Dialectics and Civility

Seeking An Inclusive Progressive Christian Community

I have been following The Christian Left for a few years, occasionally reading their blog, but mostly on following them Facebook. When I found them, I was grateful to see some representation of the progressive Christian movement. Over the years, I have found their posts to be informative and enlightening.

I was disappointed in early August to see included in their Facebook feed a post depicting a terrible redneck stereotype that was intended to make fun of people who are opposed to LGBT civil rights. The post was mean-spirited and antithetical to progressive Christianity. There were many people, including me, who posted comments saying as much. While the comments were critical and expressed disappointment, no one said anything that was inflammatory or hurtful to anyone. We were basically saying, “hey, this isn’t cool.”

I understand that people are angry at the willful ignorance and bigotry of those committed to activism against LGBT civil rights. I am angry, too, but I am not looking for justification for bullying others just as we are being bullied. Anger is justifiable. Expressing that anger by seeking to demean others is not justifiable. The post struck me as a juvenile taunt, not the intelligent response to hate and intolerance that I have come to know in the progressive spiritual communities where I have worshiped.

The response to my comment is not what I might have expected. Those who were challenging the offensive post were met with defiance and stubbornness: “We’re not taking it down. It’s a joke and it’s mild compared to most of the hate we see directed from the right. Concern trolls will be banned. That’s right, banned.”

And the reaction didn’t stop there. The moderator deleted all critical comments, and then, as promised, blocked us from commenting further. Additionally, the moderator followed up by posting another juvenile and mean-spirited taunt aimed at those of us they were now deeming “concern trolls,” including the comment: “Oh, and once in awhile we’re a little sophomoric and juvenile around here at TCL. We like it that way. It breaks up the monotony. Apparently some folks don’t like it. That’s fine. Bye now. See ya later.”

I appreciate a moderator’s right to curate the comments on a blog or a Facebook page in order to maintain civil discourse. However, the post was being challenged in a critical and constructive way, not in any way being abusive or inflammatory, as trolls are wont to do. A healthy disagreement and community dialog presents an opportunity for growth. The Christian Left shut this opportunity down in a painful way, effectively excluding people who it purports to include. It is regrettable that this was done by an organization that claims to welcome those who have previously been rejected by the Church.

All of this happened within about ten minutes. At first, I was shocked, and a little hurt and angry. And then I realized that I needed to just laugh it off and step away. I struggle enough to find my place in the world as a progressive Christian. I don’t need to subject myself to this kind of negativity. I sent a follow-up email to the group expressing my disappointment (to which I do not expect to receive a response), unliked the Facebook page, and left it at that.

Happily, there are numerous organizations and resources for progressive Christianity, and there are many communities who live out the declaration on The Christian Left’s web page: “We welcome ALL to their place at God’s table, just as they are. All means ALL. No exceptions.”

Below are some that I have compiled:

Please feel free to suggest other resources that I may have missed!

3 thoughts on “Dialectics and Civility

  1. Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful post. … and thank you for the list! It sounds like the whole group have been taken hostage to someone’s personal fiefdom issues. Ah, well. To every season, eh?

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  2. It’s probably best to laugh it off, but it feels like a bummer to me. There aren’t enough progressive Christian voices out there that we should dilute and distract from our vision with shenanigans like this.

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  3. Thanks for commenting. 🙂 Aaron, I agree, it is a bummer, but one can’t rationalize with irrational people. I usually don’t find myself saying that about folks who supposedly stand with me on the same side of a divisive issue like this. Also, I truly don’t know who these people are. There’s not much transparency on the website about who they are and what they do. From all appearances, it is a blogger maintaining a social network. It’s not worth the energy to engage.

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