What’s a Progressive Christian to Do? Plant a Garden [A Response]

Jonathan Orbell asks what progressive Christians are to do in light of the rise of Trump and his flying fascist monkey squads. The answers that spring immediately to mind are:

    1. Research Canadian immigration policies. (Apparently, we’ve already got this one covered.)
    2. Take up boozing.
    3. Not a goddamned thing.

Of the three options, the last one is probably the best. Poutine sucks and your liver deserves better.

Jonathan’s call for progressive Christians to look compassionately at the roots of Trumpism isn’t a bad idea, but extending the idea to thinking there is something that can be done about it from a faith perspective is weak. For one thing, progressive Christians are a sprawling and diverse lot, ranging from eco-justice warriors to feminists to feel-the-Bern socialists. I have yet to see a single definition that everyone in the movement subscribes to.

For another, we’re a diverse bunch within a diverse bunch. With the exception of my own United Church of Christ, the mainline Protestant denominations are politically middle-of-the-road or maybe just a little left of center. Progressives certainly don’t dominate those churches, again with the UCC being the exception to the rule. Even more broadly, American Christianity is a decentralized affair. There is no single formal or moral authority that all American Christians listen to.

In fact, Christianity in these United States has always been divided by competing realities. On the one hand, it’s been the voice of social justice, particularly in its advocacy for racial minorities, immigrants, and the poor. On the other, it’s always been the ideological framework for xenophobes and racists, the glue that’s held together the Herrenvolk democracy.

Before the Civil War every Protestant tradition that could, split into Northern and Southern camps, divisions that were only healed in the 1930s, and imperfectly, if at all. It’s really best to talk about multiple American Christianities, rather than a single, cohesive bloc. No matter how much outsiders would like progressive Christians to bring their conservative brothers and sisters in line with a liberal reading of the faith, it’s not going to happen.

Probably the best reason for progressive Christians to do nothing, though, is this: they don’t want to. It’s a stock figure in those circles that the only solutions to political problems are trans-partisan. As I’ve pointed out many times, religious lefties are hesitant at best to embrace the use of political power, which keeps them ethically pure but limits their practical effectiveness. That’s not all bad, of course. In facing Trump, it might actually be the right call. Vote your conscience and make sure you provide a visible alternative to Trump’s mean-spirited politics of hate, would be my advice. Oh, and plant a garden for the food pantry. God knows we’ll need it if The Donald makes it to the White House.

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