January 18, 2008

Progressive Christians Finally Opposing Christian Extremists

It is not often that I get to do a post praising progressive Christians for standing up against the forces of Christian extremism, but this is just such an occasion. I am pleased to see this report from Gary Vance, an evangelical pastor/writer from Tennessee, that the Institute for Progressive Christianity, a progressive Christian think tank, is speaking out against Christian extremism in America.

As Vance points out, it is not easy for the voice of progressive Christians to be heard above the roar of their extremist colleagues. After all, they are only now beginning to speak out, and the extremists are both well-funded and politically connected. Still, Vance sees cause for optimism and predicts that the pendulum is swinging back to the left.

Vance sees progressive Christians as the only hope for successfully opposing the extremist faction.
There is no group or individual outside of the Christian community that could adequately respond to the religious dimension of this threat without being perceived and painted as a persecutor of the faith. A movement from within the Christian world was required to take a lead role in repairing the breach in the wall between the institutions of religion and government. Thankfully, there is an innovative movement developing to fill this need.
He's right that a non-Christian group opposing Christian extremism will be demonized as a persecutor. We atheists know all about that! Personally, I would welcome a well-organized and vocal coalition of progressive Christians willing to oppose extremism. They could be powerful allies in protecting church-state separation and other shared goals.

At the same time, I disagree with Vance that such a group must automatically take the lead role. We've been at this for far longer than they have, and I like to think that they could learn something from us. Thus, I would support a partnership as long as our many contributions to the struggle are not ignored.

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