First, thanks to the lovely Philomela for all the work she did (hint: far more than me) in coming up with the idea for this carnival, developing the theme and gathering posts. For me, it’s obviously an extremely important theme, what with feminism/anti-oppression activism and faith being by far the two single most important defining points in my thought. I’ve encountered a few new bloggers working on this that I’ll definitely be continuing to read in the future, and I’m hopeful that this will build and lead to encountering still more. I don’t know about a location for a second edition as yet – if no one else is up for it, I’ll host another one here in early September, but I’m certainly open to volunteers.
The suggested theme for the first carnival was “community”, which I think was a really good way to start, since I suspect that others who count themselves as “progressive Christians” (which, to reiterate our chosen definition, means that we “have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination, and environmental issues”) often feel themselves to be consistent outsiders, “heretics” in nearly every group they encounter. And the support of a community – or support for a community – real or virtual, is therefore something a lot of us are often seeking. I like to think that this little carnival serves as both action and words simultaneously – talking about community (among other things) and building it, just a little, at the same time.
So, without further ado…(just, you know, a cut)
Thoughts on Community, Inclusion and Exclusion
Reflections on Community, posted at A Christian Feminist Journey:
Often, when progressive liberal christians talk about wanting christian community, what we really mean is that we want community with christians who are exactly like us. We want to be able to surround ourselves with people who think like us and act like us so that we can feel safe….
But this is not the main reason that I often avoid community, especially christian community. If we want to have community then we have to really get to know each other so that we can be involved, supportive, loving and challenging. And right at the moment, I’m really struggling with this. Like many of us, I like people to think that I’m perfect.
Community: Loving Your Neighbour posted by, well, me:
…one of the things I notice about the kind of anti-poverty work we do through the church, or “charitable” work in general, is that it allows us to “love” from a distance. Even in direct, local initiatives – we can cook, serve food and clean up at a soup kitchen, we can make beds at a homeless shelter, we can collect winter clothing in a clothing drive, we can donate furniture to recently arrived refugees. We can see the individuals that we’re helping, we can speak to them and we can be kind to them, but we can still go home and live our lives separate from them, without ever really having to interact with them on an ongoing basis, get to know them beyond the fact that they are homeless, or ill, or refugees. “We” are still helping “them”….sometimes , for me, it’s easier to say I’m being “humble” by spending six hours doing the dishes at a shelter and to call that “loving my neighbour” even as I remain absolutely certain of my “other than” status than it is to get up on Sunday morning, arrive early and smilingly greet the passive-aggressive woman my mother’s age who regularly suggests that my clothing may be inappropriate, or the Type A individual who devotes hours of her spare time to planning children’s pageants and decorating the church for special occasions and who simply cannot fathom that I don’t prioritize these tasks and give them the same amount of time, or even my formerly very close friend who is going through a tough time and who has asked that I just give her space to work that out on her own.
On the Outside Looking In, posted by mystical seeker at Find and Ye Shall Seek:
There is a piece of me that still holds out hope for finding some kind of community that I can identify with. But unlike progressive Christians who have some kind of denominational identity that they can hold onto while fighting the good fight, I was brought up in a hopelessly fundamentalist church that I long ago rejected. For me, there is no denominational loyalty to ground my faith in. Thus I am perpetually on the outside looking in. I’ve done the church shopping thing, but it has all been window shopping. Then again, maybe that is my calling. Maybe religions need people like me, who stand on the outside and who just don’t quite fit in.
Theologizing in Exile, posted by Demetria at Lost in the Underground:
I feel pressured at times to simply be silent about the degree of hurt I feel from the CofC. I feel as though I am supposed to just get out and stay out, and never speak to the damage done by their exclusionary practices — of being shown each Sunday that I was unworthy of distributing the Eucharist (okay, they didn’t use the word Eucharist), unworthy of speaking to God publicly, unworthy of sharing my thoughts with the congregation….
Despite all this, I have a sense of loyalty to CofCdom. I have been shaped by indelible ways by Restoration Movement thought. I’m an exile, an expat. I left my home behind, and I despair of ever being able to return, but still something in me continues to hope. To hope that the regimes and structures of CofCdom will change, and it will be a space that doesn’t do violence to my person.
Thoughts on Sexuality and Christianity
God makes no mistakes – kind of a sermon, posted by Tarald:
I’ve listened to so many people struggeling with their faith in God after being told that God only loves the heterosexual or the single-sexed. They experience every day how “fellow christians” try to exclude them from the love of God and manage to take away their ability to experience christian fellowship. I can’t see how this could possibly be in line with the Bible or the word of Jesus.
Let’s go back to the phrase that God makes no mistakes. No, I don’t think He does. I’m certainly not a mistake. So my body and mind/soul got a little mixed up and does not fit our present notion of only two sexes/genders, and that these doesn’t change with time. I don’t blame God. If there’s one thing He could not be held responsible for, it’s how we arrange our societies. I also believe that I’m placed in this position because I have a mission: To spread the word of a loving, accepting God and to speak up for a powerless group so that His will can be done on earth as in heaven.
How I Became a Sex-Positive Christian, also originally posted right here, by yours truly:
It turns out, somewhere along the line, that I became something of a pragmatist. I’m basing my faith on the foundation that God wants humans, as individuals, as communities, and as societies, to be united in love and to experience release from suffering. I think He wants us to be humble, equal, and useful. I agree with William James’ assessment of faith as “the sense of life by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but lives on”….I couldn’t care less about dogma or about creating a coherent theory or about having a rational framework of rules and regulations against which I can evaluate every decision, every belief, every thought, whether that system would come from the Bible, from Germaine Greer or from bell hooks. I care about examining, on a case by case basis, on a day-to-day basis and on the basis of what I see right in front of me, whether my actions are serving to bring me closer to God or push me further away, and whether I’m acting in a way that creates unity and harmony or in a way that creates both internal and interpersonal discord.
Another Stimulus Toward Needed Activism, posted by (potentially my favourite new discovery putting this carnival together, no offense to anyone else) Jerry Maneker:
Whenever any homophobe, be it a clergy person or politician, or their gullible and often hateful followers, seeks to deny equal civil rights to LGBT people, or who in any way demeans the inherent dignity of LGBT people, he or she is complicit in this murder and murders like this one. Moreover, whatever suicides occur by LGBT people due to shame and self-loathing inculcated and reinforced by clergy, their gullible followers, or by anyone else with even a modicum of credibility in the eyes of others, that person’s blood is on those homophobes’ hands, as is the blood of those LGBT people who are assaulted and even murdered for being the person God made them to be.
internal forum, posted by sly civilian:
This simple notion has come to underscore my entire theology of queerness and the church. Queer issues are primarily pastoral, not theological to me. There is nothing about the character of God or the scriptures that are at stake for me. I know God to be loving, and I understand the witness of the Bible as reflective of that love…The question is not transcendent. It is entirely immediate. What are we doing, pastorally, to care for those who are in pain?
Grander theological concerns notwithstanding, a clear pattern emerges. The conduct of the church on the local level can have real effects of the quality of people’s lives. Do they feel as if God loves them? Can they be protected by the social privilege given to the church?
Even when Christendom as a whole fights over what to do, these remain pastoral issues. This is not revolutionary, this is a move to compassionately meet people where their lives are. That’s gospel, right there.
Thoughts on Belief and Action in Progressive Christianity
What Does a Progressive Christian Believe? posted by mystical seeker at Find and Ye Shall Seek:
It seems to me that if there is one dividing line between progressive and conservative religion, it is (or ought to be) the question of whether faith is rigidly dogmatic or flexibly adaptive. It seems to me that absolutism goes hand in hand with a certain view of the nature of revelation that is not particularly tenable or historically valid. Whereas more absolutist forms of religion presuppose a naively unidirectional and absolutist conception of revelation that conceives of religious truth as having been disseminated from above and received without error by human beings, progressive religion by contrast understands that theology has always been an ongoing dialogue between members of a community of faith with one another and with God…It seems clear that Christianity underwent a lot of changes after the death of Jesus, changes that in many cases Jesus would not have even recognized as his own faith. He was a devout Jew, and yet eventually he became the basis of an entirely new faith that broke from Judaism. Perhaps the seeds of those later developments were found in his own teachings, and I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with the fact that this evolution took place. But Christianity also developed in ways that may have contradicted his own teachings in serious ways. Jesus the radical inclusivist was killed by an Empire; later Christianity became exclusive and intolerant, and allied itself with an Empire. Do those represent improvements in the faith, or something else entirely? Many progressive Christians would say no.
Am I a Christian, Part 4, posted at Lost in the Underground:
I don’t limit hypocrite to people who say one thing and then do another. I think people who deny the individual experience they’ve been given for the sake of conformity to a creed as just a hypocritical as anyone else…don’t need or want an eldership or hierarchy responsible for my soul. I wouldn’t mind a community of fellow travelers, so we could gather at the end of the day, discuss the sights we saw and our impressions thereof, filling in the gaps in our individual knowledge with the experience of our comrades. Maybe take photos for each other when batteries die in cameras. But I have no interest in a safe guided tour, where we all see the same sights and are told what to think of them.
Why I am a Christian (Heretic), posted by snowdrop explodes at A Feminist View:
Since I have followed this route, and my faith has been tested with a sceptical mind, I am confident in my beliefs. However, the ad hominem attacks on religious believers made by some atheists are naturally all the more galling because of the way I personally came to believe. I do not expect others to believe simply because I do, nor do I expect them to accept that the evidence and proofs that have convinced me. I do, however, ask that they respect that I believe, and that my belief is not the sign of a weak mind!
“For God So Loved the World”, also from snowdrop explodes:
For me, agape is the basis, the fundamental, of Christianity. It deeply offends me that such people as the Religious Right in the USA feel that they can lay claim to the term, in the same way that anti-abortion campaigners misappropriate the term “pro-life”. Just as “anti-choice” is more appropriate for the anti-abortion lobby, so “literalist” (or even “blind literalist”) is more appropriate for the attitude they express. The Religious Right so clearly do not have agape in their hearts, they have abandoned the fundamentals. They have become the pharisees against whom Christ preached, blindly observing the letter but forgetting and ignoring the Spirit….It is explicit in the Gospels that the message of Christ is a personal challenge to each of us, even as He makes it clear that in communion with one another we are better able to meet it (the centrality of the church grouping is given by Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also”). It seems obvious to me that Christ’s mission should have cut away the rigorous hierarchy of the established order, because it is by the Spirit that we find the right path.
Ode to Being Unaware, posted by Christy at Dry Bones Dance:
I’ve been trying to figure out what bugs me about this kind of thing, and it’s that lefties and right-wing fundies frequently have WAY too much in common. Here’s a little rhetoric compare and contrast:
Lefties: THERE ARE POOR PEOPLE and GOD IS PROBABLY MAD AT YOU because you haven’t fixed that yet. YOU ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH, and you should feel bad because you bought a new pair of shoes. Evil corporations are taking over the world! Bush is bad, bad, bad! Also, what with global warming, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. You are part of an unjust system, and you should feel very very badly. Also, did we mention George Bush? Yes? Well, we think it bears repeating.
Right-wingers: This country is going to hell in a handbasket, what with the feminists and homosexuals and no prayer in schools. And did we mention HELL? Because gazillions of people are going to burn in hell for all eternity if you don’t tell them about Jesus and IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT. Also, don’t forget that Jesus died for you, so you should feel very very badly. Also, did we mention the GAYS? Yes? Well, we think it bears repeating.
Stop me when you see the parallels.
And finally, I think a fitting close, some reflections from Daisy that tie a lot of things together, for me, anyway, in her post “All Saints Day”:
For several hundreds of years now, we’ve been getting a twisted message, and it needs to be put right. Those of us who responded to this phenomenon (the bright light shining on us, the finger of God pointing and singling us out), believed we were not good enough. Our calling must be a mistake, or a delusion. For example, look at all of these people who claim to speak to God personally; they get all kinds of messages, and spelled out in E-N-G-L-I-S-H, too. Why can’t I have some of that? If you’ve asked, you know that no answer is forthcoming, it is something you have to find the answer to, like a complicated word-problem. It is your life’s work, to discover why. But first, you must believe.