Progressive Christians’ Hostility to Conservatives: From Open Mockery to Wanting Churches to ‘Execute … Thousands of Christian Youth Pastors’
It came up when I started watching Randal Rauser’s Twitter feed. He’s an apologist for progressive Christianity, and he says one of the great differences between progressives and evangelicals is that evangelicals focus more on right beliefs, progressives focus more on right actions.
That’s pretty interesting in light of research published by sociologists George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk showing that progressive Christians are more likely to think conservative Christians need converting even more than atheists or Muslims. The same research says they tend to surround themselves with people who think like themselves (more than evangelicals do). And they have an “overwhelmingly negative” view of conservative Christians.
It’s one thing to have a negative view, another thing to act it out. Unfortunately there’s considerable acting out going on. Not every progressive Christian is like this, but I have seen it in Rauser, and it wasn’t wasn’t hard to find much worse besides. I just searched for “progressive Christian” and “exvangelical” on Twitter, and it took just moments to uncover mockery, blatantly false misrepresentations, even a call for murder. Here are just a few of many examples.
Important: Please do not take this as, “This is what progressive Christians are like.” I did not go to Twitter looking for a representative sample. (Yancey and Quosigk do that work, if you want to see it.) This is what some of them can be like, and what you might experience from some of them.
The purpose isn’t to point fingers, but to think through how we can best respond, if and when someone tries any of this on us. I’ll have several quick ideas on that to close out this article.
Fundamentalism cannot tell the difference between "a donkey spoke" and "Jesus resurrected from the grave." pic.twitter.com/01xhSV6WDc
— The Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) April 14, 2023
Mason Mennenga describes himself as a liberation theologian and a process theologian. That’s not identical with progressive Christianity, but it’s in the same neighborhood.
maybe conservative christians will start boycotting jesus too when they find out he was a man without a Y chromosome
— Mason Mennenga (@masonmennenga) April 19, 2023
"So you're for gun control, public healthcare, supporting refugees, school lunch programs, and against the death penalty?"
"Uh, I meant unborn life."
— The Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) April 16, 2023
Chrissy Stroop is an senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches, identifies herself as “exvangelical before it was cool.” When exvangelicals remain connected with Christian religions, you can count on it being some form of progressive Christianity.
“Calls for ‘intellectual diversity’ represent a coded reactionary effort to reclaim power by the beneficiaries of white patriarchal domination, who may feel oppressed by authentic diversification even though they are not.”
Yeah I said it https://t.co/ZE74qTk0C2
— Chrissy Stroop (@C_Stroop) April 19, 2023
Em *chaotic daydreamer*, whose “about” says she’s an “ex-church staffer”
Conservative Christians will literally take every good thing about being a human and call it evil just so they can claim they have the ability to save you from it.
— Em *chaotic daydreamer* (@life_she_wrote) April 16, 2023
A Call to “Execute … Pastors”
(I’m saving a screenshot of this one, just in case.)
This will only be used to unjustly exterminate LGBTQ+ people, because Conservatives don't have the stomach or the budget to execute hundreds of not thousands of Christian youth pastors they were hoping their teenage daughters would marry. https://t.co/qSt0OGLSt5
— Daniel – Hill Country Exvangelical (@HC_Exvangelical) April 14, 2023
Are You Angry Now?
Does it make you angry? Sure. Why not? This nonsense ranges from rude to shocking to borderline criminal, and it’s aimed at you, your church, and especially your Savior. I’d say there’s room for anger. But, “in your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). This is no time to be rude, hateful, or scornful back at them.
There’s nothing new or surprising here, anyway. Every NT writer, not to mention Jesus Himself, warned against false teachers doing damage in the Church. It’s wrong, but it’s not as if God doesn’t have it under control. If your faith is strong, you’re not at risk, and there’s no need to panic. They can’t harm you, so you might as well smile and stand your ground in confidence.
These aren’t real challenges, they’re mindless jabs meant make you feel bad. Give them the respect they deserve: Laugh at them.
Be ready to protect the vulnerable, though: those who have not yet come to faith, or whose faith is not well established. There’s a reason Jesus calls false teachers “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” They may not be able to hurt the strong, but they’ll still prey on the weak.
I don’t expect they’ll like that I said that, but what false teacher ever has? Maybe they’ll return the favor and say the same about me. I wouldn’t like it much, myself. But the test isn’t whether a teacher objects to being described that way. The test is in what they teach. If they’re false teachers then they’re false teachers.
Those are some basic attitudes to carry with you when you run into this kind of hostility. Besides that, I have seven very quick pieces of advice:
What Not To Do
First: Don’t worry that any of this might be right. Of course there are hard questions, serious questions that Christians need to take seriously. Not these, though.
- True or false: “Prolife”doesn’t mean pro-everything possibly related to life, any more than “pro-choice” means pro-every possible choice. (School choice? Gun choice?)
- True or false: Conservatives — even Fundamentalists — can tell the difference between “a donkey spoke” and “Jesus resurrected from the grave.”
- True or false: The reason Christians let youth pastors live because we lack the stomach or the budget to execute them.
- True or false: We should worry whether Holy Spirit forgot to include a Y chromosome in Jesus’ body.
That was way too easy, right? The questions come straight from the tweets above. They aren’t real challenges, though, they’re mindless jabs meant make you feel bad. Give them the respect they deserve: Laugh at them.
Second: Progressives are utterly convinced they have superior ethics, too, but that’s based on nothing except the mood of the age. Don’t let them fool you with it. God gives us His instructions in all wisdom, in all love, and with all authority. His Word has outlasted every moral fad. Stay with it.
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Third: Progressives tend to posture as more caring, more loving, more compassionate, but before you believe them, ask yourself what kind of moral high ground they’re standing on with schoolyard-level mockery, lies, distortions, bitter, false attacks, and calls to violence.
Fourth: Believe the best until proven otherwise. Some are more prone to schoolyard-level mockery, some more given to bitter distortions. Some are much more fair overall. I didn’t include them here, because that wasn’t the point of this article. The research shows an “overwhelmingly negative” tendency, but every person remains an individual. I’m well aware that not all progressives are like these, and I hope you’re aware of it, too.
Fifth: Avoid doing things to support progressives’ prejudice that conservative Christians are uncaring, thoughtless, stupid, sometimes even criminally bad. I think generally they’re wrong on that, but they’re not always wrong. Don’t be one of those who makes them right. Don’t be unthinking. Don’t be unkind. For the sake of Christ your Savior, don’t be unloving.
What To Do
Sixth: If they anger you, even enough to call them your enemies, that’s all the more reason to love them (Matthew 5:43-48). Pray for them. If you correct them, for example, don’t try doing it the way they try correcting us. Do it with a sense of care for them as persons. I’ve tried to model that here with my latest response to Rauser. It’s not easy. Maybe he’ll think I did it well, maybe he’ll say it botched it completely. There are times we have a responsibility to do it anyway. We can only do our best. We cannot make them agree it’s best. Such is life.
Seventh: Protect your church and your family. Jesus was emphatically against false teachers claiming to speak for God. Every New Testament writer echoed that. Nothing else gets so much condemnation as that. Be prepared to say no when it needs saying. Start first, though, with what you can say yes to. Know your faith, know your ethics, know your reasons, and above all know your God.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.