As progressive Christians are we called to work toward social justice? And can these acts bring about personal and world transformation?
Personal and World Transformation through Social Justice

We Are Called to Act

Recently, I had the pleasure of video interviewing 11 leaders in the Christian field about a wide range of current issues. We asked them questions like "Do you call yourself a Christian?" and "What does the term progressive Christianity mean to you?" and "What are the most important aspects of the teachings of Jesus to you?" I thoroughly enjoyed each interview and was moved by their intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate responses.  When I asked them about how their beliefs affect they way they behave in this world and if they believe that being a follower of Jesus meant doing social justice work, one common response was - though Jesus did teach about going within and about stillness, the most important part of his teachings referred to how we behave toward others. One person said, "What is the point of life if it's just all about me? We have to be existing in this world in a way that decreases the suffering of human kind."   What is amazing is that through selfless action we are positively transformed- our lives have more meaning, we are able to see god within all and to have made a positive difference with our time on earth.  

There is hardly anything more rewarding then practicing acts of kindness, or when standing up for something we believe in, especially when we are able to see the positive affects of those actions.  Jesus was first and foremost a social activist. He saw inequalities and injustices around him and he spoke out against them. He called us to give up our possessions, to share our bounty, and to love our enemies.

As we continue on in our series on Personal and World Transformation, we asked our contributors to ponder the idea of Social Justice.  We would love to hear your thoughts as well! As you read through these excellent articles, please take a moment to add your comment!


Point 6 from the 8 Point Study Guide by which we define progressive Christianity

Peace and Justice

Fred Plumer

Jesus was very clear in a variety of passages that if we want to experience this Realm of the Infinite Mystery or have a direct experience of the Divine Presence, we will need to reach out and take risks on behalf of those who suffer. “Pick up your cross if you want to follow me,” he was supposed to have said. So he talks about the Good Samaritan who risked his life to help the wounded Jew lying on the side of the road. He models with his own life a willingness to turn the tables in the Temple because of the unjust exchange rate the money changers were charging the poor Jews who had no perfect animal to sacrifice. He eventually showed us we should not even fear death when we are seeking justice for those who have no hope. And he went into Jerusalem to protest the injustices of the Roman and Priestly treatment of his people.


Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance

Robin Meyers

During his thirty-year career as a parish minister and professor, Robin Meyers has focused on renewing the church as an instrument of social change and personal transformation. In this provocative and passionate book, he explores the decline of the church as a community of believers and calls readers back to the church’s roots as a community of resistance. Shifting the conversation about church renewal away from theological purity and marketing strategies that embrace cultural norms, and toward “embodied noncompliance” with the dominant culture, Meyers urges a return to the revolutionary spirit that marked Jesus’s ministry.

Framing his discussion around three poems by twentieth-century Polish poet Anna Kamienska, Meyers casts the nature of faith as a force that stands against anything and everything that engenders death and indignity. He calls for active—sometimes even subversive—defiance of the ego’s temptations, of what he terms “the heresy of orthodoxy itself,” and of an uncritical acceptance of militarism and capitalism. Each chapter is a poignant and urgent invitation to recover the Jesus Movement as a Beloved Community of Resistance.


What Shall We Overcome?

John Bennison

Racism, the Imbalance of Power, and the Response of the Prophetic Voice

In the last few years we have witnessed a resurgence of racial strife, as the recurrent curse of our American story. Names and phrases like Trayvon hoodies, Ferguson and “I can’t breathe” have become protest chants. Hands raised high overhead are no longer accompanied with shouts of “Hallelujah,” but rather, “Don’t shoot.”

Equipping law enforcement personnel with body cams is now recommended to record whatever transpires, after the fact. And all the while, political forces work to dismantle, disempower, disenfranchise and discourage voting rights in our democratic society.  One citizen, one vote, one voice is a constitutional principle that seems challenged and tested, once again.


Welcome Poster

This is a 12 x 18 poster printed on card stock. Show that your congregation is a part of the growing progressive Christian community!


Prophetic Hospitality and Social Justice  

Rev. Bruce Epperly Ph. D. 

We live in an increasingly polarizing time. In politics and church life, many people are on hair-trigger alert, ready to retaliate at the slightest provocation. Disagreements lead to division and governmental and congregational gridlock. Even proponents of diversity often launch attacks on those who hold more conservative positions on immigration, global climate change, and marriage equality. It is clear that our times call for prophetic action. We need to present imaginative alternatives to injustice, environmental destruction, and prejudice. But, in our quest for social and political justice, we need to find ways to nurture Shalom practices that include our opponents as well as those for whom we advocate. If we are to be true to our progressive and prophetic ideals, we need to treat the opposition with the same care that we treat the oppressed.


Experiencing Transcendence from Below

Rev. Timothy Murphy

How can I not be part of the problem: I often ask myself this question. As a white, straight, cis-gendered, male, able-bodied, economically-advantaged, mainline Protestant, American citizen, there is not a lot in terms of classic diversity that I bring to the table. This can be a challenge when one is committed to God's preferential option for those experiencing oppression. What's my role in the divine commonwealth, other than to get out of the way? Is my presence with another an act of solidarity or of benevolent paternalism?

Often, unjustly advantaged persons like myself feel resentful or guilty when they hear about a sacred preferential option from the "underside." Neither response is particularly helpful. We all have to find where we fit into the story of God's people struggling for dignity, and sometimes that means that we find we have more in common with Pharaoh than with enslaved Hebrews. But there is a place in God's vision for Pharaoh, too: "Let my people go!"


Haiti: A Case Study in Social In/Justice

Dr. Carl Krieg

How does one define social justice or social injustice in a situation such as this? There seems no question that the injustice side would include the slave trade itself, the impoverishment of a free nation by greedy boycott, crippling interest rates, and the invasion of a free state by an army basically doing the will of the foreign wealthy. Beyond that, the issue is more complicated. Given the difficulties of a poor nation absorbing refugees, a problem endemic in many parts of the world, the reaction of the Bahamas seems to be a balancing act of treating others justly while also treating one’s own citizens fairly. There are no simple answers. Defining social justice is no easy matter.


Deeper Love

PCU-LA, a Partner Organization 

Deeper Love is a web resource, updated regularly with input from its users, offering faith-based language for progressive political and social action.  It provides activists, lay and clergy people, politicians, campaigners, and organizers with inspiring rhetoric to advance social change.  Deeper Love is edited by Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California, with the Theological Reflection Committee of Progressive Christians Uniting. 

Deeper Love is a project of Progressive Christians Uniting – - a social justice activist organization based in Los Angeles, California.  Our mission statement:

Progressive Christians Uniting engages people and communities to embody Jesus’ way of compassion and justice for our world.


Dear Church — An open letter from a young adult who’s about to give up on you   

Sarah Carson

Dear Church,

Look, I know you’ve gotten plenty of letters like this in the past ten – if not twenty or thirty – years. I know you’re used to hearing it by now – you’re irrelevant, you refuse to change, you just aren’t any fun.

But I never minded those things about you. In fact, I liked that you were counter-culture. I like that you stood up for what was right instead of what was popular.

That’s what I was looking for, after all. A community that would take a stand. People who were fed up with letting terrible things happen.

I stood up for you for years.

I invited my agnostic friends to come sing Christmas carols and to volunteer at the soup kitchen. They never came, but I kept encouraging them all the same.

I believed you’d show them your true colors. I believed you’d make them believe the way you had won me over with how you loved the poor and disenfranchised, with how you cut through the ideology with love for the hungry, the homeless, the lonely.

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music.

As we made our way around the world we encountered love, hate, rich and poor, black and white, and many different religious groups and ideologies. It became very clear that as a human race we need to transcend from the darkness to the light and music is our weapon of the future. This song around the world features musicians who have seen and overcome conflict and hatred with love and perseverance. We dont need more trouble, what we need is love. The spirit of Bob Marley always lives on.

This is the fourth Song Around The World video released from the CD/DVD Playing For Change: Songs Around The World and the follow up to the classics “Stand By Me,” “One Love” and “Don’t Worry.” This unforgetable track was performed by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it traveled the globe.

Event: Pluralism Sunday 2015 

May 3, 2015

On PLURALISM SUNDAY, the first Sunday in May- May 3, 2015 (or other times during the year) – churches dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world. Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others.  We recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us.  We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion—and we can understand our own traditions better—through a more intimate awareness of the world’s religions.  On PLURALISM SUNDAY, churches celebrate elements of other world faiths in their sermons, litanies, and music; many feature speakers and singers from other faith traditions.  Some congregations have exchanges with other faith communities, going to each other’s houses of worship.  This event is a project of PROGRESSIVE   
Sign up your congregation now to participate in this event.


Power in the Blood - Easter Sunday

Sea Raven

The Jews were not the first nor the only people to realize that their survival depends on justice. The argument for millennia has been whether justice that supports life is retributive (payback) or distributive (fairness); the theology of Empire (piety, war, victory) versus the theology of Covenant (nonviolence, justice-compassion, peace). Retributive justice systems are the hallmark of imperial power. But along with retributive justice come other social systems. We are born into the normalcy of civilizations that develop means of controlling individual behavior ostensibly for the common good, but which instead set traps and create victims: the poor, the elderly, the sick, the outsider, the marginalized, the disenfranchised for whatever reason. Under such conditions, most humans are happy to give up their freedom to any regime that promises salvation, whether it is liberation from injustice in this life, or deliverance from hell in the next. As many victims of these systems have learned, revenge is not enough to restore wholeness.

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Not Without Courage 

Gretta Vosper

Tune: Eventide

Might justice reign in this, our broken world?
Might love mend hearts where anger has unfurled?
Could we bring forth a land where all are free?
Not without courage, without you and me.

Might we build hope where none has been before?
Might we prepare for peace and not for war?
Could we find homes for every refugee?
Not without courage, without you and me.

Might we speak truth to arrogance and power?
Might we each child with confidence empower?
Could we reach deep and end all poverty?
Not without courage, without you and me.

Might we defend another’s right to speak?
Might we stand up for those who are too weak?
Could we destroy the roots of misery?
Not without courage, without you and me.

Might we refuse to see another’s race?
Might we find beauty in each other’s face?
Could we not recognize we’re family?
Not without courage, without you and me.

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Evolving Perspectives

How Can Women Become Fully Included Christians? A Discussion with Professor Trelawney Grenfell-Muirby  

Interview by Eric Alexander

To explore the topic, I’m excited to talk with religious scholar and noted feminist Dr. Trelawney Grenfell-Muir about women’s very checkered representation within the Bible and Judeo-Christian history, and her own experiences within the transition of the church in our modern day.  Trelawney is an adjunct professor in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance with a specialization in Cross-Cultural Conflict at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She holds an M.Div. and a Ph.D. in Conflict Studies and Religion from Boston University.  The hope with this discussion is to see if we can develop a better vision about how women can be fully included and engaged in Christianity – despite the history, Biblical language, and the modern day challenges that continue to persist.

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Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice 

With composer Larry Schultz

Words we sing in worship have great power to shape our beliefs and actions. This is the second collection of hymns by Jann Aldredge-Clanton with composer Larry E. Schultz. These hymns, like those in the first collection, will contribute to an expansive theology and an ethic of equality and justice in human relationships. Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice will empower people to take prophetic action on gender, race, interfaith cooperation, sexual orientation, ecology, and other social justice issues.

These hymns include female and male divine images to support the foundational biblical truth that all people are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice will instill belief in the sacredness of all people and all creation. The predominant themes of social justice, peace, liberation, care of creation, partnership in relationships, and unity in diversity come from the prophetic tradition in Scripture. This collection also includes hymns of lament and hymns that celebrate special occasions. Many of the hymns are appropriate for interfaith settings. Most of the hymns are set to widely-known tunes, many with fresh arrangements.

West Hill’s First Nations Study Group – what it means to be an ally

Steve Watson

My Haudenosaunee friends have taught me to say “Onkwehon:we” (pronounced Ong Gay Hoh Way – with a little bit of a honking goose in the first and third syllables) instead of “First Nations” or “Indigenous” and or “Aboriginal”, the term they despise the most. “Onkwehon:we” means the “real people”.  It seems to me that becoming a member of the “real people” is more a matter of consciousness or cosmology than of ancestry.
So, why do we do this work? It would be easy to say it’s motivated by altruism, but that would be the most impoverished excuse for an explanation. We all have our own reasons, and so I am not going to attempt to speak for the group. I will just speak for me. In my view, this is as much about us non-natives finding a way out of the impasse we have created for ourselves as it is about justice for the Onkwehon:we. The impasse I am talking about is multi-dimensional. It is ecological, economic, social, and, yes, spiritual. For the sake of time, length, and space, I won’t go into detail about those aspects, but you can catch my drift. The point is that there is a way out of this impasse -- this no future dead-end. Moreover, the way out has always been there waiting for us. It can be found by turning to what the Onkwehon:we have to teach us and to what they were always willing to teach us from the moment we first landed on their shores here on Turtle Island. It’s just that we were just too deaf and blind to hear or see it.

Act as you believe...
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