Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Progressive Religion: A House for Hope

Following are excerpts from ReligionDispatches.com's recent interview with John A. Buehrens and Rebecca Ann Parker, authors of A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-First Century. To read the entire interview, click here.


What inspired you to write A House for Hope? What sparked your interest?

As lifelong progressive people of faith, we are tired of religion getting a bad rap because religious fundamentalists and right-wingers lend the power of religion to support unholy causes. We disagree with their theology and their politics — but we don’t think the solution is to do away with religion. We wrote this book to assert that progressive religion has the alternative spiritual resources needed for the challenges of our time and it has long countered the follies of religious fundamentalism with creative, responsible and life-affirming faith. We need less bad religion and more good religion — that’s what this book argues.

What is the most important take-home message for readers?

Looking to the future, we see the tide of progressive religion rising. It will fill the vacuum created by the failure of the religious right to adequately address the issues of our day: global warming, torture and terrorism, religious prejudice, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In order for this tide to rise, progressive people need a renewed awareness that progressive religion has powerful theological alternatives that have inspired social justice causes from women’s rights and the abolition of slavery to present day struggles for marriage equality and ecological stewardship. Additionally, progressive people need a renewed commitment to building and sustaining communities of faith — houses of hope — that can nourish our values and empower us for the long-haul change needed to establish a just and sustainable society.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?

That liberal religion is just a flimsy accommodation to “secularism” and “modernity” rather than a deep faith that is both intellectually responsible and emotionally alive. That the history of liberal Christianity ran its course by the 1920s and that it failed because of an overly optimistic view of human nature and an inadequate understanding of evil. That there is no Muslim expression of progressive faith. That progressive Jews are all secular, rather than practicing members of religious communities. That social progress can occur without alternative, progressive answers to basic theological questions.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

Yes, we were especially interested in speaking to progressive people who have lost track of the religious roots of their values and hopes. Most of all, we had in mind youth and young adults who are passionate about social justice work, but need a sustaining spiritual practice and community that will nourish their activism for the long haul, along with a theological framework of meaning that will give their lives depth.

Is there a book out there you wish you had written? Which one? Why?

Daniel C. Maguire’s Whose Church? — a witty and insightful introduction to progressive Roman Catholicism and contemporary social issues. But we couldn’t have written it because we are Protestants. We are glad he did.

Note: to read a series of excepts from Daniel Maguire's Whose Church?, click here.

See also the previous PCV posts:
In What Sense Are We Progressive Catholics? — An Offering for Reflection and Discussion
Who Is Responsible for Church Reform?
A Return to the Spirit
Catholicism: A Changing Church — Despite Itself
Colleen Kochivar-Baker on "Why We Stay"
A Priest's Call for a Catholic Reformation
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission


  1. Most other researchers are noting that the progressives active in religions are all old people. The younger people are either not at all interested in religion (they claim they are "spiritual, but not religious"), or they are quite conservative in their religious beliefs.

  2. Hi!...

    Here in Portugal, south Europe things are a bit worse. Small progressive religious groups especially formed by Academics of all ages, and lots of quite empty Churches where you only can see people with more than 70!... Youths? 90% of them go to the shopping mall on Sunday morning, 5% are ecumenical moderates and the other 5% are arrogant radical Tridentine or Pentecostal traditionalists.

  3. Can we count on the human spirit to be struck by awe and wonder at the intricacy, rightness, beauty of things? Can we count on humans to continue to need love and community to express it? And can we count on the Holy Spirit to lead us in creating the forms we need to sustain us? If yes to those questions, then we can trust young people, old people, and middle aged people to do what they need to do. It's an evolving thing.

  4. P.S. I have a friend who is reading a book called Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways by Olivier Roy. I wish he would weigh in here.