10 Reasons Reading the Bible Makes Me More Progressive

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Comment policy: ESA represents a wide variety of understandings and practices surrounding our shared Christian faith. The purpose of the ESA blog is to facilitate loving conversation; please know that individual authors do not speak for ESA as a whole. Even if you don\'t see yourself or your experience reflected in something you read here, we invite you to experience it anyway, and see if God can meet you there. What can take away from considering this point of view? What might you add? The comments section below is where you can share the answers to those questions, if you feel so moved. Please express your thoughts in ways that are constructive, purposeful, and respectful. Give those you disagree with the benefit of the doubt, and assume they are neither idiots nor evil. Name-calling, sweeping condemnations, and any other comments that suggest you have forgotten that we are all children of God will be deleted. Thank you!

21 Responses

  1. Wonderful,l thoughtful blog. And you aren’t alone. This is exactly what happened to me – and what brought me to think the way you’ve described above.

  2. Mike Nacrelli says:

    Why doesn’t justice for the unborn make your top 10 list? The shedding of innocent blood is a major concern of the biblical prophets, and the astronomical death toll of abortion on demand dwarfs nearly all other issues combined.

    • Rick Nowlin says:

      Because you’d have a hard time finding Biblical justification for prosecuting someone — two witnesses are required plus the accuser must participate in any execution.

  3. Don says:

    I disagree with your understanding of points 4, 5, and 9. For example, you mention the story of the rich young ruler; but Jesus wasn’t encouraging him to re-distribute his wealth, He was making a point about the condition of the young man’s heart. You also mention Deuteronomy 15:4; but you’re not putting it in context. The rest of the passage says that if you obey the Lord and do those commands that are written in the bible, the Lord will bless you and you will lend to many, but borrow from none. That doesn’t jive with giving part of your wealth to others who don’t obey the Lord, nor do His commands; you’ll notice that the last part is, you will *lend* to many.
    Although I agree with your general comments in #9, the context of Rev 11:18 has nothing to do with conservation.
    I totally agree with the rest of your list.

    • d says:

      Ummmmmmmm you went in reverse order . Though old to new . In the new it was needed also after so long debt the old testament called for forgiveness of the debt.

  4. Douglas Neel says:

    The more one reads the Bible has nothing to do with making them more “left” of “right”, but hopefully more Christlike. To love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself is not a “political or religious position”.

  5. IAN says:

    I have to agree with Douglas that the whole point of reading the Bible is to be more Christlike, not worrying about any modern political idea.that was totally foreign. But i see that you are confusing some commands that deal with personal responsibility and make it like Jesus was telling the state to fulfil them What Jesus said was that we should be givers to help those who are needy by way of individually giving up what is ours, never once did he bring up the state to do the job. You seem to want to give the state the powers that belong to God.

  6. Brent says:

    Your list is overall great. The Bible does teach us to be compassionate, forgiving, humble, etc. Some of your conclusions are far beyond scripture, as Douglas stated. The Fundamentalists are one extreme; they do lack humility and grace. But overlooking the sins of others and saying they are “good” is not loving either, but it is the ultimate result of “progressive” religion. But my biggest issue is how condescending you are. You state that “It’s okay if you’re not there yet . . . ” as though progressives are more highly evolved. Perhaps a little more humility is needed?

  7. Judy BG says:

    Thought this was a wonderful piece, and not in the least arrogant. Brent, i think you missed that he was making a little jest.

    I find some of the comments above simply perplexing. What IS it about not wanting to give to “the government” for the poor? In a country with hundreds of millions of people, with all the interlocking structural issues of poverty–racism, bad schools, access to health care, the need for gun control, huge mental health issues, lack of access to food, etc, etc, by what other mechanism could this realistically be done?

    Yes, tax the rich–they have way too much for way too few–and give to the poor who can’t even find full time jobs, which, even if they could, would not be enough to support a family at minimum wage rates. What makes this so hard for Christians to get? Do you really think the guy who said, “Give to whoever asks” had categories like “deserving poor”? Over and over in the Bible the critique is of those who squeeze and grab and hang on to what they have–and however the earth’s abundance can be shared out and vast social disparities levelled off, the more, I am convinced, God is pleased. Yes, it IS about love. End of story.

  8. Jason says:

    It seems that your assumption is that people “on the right” don’t care about these issues in the same way as “progressives”. That is entirely untrue. The difference in opinion is the government’s role in these issues. Those on the “right” have just as much compassion as those on the left. They just don’t want the government to have the power to force morality on people. Redistribution of wealth came from the heart in the book of Acts, not from a government mandate. Remember, God loves a cheerful giver (not a begrudging taxpayer).

    • Sally says:

      I agree with you; I was thinking the same thing. All of the points mentioned are things I care deeply about, and I consider myself to be pretty right wing and a Christian. Furthermore, the Christian friends I have do more for the needy than any of my non-Christian friends by far! I liked this article, but the premise seemed a bit skewed toward a stereotype of all conservatives being miserly, hateful, sanctimonious, hypocrites. I haven’t found that to be the case at all.

  9. Phillip says:

    Let’s not read into the Bible progressive ideas, or conservative ideas. The Bible transcends earthly politics. It is supposed to be a middle way not a left or right way.

  10. Susan says:

    while we may be told by God to give to the poor, He does not tell the government to give to the poor, but the Church. also, in taking care of the poor, the environment, etc. you must be aware of those you are working with. do not be unequally yoked with non-believers and do not support non-believers in taking care of the poor, environment, etc. because they are not following God but Satan. which means they will do all to destroy what God holds important. the most important thing to do is to spread the Good News of salvation because that is what is most important to God; whether or not we follow Him.

  11. Kimbrough Leslie says:

    Those of you who say we shouldn’t read progressive or conservative ideas into the Bible have missed the point that you have already read it through the selective filter of 19th/20th/21st century American individualism and fundamentalism, which means from a perspective of modern Western elites. This stands in stark contrast to the communitarian point of view of the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the judges and the prophets consistently calling Israel to honor covenant faithfulness in its care of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. Its Hebrew (“oriental”) perspective (vs. our Greek cultural/intellectual inheritance) and Jesus’ own upside down world view (whose shock value in the parables we miss) are lost on most contemporary American Christians.

    PS. Benjamin Corey: while I’m sure that Jesus would have certainly supported every effort to care for the poor and work for the common good, the government at that time consisted of an occupation force and puppet regime, and he didn’t argue that his disciples should pay taxes, only give Caesar whatever he deserved and God what God deserves, which is something else, not to mention a clever answer to a “Have you stopped beating your spouse?” question.

  12. Kathryn says:

    I like the article. Well written Benjamin. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Who are you all to you criticize anothers journey with God through the word.l? I give thanks that Benjamin has found the Bible and the many truths God has revealed to him. Also his willingness to follow in Christ’s footsteps of love and compassion for others and all of creation. I trust that if we are seeking, God will reveal the truths we need to see, hear and learn at any given time when we are ready and need them. We are all unique with different lessons to learn. I also believe that more come to Christ with a message of love than one of critisism. Jesus was certainly a progressive and a rebel in his time. Benjamin definately seems to be on a path that fulfills the first two and most important of God’s comands. May all your journeys be as revealing and fruitful as Benjamin’s.

  13. Ron Henzel says:

    Relief for the poor and redistribution of wealth are two different things. Relief has the goal of helping people meet their basic needs. Redistribution has the goal of creating artificial economic equality. Ancient Israelites did not receive government subsidies in their mailboxes, but had to go out themselves and do actual work to glean the corners of the fields for food. We should have a social safety net, but the one we have now is not motivated by biblical principles, and thus does not use biblical methods.

    • Kimbrough Leslie says:

      Ron Henzel — Actually, the prophets never commended mere relief or charity for the poor, but justice, which addresses unjust inequality. The Sabbath year was mandated as a time of redistribution of land between clans to insure that no one extended kin group had the advantage or disadvantage of the best or worst land. The jubilee year (a Sabbath of Sabbath years) mandated the redistribution of land, the cancellation of debts, and the freeing of debt slaves. The original Mosaic law knew nothing of the inequalities of Medieval feudalism or modern capitalism. After God acquiesced to the Israelites’ demand for a king (but see Judges 9 for a sarcastic fable about the “value” of a king) the tendency to imitate the Canaanite despots in mistreatment for the poor brought the condemnation of the prophets for the systematic cheating of and gross injustice against the poor. The U.S. does not have and never had a covenant with God, but neither is it free from God’s judgment against the terrible inequality and unjust treatment of the disadvantaged by the advantaged.

  14. suguna says:

    These golden commands one understands and practices is is the way to reflect christ thus the living of christ is proved.christ is the living god. He ha given u the body,bloodand soul with life.llive like christ. The message of christ…is unchanged everlasting.

  15. William says:

    I agree with a lot of your conclusions, though I believe that we should always check to make sure the scripture is our filter and not our political ideology, which as Americans that is hard to do. God does command the Israelites to take care of the poor; their theocratic government (including prophets, priests, and kings) were supposed to ensure that the people were being faithful to the covenant. But keep in mind also that the prophets decried both immorality and idolatry; the reason the Israelites disregarded the poor, afflicted, and outcasts in their midst was their unfaithfulness to Yahweh. He was to worshiped alone, something thing that Israel or Judah never really grasped until after the exile. The year of Jubilee was a way of living out the principles of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament, all who worked and who had need would be provided for if the system was followed. Sadly, there is zero proof that the system was followed. In Acts however, it is important to note that the believers gave willingly to help those among them who were in need and who could not take care of themselves. Paul admonished believers to work, and if they did not work they did not eat. However, it is important to point out that this dynamic was only to be practice within the church, and it was from an idea of interdependence not independence (I am to work to take care you; you are to work to take care of me). This is not communism, but actually something really unique and different and fits well with the biblical narrative and the purpose/design of the church. But again, this was within the church and not the local, state, or imperial government. While I think it is right for us to try to get our government to be more compassionate and generous, OUR government in its current state is too complex, inefficient, and wasteful to be much help. Plus, the progressive dogma is very modernistic, man-centered and believes education will solve all our ills, which is a flat out lie. So, I do understand stirring Christians to care for all of these issues and working toward a government that will keep in balance the need to create money and the need to take care of the least of these. However, this needs to be foremost led by the church, and if we partner with others it needs to be clear that we are doing so for the sake of crucified and resurrected Christ both declaring and demonstrating the gospel.

  1. March 12, 2014

    […] a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a […]

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