Butler Bass: Post-Modern Progressives

Centrists / Religion

Diana Butler Bass has another great essay up – this time she tries to explain why the old categories of “liberal” and “conservative” are failing as we try to describe what is starting to take root in theological and ecclesiastical conversations.

She describes herself as a post-modern, post-partisan, neo-pragmatic progressive and then writes of the rise of post-liberalism:

“‘Post-liberalism,’ a post-modern theology, has transformed into a new sort of post-modern progressive Christianity. It moves beyond (as indicated by the word, ‘post’) and is subsequent to the traditional categories of liberal-and-conservative. Instead, it takes a non-dualistic, discrete, narrative, and situational approach to religion—very different from the former arguments between the Truth claims of older theological structures.

Because of its essential modesty in regard to truth (opting instead for speaking of ‘truthfulness’ rather than Truth), it finds itself as ‘post-partisan’ and doesn’t take sides in the old arguments. As a result, it tends toward theological pragmatism: How does one enact justice in a fallen world? With whom can the faithful make alliances for the sake of shalom in the world? It constructs the world more in terms of a journey of justice rather than a destination of truth. Hence, post-modern progressives are post-partisan, neo-pragmatic pilgrims.

And they do not fit into the categories of ‘purist’ or ‘accommodator.’ Like the ‘purists,’ they are idealistic—they truly believe in God’s reign, in justice, and work (often prophetically) so that the world might be better. But, like the ‘accommodators,’ they are pragmatic, seeing always the ‘both-and’ (or the ‘and-and-and-and’) rather than the ‘either-or.’”

Read the full article here.

She finds a kindred soul in our President – who (like me) is a member of Generation Jones.

She points out that the massive paradigm shift that we are all undergoing is forcing us to rethink our categories, and some folks are further along with the task than others.

I’m giving a talk to the National Workshop on Christian Unity here in Phoenix next week on essentially the same idea, just extended to the topic of ecumenical conversation.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. Nick,
    Thanks for the link to this article…Diana’s assertions are a great starting point for discussion as this new theological paradigm emerges…in some ways I think all the hay made over Northern Michigan is a result of this new perspective…just look at the vast theological spectrum represented in the people making an argument against confirmation…It leaves some who are in the classic liberal/conservative camps scratching their heads, but it makes perfect sense to me…but then again, I was formed in this new paradigm.

Comments are closed.