Redefined: Wrestling with Faith

A few months back someone asked me to write about my faith. I’ve alluded to it a few times–more to the fact that I have a faith than how exactly my faith journey has developed.

I felt neither equipped nor ready to share.

I couldn’t figure out how or where to start. Some memories were difficult to wrestle with. I couldn’t decide what was pertinent or how vulnerable I was willing to be for the whole, wide Internet. So, I enlisted the help of my absolute most favorite person in the whole world: my wife, Stephanie.

Steph is brilliant and hilarious and my number one fan. Sometimes she is the only one in my cheering section (which is absolutely fine. She is enough all by herself).

She also has a degree in religious studies and has served as a youth minister, associate minister, and missionary. Her sermons are delightful (it’s hard to hold my attention) but her ability to find just the right words to truly capture her thoughts is fantastic. So, she is starting off this series of how we came to adopt the title “progressive Christians” and what that means in terms of the faith we learned as children and how it has developed into the faith we hold as adults.

I say series because it’s a long story.

Like I said, I didn’t know where to start. But Steph has created a great foundation for us to continue explaining our faith journeys both as individuals and as a couple. So without further ado, I’m turning over the proverbial reigns, part one:

Wrestling with Faith by Stephanie

Sarah and I met after being introduced by a mutual friend.  We had both gone to small, private, Christian colleges and lived in a super conservative (as if there is another kind) part of Kentucky.

We made assumptions about each other based on our environment and each assumed the other was a prude. However, Sarah immediately tested my threshold for offensiveness–which I found hilarious. Her quick wit and intelligent satire at the funny side of faith won me over in an instant.  I knew I loved her the moment that we met, but that is a different post.

The more we talked, the more we realized how similar our frustrations and concerns were about living authentically and how alone we felt in the process.  Sarah became my sounding board for all of the questions that faith communities had expressly forbidden.

In fact, we realized that anything “different” was altogether segregated from our religious experience. The faith communities we knew either publicly shamed or guilted differences into conformity. People were ostracized, various theology banned, and any discussion as to “why” was not for the lowly congregant, but decided by the authority of leadership.

There was a good deal of comfort in this for the majority of folks.  They need not worry about anyone or anything that didn’t look like them, act like them, think like them, etc.  I understand why some people prefer this, but I think it does more harm than good. It limits diverse thought and experience.  It creates a population of people who can not even begin to have soulful empathy for those different than themselves using more than just words.  As I tell my students, “Talk is cheap. If you mean it, you will change your behavior.”

Segregation is never a practice that remains limited to one area of life.  

Fear and ignorance make it possible for one group of people to exert dominance and superiority over another in an effort to maintain their divisions.  Cliches and platitudes become excuses for poor behavior and bad decisions.

As the two of us continued to wrestle with our faith we realized that we were much more interested in finding the truth than in proclaiming unconditional correctness. We began to admit that our fear of this process stemmed from a fear of rejection and damnation.  We were on our way to what has been called “Progressive Christianity.”

Progressive Christianity

Some will read those two words “Progressive Christianity” and think it is a phase, a fad, or even a cult following of heretical Christians.  One side of the aisle defines it as changing authority structures to subjective spirituality and half-truths. The other side of the aisle says it is nothing more than politically motivated action in the name of religion.

We are not part of any group or society of people that have made a pledge, signed a pact, given money, or told what, how, or when to speak OR what, and how to believe.  We have no endorsements from political or religious sponsors.

Most importantly, we are not asking or trying to persuade anyone reading this post to change their beliefs.

Sarah and I were asked to share about our faith journey.  We offer our perspective, nothing more. This crossroads of faith has left us with a better historical understanding of Christianity and has allowed us to truly, genuinely love God and our neighbor while committing ourselves to the inclusion and dignity of all of God’s children.  

If we had to sum our experience up in one quotation, it would be this:

“We believe that social justice is the heart of the gospel.  Progressive Christianity is about not apologizing for what we become as we live this life and openly engage the faith we grew up with.  There are no sacred cows, only the relentless, sacred search for truth. Tradition, dogma, and doctrine are all fair game, because all pass through the hands of flawed humanity, and as such are all equally vulnerable to the prejudices, fears and biases of those they touch.”  –John Pavlovitz, Explaining Progressive Christianity (Otherwise Known as Christianity)

So keep following us for more on what Progressive Christianity is, how it fits into a post-modern world, and how we journeyed through a spectrum of belief.

She’s brilliant, right?

What are your thoughts or questions in relation to Progressive Christianity?

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