I don’t consider myself a conservative or progressive Christian. I’m not sure what each label fully entails, but I do know I hold views that satisfy — and irritate — both groups. With that in mind, you can understand why it took me the entirety of my twenties to find the right denomination and church.
I have progressive (or “liberal”) and conservative views that fall into spiritual and political realms. But if there’s one belief I have that never fails to rile up both sides, it’s this: while I’m not generally someone who calls people out for not being “true” Christians, I do think the only “non-negotiable” items for being a Christian are the ones deemed worthy enough by the early church fathers to make into an orthodox creed.
Why? Because the points made in the Nicene creed, I believe, accurately sum up the “point” of Christianity as a whole- the life and death of Jesus, and what sets him apart from the claims and practices of other faiths.
This means that every issue NOT included in the creeds — homosexuality, abortion, evolution vs. creation, Democrats vs. Republicans, alcohol, gender roles — are, in my opinion, issues that Christians are free to agree to disagree about, without having their faith invalidated or called into question for legitimacy. If the earliest church fathers didn’t consider those aforementioned issues as “litmus tests” for faith, why should we?
Progressives and conservatives alike disagree with this because it involves breaking off from a party line; not fitting neatly within a certain box.
I have both progressive and conservative followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and many more who, like me, don’t really identify as either. The fact that I can attract the interest of both sides makes me think I’m doing something right — but there is a downside to this.
I end up never being “enough” of what both groups expect, or want me to be. I am still going to be too liberal or conservative for some people’s liking. I’ll voice support for the “wrong” cause, support the “wrong” candidate, and lose a couple followers. I talk too much Judaism and not enough Jesus. Or vice versa.
I can’t say I’m never disappointed when this happens, but I think I’d be worried if everyone constantly agreed with everything I said. The moment my writing ceases to challenge people’s ways of thinking, I might as well no longer bother. I hold this standard for other Christian writers I follow, as well — I don’t want to agree with everything they believe, or else they wouldn’t have anything to teach me.
Either way, every time I notice I’ve lost followers, I wonder if I should fine-tune my approach. I wonder if I was wrong in my theology or hermeneutic. Maybe I should be more like Christian Writer X and less like Christian Writer Y.
How much do I want to cater to other people’s perceptions of who I should be? Most importantly, how can I ignore what I believe God is prompting me to say?
Another good litmus test: who am I offending, and why?
Everyone has their “dealbreaker” issues — their “reasons to unfollow” issues. I’m sure I lose followers because I shared posts that resonated with Methodists who were heartbroken by their denomination’s decision to uphold the “Traditional Plan” last week. I’ve questioned whether I still want to follow people whose stories have had a positive influence on me, but I know they are pro-Trump and not LGBT friendly. I guess I just have to ask myself whether the content I consider positive outweighs what I believe to be negative.
Few things grate my nerves like hearing Christians accuse each other of being untrue Scotsmen over issues that are outside of the Creed, outside of the Gospel. I don’t fear disagreement or gentle correction, but I do fear condemnation.
That said, I do think that Christians should be able to back up their positions using biblical, contextual, and historical support. I don’t believe in twisting Scripture to support biases or personal agendas. But even when careful research is carried out, there will be nuances. And as my friend Katie loves to say, “There’s grace for that.”
What’s a theological conviction you hold with great vigor that would seem most “off brand” or surprising to people who know you?