The Mainline Progressive Bubble
A Revealing Incident
Let me share an experience from the floor of the Presbytery of Chicago. A large committee had created a draft statement on evangelism that was under review. At one point we were asked to split into small groups to discuss the draft. A colleague from my local church and I asked two Commissioners, one younger and the other older, to join us. They were more than happy to do so, and we started the discussion.
We pointed out that the draft as written seemed to be less about Christian evangelism than it was about multiculturalism. For, as far as we could tell there were minimal claims to any truth or value for Christianity. Rather, it appeared to be just about getting along with all other religions and cultures.
This observation elicited an immediate angry reaction from the older Commissioner. Rather than engaging in debate on this point they walked away while audibly speaking into the air about haters and racists.
The younger Commissioner remained engaged. However, their response was that dozens of PCUSA elders and clergy of all races, sexual orientations, genders and cultures had come together to generate this text, so, it had to be correct because the creating group was so diverse. We pointed out that there was also the dimension of philosophical / theological diversity, which we didn’t see represented in the document. They responded with the blank stare of one who is hearing something incomprehensible.
The Two Bubbles
Thinking back on this incident years later I realize that the responses of these two Commissioners are representative of the two types of bubbles within which our leadership live. These bubbles need not be separate, but can be, in effect, two layers that create hermetic isolation.
The Social Bubble
The younger Commissioner was more than happy to continue our discussion to the end of the allowed time. They showed not the slightest anger about or disapproval of our position. Rather, they seemed amazed to be speaking with two such strange humans. We elicited not anger, but rather curiosity.
Surely, even living in Progressive Chicago they must have been aware of people who hold strange, inexplicable beliefs. However, here were two actual people, on the floor of the Presbytery of Chicago (!?), who were stating these beliefs. What an unexpected and unique cultural experience!
Thus, we find here the bubble of social isolation, in which a person simply doesn’t interact with anyone who challenges their beliefs. Everyone, of all races, cultures, sexual orientations and genders, in their wondrous diversity, agrees on the same thing! It’s not that they aren’t aware that there are strange people who somehow have tragically not been brought into the Progressive fold, it’s that they simply don’t engage with any actual people like that.
The Ideological Bubble
The older Commissioner knew full well that people like us exist. And, within the hearing of only a few of our words they walked away in utter disgust. For, in their world, people who were stupid enough to say such things out loud could only be motivated by vile evil motives. There existed zero intention to engage with such moral and ideological deviants. So, away they walked, speaking our condemnation into the air as the haters and racists that we surely had to be.
Our Current Sorry State
There may have been a time in our country’s history in which the social Progressive bubble predominated. I think of that, by current standards, innocent statement by Pauline Kael after the 1972 Presidential election.
“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”
But, after eight years of being accused of voting for someone who was likely the new Hitler (George W. Bush) into the Presidency and then eight more years of being called a racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, totalitarian, etc. for opposing Progressive policies, be they political or theological, the ideological bubble clearly now dominates.
There are so many examples from which to choose, but one that I consider telling fell from the lips of no other than Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives (emphasis added).
“And I say, this will be a little not in keeping with the spirit of the day of unity, but I say they pray in church on Sunday and prey on people the rest of the week, and while we’re doing the Lord’s work by ministering to the needs of God’s creation they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them.”
You see, it takes the rhetorical skills of the highest ranking elected Democratic politican to so seamlessly combine their political and religious bigotry into a single steaming statement of contemptuous hatred.
Of course, former Democratic senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold (a Progressive favorite!) has made perhaps the most disgusting and definitive statement in this regard (emphasis added).
“The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are, … It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.”
Yes, indeed, “finally, finally” the vile evil motives of all Republicans, hidden for generations, have been revealed for all to see!
Finally, lest you imagine that our PCUSA leadership is not within this same ideological bubble, consider the actions and statements of our current Co-moderators and the Senior Pastor from one of our largest churches. I should also point out that most of the cruel name calling referred to above was done in person by members of the PCUSA (see here for one written example).
The consequences of this ideological dominance in Progressive thought have been a major factor that has led to our current sorry state.