For much of my ministry, maybe all of it, I've believed that it was possible to build bridges between a passion for the gospel and the love of Christ and a socially just ministry seeking to open doors and welcome everyone.
My conservative friends have always been suspicious of my faith-confession because I believe in the so-call "liberal" causes - I'm pro-gay, I'm pro-choice, I'd love to see guns disappear from our society, I support universal, single-payer healthcare, I deplore militarism and I think that the best capitalism is one in which big business and big government and big labor all work together to sustain a big middle class.
My liberal friends have always been suspicious of my social vision because of my personal commitment to Bible study and my spirituality, though the gap here has decidedly narrowed in the last ten years, as champions of social justice have seen the need for a lively spirituality in partnership with a just social vision.
If anything, the reluctance, these days, comes on the conservative side of things, as so many of them continue to fight the ghosts of the culture wars of the 80s and 90s.
In the recent Miss USA flap regarding top contender Carrie Prejean's comments against gay marriage, once again FOX news champions the old divide:
"Hollywood isn’t just liberal, it is fearfully liberal. It is easier in Hollywood to say you’re a drug addict or to pretty much anything than to admit to being a committed Christian," media expert and longtime Hollywood publicist, Michael Levine of Levine Communications, told FOXnews.com.
There are a lot of committed Christians in Hollywood, but many of them espouse a progressive Christianity, a Christianity of open doors and welcoming faith.
The sun is setting on the James Dobson kind of dogmatic Christianity and rising on an emerging Christianity comfortable in the world as Jesus was comfortable. A Christianity clearly committed to welcoming the stranger and caring for the oppressed, sensitive to global issues, working hand-in-hand with folks of other persuasions to build a safe world and preserve the environment.
Perhaps one could say, "It's easier in a conservative church to say your a drug addict or to pretty much anything than to admit to being a committed Christian" open to gays and lesbians, committed to environmental issues and comfortable with other religions.
The times, they are a-changing, and it's exciting to see a new kind of Christianity rising out of the ashes of the culture wars, and it would seem that the old liberal establishment is leading the day.
I'm sad for Ms. Prejean - her little remark likely cost her the title, but what saddens me the most is that her remark represents Dobson's version of Christianity, a Christianity creaking with old age, increasingly irrelevant and testy. For Ms. Prejean to default to "what she was taught as a child" and then to claim the high moral ground because she refuses to compromise her values is the kind of mindless faith championed by Dobson, the very faith that has created so many false battle fields and forced so many young people into corners they don't want to be in. But these young people have had little choice, growing up in a community of faith that allowed no thought and no opinion other than the accepted party line.
I feel for Ms. Prejean, and I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few years, she'll come out of her shell and discover a richer, and I believe, more authentic Christianity, with open doors and open minds.
May it be so.