To tell you the truth I really don't know what I am or what you are or what anybody is anymore. I come from a heritage that wore out, reworded, and unwound all the meaning from the above terms. Progressive or Conservative used to be a nice label we hung on folks who clapped hands in worship (the P's) or thought of others outside of our tradition as "being of a different faith" (that'd be the C's) at best and flat out "going to hell" at worst (those were the ultra C's...a term we won't even get into here).
I remember a very uncomfortable Christmas season about ten years ago. I was in grad school so I was thinking in a mode and pattern that were uniquely grad-school-ish. I was spending time with a friend of the family I was visiting and kept hearing him wail on "liberals" and their desire "to change everything" and "take over the church". I heard liberal and thought of some non Bible believing theological professors I was reading at the time. I was thinking of Exetentionalists and Post Mods gone awry. What was meant though was the good ole tried and true "progressives" in our own heritage's movement. It was about 10 minutes later that I kinda woke up and realized I was likely one of those that this guy was spewing filth about. I realized that and decided not to elaborate any further on the topic we were openly discussing earlier. There was no use. This guy was right and that settled that.
Once again the terms "progressive" and "liberal" just seem way too fuzzy for me to use or understand when others use it with any high level of confidence or certain degree of exactness.
I was talking last night with a man of my parent's generation. We've known each other for years but have recently reengaged each other after we've both been through some very formative spiritual awakenings in our recent pasts. He kept using this term too (conservative this time). Unlike the guy mentioned above, as a result of knowing him and where he's come from, I think I could locate what he meant pretty easily but again his definition of progressive fell more into a category of what I would call mainstream. It's just not a word that says much to most people anymore. We gotta be more exact I think.
To get really personal I found myself last night driving home reflecting on me. Am I progressive or conservative? Depending on the topic, I think I am both.
Does a progressive person clap hands in church, raise hands, prefer instrumental music (big issue in my heritage...a very much non issue in the rest of the Kingdom it seems), embrace all Christ seekers, not feel it a sin to not be at church every time the doors are open, read from alternative interpretations of the Bible, believe the Bible mandates what is healthy living and eating as well as speak about human's enviornmental responsibilities? If so, then I am progressive.
Does a conservative person not watch rated R movies, allow his young kids to read sci fi/witch craft/fantasy novels believing they are "dark" and a threat to God's light, not celebrate Halloween, intentionally home school, home birth, and home church, believe the Bible has something to say about finances, and call people far, far, far more conservative than myself brothers and sisters? If so, I'm a conservative.
I guess I'm failing to see the logic or the reason in using labels. Labels also vary from person to person. That's another reason I don't prefer them. I'm just never really sure what you or she or they mean by them. Therefore, I just won't use them.
What's the point here? Well, I think we need a new venacular for one thing. Terms change. Definitions change too (don't they?). I know that limits of what we refer to something as change as well. So, let's use language that more clearly describes what we are trying to describe.
The other point is just to say what you mean. Don't refer to a hand raiser as a progressive. Refer to him as a hand raiser. Don't speak of a person who loves Fannie J. Crosby songs and only FJC songs as conservative. Just call them a fan of Fannie J!
That won't cure everything but it will sure will help me understand what in the world you're talking about!