These Are The ‘Progressive’ Christians?! May 10, 2011

These Are The ‘Progressive’ Christians?!

It seems like every time the media wants a rebuttal to an anti-gay conservative Christian, they go to Jim Wallis, a “progressive” Christian and founder of Sojourners (“Christians for Justice and Peace”).

I always hear him referred to as a “voice of reason” from that side of the aisle, the Christian that deserves more attention than the hate-mongerers. So you would think he’d get right on board with a new ad campaign from Believe Out Loud, a group that “promotes LGBT-inclusion in the Christian church.”

I actually think the ads are pretty awesome. Here’s a sampling:

And then there’s this video:

So when the group wanted to purchase advertising space for the video and posters on Sojourners‘ website and the group’s email newsletters, what did Jim Wallis’ organization have to say?

“I’m afraid we’ll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides.

Makes sense… You wouldn’t want people to think Christians are tolerant of homosexuality.

Rev. Robert Chase doesn’t understand the decision, either:

I called the folks at Sojourners and asked what the problem was, what the “sides” in question might be. The first response was that Sojourners has not taken a stance on gay marriage (the ad is not about gay marriage); or on ordination of homosexuals (the ad is about welcome, not ordination); that the decision, made by “the folks in executive” (why such a high level decision?) was made quickly because of the Mother’s Day deadline. The rationale kept shifting. The reasoning made no sense.

I know, I know, Christian reasoning making no sense? Shocking.

Wallis responded with this:

Given the time Sojourners is now spending on critical issues like the imperative of a moral budget, the urgent need to end the war in Afghanistan, and the leadership we are offering on commitments like immigration reform, we chose not to become involved in the controversy that such a major ad campaign could entail, and the time it could require of us. Instead, we have taken this opportunity to affirm our commitment to civil rights for gay and lesbian people, and to the call of churches to be loving and welcoming to all people, and promote good and healthy dialogue.

It’s a cop-out. There’s nothing “controversial” about the ad — if anything, by publishing them, you’re making the issue less controversial. Who knew promoting tolerance and inclusivity was such a timesuck from the rest of their mission…

At least the commenters on his site are letting him have it.

If this is the best “Progressive Christianity” has to offer, then I don’t see why GLBT people are making any effort to join a church. They’re better off without them and there are plenty of Humanist communities that would welcome them with open arms.

(via Christianity Today)

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • well, so much for ‘progressive’ churchie publications. ‘eeew, tolerance for queers? it’s mother’s day, we, we just can’t!’ whatever, sojournot. guess i’m not going to read your website, ever.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    These ads are satire, right? I mean… “barely”, “some of” — really??

  • Sorry, this just feels like you’re trying to manufacture a story! If they did take the ads, they would have to give a ton of time to people who think they shouldn’t have. Rightly or wrongly, I think they simply chose the easier option but I think you’re trying to make it into something bigger than it really is.

  • Either way, the ads will create a lot of controversy and will subsequently give the publicity they are aiming for.

    A lot of the Christians I know have no problem admitting they do not want inclusion for LGBT individuals. They see no controversy at all. To them, it’s a sin–end of Story. (They are mostly Southern Baptists.)

  • Sounds like they’re committed to helping gays get more acceptance in church – but only using their methods. I know a lot of Freethought groups that act the same way. They want to help, really they do, it’s just that they only want to help in THEIR way. Okay.

    In this case, their way of helping seemed like they would really welcome the ads. Their reasons for not accepting them seem to focus on…other ads. Not the ones in question.

    Well at least they responded…

  • qwertyuiop

    Staks had an encounter with those same “progressive Christians” a while back.

  • It sounds to me like the Sojourners support gay rights in secular society without taking a position on their place in the fantasyland of church. What’s wrong with that?

  • @Sue:

    It’s playing on the whole “love thy neighbor” thing that Christianity espouses, when in actuality most Christians only “barely tolerate thy neighbor.”

  • First why anyone would want to get into a church or have a church sanctioned wedding is beyond me. Preventing the church from meddling in State business is another story. That is the only real issue. Frankly if the church wants to ban any group of people they have that right and I would have it no other way. Its un-American to try to force them to do something that is against there silly doctrine.

    As for the adds. Are they really required to explain themselves? No. Yes as a politically oriented organisation they probably should but as a religious organization they have no reason to. Religion is by its very nature arbitrarily made up rules. If they want to say we are for the acceptance of a group in church and still not accept them, they can.

    Seriously I would give these fools not another thought and focus on the politicians who are actually making the laws that actually effect the Gay community.

  • mkb

    So much for the Religious Left’s favorite evangelical, but don’t forget that these are “progressive” evangelicals. There are truly progressive Christians, for example, many Episcopalians and members of the United Church of Christ who not only welcome LGBT people but worship in services led by LGBT pastors.

  • allison

    As mkb said, you have to remember that Sojourners is a group of “progressive” evangelicals, and evangelicals are on the whole a quite conservative group. There are other Christian groups that are accepting of LGBT folks. The reason Sojourners is a go to group for campaigns such as this one is that they’re closer to the groups that are really, really not accepting of gay people at all, and because these ads would be controversial in those circles. Otherwise there wouldn’t be that much of a need for the ads, now, would there?

    I’m disappointed that Sojourners won’t stick with this one, but you do have to consider the nature of the beast here.

  • On a positive note I haven’t heard them call for believers to stone gay people as the Bible demands. Which is progress, right? 😉

    On a slightly less flippant note why should churches cater for gay people? If they want to operate by rules that exclude 5% to 10% of the population then stuff them. They’re the ones with the problem. Let them deal with it or grow increasingly distant from the people that they provide a service for.

    Yes, I want churches to act like their Bible tells them to so that people can see how anachronistic they really are. Hopefully that will lead to people abandoning their churches in favour of more reasonable discussions. Way to go Sojourners. Keep it up and, bit by bit, you’ll lose your support.

  • I don’t think you know this, but in his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis makes it clear that he is opposed to gay marriage. He states that he would rather concentrate on poverty issues but make no mistake he is anti-gay!

  • John Small Berries

    You know, it’s kind of funny. Most evangelical sects claim that their particular interpretation of Christianity is the only way to redeem people from eternal damnation, but so many of them clearly want nothing to do with “helping” the very people they claim are most in danger of it.

    It reminds me of Scientology, which purports to possess the “only workable technology for mental health”, yet their official policies forbid them from counseling the mentally ill or those who have received psychiatric treatment.

  • I’m sure I’ll get a lot of hate for saying this, but it makes perfect sense. Look, the folks at Sojourners love gay people. I promise you, but at the end of the day they are trying to get the church focused on issues where there is simply more at stake.

    I know. I know. I don’t understand. I’m evil and intolerant.

    At the end of the day, social issues are low sacrifice issues. OK, so, you go to church with a gay person. You can tolerate them. Go you. It has zero impact on your pocket book, however.

    Yet, if Sojourners gets the church to refocus on what Christ really talks about. And he talks about MONEY a lot. A whole lot. If Sojourners gets the church to take seriously the issue of redistribution, of caring for thy neighbor, it’s going to mean that the people in those pews actually make a sacrifice. They pony up more money on April 15th. That’s tough stuff.

    They are running against the grain not just of the church but the whole society. It’s a tough fight. It’s an impossible fight, but it’s the fight that they have chosen to fight.

    Yet, in the church, if you allow yourselves to get mixed up in the question of gay people in the church, it has a way of subsuming everything else you are doing. No one will even notice what Sojourners is writing about any more.

    All it will notice is these ads.

    And the real fight, the one that will require every one to pony up and put something on the table, will be lost.

    I’m sure this is falling on deaf ears and I’m probably not saying it as well as I should, but I used to work in a space much like that which Sojourners occupies and I understand where they are coming from and I completely agree. Even tho I also happen to think that the LGBT community should be totally welcomed by the church, and I say this as a lifelong churchgoer.

    But I also don’t happen to think that that is as critical an issue as whether or not we keep devoting so MUCH money to war and so LITTLE money to education, environmental protection, energy research, job training and health care.

  • SecularLez

    I always thought Sojourner was pretty progressive but I guess not.
    I used to flip through it at my alma mater during breaks between classes.

  • Steve

    From what I’ve read they are only progressive on some economic and political issues. Like helping the poor or being against the Iraq war

    But they are still very conservative on the typical social issues/”family values” crap like gay rights and abortion. Which makes you think that the “progressive” label is only there to troll for younger followers

  • Claudia

    I think the best message to send to the LGBT folks out there is: If you join a Humanist community, you won’t have to wonder IF they’ll see you as fully human or IF your parnership/marriage will be treated equally of IF your children will be thought of as victims and taught to question your morality.
    Humanism: where equality is an assumption, not a “controversy”.

  • Troglodyke

    If this is the best “Progressive Christianity” has to offer, then I don’t see why GLBT people are making any effort to join a church. They’re better off without them and there are plenty of Humanist communities that would welcome them with open arms.

    Hear ye, hear ye! I have been shouting this from the rooptops for years.

    Frankly if the church wants to ban any group of people they have that right and I would have it no other way. Its un-American to try to force them to do something that is against there silly doctrine.

    I agree with this. I do wish gays, as a group, were strong enough not to need to prostrate themselves before a god, and supplicate themselves to his followers.

    Hell, if you are strong enough to come out and live an authentic life, you are strong enough to tell the church to stuff it.

  • Saltyestelle

    Losing cultural relevance at warp speed!!!

  • CanadianNihilist

    “Progressive Christianity” is still just Christianity. To expect anything out of it is just foolish. Better to expect nothing from it and be pleasantly surprised when they do something good.

  • Christianity has this problem where the center position is like the one parodied in those ads. The average Christian barely tolerates their neighbor. There are Christians who do worse, and Christians who do better.

    And that’s not good enough. Even if I were religious, I would not want a community where every individual has a different opinion on whether they should be decent to me. There’s something wrong with a community where this is a controversial thing.

  • Which makes you think that the “progressive” label is only there to troll for younger followers

    I don’t know what you’d call them, though. “Conservative” is hardly the right term for a group that takes the stances they do on militarism and economics.

    As always, we need better political terminology.

  • Of course, they have every right not to run the ad—that’s not in question in my mind—but I think they’re wrong for not standing up for equal rights.

    It seems like every time the media wants a rebuttal to an anti-gay conservative Christian, they go to Jim Wallis

    Why is it that the two most-heard opinions in the media are pro-discrimination and pro-ignoring-issue/we-accept-that-you-exist-but-won’t-treat-you-equally?

    Willis’ blog entry just seems like a list of excuses. I do understand that he wants to work together with many different Christian denominations on various other very important issues, so I can see why a certain amount of strategic statements would be considered important, but this ad (as was pointed out) was just acknowledging the existence of LGBT people—not even advocating a certain law. Plus, what’s the point of his strategic place (in having experience working in the evangelical community) if he doesn’t use that position to try to actually change people’s minds, make them think, etc.?

    What I want to know is this: Why are conservative Christians held to lower standards than other Christians? Why do people expect that pro-equal-rights Christians will work together with those who disagree with them, but then cater to the prejudices of the people who are against equal rights? It’s okay, apparently, to expect LGBT Christians (not to mention non-Christian LGBT people) to be eternally patient and work togetgher with conservatives on issues like poverty, etc., to stay in a religion that hates them and try to change it from the inside (instead of leaving), but it’s not okay to expect conservative Christians to stop acting like spoiled brats who refuse to work together with an organization that advocates equal rights for LGBT people.

    I realize I’m being harsh, but it does get frustrating to be lectured to about morality by people who only look moral if the standards of behavior are adjusted downward for their benefit.

    -Ani Sharmin

  • doglovingirl

    Gosh, at first I thought that video was going to be really creepy: Young boy being led down the church aisle. Music: “At last I have found someone who needs me.” Grinning pastor, waiting anxiously for the young boy to be presented to him. Eeeewwww! Oh no!!!!!

    Whew. I was wrong.

    (This time.)

  • Will you allow a bit of shameless self-promotion? Here’s my poem on “Christian Love” (hmmm, is that an oxymoron??).

  • Drew M.


    What kind of dog lovin’ do you do? o.O

  • doglovingirl

    @Drew M:

    The good kind! 😉

  • mkb and allison already hit on what I was originally going to say. If you want progressive, don’t think evangelical – think United Church of Christ, Episcopalian, United Methodist, sometimes even Catholic (though YMMV even within a single given church). I know that the UCC and United Methodist churches have gone out of their way to show their acceptance of LGBT members for years now; I grew up in a UCC and for several years our minister was a woman in a committed same-sex relationship, and membership actually rose during that period.

    I also want to touch on what BradyDale said. I’m with you, sort of. I agree that there are other issues which affect society at large on a much grander scale. But when you learn things like the fact that LGBT teenagers are at least four times as likely to commit suicide as hetero teens, the issue starts to loom a lot larger than you may have thought it was before.

  • Wallis’ priority is his economic agenda and his grip on the Democrats and too many Democrats are sensitive to this issue. Wallis is a politician — you can tell by where he has climbed.

  • Erp

    I note that the Presbyterian Church USA has just approved (today) an amendment overturning a church rule that only allowed chaste single or heterosexually married ministers. The local presbyteries can still choose not to ordain gay ministers but those that do choose to ordain can now do so. They join the UCC, Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in so doing. The United Methodists (largest of the mainline Protestant churches in the US) still prohibit “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from becoming ministers.

  • Jeff

    I’ve never trusted the “progressive” evangelicals. Wallis is a dedicated man who’s done more to help the urban poor than I ever will, but this is a wara, and sides have to be taken. I’m convinced that when he or any of his colleagues are forced to choose, they will always side with their more conservative coreligionists. Wallis wants to bring the fundies to the table; I’ve heard him say as much. He doesn’t’ seem to understand – or want to – that fundies have no concept of “dialogue”.

    I’ve also never heard him weigh in on the subject of salvific exclusivism. Are we or are we not going to hell? To my knowledge, he’s never declared himself – and I simply can’t respect that.

  • Jeff

    I should have read the article first. All right, I’ve changed my mind, somewhat; they should have run the ad, but I accept that their intentions are honorable and I don’t necessarily see their actions as duplicitous.

    Still don’t trust ’em, though.

  • Dan W

    Besides the fact that this group of “progressive” Christians aren’t as progressive as they think they are, I want to know what the Sojourners think a “moral budget” is.

  • Eric

    I can’t get over the ending of the video. That asian woman only “accepted” the lesbian couple AFTER her pastor said it was OK to. What is this trying to say about their audience? Can they not think for themselves? What if the pastor said “STONE THEM!” instead?

  • allison

    @Dan W., here’s what the Sojourners site says about budgets being moral documents:

    Budgets are moral documents. Budgets are moral documents that reflect the values and priorities of a family, church, organization, city, state, or nation. Examining budget priorities is a moral and religious concern. Our political leadership’s tax cut mentality ignores “the least of these”—leaving them with crumbs from the feast of the comfortable. And it does nothing to help our deficit problems. Religious communities spoke clearly in recent years about the perils of a domestic policy based primarily on tax cuts for the rich, program cuts for low-income people, and an expectation of faith-based charity. We speak clearly against budget proposals asking that the cost of the deficit be borne by the poor, who are not to blame and can least afford it.

    Here’s their FAQ: Sojourner’s FAQ. I’ve…been there before because I was looking for a way to help some evangelicals work their way to at least a kinder version of their religion without feeling like they had to give everything up at once. It’s still…well, I’m not Christian for a lot of reasons, let’s face it. It’s not something I’d consider ideal. However, it does at least get some people thinking more about different interpretations than they would otherwise, and I think that can be a good thing.

  • Pseudonym

    If this is the best “Progressive Christianity” has to offer, then I don’t see why GLBT people are making any effort to join a church.

    What I don’t understand is why everyone who agreed with this statement failed to notice the existence of another progressive Christian group that was even mentioned in the writeup: Believe Out Loud.

    So clearly it isn’t the best that progressive Christianity has to offer.

  • Nina

    I belong to an established Christian church that does not wring its hands over this issue. In church, at Sunday mass last week, our male priest mentioned a conversation he had with his “husband”. Nobody in our congregation batted an eye. I’m an American Episcopal. We have ordained male and female priests, both gey and straight.
    I feel a deep connection to my faith and the teachings of the gospels. I cannot reconcile the teachings of the gospels to homophobia, hatred, and fear of anything different.
    Please understand that the evangelical, ultra-conservative strain of Christianity that gets the most media attention isn’t necessarily all there is. Don’t use the word “Christian” as a dismissive term to degrade us all, please.

error: Content is protected !!