Discussions of modern American politics often assume that references to "Christians" refer to "conservative Christians." That assumption overlooks the fact that for decades various Christians and Christian groups served as prominent forces in liberal/progressive agendas.
That Christian belief can coexist with, let alone support, left-leaning social and political views has so disappeared from living rooms and community halls that any public embrace of the idea elicits surprise... this translates to a religious expression less focused on theological purity and more focused on social reform, or to put it another way, more interested in Earth now than in heaven later.The Slate article goes on to indicate that liberal Christianity is dormant rather than dead.
The early 20th-century Social Gospel movement put Protestant Christians at the forefront of activism on public health, labor, and wealth inequality—and offered a religious justification for action. That movement was led by people such as Washington Gladden, a Congregationalist minister who agitated for workers’ right to organize, and Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor who saw Jesus as proclaiming “withering woes against the dominant class.” Starting with 1928, Norman Thomas was the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America for six consecutive elections, and he was also a Presbyterian minister...
Activist priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan made national headlines by burning draft cards and damaging missile warheads, often while wearing their clerical collars. As the New York Times put it after Daniel Berrigan’s recent death, the brothers embodied a progressively religious claim that “that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.”
If liberal Christianity is ultimately going to thrive, however, it’s hard to imagine it doing so without reviving the local churches that have been shrinking over the decades. Conservative congregations ask for serious commitment; they expect their people to show up, and they ask them to adhere to a narrower set of beliefs and behaviors. There’s a cost associated with membership...More at the link.
Many progressive churches, by contrast, barely demand a pinky toe. Most of those I’ve attended regularly have been happy when I merely show up, in part because their populations tend to be small and elderly. They don’t pressure me when I skip; the sermons rarely suggest it matters whether I believe the creeds we recite on Sunday mornings. (The demands that small or struggling churches do make on members tend to be organizational and financial labor, so you get the draining obligations without the spiritual investment.) By contrast, when I visit conservative churches with family or friends, they feel alive: People are there because they think it matters, for their everyday lives and for their eternal souls.
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