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How To Be A Progressive Christian Without Being A Grump About It

by Benjamin L. Corey
(This piece originally appeared on the official blog of Benjamin L. Corey at www.formerlyfundie.com. Reprinted with permission.)

Grumpy old manSo you’re a Progressive Christian?

Great, we welcome you. Whether you’re a Mainline Progressive™, a Progressive Evangelical™, or in the category of I Don’t Know Where The Heck I Am Anymore™, we welcome you under our ginormous tent. (There’s free beer and wine in the back if you’re interested.)

You’ll find plenty of friends here who will walk with you and inspire you along your personal journey.

But I’ll warn you… you’re also going to meet a few Progressive Grumps™. (Every tent has em, right?) Well, to be perfectly honest, some days I’m one of them… but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. (Insert voice of Samuel L. Jackson in my mind saying, “But I’m tryin’ Ringo. I’m tryin’ reaaal hard to be the shepherd.“)

Since most of us like to have a decent time in this tent (it’s totally cool if you just came here for the Beer and Hymns), you’re going to need to set up some safeguards to make sure you’re not constantly lingering over in the grumpy corner of the tent (fair warning- it’s really smoky over there). There will be appropriate occasions to briefly hang out in that corner, but my advice is to make sure you’re not constantly sitting over there. If you stay grumpy too long, you’ll just start to hate everything about life, and I honestly don’t want that to happen to you.

So, here are 10 things I think may help you to be a Progressive Christian™ without being a total grump about it:

10. Read/listen to voices who inspire you instead of only listening to voices who fuel negative feelings inside you.

We have a lot of critics in here (they told me if we were a gang, my name would be The Dissenter™ which sounds kinda cool, honestly) but filling yourself on an over-diet of negativity will make one a permanent resident of the grumpy corner. A balanced diet is key, even in this tent– so make sure you’re consuming things that encourage and inspire you instead of only filling your plate with negativity.

9. Realize this tent is made up of people on a journey, not people who have arrived.

It’s easy to come in, pull up a chair, and breathe a sigh of relief that you have finally arrived somewhere. Unfortunately, that belief can lead to as much rigidity as exists in your old tent- and rigidity over time has a tremendous influence on the Grumpy Meter™. Think about this as a journey where you’re still learning, growing, and where openness to change can be your friend.

8. Hold your progressive beliefs in a soft hand instead of an iron fist.

While we are people on a journey always open to growing and changing, you’re going to have some convictions on certain topics that will be foundational– we all do. However, I think you’ll experience a more enlightening journey if you hold onto those convictions in gentleness and humility instead of a harsh edge. Plus, this is a tent where we don’t necessarily all share the same foundationals, so a good dose of humility would be good for all of us.

7. Please don’t shoot people inside the tent.

Let’s be honest: shooting someone is bad manners, especially for a Jesus follower. Plus, when you shoot people inside the tent, your bullets often ricochet across the room and cause collateral damage (which makes innocent bystanders Super Grumpy™). I know this might sound overly-simplistic, but if you have an issue with someone else at this party, can you do us all a favor and try to dialogue about it? While not everything can be resolved, I think we can resolve a lot more infighting than we currently do.

6. Strive to be gracious when dealing with those outside the tent.

Many of us left our old tents in part because we didn’t like the unloving way they viewed outsiders. Yet, we quickly resort to that old pattern of living- playing the same game by the same rules, but for a different team. If we want people to see that our tent is more loving than many others (which I believe it is) the best way to show it is to work toward loving those in conservative tents a little better. Plus, it’s good for our own selves– it’s hard to be grumpy when you’re busy loving.

5. Don’t join the Progressive Twitter Police™.

One of the surprising things you’ll find in this tent is, like fundamentalism, there are some here who will police your thoughts, tones, opinions, etc., and will be quick to “correct” you. Most commonly, this will happen on Twitter. Funny thing is, I’ve never met a member of the Progressive Twitter Police™ who wasn’t grumpy all the time, so it’s a tree/fruit kinda thing. Want to stay happy and avoid chronic Progressive Grumpiness Syndrome™? Stay as far away from this police station as possible.

4. Please don’t feel pressured to conform to other people’s ideas of what it means to be a progressive.

Let’s say the Progressive Twitter Police™ come calling anyway (they probably will at some point). In this scenario, here’s what you need to remember: don’t be a slave to group-think. Don’t let people pressure or bully you into conforming to their idea of what a progressive is or is not, and don’t buy into the lie that you have to conform to someone else’s idea of who you should be. There is no more Grump Inducing™ activity than trying to be anything other than who God is calling you to be.

3. Be about building, not just tearing down.

I’m not gonna lie: a lot of folks brought gas cans and lighters to this party, and I think we’re currently over quota. While there is a time and a place to burn bridges, if you spend all your time tearing down without investing into building things up, you’ll soon find yourself in a desolate wasteland. And you know what that will make you? Grumpy, that’s what. We are in need of people who are willing to do the hard work of constructing something beautiful– because we’ve neglected the beauty of being a builder.

2. Leave room for God to do what God does best.

So, you’re excited about this new journey you’re on? Great! Just remember: it’s not your job to try to convince everyone in all those other tents to come join ours. God has a wonderful ability to work on people’s hearts and lead them to the change he desires– so leave room for God to do what God does best. Yes, freely share the excitement of your journey, but if you begin thinking you need to get everyone out of the other tents, you’ll find such a quest is marked by a big case of Progressive Evangelism Grumps™.

1. Remember: the person you’re talking to might be the old you.

I know they make you grumpy, but please remember: that person in the comment section might be the old you. Instead of verbally blasting them and pelting them with dehumanizing labels that only shut down conversation, try remembering that perhaps, just perhaps, you thought that same way once upon a time. Maybe they were force-fed it as kids and are just regurgitating. Maybe they’re seeking. Maybe something you’ve learned will help them see things differently. But, you’ll never get through to them if all they meet is a Progressive Grump™. So, show them some love and patience- as someone probably once showed you.

So you’re a Progressive Christian™? Awesome, so happy you’re here.

This tent can be a lot of fun, and the journey can be exciting. However, there are some things you could do, and some things you could avoid doing, that will go a long way in making sure this is a journey of enlightenment, and not a journey into the Seventh Hell Of Progressive Grumpiness™.

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