Richard Beck: Love in Post-Progressive Christianity

Richard Beck has a series going on an approach he calls “post-progressive Christianity”. I’ve appreciated it a lot as he works to identify the good things progressive strains of Christianity have to offer but also where they fall short. I found his recent post on Love to particularly hit the mark:

All that to say, progressive Christians, because they preach inclusion and tolerance, tend to see themselves as lovers in contrast to their more judgmental evangelical counterparts. And in the eyes of the world, yes, progressive Christians are more tolerant and inclusive, more likely to welcome the “sinners” who are shunned by evangelical churches.

And yet, when it comes to cruciform love, loving our enemies, progressive Christians are no more loving than evangelical Christians. That’s a hard thing to say, but are progressive Christians doing a better job at loving the people they consider wicked? As we are all well aware, there is an intolerance associated with tolerance, and this intolerance has left its mark upon how love is expressed with progressive Christianity, although many try valiantly to resist this influence. The sad irony is that an ideal of tolerance simply creates a new definition of “evil.” And once that “evil” group is identified, it becomes really hard to love them. In fact, it’s downright immoral to love them…

Brian Zahnd made a very similar point at the Water to Wine Gathering last month: when you hate the haters, hate wins. The challenge is to remain lovers, for the love of many will grow cold.

Whether we claim the label “progressive” or “conservative” or no label at all beside “Christian”, the distinguishing mark of cruciform (cross-shaped) Christianity is that of love, even (especially?) love for enemy.

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