I’ve been a member of Crossleft, a Progressive Christian website, for over a year now. In that span of time I’ve learned a lot about an alternative more progressive view of Christianity from reading the posts of the regular bloggers. During this past year, Crossleft has had insightful and sometimes heated discussions on the election season, the religious right, cultural issues, poverty issues, and the responsibility of christians to take on the social issues of this country. Every morning after preparing some oatmeal and feeding the cats, I turn on the computer and one of the first sites I start reading is Crossleft. My wife thinks I’m addicted.
Stephen Rockwell and Ketty Esquivel founded Crossleft a few years ago to offer an alternative for Progressive Christians for progressive thought and avenues for activism for progressive Christian causes. In the course of the year, Steve has posted various newspoints on ways to participate in various social causes, among them the collaboration of Catholic Democrats and pastors in Ohio (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6555), petitions to stop Congress from giving Bush a blank check on the financial crisis (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6516), pushing for bills like the Responsible Education About Life Act (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6429) and Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Debt Cancellation (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6381), and for ways to join grassroots movements like the Health Care for America NOW (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6371). Kety has spoken at CNN about important latin issues (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6409) and has informed Crossleft readers of forums like the recent feminist forum in http://www.crossleft.org/node/6627 and grassroots organizations like National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) in http://www.crossleft.org/node/6467 and she has kept us informed of issues important to the Hispanic community. Both have emphasized the various opportunities that are open for Progressive Christians to partipate to help stop the American government to stop torture, to help illegal immigrants from being exploited and find fair solutions to the immigration problem, to protest the wars in Iraq. One of the things that has given the Religious Right influence in these past 30 years has been the fervent activism and organization of its followers, and Steve and Kety realize that for Progressive Christians to offer an alternative Christian voice, they need to be involved in soical activism as well.
One thing that one notices about Crossleft is the diversity of opinions of the various bloggers and visitors. I’m learning that “Progressive Christianity” is not just a monolithic way of thinking. It’s made up of political and theological progressives, political progressives and theological conservatives, mainstream liberal Democrats, more radical Green Party Progressives, Libertarians and perhaps even Anarchists. For the most part people seem to agree on the dangers of too much power concentrated in corporations and the ill effects of an unregulated free market economy, but differences do occur. We’ve had debates on whether capitalism is worth reforming (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6384 and http://www.crossleft.org/node/6372, ), on whether Hugo Chavez is good or bad (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6421, http://www.crossleft.org/node/5565, and http://www.crossleft.org/node/5559) and even the relevance of Ralph Nader (http://www.crossleft.org/node/5806). Over the course of the year, we’ve also has debates over cultural issues like homosexuality and abortion, and in political issues like finding a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian/Israeli issue. I think that the free flow of ideas and the debates are a healthy aspect of Crossleft. One of the things that I found dangerous about the Religious Right is the stifling of debate within its ranks and the forcing of conformity of thought. Jim Ramelis wrote a good post on the dangers of doctrinal purity (http://www.crossleft.org/node/5510) and the diversity of opinions in Crossleft is one of its strongest features.
The Catholic Left has been ably represented by the posts of Frank Cocozzelli. I’ve learned a lot about Catholic Social Thinking and its effect on American liberalism from reading his posts, especially Frank’s informative posts on liberal economist Monsignor John A. Ryan and his ideas of distributive justice (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6616). He has written a series of post warning of the excesses of the Catholic Right in http://www.crossleft.org/?q=blog/314, especially of their attempts to control the Catholic vote and to stifle a strand of progressive Catholic tradition. Boyd Collins wrote a series of posts of Catholic economics based on the ideas of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6411 and http://www.crossleft.org/node/6397). The history of modern progressive Catholicism has its roots in the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII called Rerum Novarum and it has inspired many Catholics to take up the cause of the poor, to fight for economic justice.
Other Christians have offered their views on social justice based on their own traditions and outlooks. Rich Warden wrote about an economics of reciprocity in these posts http://www.crossleft.org/node/6401 and http://www.crossleft.org/node/6414 that is based on the Golden Rule and addresses basic human needs. Kristof Haavik wrote a good post based on his book “The Socialist Christian” in which he advocates a stronger government role to insure that the poor are not exploited or left to starve (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6372). Bill Peltz wrote about a post capitalist economy in one of his responses to a Boyd Collins post (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6384) that describes an economy where the workers profit from the means of production, there are worker cooperatives and the hierarchical system is eliminated or severely reduced. Jim Ramelis wrote a post about capitalism and cooperation (http://www.crossleft.org/node/5576), about his experiences in a Kibbutz and the need for cooperation in an economic system so that everyone shares in the fruits of the economy and no one is left behind to suffer in poverty. David Stefan, who has sadly not been able to post lately because of work, offered an economic system based on the philosopher Rawls that talked of putting a cap on the income of the upper echeleon http://www.crossleft.org/node/6274.
As befits a Christian site, theological debates are often a feature of Crossleft. Gary Vance is a respected voice of a politically progressive and traditional theological point of view and he has created several posts that point to a grounded Biblical view of various Crossleft issues (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6509, http://www.crossleft.org/node/6296, http://www.crossleft.org/node/6269, and http://www.crossleft.org/node/6231). I was especially interested in a debate that he had with Rich Warden about Origen, Pelegius, Augustine and the early chuch fathers (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6227) because of my own relative lack of knowledge in that area. Gary makes a good point that the Biblical ideas are very progressive ideas and they have inspired such theologically conservative people as Dorothy Day, Reinhold Neibur, and the Social Gospel movement. Rich Warden has written from a more personal theological view based on his studies of the early church fathers and outside philosophers such as Plato, and the debates on reincarnation that occurred during the summer were a real eye opener for me on the intellectual ferment of those early Christians. I’ve tended to just read and not participate in the theological debates in Crossleft and I’ve learned the most when Rich, Gary, Steve, and the others had to respond to the debate points of the other.
With all these interesting people who’ve posted in Crossleft, it was interesting to learn how these bloggers became Progressive Christians in the first place. I wrote a blog asking that question and got several responses http://www.crossleft.org/node/5586. Steve Rockwell was influence by his Grandmother and Mother, Dr. James Turner and Don Barr, and his work in a Philedelphia inner city school with an African American minister. Jim Ramelis wrote that his disagreements with George Bush’s policies pushed him to be a Progressive. Janet Margul wrote in response to another of my posts (http://www.crossleft.org/node/5680) of the positive influence of the Great Society on her political consciousness. Bill Peltz wrote in response to a post (http://www.crossleft.org/node/6365) about his experiences organizing in Mississippi, the influence of Malcom X, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers, and the effect that Joe Louis had on his childhood. One thing that almost everyone in Crossleft share is a deep admiration for Bobby Kennedy.
In my year reading and posting in Crossleft, I’ve learned a lot from reading other people’s posts and I’ve learned to find my own voice and to articulate my own point of view of things. I’m not afraid of having a difference of opinion in Crossleft, and I feel I’ve made some internet friends. Before I write a post I usually check out some books and magazines from the library to research, and it’s been a lot of fun for me to write these posts. I discovered Howard Zinn from reading this site and Bill Peltz recommeded the book “Douglass and Lincoln : how a revolutionary black leader and a reluctant liberator struggled to end slavery and save the Union” by Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick that turned out to be one of my favorite books of last summer. Politically I’ve moved slowly farther left, seeing the positive influence that the mainstream liberal and more radical progressive have had on each other in terms of ideas and philosphy. Spiritually, Crossleft has been important to me just to let me know that I’m not alone. As new people, like Jerseyguy and Reverand Roger McClellan and others offer their own insights in God and politics and the world, I look forward to my next year reading and posting in Crossleft.