John 14:12 Jerusalem Bible
It seems very, very strange to me, to say the least, that Christianity in this contemporary world should be perceived by nearly everyone, even by the Christians themselves, as anti-progressive. I wonder if we can pinpoint in historical time approximately when the great divide happened, you know, the one where Christianity once was the motive force behind progressive attitudes and accomplishments, and then, somehow turned around to face the other way, throwing up obstacles and barriers to progress.
How can I ask such a silly question? Of course, the Church has always been against progress, has always been ‘anti-,’ that is, ‘anything but,’ progressive! Look how it bullied the renaissance scientists into hushing up some of their greatest discoveries. Look how it kept women in abject submission to men, even supporting violent means to keep them in subjection. Look how even today it discourages such progressive practices as contraception and euthanasia, demanding unreasonable self-control and unnatural masochism instead.
No, but it isn’t a silly question. It was Christianity, at least in the English-speaking world, which unleashed the rampant inventiveness of the industrial revolution, and then aggressively championed the rights, welfare and literacy of laborers in the workplace. It was Christianity which sought with all its might to end the trade in human flesh called slavery. It was Christianity that curbed the addictive, self-defeating intemperance that was destroying society, and taught people how to live sanitarily and sanely. It was Christianity that founded the American republic.
And Britain’s moral leadership. Victoria as a young woman, uncrowned but destined for the throne, before her marriage a frivolous and undisciplined school girl, could never have named an entire century. But she wed a prince, Albert, whose Christian piety in concert with its fruits—ingenuity, sobriety, philanthropy—transformed his Queen and her people into a woman brave and a nation dauntless, to carry the torch he had lit for her, for England, and for the world—the Victorian age.
My mind is overwhelmed as the hoarded memories of thousands of Christian progressives bombard me, and my sensibilities are pushed beyond their limits as I ponder the irony of history: That they who transformed the world for good, beginning with those who ‘knew Christ in the flesh’ and not excluding those who ‘believed without seeing Him’ up to the present time should be so travestied by opinion as to appear grotesque caricatures of who they really were, their accomplishments twisted out of recognition.
For as we have been squeezed out of social action by those forces that now name themselves ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive,’ the very fabric of society that our faithful forbears established has been visibly retracted, forcibly curtailed, its structures weakened, its glory faded. We have schools in abundance that do not teach, hospitals that do not heal, governments that do not serve, yes, even ‘churches’ that do not save. We eat and drink, but are never filled. We lie through our teeth, so never come at truth.
Yet Christianity—the visible evidence of a faith unseen—is liberal. It is progressive. Why? Because of all the sons of men, no one has ever been found who can free like this Man, whose words are so powerful they can sever the strongest chains. Of all who have ever lived, He is endowed with not only the will but also the power to transform, and to perfect, everyone who comes to Him, everyone who believes, all who follow Him. He makes them, like Himself, ‘sons and daughters of God,’ and gives them ‘all power and authority’ that goes with it.
So, who says Christianity is not progressive? The world? The Christians themselves? Who?
Perhaps they labor under the illusion that Christianity is that ‘thing’ they have captured, tamed and imprisoned in their ‘liberal’ minds, making of it a trinket to be played with, a pet to be patronized, something they can idiotically ice their cakes with. It doesn’t help, or do us any favors, when we let ourselves be handcuffed and jailed on suspicion of being what we are, or perhaps should be—people who ‘turn the world upside-down’ any chance we get. Brothers, it’s time to take it all back.
Take what all back? Why, take back your names, for starters. Let them know who are the progressives, who the liberals, but don’t stop there, except to hear someone shout, ‘Wait, there is more!’ Do the works that define what the names mean. Be progressive. Be liberal. Do those ‘greater works’ for man and for God that Christ tells us we are to do. Lead the world, don’t follow. Imitate Christ. Imitate the holy apostles. Imitate the fathers. Show the world those ‘greater works’ that it cannot conceive or accomplish in and for itself.
Not only the people, but something greater, nature itself is ‘waiting for the sons of God to appear.’ This may sound like religious jargon, but believe me, it’s not. Not everything in the Bible is written to turn us into compliant, complaisant, cooperative cogs, no matter who or what claims to be running the machine. In fact, nothing in the Bible is written to robotize us—quite the contrary!
It is all about freedom, and it’s time to reign.