Roger Wolsey — A Definition of Progressive Christianity

Kissing Fish’s Roger Wolsey is taking the kid gloves off and summing up Progressive
Christianity in a few short paragraphs. No messing around…

What has come to pass as “conventional/popular Christianity” — isn’t what
Christianity is actually about. Friends, Jesus isn’t God.* Jesus didn’t “die for our
sins.” Jesus wasn’t killed “instead of us.” None of us living today killed Jesus.
God didn’t “need” Jesus to be killed. God isn’t wrathful or vindictive. There isn’t a
hell (other than ones that we create here on this earth). Going to heaven after we
die isn’t what the faith is about. There isn’t going to be a “rapture.” And it isn’t
particularly necessary for Jesus’ resurrection to have been a physical one for it to
be a real and meaningful one.

Instead, Jesus and his message are about living in a way that defies all worldly
powers that be. Following Jesus is about nonviolently resisting imperialism.
Following Jesus is about pursuing God’s vision for restorative and distributive
justice instead of human tendencies for retributive justice. Following Jesus is
about trusting in the wisdom and blessedness of the ways that he taught that
seem counter-intuitive according to the ways of the world. Following Jesus is
about liberating humanity from the myth of redemptive violence toward the reality
of redemptive nonviolence. Following Jesus is about seeking to manifest the
beloved community, the kingdom of God, “on Earth as it is in heaven.” Following
Jesus is to pray to the God that Jesus prayed to help inspire, embolden, and
empower us as we follow this radical and challenging Way.

Christians rightfully honor and celebrate Jesus as a unique and fully incarnate
(poetically speaking) manifestation (poetically speaking) of God. We are devoted
to him, we cherish him, we revere him, we are endeared to him. But we pray to
the God Jesus prayed to, not to Jesus. Being a Christian is putting our trust and
reliance (having faith) in the way, teachings, and example of Jesus (that was
informed and inspired by the Hebrew prophets before him) and to live with holy
boldness as we seek loving and just right relations with ourselves, our neighbors
(near and far), all of Creation, and with God.

[Note from Roger: “I realize that it may come across as over-stated and/or that I
expect other people to think like I do. I assure you that I do not. What a boring
world that would be! I merely felt the need to more clearly, and bluntly, state the
truth as I know it. There are lots of ways of being Christian, this one works for
me. Peace.”]

*UPDATE: I do believe that Jesus was divine, and that he’s the 2nd person of the trinity. Christians rightfully honor and celebrate Jesus as a unique and fully incarnate manifestation of God. I don’t believe that he’s literally God (at least not what most people tend to mean by that word). We live and move and have our being in God, so did Jesus. The trinity as a beloved Christian poem of who God is to us. But poems don’t literally define things. Like all art, and theology, they point to what is beyond them.


kissing fishRoger Wolsey, an ordained United Methodist pastor at the University of Colorado, is the author of Kissing Fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity.

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