Several weeks ago, I wrote about some problems with the religious right and a friend of mine asked me to be fair and write about the problems with the left. I kind of feel a little inadequate about that, since I have not lived that kind of life. I’ve spent my 45 years of life in churches that lean right. I have only read their views in books and discussed ideas with friends who have lived their lives understanding life from the lefts views. I have also spent the last few months attending a more progressive church. You would never notice a difference in the worship service unless you spent several weeks or months attending services. However that is only one church. Maybe others are different. I will say that I have personally moved from the right more towards a middle ground. I don’t feel that I am on the far right or left. Some people I know might disagree with that though.
Let me explain that I believe that all religious extremist (either left or right) are problematic. The farther to the right a person gets the more demanding that they are correct in all their views and no one other than those who believe like they do will get to heaven. The farther left a person goes the more it seems that rules don’t matter. Doesn’t matter how you live, eventually you will get to heaven if there is indeed a heaven.
The left does not read the Bible literally as I did growing up. Many read it from the historical critical point of view. That is that they try to find out who the author is, who they are writing to, and what time period they are writing in. Then they can figure out what the author meant in that time period and see if it has any meaning for today. This is similar to what you might do with Shakespeare or Homer. It is not an inerrant work created by God.
There were not seven days of creation. Science has proven that to be false. I remember discussing this possibility with a fundamentalist ten or so years ago and they were sure I was simply playing devil’s advocate. Nope, both creation stories are there to show us something about God; after all in the story vegetation is created before the sun. They lean less and less towards miracles. They look for natural or scientific ways to say this is how God did it, or they believe that the writers embellished the stories to get their point across. Jesus never walked on water. It’s simply a story about Peter’s faith and willingness to follow Jesus anywhere. Maybe Thomas Jefferson was on that left. After all, his Bible eliminated every miracle.
Hopefully I am getting this right. You lefties let me know.
Along with miracles come questions about Jesus. After all, wasn’t his life and death filled with miracles? There was no virgin birth. That was an interpretation by the writer of Matthew of the Isaiah verse. There was nothing really special about the birth of Jesus. He was probably not well known. Many historians of the era write about Messiahs but not one has been found to mention Jesus clearly. The left would look at the stories and ask “If Jesus had done so many miracles wouldn’t people know about him?” “Write about him?”
If there are no miracles during his life, then what about his death and resurrection? The farther left you go the less there is belief in a resurrection. The Spirit of Christ was revealed and sent out. Paul does talk about Christ living within us (Rom. 8:9-11) and that is the kingdom of heaven. There may not even be an afterlife. At least, they say, not for your body. The soul or spirit that inhabits your flesh will go, but not the flesh that is you. My biggest questions for this are why should I do any good? Why shouldn’t I just eat drink and be merry for tomorrow I die? Did Jesus just die, or die for our sins?
Other beliefs hold that there is no eternal hell. This has actually been taught since the early church fathers. Origen was one of the loudest. He even believed Satan would be reconciled. Truthfully, I like that idea. I like the idea that at some point all souls will be reconciled to God through his great mercy. But how are those verses about hell then interpreted? And to say they are not crazy they will say, C.S. Lewis even believed in this chance. Read “The Great Divorce” or Narnia where other people besides Narnians go to their heaven.
If all go to heaven, what word is it that we are supposed to spread? That everyone is saved? And if that is it, what is the purpose of the church? What of the Bible? Is it the word of God? Certainly from the left it is not without error or contradiction, so what is it? How is it used?
These are questions I can’t quite answer yet. I am still struggling to understand it all. I need more reading and discussing these issues. Maybe I’ll get it in another 45 years.
I’d like to continue this conversation Sunday. Please come back.
Ok found this link a few weeks after posting this blog. It may help conservatives understand progressives a little more.