What might that look like? I think, for me, it starts with a renewed love of Jesus and a profound appreciation for his way of love. I am energized by New Testament scholarship of the past two decades that peels back layers of tradition, revealing the historical Jesus. Scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Brandon Scott, Amy-Jill Levine, and Marcus Borg help paint a compelling portrait of someone I have decided to follow and dedicate my life to. Some call that ‘discipleship’. Jesus said simply, “Come, follow me!” as he went about encouraging people to live into God’s Kingdom–God’s dream for the world. Discipleship reflects a passion for Jesus and a commitment to his mission. So it’s not simply what we believe, but how that finds expression in our lives. That’s why one of the questions we ask of new members is, “Will you seek to follow Jesus and live according to his teachings?”
“Progressive Christianity” is sometimes used to describe a thoughtful, open, contemporary Christianity. An expression of the faith that embraces critical biblical scholarship and welcomes metaphorical readings of Scripture, allowing for fresh, relevant understandings of the text. One that takes the Bible seriously without taking it literally. This helps us understand how tribalism, slavery, the subjugation of women, and heterosexism are but cultural byproducts from a distant time and place that need to be put to rest once and for all. Along with the Bible, as good Methodists, we are free to believe and practice our faith in ways that honor both tradition and our experience, as well as reason. Far from being frowned upon, critical thinking and questioning is encouraged. As the poet has suggested, “Live the questions.” Sound familiar?
Progressive Christianity honors other paths to the sacred. It recognizes that no faith tradition has a monopoly on God, and that we are not in competition with other religions. That’s why we’re offering a class this month called The Jesus Fatwah: Love Your Muslim Neighbor as Yourself. Another example: Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel will be preaching at Dayspring on Feb. 17th and will remain for Q&A at 11:45am.
Progressive Christianity isn’t threatened by science or evidence-based discovery. Those images coming back from Hubble, for example, can be awe-inspiring. Science can deepen our appreciation and respect for the ongoing unfolding of Creation. Did you know that United Methodist Churches are encouraged to commemorate Evolution Sunday? It falls on the
Sunday closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday, which is Feb. 10th this year.
Recent studies have shown that alarming numbers of 18-35 year olds have not only left the Church but are passionately disinterested in it! The #1 turnoff: “the Church is anti-gay.” Hopefully you’re aware of the special General Conference of the UMC to be held Feb. 23 –26 to determine whether or not our denomination will be fully inclusive of LGBTQ people. Additional reasons that millennials give for leaving the Church: it is “anti-science”, “anti-women”, “hypocritical”, and “judgmental”. Progressive Christianity attempts to address these and other concerns by offering a positive alternative for being in community and following the way of Christ. Those are some of the ways we at Dayspring attempt to express an open, inclusive, generous Christian faith centered on Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God.