Progressive Christians?

By Julie Roys
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By Julie Roys

Recently, an Episcopal diocese in Michigan ordained a Zen Buddhist to the priesthood, triggering protests from scores Christian leaders. “Buddhism is not merely a series of practices,” said James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “Buddhism is an entire worldview.”

Tonkowich is right. Buddhism is a worldview and one that directly contradicts Christianity. For example, Christians believe an all-powerful personal God rules over creation; but, Buddhists believe Dharma – an impersonal principle – transcends all things. Christianity and Buddhism are incompatible. And to ordain a Buddhist to the Episcopal priesthood is patently absurd.

Most evangelicals, I think, would agree with that statement. Yet, a growing number of evangelicals are accepting an equally absurd co-existence – that is, the melding of Christianity and progressive, or liberal, politics. It’s not that one can’t be a Christian and be politically progressive. Many are. Rather, the problem is that Christianity and liberalism espouse contradictory worldviews. So, to be both, one must either not fully understand biblical Christianity; or not fully understand liberalism; or, simply embrace contradiction.

Progressives believe society is getting better: it is progressing. As one liberal think tank, the Rockridge Institute, put it, “Progressives believe the world is basically good. And, however dangerous and difficult the world may be at present, it can be made better.” In addition, the institute claims that “children are born good and parents can make them better.”

Evil is non-existent in the progressive worldview. People act badly, not because they’re sinful, but because they’re unhappy. And people are unhappy because they’re not realizing their dreams. And people aren’t realizing their dreams because they don’t have equal access to health care, education, and jobs. But, if a nation’s government would simply provide these things for all people, that nation would achieve what sounds very much like utopia.

The progressive vision sounds wonderful. And, it’s understandable Christians would buy into it because it seems consistent with the Golden Rule. However, it’s based on non-Christian assumptions. Romans 3 says there is none righteous – not even one! And Scripture clearly points to sin – not unfair circumstances – as the cause of mankind’s misery. Society is not progressing toward some utopia; rather, all of human history is moving toward a cataclysmic battle between good and evil. And, government will never achieve heaven on earth; only Jesus can do that.

Of course, the liberal Christian will object and say he simply supports liberal policies, but doesn’t embrace the worldview. But, one can’t separate liberal policies from the liberal worldview any more than one can separate Buddhist meditation and chanting from Buddhism as a whole. Buddhists meditate and chant because they believe these practices are a means to enlightenment and nirvana. Likewise, liberals expand government because they believe government is the means of rescuing a basically good society. But this is a misplaced hope. And instead of creating utopia, it likely will lead to even greater misery.

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