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Meditation on Psalm 1

Can a person be both a progressive Christian and a political conservative?

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
I’ve begun a project to meditate and write on the Psalms. Sort of like Lectio Divina on a blog. Psalm 1 sets the project off by outlining two paths, one of the wicked who sit in the seats of scoffers, and one of the righteous who yield their fruit in season and prosper. In the end the way of the wicked will perish. In today’s Christian world, who are the wicked?
The Psalm introduces, but barely describes, the way of the wicked vs. the way of the righteous. The psalmist surely sings of non-believers and believers, but today I think the division is appropriate for paths that begin with and defend different interpretations of the same Word. Can they possibly end up at the same place?
When comparing progressives to conservatives each thinks the other misguided at best, deceptively wicked at worst. I follow a progressive Christianity and a conservative political outlook and find many see there a contradiction. To many progressive Christians conservative politics are the way of the wicked. To many political conservatives who also happen to be Christian progressivism in faith and politics is the way of the wicked.
One speaks of the other, “They see not the law. They bend the Word to their will. They end up conveniently with the Christ they need to support their works and preferences rather than the Christ of scripture.” The other responds, “They miss the experiential meaning behind the ancient words and lose the sense of love and acceptance so apparent in Christ. A focus on only the law prospers the righteous and condemns the lost for whom Christ served.”
Perhaps the way of the wicked is the path away from Christ, and perhaps in Christ we can find the God we need while enabling all to live lives of stature defined by will independent of politics – politics that implies one must serve another through compulsion and sacrifice without intent. The way of the wicked may be to force one’s faith and politics on another not giving them the choice of the way that serves them best and prepares them for Grace, responsibility and sharing. In the Word, without force. Perhaps we, as narrow-minded Christians unaccepting of others who also call themselves Christian but feel very different about key social issues than we do, are the wicked.
The way of the righteous is to come to God with no preconceptions. The way of the wicked is to run from God defending intolerance and judgment. Who this God is we must experience ourselves by referencing ages of wisdom, teaching and service, so that service becomes a choice, wisdom an understanding, and teaching a blessing to which we’re always open. The way of the wicked is a closed mind that denies others’ truth. The way of the wicked is an all too common experience.
It’s telling that as Christianity becomes more political, as every faith inevitably will do as everything is political, either side can use any of the statements found here against the other. It’s as if we all see each other through the same misinterpretations of the Word. For in this distorted vision of each other, filled more with overbearing temptations of opinion rather than openness and understanding, we are surely travelling the way of the wicked. And in this anger and judgment we will all surely perish.
On the other hand, the way of the righteous that can lead to an empathetic acceptance of each other as children of God, with, at our cores, the same desire for salvation, that way is paved with love, compassion, curiosity and ears poised to listen. We Christians, both progressives and conservatives, share this love in common. To stick to the path of righteousness we must freely offer this love to each other. We must learn about each other. We must ask instead of know, inquire instead of assume. If those we seek to understand seem unwilling to engage, we must continue to try to pry open the door that separates us. Along the way of righteousness we must go first and acquiesce. Only then will the way to God, the way the Psalm speaks of, open to us.
So can a person be both a progressive Christian and a political conservative? One searching for answers and full of doubt sure can. The positions are not mutually exclusive if defined by inquiry and a search for understanding – a cycle that must repeat if we are to hold strong views on anything. If the progressive Christian or political conservative is so sure of themselves that opposite views are discarded then no, one can’t be both as one can’t be either. In honesty one can find faith. There are new ideas conservatives are willing to embrace, and there are behaviors at which progressive Christians will draw a line. In the meeting of the two we find common ground and heal.
Sometimes I don’t feel welcome at the very progressive congregation I attend. I’m afraid to “come out” as a conservative. Sometimes conservatives shout me down for my expansive beliefs. But I think the meeting of spiritual openness and secular conservatism works. I know I’m unusual, but in this polarized time isn’t everyone who with promise believes in God and holds a political ideal unusual? In the unusual we find workable solutions. I’m not bold enough to say that I’m on the way of the righteous, but I do believe I’m travelling a path that will lead me to meet other Christians and others with different political views with hope.
On the law, the law of God and the secular law, we must meditate day and night. Perhaps then, in the forest of division and despair in which we are lost, we will see the trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that we do, we can prosper. We can be full of new points of view. We can rest assured in the law that will outlast all that divides us. The meeting of bold ideas and foundational beliefs can be the wind that drives away the chaff.
This is from a post on the blog

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