Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Unexpected Progressive Victory

We've been discussing the preliminary report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage, and I encourage more of that, but something has occurred to me in the past couple of days. The way the committee is structured, and the words coming out of the committee, mark a significant progressive victory.

Let me explain.

Throughout the document and many of the things members are saying about the committee's functioning are phrases like "We as a committee have a strong communal commitment to everyone being welcomed at the table, not just in spite of, but because of our differences. We’re wondering how this might take root across the entire church."

Everyone being welcomed at the table, differences and all, is a distinctly progressive value. It is a value that can be driven to paradoxical or absurd extremes, like any value, but it is a progressive distinctive in my book if ever there was one. I think a conservative formulation might have been something like this: "We as a committee have a strong commitment to an orthodox interpretation of the Bible, and we prayerfully gathered together in order to determine how we should punish those who disagree."

Obviously that's a little tongue-in-cheek, but really, I think that the way this conversation is being formulated (that is, as a "conversation"), amounts to a progressive victory.

I wonder how this will play out among conservatives who are following what the Special Committee is doing? It seems that the progressive structure of the committee is working very effectively to foster community and mutual respect (of course!) and I wonder if this effect will spill out into the denomination at large?

I'm also curious, now, what an actual conservative formulation of this committee's structure would look like. Mine was meant to be sarcastic, but has a kernel of truth. I think that conservative thinking values punishment too much...but maybe that's just me.

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