There’s a long tradition in organized religion where one version of a faith turns on another. Sunni vs. Shiite, Orthodox vs. Reform Judaism, even Quaker vs. Quaker. So it’s no surprise that fundamentalist Christians would turn their wrath over losing out on the marriage equality battle on those Christians who support it.
The first hints of a growing front against liberal Christians came in May, when a coalition of conservative churches in Fountain Hills, Arizona publicly ganged up on a local progressive Methodist community. Unhappy with the church’s teachings, eight congregations launched a campaign entitled “Progressive Christianity: Fact or Fiction?,” a coordinated teaching and preaching series that included op-eds, a half-page advertisement in a local newspaper, and a massive banner with “progressive” written in jagged red letters and hemmed in quotation marks.
“The progressives are at it again, and for a small fee you can join the primary proponent of this apostate religious movement to get answers,” Tony Pierce, a pastor of First Baptist Church of Fountain Hills and one of the participants in the effort, wrote in a letter to the editor. “The good thing about the progressive movement is it gives people a clear choice. The ironic thing about progressive Christianity is that it is neither!”
The source of their outrage? Rev. David Felten, the left-leaning pastor of Fountains United Methodist Church. He reportedly stoked ire by preaching a variety of progressive concepts to his parishioners, such as theological support for interfaith dialogue, scientific discovery, and, of course, LGBT equality.
Felten, like many progressive Christians, was used to criticism for his views — he has even published a book about progressive Christianity. But the intensity of the local attack — which included churches from denominations that are generally more liberal than his own United Methodist Church — caught him off guard.
“When you have an effort collaborated by multiple churches in one community to try to discredit one other way of thinking, that’s when it becomes alarming,” Felten told the local Fox affiliate.
It would all be very entertaining on the level of Star Trek vs. Star Wars or Camaro vs. Mustang, but history is full of examples of carnage, genocide, and war in the name of the what they see as the One True Faith, so let us pray that they remember the words of one long-gone peacenik who said “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
HT to ntodd.