My Christianity has been hijacked. I hesitate to identify myself as “Christian,” without adding an adjective: “Progressive Christian.” And lots of people may wonder what that means.
It means I believe in Jesus, called the Christ, as my redeemer and the redeemer of all humanity.
It also means I appreciate the Bible and have read it cover to cover and taught Bible classes, but Christianity doesn’t have to be the place where “good brains go to die,” as Jeff Cook says in his book “Everything New.” I am grateful for the Bible teachers I have had like Hazelyn McComas, who said “the Bible is not a history book; the Bible is not a science book, but a place where God and persons meet.” Her obituary went on to explain her viewpoint that “The text provides merely the beginning of one’s insight into the Divine.”
On the other hand, I have to be honest and tell my own story. I feel such compassion for Kim Davis, the clerk at the center of the gay marriage license controversy. I have almost been Kim Davis and came perilously close to believing as she does.
For example, I once believed you have to say a certain formulaic prayer to become a Christian and get right with God. I once believed women should let men lead in the church. I had anxiety issues and tried to do everything right, according to principles in the Bible. But I never was a literalist, and was always thankful for the teaching of John Wesley, to be guided in our theological conclusions by four different sources: scripture, tradition, our own personal experience of God, and reason.
It breaks my heart to see the joy on Kim Davis’ face. You know she has not had an easy life, as the media reported her prior marriages. She is a relatively “new Christian,” having become a Christian around 2011. New converts to anything tend to be very zealous. I imagine her life since 2011 has given her a new faith community, structure, and purpose. But she doesn’t know it has also given her only one viewpoint about how to be a Christian.
Can you imagine what it must feel like to believe you are acting for God and on God’s side? Wow. That is so powerful. Who wouldn’t want to be on God’s side? To have fellow believers arriving by bus and surrounding her with their support and hymns? It reminds me of Sally Field accepting her Oscar statue and saying, “You like me! You really like me!”
And I am sure God loves Kim Davis very much. But be very careful when you say you speak for God. I am sad that the crowds of Christians rallying against gay marriage appear to be representing me. They do not.
I am so grateful to the United Methodist Church, and its tenets of Open Minds, Open Doors. My own pastor, Jerry Morris, will be preaching a series this fall on how Christians today can still use the Bible without sacrificing reason. All of his sermons are available online at www.fumcwausau.org.
Sue Monk Kidd, former Christian devotional writer, and her book “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter,” spoke to me with this quote: “The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book….It is not from a source outside of myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period. It is not something written by men and frozen in time.”
I also love Jennifer Crumpton’s book “Femmevangelical, The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Good News.” Jennifer was raised Southern Baptist, earned a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
It feels risky to step out and say your God is not my God, to others who identify as Christian. But we Progressive Christians are also many, perhaps the silent majority. For those who want more, check out the “Formerly Fundie” blog of Benjamin L. Corey http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/
Namaste. The divine in me salutes the divine in you.