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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Progressive, Not Reactionary

As planning for the ProgFaithBlogCon continues, it provides me with innumerable opportunties for self-examination. Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish? Is there any need for bloggers - who do all of their work behind computer screens - to meet physically? After all, Rachel, Nacho, Andrew, Chris, and I (along with all the other wonderful advisors who have helped out, both formally and informally) already are getting to know and understand each other.

Well, why am I doing this? Simply because I think it is needed. Too often, when someone in this country speaks about "religion", "faith", or "values", they are referring to a small, self-selected group of Christians who refuse, in some cases, to admit that those who do not march in lockstep can even be called Christians. Then there is the open hostility to people who are Jewish and Muslim.

This is not the America - nor the faith - in which I was raised. Why me? I don't know. Because no one else was doing it and it needed to be done.

Why? What do I hope to accomplish?

Nothing. Everything.

There will be no earth-shattering trumpet blown or prophets ascending to and descending from Heaven. At best, we will meet, laugh a bit, pray a bit, learn a bit, hug each other or shake hands, and return to our lives. It is only one small meeting. It won't change the world.

But it may set the stage for it.

A colleague of mine likened public intellectuals to a bridge spanning a river - no one can make the entire span, but each can be a girder, or a weld, or a cable. Together, we can bridge the fear and ignorance that keeps us isolated and powerless. You don't build a bridge by trying to reach the other side. You build a bridge by slowly raising the next piece of the structure, hammering it in place, carefully testing its balance and connection, and then turning to the next piece.

There are many pieces of the bridge out there - but they are splintered and small and weak. Bloggers cannot change the world, but we can gather the world around those group who can. We can point the way. We can be the candle on the hilltop; the watchtower by the sea.

But it all begins with one step.

Is it necessary to gather physically? Yes. I've already made new friends, but until I hold them in my eye and my arms, they are not truly in my heart. We are friends, but we need to be brothers. Now we share our joys, but we need to share our hopes, our fears, and our failures.

And there will be many failures.

I am not trying to either drown out nor to balance the Religious Right. In fact, though a few more vocal members are an annoyance to me, they are not the main factor in this gathering at all. We are stiving to be Progressive - not "left" to their "right".

Come, Let Us Reason Together

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