Some of you may have seen the article in this weekend’s New York Times:
The article raises some good points about why religions too eager to abandon their heritage end up losing numbers and risk becoming irrelevant.
There are a lot of ways to take this. Many of us are looking for a progressive religion that isn’t as far out as Episcopalian Bishop Spong but also at least as distant from EWTN-Catholicism.
So what is the future of “liberal Christianity?” This is my take:
I consider the term “liberal Christianity” a bit of a redundancy. Christianity is supposed to be liberating and open perpetually to the spirit of renewal. I suspect that it’s this jarring discomfort, the discomfort of existential freedom, which is why it is sometimes seen to be shrinking. Many people, especially in the West, and most especially in America, want religion to be comfortable, something unchanging, something like an anchor that they can hide behind when the rest of the universe looks too confusing. And it is true that, at some times, religion can and should serve that purpose. But it also has to be able to shake us up and bring us face-to-face with a wilder, more fluid, reality. When religion does that, many people get scared.
But we ought not to fear the unknown, especially when the unknown is that which begs us to know it so well. This is liberal religion: To be open perpetually to a spirit of renewal, to be challenged by our comforts and comforted by our challenges, to be willing to change because the Spirit calls us to change, to confront the new without abandoning the old, to be willing to abandon the old when the wineskins burst, to allow the divine reality to guide our interactions with the world, to seek to remedy injustice even when the injustice lives inside of us.This is liberal religion because it is liberating. It isn’t always easy, but it will survive.