Unfundamentalist Christians

by John Shore on December 16, 2010 in · 186 comments

Unfundamentalist BugA while back I became frustrated because I couldn’t find a Christianity that I could really get on board with. To my mind, the Christianity on the left was too tenuous, while the one on the right was too … rabid. I didn’t want a Christ who was essentially an inspired social worker who got jumped by the authorities, and I sure didn’t want the one who had been twisted into serving the craven needs of bigoted, power-crazed, fear-mongering misogynist homophobes.

I was stuck! A Christian without a Christianity!

So I hunkered down for a month and wrote the document below. It expresses the Christianity that I have believed to be true since the moment of my conversion experience.

In February of 2012, I and a small group of people who had read and liked my mini-manifesto quietly started a Facebook page called Unfundamentalist Christians. We put my document under the page’s What We Believe tab, and then just … sat back to see what happened. I personally did almost nothing to promote that page, because I did not want to influence its growth. I didn’t care if it grew; I just wanted the theology available for people like me who might want it. But if it did grow, I wanted to make sure it did so organically.

As of this writing (May 16, 2013) the page has 12,500 members. The admin team of that page has done a phenomenal job with it. I’m as proud of what those guys do over there as I am of anything I’ve ever been part of.

I always had in the back of my mind that if the UC page ever grew to more than 10,000 members, I’d … do something with it, basically—if for no other reason than at that point I knew I’d be essentially morally obliged to. I never had any idea what I’d do, exactly. But I figured that, come the time, I’d know.

And sure enough, last week I thought, “Hey, it’s time for UC to become a group blog!” So I contacted a guy I e-know who works at Patheos.com, and asked him if Patheos would like to host that blog. He said they very much would.

Sweetness! So on June 24, Unfundamentalist Christians will be launching its new group blog on Patheos [update: here it is!], where we will run the best content that we can find about the best Christianity that we can imagine. I will have tons of fun with this endeavor, because it will essentially be an online magazine, with me as its editor. And back when the Internet was just a twitch in Al Gore’s eye, I spent ten years as a magazine editor, which I loved. So for me this work will be like coming home.

If you haven’t yet—or if it’s been a while—I invite you to read the Unfundamentalist Christian tenets below. Following the first version of the tenets are the same fiftteen points written in a style much more informal. If you like what you read (which of course isn’t the same as agreeing with its every point), we’d very much appreciate you “Liking” UC’s Facebook page.

Cool. Love it. Fun. Important. Onward. Upward. Also sometimes sideways, but whaddaya gonna do?

Here are our tenets:

Generally speaking (because do any two people anywhere believe the exact same things?) we here at UC hold that:

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. Following the word of God means taking into account the entirety of God’s words. The Bible itself tells us that it consists of songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments. It instructs Christians that New Testament moral directives supersede Old Testament moral directives. It asserts that moral principles supersede moral “rules.” The relevant context of any Bible passage is as integral to its meaning as the passage itself. It may be appropriate to give equal weight to each clause within a business contract or a game rulebook. But the Bible itself tells us that the Bible is not a uniform document, with each passage spelling out something clear and specific, and all passages having equal value. The Bible is not a rulebook for being Christian. Isolating a Bible passage from its context, and then claiming a sort of moral helplessness because “it’s in the Bible,” is failing to take the Bible either literally or seriously.
  3. Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
  4. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself.
  5. God does not want any woman “submitting” to any person.
  6. Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male or female. God is both. God is all.
  7. The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
  8. There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.
  9. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us. [Tweet this.]
  10. Anyone desiring to mix Church and State has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either.
  11. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  12. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
  14. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.©

© John Shore

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