Coming Late to the Party

Warning: There is more self-pity in this post than I feel comfortable with, but I hope you can see beyond that, if there is any truth to be found here.

I grew up in a conservative environment, both religious and political. When, late in my career as a preacher/teacher, I determined that many of my basic presuppositions about life and faith were flawed and inadequate in some fundamental ways, I made some changes in my thinking. In terms of the theological and sociopolitical spectra, I moved toward the left.

I once wore the conservative label with pride, since I thought it was both accurate and informative. I don’t find labels all that helpful anymore, but maybe that’s because I don’t know what label to wear. Am I a liberal? Does anybody still use that term? Am I a progressive? If so, what am I progressing toward? I’m still consistently pro-life, so politically I’m not progressive enough. And I still believe that Jesus rose from the dead, so theologically I may not be progressive enough.

Practically speaking, so far as finding a home among people who believe the things I’ve come to appreciate in the past ten years, I have once again failed epically. I may be comfortable with the new ideas and concepts I’ve embraced, but I’m not part of a new community. In fact, I’m not sure how one becomes a part of this more progressive community.

It would seem that, for one thing, you need to start out a lot younger than I am. Despite their affinity with and apparent affection for Bernie Sanders, younger people who make up most of the emerging progressives don’t extend that warm acceptance toward all of us graybeards. At least, I’ve not felt it.

In fact, as I’ve moved further left and as I’ve tried to explain the nature and rationale for this movement in my blog and elsewhere, the loudest and most consistent criticism has come, not from conservatives upset with me for leaving, but from progressives taking issue with my improper or inconsistent use of terms and phrases I am just now becoming familiar with. In short, I’m finding that it is not enough to embrace progressive ideas or ideals. Apparently you have to be progressive in the right way in order to become part of a network that somehow provides credibility and opens doors.

So, where does that leave me? Well, I can’t go back to an ideology I believe is genuinely flawed, even if I did leave behind a community that once received me gladly. I guess I can take comfort in the knowledge that my beliefs are now based on presuppositions I find more consistent and satisfying. But I came late to this party, and it seems that almost nobody knows I’m here. Or even wants to.

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