Liberal Christianity Is Like BeBe’s Kids…It Doesn’t Die, It Multiplies

Back in the day, the late great comedian Robin Harris (may he rest in peace) had a routine about BeBe’s (pronounced Bay-Bay)kids. BeBe’s kids were/are the kids that everybody wants to avoid, but nobody can. Hence the slogan…”We BeBe’s kids; we don’t die, we multiply.”

So on Sunday, Ross Douthat–columnist for the New York Times–asks the question “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?” At first I thought it was a silly question that deserved the most curt “Yes” that could be given. The response to the article though, has made me rethink.

Liberal/Progressive Christians seem to always be anxious; worried that somehow they are losing the battle about what Christianity is about/for. I think that has to stop; worry/worrying gets nobody nowhere.

Conservative/Non-Progressive Christians on the other hand, seem to be overconfident; entangling themselves with powers and principalities in ways that makes it hard to know when the state stops and when the church/religion begins.

This, my friends, is the problem; American Christians too often confuse liberal and conservative politics with liberal and conservative religion (conservatives do too, this post just happens to be about the liberal side of the coin). As long as Liberal Christians continue to allow the definition of liberal or conservative to be framed ONLY by how one comes out on a small set of social/political issues, the anxiousness will never change.

Here’s a little secret though. No matter how much today’s liberal Christians might bungle it, Liberal Christianity is like BeBe’s kids; it doesn’t die, it multiplies. But the only way to notice it is to look outside of your little sphere.

Liberal Christianity is more than just Borg, Spong, Erhman, Butler Bass and Brown Taylor. How many liberal Christians have read Monica Coleman’s “Making A Way Out Of No Way”? M. Shawn Copeland’s  “Enfleshing Freedom”? Rita Nakashima Brock’s “Journeys By Heart”? (which was written before she was writing books with Rebecca Parker) Or even Shane Claiborne’s “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals”?

Liberal Christianity is EVERYWHERE!! It just looks different from the WASP forms of the 1950s/1960s/1970s. Liberal Christianity is Rev. Don Robinson and his work at Beacon House in Southeast D.C. Liberal Christianity is Rev. Ron Robinson and his work in Turley-North Tulsa with A Third Place. Liberal Christianity is the modern monastic movement. Heck, Liberal Christianity is the old monastic movement.

Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches that love ALWAYS wins. Love conquers all.

Liberal Christianity is anyplace that preaches a gospel that increases the love, peace, joy, mercy, grace and beauty in the world and says that it is available to all.

Liberal Christianity doesn’t need to be saved. BeBe’s kids never need to be saved. They don’t die, they multiply.




5 thoughts on “Liberal Christianity Is Like BeBe’s Kids…It Doesn’t Die, It Multiplies

  1. Liberal Christianity dying and we UUs had a hand in it. Consider the long quote from Gary Dorrien’s piece cited in the original article. The post 1968 theologies finally did it in. It’s our work, and we best move on to what ever the new hope is.

    • This is one of the few times I think we are going to disagree fundamentally Bill. I still stand by my statement that as long as the conversation continues to equate liberal religion and liberal politics then the conversation will go nowhere. This does not mean that I don’t think that religious liberals also fell into the trap of letting politics get too emmeshed in matters of religion.

      I also think UUs had little hand in what went on in the mainline denominations. By 1968, UUs were trying to forget that Unitarianism and Universalism started out as Christian. In fact, in many ways, UUs were behind the mainline. (I’ll leave it here, because I think that’s a minor point.)

      Maybe it’s because I move in different circles. I see Liberal Christianity everywhere. It is in liberation theology. It is in womanist theology. It is in mujerista/Latina theology. It is in post-colonial theology.

      But it’s also in the black church. It’s in every “ethnic” church I have seen. There is a difference between spiritual/religious liberalism and social/political liberalism. And it would behoove the old-line liberal religious people to stop thinking that religious liberalism can only look one way.

      But the main reason that I say that liberal Christianity is like BeBe’s kids is that I see who is being referenced in the writings of the present-day theologians of record. The names of Tillich, James Luther Adams, Whitehead, Cobb, Theodore Parker, the Ballous, Channing. Christians of all stripes are reading the liberal theologians of previous generations for inspiration. (they’re also reading the patristic writings with new eyes) It’s just that direct descendants don’t want to look at them.

      Liberal Christianity is more than just the old mainline denominations. But if we’re going to look at this strictly by numbers of members, all of Christianity is dying–and the conservative side is really scared (because the conservatives that are growing are Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). But all of “Christianity” dying may be a good thing; if it’s happening to everybody then maybe the real issues–which I think are related to polity–can be looked at.

  2. We also need to reintroduce discipline into our faith practices. As liberal faith communities have progressed we have lost focus, not so much of our history and traditions, but of our discipline. Religion is ultimately grounded in practice. Practice requires discipline. Discipline creates disciples. Not blind followers, but informed, radically-prepared change agents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s