They are disgruntled.
Without quoting any of the ongoing debates on the myraids of forums our church has for people to stage their theological spats [they are easy enough to find by Googling “proggressive adventist” “conservative adventist” or “liberal adventist” and seeing what pops up] I have found the more someone goes out of their way to be associated with one of these titles, the more disgruntled they are.
To me, the labels of liberal, conservative, and proggressive really don’t represent so much a theological position as much as they do a theological reaction.
If someone grows up in a legalistic setting with the label conservative then the label of “liberal” represents freedom of that oppressive religious experience they had int he past. I find a lot of ex-Adventists suffer from this. They had a repressive church, school, or family experience that causes them to write off the entire faith using phrases like “being set free from Adventism” etc. Whereas many of us don’t feel that way at all because that hasn’t been our experience.
In his book, Sex God, Rob Bell points out that whenever someone says they have been burned by an institution his first question is always “What was the person’s name?”
Like wise many people, new converts especially, drift towards conservativism because their life “in the world” was more liberal, and they sensed perhaps they were out of control and they crave rules and boundaries and the stricter the better. What I find interesting is many of what my friend calls “neo-conservative” movements such as GYC appeal to so many because my parents generation, who grew up perhaps in a more conservative setting, don’t practice their faith in such rigid terms–and perhaps even in liberal terms–and now their kids react to it.
Proggressive Adventists are still a mystery to me. I don’t quite classify them as liberal, so much as seekers of deeper understandings…or at least different understandings of traditional methodologies and interpretations because they have burned by previous ones. I found myself, or rather a chapter of a best selling book I wrote, the subject of one blogger’s wrath on a proggressive Adventist site. They made some interesting points, and some ones I felt missed the point; but what fascinated me is that I read this person’s of two more books, on opposite ends of the spectrum from each other, and they panned both of em. What was telling to me, is where I found the author endorsing their own writing–which is a pitfall of many folks who carry theological baggage. The pitfall of “no one knows what they are talking about but me.” And the more this happens, the more I find people getting into heated arguments, demonizing others, and sadly making less and less sense–and less and less impact.
Now let me clarify that I think debate is healthy and neccessary, but as I read what people post online it seems to me that it isn’t so much a seeking after truth in a dialogue so much as destroying the other side by picking them apart.
I don’t want this to turn into a rant, and frankly Im not sure where to go from here or how to end this thought as it is still a thought in progress. I am curious what you all think and what your experience has been. Please share 🙂