BookLog: Kissing Fish
Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don't Like Christianity is an intriguing book from the moment you see its front cover: a photo of a Jesus fish and a Darwin fish kissing each other, surrounded by bumper stickers like “Christian, Not Closed Minded.” This is an unusual book in that it’s a serious theological work, but it’s also interspersed with deeply personal passages in which the author, Roger Wolsey, shares his own journey of faith. The result is a very readable and enjoyable book that shares theological insights without seeming preachy or overly scholastic.
Wolsey’s mission is to articulate a new understanding of Christianity, which he terms Progressive Christianity, and which differs significantly from the conservative evangelical faith that most Americans think of as “Christianity.” Wolsey’s Progressive Christianity is very similar to “the emerging Christian paradigm” Marcus Borg writes about in several of his books, including The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. In a key passage in chapter 2 of Kissing Fish, which I will quote here at length, Wolsey gives an overview of Progressive Christianity as he sees it:
Progressive Christianity is a post-liberal, post-modern influenced approach to the Christian faith that: proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Savior, and Lord; emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person; emphasizes God’s immanence not merely God’s transcendence; leans toward panentheism rather than supernatural theism; emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later; emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell; emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal; stresses social justice as integral to Christian discipleship; takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding; emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs); embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery – instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas; does not consider homosexuality to be sinful; and doesn’t claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).
In Section I of Kissing Fish, Wolsey examines each of these tenets in detail, in chapters like “Heaven & Hell & what about all those other religions?” and “The Bible: Book of Science, Rules, Facts, Myths, or Life?” Section II (which I’ll write about in a future blogpost) is devoted to living a life of love, peace, and justice, including spiritual practices for the progressive Christian.
Here are some questions for my fellow progressive, emergent, and missional Christians (as well as for my post-Christian friends): What do you think of Wolsey’s summary of Progressive Christianity? Are there parts of his summary you disagree with, or might have worded differently? Are such summaries even useful, given the highly individualized nature of progressive or emergent faith? (I think they can be very useful, if only to let others know that there are other, valid forms of Christianity besides the evangelical, conservative versions.)
Kissing Fish is available from Wolsey’s website, www.progressivechristianitybook.com. It’s also available as an eBook from Nook, Kindle, iBooks, and Google eBooks. If you download it from this link you’ll be supporting Charis Books and More, Atlanta’s independent feminist bookstore. You can also check out the Facebook page for Kissing Fish.