Anyone who knows me knows that I am generally “progressive” politically. I don’t particularly appreciate the two presumptive major-party nominees for president in 2024, nor do I like Robert Kennedy, Jr.

I live in Vermont, the state that continually elects “Democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders to the Senate every six years. I confess, I quite like Bernie.

I’m not ashamed of the progressive label, but I certainly don’t wear it as a badge of honor, especially when that label gets carried over to my religious beliefs.

I jeer at the thought of being labeled a “progressive” or a “conservative” Christian. 

When I think of progressive Christians, I think of pastors wearing a rainbow stole reciting words of a newly rewritten Lord’s Prayer that, among other things, is titled the “Lord’s Prayer for Transgender Awareness.” I do not oppose transgender awareness, but I am very opposed to messing with the Lord’s Prayer.

When I think of conservative Christianity, my mind jumps to Joel Osteen at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey, “closing the doors” to flood victims and refusing to shelter them. Where is Jesus in that, Pastor Joel?

Perhaps a bit bitterly, Osteen defended the decision, saying, “The doors were never closed,” adding, “The building was inaccessible due to severe flooding.”

So, when it comes to labeling myself, both of the monikers above I try to stay away from with a very large pole. Perhaps 32 ½ feet will do. 

This is not because of the labels “progressive” or “conservative.” It is because of the label “Christianity.”

To me, Christianity represents organized religion, and the hallmark of organized religion is spoiling the Good News. Somehow, organized religion permeates every aspect of Jesus’ message and manages to spoil it like the poor mis-purchased bottle of skim milk in the stalwart “whole milk only” person’s fridge. 

Organized religion can take Jesus’ message of “love thy neighbor and enemy” and turn it into “hate thy neighbor and enemy.”

It can take Jesus’ message of love and tolerance for those different from us (Just look at all the ways Jesus himself reached out to those who were “different” from him) and turn that message into hatred and intolerance for anyone not prescribing to the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethnic and religious heritage.

So rather than bothering ourselves with labels like “conservative Christian” or “progressive Christian,” I want to propose another label. Something that we all should strive to be.

Instead of fussing with Christianity, we should boil it down to our roots. We need to become Children of God again.

Children of God do not hate or reject others based on religious belief, skin color, socioeconomic status or personal tolerance of others.

Children of God do not hate their neighbors or enemies.

Children of God do not look down on women as inferior to men solely because it was Eve who fell prey to the temptations of the serpent in the garden, curiously forgetting that Adam, too, fell prey to the same temptations.

That old hymn, “Lord, I Want to be a Christian,” expertly presents this difference. Verse 1 begins, predictably, by saying, “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.” But as it gets to verse 4, it shifts to, “Lord, I want to be more like Jesus in my heart.”

Lord, I sure do want to be more like Jesus.

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