For the last decade I have been contributing to a web forum devoted to Progressive Christianity. It has been a wonderful testing ground for ideas and struggles regarding my faith and theology. I separate the two because theology, “the study of the nature of God and religious belief”, and faith “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” (quoting Google’s dictionary) are two different things.
Although the study of the nature of God can influence my faith, what I learn from study is different than what I learn from a relationship with God. Perhaps science is to the world itself as theology is to God himself. You will learn something different by living in the world than by studying the world, just as you will be learning something different by living with God than by studying God.
This forum, over the years, has been focused mainly on theology with a smattering of faith stories. When I first joined, I was a Christian Humanist or perhaps an Historical Jesus Christian. Both of these classes of Christian believe in the social teachings of Christ, but not the spiritual qualities of Christ. My faith, however, began to unfold in new ways and my theology adjusted to fit what I was experiencing. I realized I was a Christian Mystic. Not something you choose. It’s just my natural way of relating to God (“Christian mysticism refers to the human being’s direct experience or consciousness of ultimate reality, understood as God within the context of Christian faith. “), and then just a Christian, integrating all aspects of my spiritual life.
I found myself increasingly at odds with this forum, with it’s heavy focus on intellectualism and anti-spirituality. My more spiritual and Bible-based, orthodoxy-leaning comments began to receive heavy scrutiny, and personality problems began to arise. So, I stopped contributing.
However, recently I’m finding myself needing a forum to work out more changes of perspective. I recently began reading and commenting on the site again. Here’s what I found upon returning.
The site is run by flat out atheists. Now, I have no problem with someone being an atheist. Not at all. Faith and beliefs are developed out of experience, reason, tradition, and study of the Bible (see Wesley’s Quadrilateral). An atheist sticks with experience and reason. My experience with atheists is that they tend to be either incredibly smart, science-centered, intellectual people (reason) or embittered people whose personal empirical evidence could not support the concept of a God (experience).
Although I did not accuse anyone of being a troll (“a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.” – Wikipedia), but I did point out that atheists who discount Christian faith on a Christian website could be interpreted as trolls.
Naturally, I was lambasted. And guess what, I’m the troll. I, a Christian, am a troll for stating a Christian perspective and challenging an atheist perspective on a CHRISTIAN website. Also naturally, I have become increasingly resentful that this site, which was so helpful to me, has become an atheist site.
Now it’s important to make a few distinctions here. There are people who identify as Christian Atheists. I know that seems like an oxy-moron, but consider that a person can choose to behave in the way that Jesus behaved as a way of life. Recall the parable of The Sheeps and the Goats. Jesus says that the people who kept the religious laws but did not serve the poor, needy, etc would be punished and the unrighteous who didn’t keep the laws but fed the hungry, etc were actually serving Christ and would be rewarded. I conclude from that that how you treat people is more important than what you believe. This is why I think that a Christian Atheist can be a meaningful self-identification.
But that’s not what this moderator is. He is not a Christian of any sort. He has been explicit about not being a Christian. Moreover, he appears to care far more about proving that he is right than caring for the people in this community and actually listening to what others are saying. He listens only to see what his next brilliant point will be.
I have three choices:
1.) Hang around and be a positive force
2.) Hang around and challenge the atheist leadership
3.) Walk away
I haven’t decided what to do. I am not a troll. I do not experience any pleasure from upsetting people. But the character of this site has become smug, complacent, and decidedly anti-spiritual. I think the world needs a site devote to Progressive Christianity, “Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth.”. Goodness knows there plenty of sites devoted to atheism.