Book review: Living The Questions, the Wisdom of Progressive Christianity
by David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy
Latin re-ligio: To relink, to reconnect.
Buy this book! If I do a “best of 2012” summary this January, I guarantee this one will be near the top. Heart and head both feel satisfied as I turn the last page.
This is what progressive Christianity is all about. It will toy with your emotions, lift you to the heights of compassion, and fill your soul with awe for the beauty and mystery of life we share. God is in this book, until you set the book down and discover He has wiggled out of its pages and into your soul. Perhaps God was inside you all along, waiting to be reawakened?
Many of us do need reawakening; religion has become a turn-off for many. In no other area of life is the denial of progress held up as a virtue. But according to Felten and Procter-Murphy, stagnation, not change, is Christianity’s deadliest enemy. Vital faith is dynamic, flowing, and moving. Progressive Christianity, by its very name, is about progress. Rethinking the meaning of Christology, atonement, and the Incarnation is part of the journey. Losing interest in the Rapture is a necessary side effect.
“Living the Questions” is an enigmatic title, and the book begins with this insight: “To not ask questions is tantamount to forfeiting one’s own spiritual birthright and allowing other people’s experience of the Divine to define your experience.” It ends with the reminder that “those who embrace mystery are free to interpret the Divine in new and fresh ways.” In the pages between, however, we travel back in time to the Jesus of history, a man of vision and compassion, and a this-worldly concern largely ignored by the creeds of the religion that sprouted in his name. The essence of Jesus’ ministry might be distilled down into one word: compassion.
Then we’re reintroduced to God who, through the scriptures, is Mother, Father, the Wind, a Rock, and finally just Love. God, says John Shelby Spong (who along with Fox and Crossan is quoted liberally in these pages) is the life power itself, the power of love itself, the “Ground of Being.”
One final note: I’m not a poetry reader, but the occasional sprinkling of poetry by Cynthia Langston Kirk was mesmerizing … I suspect in part because the atmosphere of the book primed me to appreciate the poetic.