What on earth, you may be asking, is an “evangelical, progressive, Christian”? And what does being white, being evangelical, being progressive, or being Christian have to do with marching in response to a presidential election?
Certainly the news has made it clear that most white evangelical conservative Christians chose to put this new administration into office. What moves a white, evangelical, progressive Christian to march against the same administration?
As a white person I marched because I’m obligated to use my privilege to support black and brown people’s rights. I am unlikely to get pulled over as I drive, I am unlikely to get arrested, I am unlikely to have my arguments seen as uncontrolled anger. Privilege is a gift I can use to speak out. I marched to use my privilege for the benefit of our nation.
As an evangelical, I marched because I’ve got good news, and it is important to share it. I know God is on the side of the poor, I know God is working toward justice, I know God loves all of creation. (As an aside “evangelism” means sharing good news—it isn’t about conversion of anyone.) I marched to proclaim good news.
As a progressive Christian, I marched because Jesus calls me to follow him. Progressives, in general, put more emphasis on following Jesus than on worshiping him. Christians believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human; progressives work to be like the human Jesus, and worship the divine Jesus with our work. Like Jesus we heal the sick, like Jesus we provide food to the hungry, like Jesus we welcome the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee. I marched to follow Jesus, and to worship God.
Of course conservative evangelicals also want to stand with those who are left behind in society, want to proclaim good news, and want to follow Jesus. What is going on when we have such divergent views of the world?
One difference is whether Christianity calls us to individual or corporate action. All Christians know Jesus’s story of sheep and goats, and that the sheep were called into God’s embrace because they choose to provide food, drink, clothes, welcome to the stranger, healing to the sick, and visits to those in prison. (Google “Matthew 25:31-46” to read the story.)
To make a huge generalization, more conservative Christians interpret this story as about what individual Christians should do. More progressive Christians use it as guidance for what we as a people should do. For some Christians this as an individual mandate, for others this is a community mandate. To further divide us, if it’s a community mandate, is Jesus challenging the church, or challenging the nation?
Evangelical progressive Christians read this text as a call to our nation to care for those who do not have the material resources they need.
In a democracy the government represents me, and carries out what I ask it to carry out. I cannot plead innocence at the judgment; this is my government. As such, I must ask, no, I must demand, that my nation provide food and drink and clothing to those who need it. I must ask, no, I must demand, that my nation welcome strangers, heal the sick, and visit those in prison.
If we, as a nation, want to be among the sheep, SNAP benefits must not be cut, indeed they should be increased. If we, as a nation, want to be among the sheep, we must welcome immigrants, Muslims, anyone we do not yet know. If we, as a nation, want to be among the sheep, we must provide healthcare to all. If we, as a nation, want to be among the sheep, we must know, and care for, and love those in our prisons.
To be clear, I celebrate Christians who feed and clothe people in need, who welcome strangers individually, who provide healthcare and prison care as individuals. If Christians come up with a plan to care for all those in need, I wouldn’t need our government to represent us by doing it. Right now we, as Christians, and as a nation, are not adequately meeting those needs.
And so I am marching, and making phone calls, and standing up; I am working to make this government my government. I am a white, evangelical, progressive Christian working to make God’s justice real in the world. I welcome you, whoever you are, whatever you believe, to walk along with me as I follow Jesus.