Today one is finding a greater openness to a “big tent Christianity” than Americans have seen for some decades now. Some mainline church congregations are closing as memberships shrink below the sustainable level. But others are growing and vibrant; they are finding ways that Christianity can speak to contemporary needs and concerns.
A similar spirit of “pragmatic idealism,” as USA Today recently described it, is growing in many wings of the evangelical church. People are willing to form broader coalitions and partnerships not controlled by theological agendas.
Of course, theology is by no means irrelevant in recent evangelical activism in areas such as global warming, biodiversity, and peace initiatives. These evangelical leaders can give powerful theological reasons for their activism — indeed, in ways that I think are models for the mainline. What is exciting, though, is that the mission statements and rationales are not narrowly focused. No “us vs. them” mentality motivates the calls to action. Rather, the appeals are to core features of Jesus’ life and teaching, and to passages such as Matthew 25, which resonate powerfully across the entire spectrum from evangelical to the more liberal reaches of the mainline.
Could it be that we are seeing the rebirth of powerful theological justifications for progressive Christian involvement in the world?
I explore some of these ideas in a short video at: http://www.cgu.edu/pages/4546.asp?item=2807