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« The Great Risk Shift, by Jacob Hacker | Main | Naming the System, by Michael Yates »


Progressive Christians Speak, by John Cobb

By an everyday book reader
April 1, 2007

In this earnest discussion, revolutionary theologian John Cobb Jr. implores Christian churches to take a more active role in the solution of contemporary issues such as food security and the ever-expanding world population, the welfare system, civil and human rights, the war on drugs, abortion, immigration, and the destruction of ecosystems.

Progressive Christians Speak: A Different Voice on Faith and Politics
edited by John B. CobbBook Picture

Softcover: 341 pages
ISBN: 9780664225896, 0664225896
Westminster John Knox Press
February 2003

Remaining passive under the guise of "separation of church and state" and being subsumed in the media by the vocal conservative church, mainline Christians have allowed to proliferate a warped view of where the majority of Christians stand.

As Cobb explains, religion is an important factor in the solution of our current issues, and he points to the Members of the Mobilization for the Human Family as an exemplary Christian organization devoted to dealing with contemporary problems.

"The following is a mission statement. 'Progressive Christians Uniting, formerly Mobilization for the Human Family, is a movement of progressive Christians whose mission is to be a prophetic presence in the Church and in the world, steadfastly proclaiming the radically inclusive love of God and faithfully working for the inclusion of and justice for all God's children, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, age, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.'

"In his Preface, Editor John B. Cobb, Jr., Professor of Theology Emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, places the need for Progressive Christians Uniting in historical context. It is his perception that for more than a century, the major Protestant churches in the United States were leaders in progressive social action. Today they are mostly silent in affirming and supporting issues of justice. Some believe that the old-line churches, which have experienced declining membership, have turned inward for fear of losing more members. The dominant message heard in these churches, is 'Me and Jesus' or what Joseph Haar called 'individualistic self-serving redemptionism.' Cobb, however, believes that one reason for the decline of membership is the loss of nerve in facing a new historical situation. He points out that conservative churches, which have entered the political arena and dominated the media, are flourishing. In an Appendix, there is a short history of the politics of the Christian right, highlighting their message and politics. The author writes, 'The judgement of the Hebrew prophets against the unjust and the powerful and Jesus' gospel of forgiveness and inclusive love seem mostly subordinated in their speech to the ungodly idols of rigid and narrow sexual morality, capitalistic individualism, and exclusive nationalism.'

"Given this situation, Cobb writes, it is the intention of Progressive Christians Uniting, to seek 'to understand what is going on in our world and to clarify the relevance of our Christian faith and heritage to that world.' He states that those who have come together in Progressive Christians Uniting do so as witnesses to a common faith. Although they come from many churches in the Protestant tradition, they have been 'nurtured by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, by the sacraments, and by service together in the world.' For all of them, the model for mission and ministry is Jesus. He writes, 'As followers of Jesus in the church, both ministers and lay people, we, too, are called, empowered, and energized for a public ministry in the name of Jesus Christ that reflects the love of God and will make the reign of God more visible, a reign of peace, love, and justice for all creation.'

"The sixteen chapters of the book, first prepared as position papers of Progressive Christian Uniting, describe areas in which Christians, if they are to make the reign of God visible, must be engaged. They are, Religion And The Public Schools, Basic Rights For Our Children, Reflections on Abortion, Human Rights And Civil Rights, Homosexuality And Same-Gender Unions, Is Social Security Really Broken? The Penal System, The War On Drugs, The Immigration Dilemma, Do Corporations Serve The Human Family? Responding To Sweatshops, The Globalization of Economic Life, Should Debt Be Forgiven? The Church and Environmentalism, Global Food Security, and The Global Population Crisis. Each chapter has a section on 'A Christian Perspective,' followed by a section called 'What Can We Do,' which includes 'Discussion Questions' and 'To Learn More.' The book is structured to be a resource and guide for study and discussion groups.

"This book is for Christians who know that their faith is more than an individual, personal relationship to God (accept Jesus as your personal Savior). Faith is a commitment to follow Jesus by proclaiming and embodying the Domination-Free Order (Walter Wink) of justice and compassion he called the Kingdom of God. Cobb writes, 'When the whole of life and thought are unified in faith, there is an integrity and joy we cannot otherwise know." - Review by G. Richard Wheatcroft

John B. Cobb is Professor Emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA.

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