does not see a separation in these events. Jesus cannot be lifted up in the Resurrection without first being lifted up in the crucifixion. Likewise, the crucifixion has no meaning or purpose without the Resurrection. For John, and thus for Jesus, these are not two separate events but different ends of the same event. So one cannot have less crucifixion and more Resurrection. To the extent one enters into the crucifixion is the extent to which they enter into the Resurrection.

    The idea that one can have more Resurrection and less Crucifixion comes from the mindset of “everyone gets a trophy”. Just as “everyone gets a trophy” is not the way the creation works, so also one cannot separate the Resurrection from the crucifixion. Thus, the Resurrection is not love, the crucifixion is love and the Resurrection is the victory of this love. So the extent to which we love – enter the crucifixion – is the extent to which we have victory and participate in the Resurrection.

    (“Lifted up” references in John: 3:14, 8:28, 12:32 and 12:34)
    (See “The Gospel According to John” Vol 1 & 2, by Raymond Brown)

    1. Oof. Okay, I see where you’re going here–and to an extent, I do agree. I am not advocating that we drop the crucifixion entirely. I think, from a feminist theology standpoint, pushing Christianity as a religion of killing yourself for the sake of others is not only not what God intended in this act of crucifixion-resurrection-ascension, but also deeply harmful for women, children, and men.

      I do not advocate a wishy washy dumping of all things difficult in our faith–I am exactly the opposite. Progressive Churches that shy away from the scary parts of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday make me itch with misery. However, not everyone is able to see the promise of new life through the obsession that we tend to have with self-sacrifice, and can turn this very concept into an idol, thinking that they are themselves Jesus-esque.

      And I don’t think you’ve really thought through this with me long enough if you’re dumbing it down to “Everyone gets a trophy”.

  23. I say 2 things: first, God is bigger than that and that God is Love. The most important commandment is Love one another.
    So simple and so challenging.

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