During Gene Robinson's interview with Terry Gross yesterday, he said the following about the debate within the Anglican Communion over his status as an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church:
In the end, I don't want anyone to leave, and I don't believe we need to break communion over this. You know, we're not arguing about the divinity of Christ, we're not arguing about the Trinity, or the resurrection--those essential things that draw us together. We are arguing about something that is inessential, and that is the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church.While I appreciate the point he is making, it also confirms my general disappointment with a lot of what constitutes "progressive" or "liberal" Christian thinking. By insisting that the Trinity or the Divinity of Christ are "essential things" in Christianity in general or the Anglican Communion specifically, he highlighted an irreconcilable gulf that remains between myself and mainline Christianity.
I hear a lot about this phenomenon called "progressive Christianity", but where is it? I see lots of web sites and blogs and churches proclaiming their progressive credentials. Churches sponsor talks by progressive Christian theologians like Marcus Borg. They sponsor book discussions about Borg's writings. They sponsor seminars like "Living the Questions". But ultimately, I'm not sure what it all means.
For the second Sunday of Easter this year (March 30), the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary was the story of "doubting Thomas" from the Gospel of John. It is interesting to read and hear online sermons from liberal pastors when they discuss this passage. Typically, liberal pastors like to proclaim their openness to doubt as a legitimate feeling. They contrast themselves with hard line fundamentalism, which has no use for doubt and which relies so heavily on certainty. Doubt, we are told, is perfectly natural and reasonable, especially when one is faced with extraordinary claims. The thing is, though, that there is always "but" at the end of this--you can doubt, but in the end as a Christian you naturally must come down on the side of accepting that Jesus was literally resuscitated from the dead. Thomas doubted, after all, but ultimately he put his hands through those crucifixion scars and he believed.
The skeptical Christian, we are told, doubts but still sides with orthodoxy. It's okay to doubt, but don't doubt too much. Ultimately, you have to accept that Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. You have to accept that Thomas put his hands in Jesus's hands and side. You have to accept what later church councils said about Jesus's supposed divinity and place within the Godhead. Those are, we are told, "essential things."