Christianity as Religious Partner

"The other major paradigm shift in Christian self-understanding being accomplished by progressive Christianity has to do with the major shift in understanding about Christianity's relationship to other religions. It is related to the above shift in seeing Christianity as embodied religious understanding rather than abstract truth.

"The vigor of progressive Christianity seems mostly to do with the integrated and lived experience of the people themselves. They are thriving on the spiritual and worship expressiveness, the intellectual rigor, and the new blend of people. These new progressive Christians do not seem inhibited either by the fact that there are more numerous other kinds of Christianity or that there are other faiths entirely. Whereas, traditional Christianity has needed to enforce one way for all its adherents and to dismiss the claims of other religions, progressive Christians do neither.

"In other words, this emerging movement seems satisfied with its own religious understanding and expression alongside others. It is content to experience its own faith as its way to be in the world without rejecting other ways.

"This is a crucial breakthrough for Christians. It allows Christians to join the rest of humanity. It allows Christianity to be one good thing among others. It opens a space in which Christianity can be the right thing for someone, without being the right thing for everyone. It allows Christians themselves to reduce the implicit arrogance of their faith. It brings a new kind of humility to Christian self-understanding. This is not the traditional Christian humility that overcame its assurance that it was superior in order to slum it with those less fortunate. Rather, this allows Christians to be confident of themselves without putting down others.

"Above all, it makes space for a wide range of partnerships in the new global consciousness. It invites Christians to see themselves alongside other religions in ways that invite cooperation. Christianity's sense of superiority has always inhibited genuine cooperation with other religions. Now, if Christians are willing — as the new progressives are already doing — to be in truly mutual relationships, the road is cleared tor common actions with Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews for good, just, and creative causes. As is already occurring in so many progressive Christian worship settings, similarly it opens the possibility of Christians incorporating parts of other religions.

"It is important to note here that such appropriation of other religions is only conscionable when Christians are absolutely clear that they are not the better religion. To do this Christians must abandon any sense of other religions' hopes becoming fulfilled in Christian truth. This mistake has especially haunted Christians' relationships with Jews. That Christians believed that Jewish hope was fulfilled in Christian gospel was a clear put-down of the self-sufficiency of Judaism. Similarly, when a twentieth-century theologian such as Karl Rahner suggests that the validity of other religions can be understood by seeing the adherents to other religions as 'anonymous Christians,' the same mistake is made. To assume that somehow it is better to be known as an anonymous Christian than a straightforward Buddhist still participates in Christian arrogance.

"Progressive Christian worship and spiritual use of Buddhist, Hindu, and Sufi material has not been interested in subsuming the other religions. Rather, there has been a genuine spiritual search for material that articulates something that Christianity has not. This new progressive usage has by and large been an honoring of the other religions, and a new partnership in religious consciousness itself has emerged."