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The Collapse of the So-Called Progressive Christian Tent

The supposed Progressive Christian tent that has been sold to the Obama administration was never progressive as long as white hetero men are running the show. I am not sure why folks thought differently. In my mind there was never any mistake that Jim Wallis, one of the most visible heads of this tent was a progressive. He has not surrounded himself with feminists (I know because I volunteered to talk with him about this and was ignored.) and it would seem he has not done his spiritual discernment nor the psychological work to develop a sensitivity to sexuality issues whether it is regarding orientation or women’s control over our own reproduction.

It is true that Sojourners, the magazine that provides the forum for Wallis’ thinking and organizing efforts, has taken wonderfully progressive stances in terms of poverty and war, consumerism and the budgetary impacts of militarism. In this way progressive Christians applaud his work and rejoice at the common ground we share with moderate and conservative Christians. However, when Sojourners recently denied the ad revenue from “Believe Out Loud” that celebrated Mother’s Day by envisioning a happy family with two mothers for example, there was a large outcry suggesting the progressive tent was collapsing. Sorry. But a real progressive tent allows everyone on the inside without apology and with God's blessing. Wallis, from his ascendancy to fame to current times, has talked around the edges and hinting that women and lgbt people have rights and yet, all the while has also maintained that Christian positions that deny the basic humanity of women and lgbt populations are also legitimate. This is not being politically astute but rather, cowardly.

A progressive Christian is able to embrace sexuality in all its forms and differences without legalism or citing any purity codes in Hebrew scripture. A progressive Christian leader graciously steps aside without judgment to allow those with different experiences to expand on how God is experienced in a non-white hetero bodies. The so-called Christian progressive tent being represented in the halls of power through Wallis’ work has had precious few women or women-friendly non-whites in positions of leadership and has never spoken the crucial words for justice on behalf of women’s reproductive choices or sexual minorities. The question is not why not? That answer is easy. The leadership, Wallis included, sees that as peripheral and unimportant to their faith work. They have failed to see that one cannot be progressive on behalf of people one is silencing along the way. The real question is instead, how is it that that this camp got labeled progressive in the first place?

I want to know when heterosexual male leaders will learn they need to co-lead with women and members of the sexual minority communities? Because until that basic lesson is learned, the realm of God remains allusive, very much in heaven, instead of being evident on earth.

See the debate (and the ad) in the blog www.religiondispatches.org


Gary, 05-16-11 4:17pm:
I will no longer support Sojourner's or the work of Wallis. This is a sad, sad reality. I grieve and mourn the inequality and discrimination toward women and their lives.

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