A look at most of the major news headlines about Christianity often paints its followers as ultraconservative people who are against certain minority groups, such as refugees and the LGBT community. However, that’s not always the case, and a potentially powerful movement known as the Christian Left, or progressive Christianity, is also present and making impacts in faith communities and beyond.
What Does the Christian Left Believe?
Like more conservative Christians, people within the Christian Left hold various beliefs, which makes it difficult to discuss them concisely. Generally though, people who identify with the Christian Left try to conduct their lives as closely as possible to the ways Jesus did during his time on Earth. This usually involves a strong message of tolerance, along with actionable strategies to help marginalized groups.
Why Is the Christian Left Not As Prominent?
If this type of action-based Christianity seems appealing, you might be wondering why it’s seemingly not as popular as the conservative version held by people on the far right. For one thing, the left lacks extremely popular leaders. There are arguably no Jerry Falwells or James Dobsons on the left, and those kinds of mega personalities tend to command the headlines and capture attention in other ways.
It’s not feasible for one person or a few people to speak definitively for all people who are part of the Christian Left anyway, because the beliefs within the movement are so diverse. Followers tend to find certain personalities within the faith that they gravitate toward, but don’t hold them far above the rest.
Also, many people within the Christian Right use easy fear-driven tactics to gain followers, but that’s usually not true with left-thinking Christians. Members of the Christian Left argue that the early church grew because people put their fears behind them and followed Jesus, even though doing so was dangerous at the time.
Today, and far too often, there are members of the Christian Right who use biblical teachings to convince themselves that being fearful of a certain segment of society is fully permissible and even expected.
Different Views of Heaven and the Kingdom of God
People who subscribe to the beliefs of the Christian Right often think Heaven is a place they go to after death and that Earth is just a temporary residence. In contrast, there is a growing number of progressive Christians who believe that Earth as it is now is the Kingdom of God that is so often talked about in the Bible, and so it is their responsibility to do all they can to improve life on Earth for all its inhabitants.
To clarify though, we are not suggesting that all members of the Christian Right are intolerant or lacking in moral belief systems. Despite differing views on what Heaven is and where the Kingdom of God exists, both the Christian Left and Right are similar in that they often do selfless acts to help others. For example, there are extremely well-run medical ministries all over the world that aid sick people in impoverished areas while spreading the fundamentals of faith.
The Potential Promise of the Progressive Movement
People on the left side of politics generally do not like how followers of conservative Christianity push so hard to entwine religion and Christianity. Since progressive Christians usually see religion as one of many factors that define their lives and actions, they could collectively help people outside the faith see that not everyone views Christianity in the ways of a substantial number of people on the right nor use it for political gain.
Statistics also show 14 percent of Americans left their churches after the most recent election. It’s no secret that many people have become disillusioned by religion, and data like that suggests there are individuals who think religion is being used for the wrong reasons, especially in politics, and they’ve had enough. Further evidence indicates that Christianity has a declining influence in the United States and people are leaving the faith they were raised with for other reasons.
Progressive Christianity could come into the spotlight in a new way considering that the majority of millennials identify as independents rather than Democrats or Republicans. This suggests they’re weary of the often-polarizing efforts of both those parties.
If progressive Christianity becomes a movement that asserts itself as being removed from the political realm and doing good for others as Jesus did, millennials and others might see that religion doesn’t always push people apart. In fact, some kinds of Christianity, like the forward-thinking branch we just learned about, could actually bring society together and unite us around common goals.
Kate Harveston is a political activist and writer. She enjoys writing about anything related to politics and culture, and how those elements intersect. If you like her writing, you can follow her on Twitter for updates or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.