Awhile back, I published a post entitled, It’s Time We Take Back The Internet. It was a post about encouraging people to share more good news and positivity online. Its intent was to champion a new era of Internet content, one that drowns out the negativity and hate that is so pervasive online, particularly in the comment sections of many top social media networks.
It’s no surprise that I actively seek out online religious groups who promote acceptance, tolerance, and inter-faith dialogue. It is something I am deeply passionate about, despite the fact that I self-identify as non-religious. I just believe simply: to each their own. I also believe that it makes us a much more interesting species when we — you know — aren’t all the same. So, I was delighted when I was introduced to Unfundamentalist Christians through one of their popular social media channels, Facebook. They were a very refreshing Christian group who seemed to be very open, progressive, and downright good. It didn’t take long for them to become one of my favourite Facebook pages. Yes, they do share a lot of Christian-centric messages, but these message resonate with anyone who cares about love and equality. They share not only thought-provoking messages, but also cleverly funny ones too. They aren’t afraid to challenge the ideas they oppose, and sometimes they do so with a little sarcastic humour. The good folks over at Unfundamentalist Christians are awesome and a refreshing change from some of the more negative chatter online emanating from some religious (and to be fair, some irreligious) communities.
What makes them so awesome in my opinion? They are open, inclusive, and, I would argue, free-thinking Christians. Indeed, they are Christians that I believe are truly living the word of Christ through their actions and beliefs. They champion causes for the marginalized in our communities, and are very vocal about extending love and equality to all human beings. It’s not uncommon to see posts challenging fundamental religious ideas about LGBT rights, women’s rights, economic disadvantage and various other social issues. Indeed, this group of Christians has a fan-base comprising many secular, non-religious folks and people from other faiths.
I’ve really enjoyed interacting with this group on social media over that last year, and since I’m keen to flood the Internet with as much goodness and positivity as I can, I thought I’d reach out to this awesome group of religious folks to see if they might allow a spunky agnostic religion blogger (me!) to interview them.
It was no surprise that I received a quick and friendly response from the team at UC, but what did surprise me was that the founder, John Shore, replied to me personally. How cool is that? It just goes to show how down-to-earth these folks are. John connected me with, Dan Wilkinson who was kind enough to let me send him a list of questions to answer. Who better to tell you about their work and who they are then Unfundamentalist Christians, themselves? Be sure to pay them a visit over at their blog and Facebook page.
I also highly recommend taking some time to read their “What we Believe” document. It is, in my opinion, awesome. It challenges some long held ideas about the faith that are poignantly relevant to people’s all over the world. It is refreshing. We need more good guys on the Internet, and these are some of them. Meet the Unfundamentalist Christians:
- What is your role with Unfundamentalist Christians?
Technically my title is Design Director and Managing Editor, but I do pretty much anything that needs doing to keep UC running smoothly, from making memes for the UC Facebook page, to moderating comments on the UC blog, to writing blog posts. We also have a great administrative team who help in myriad ways–especially our Social Media Director, Christy Caine, who basically runs the FB page. And our founder and intrepid leader, John Shore, keeps the ship sailing in the right direction.
- What led you to become involved with Unfundamentalist Christians?
Around the beginning of 2012 I ran across a mini-manifesto written by John Shore that outlined a set of beliefs about Christianity. They’re now posted on the What We Believe page on our blog. While I was in generally agreement with most of those tenets, it was the first one, regarding the divinity, death and resurrection of Christ that, to me, set these beliefs apart from a standard progressive/liberal approach to Christianity and convinced me that this was a group I wanted to be part of.
- Who are your members/audience?
Anyone one who appreciates a Christianity that is more about love, grace and acceptance rather than hate, judgement and exclusion.
- Is Unfundamentalist Christians a church or not-for-profit?
Neither. We’re simply a group of like-minded people who more-or-less agree on a set of tenets about Christianity (and we don’t even agree on all of those!)
- What kind of work/activism does Unfundamentalist Christians engage in?
We’re not an activist organization — we don’t lobby politicians or mobilize our followers to boycott businesses. Occasionally we’ll promote a cause we like: for example, we have a Kiva Lending Team. We also devoted a great deal of effort to the Not All Like That Christians Project, which involves videos of Christians proclaiming their belief in full LGBT equality. But, more than any single project, we simply seek to encourage and inform, and hopefully have a little fun along the way.
- I became acquainted with Unfundamentalist Christians through Facebook. I’ve noticed that there are many non-Christians and non-religious fans of the page. Why do you think Unfundamentalist Christians appeals to these groups?
We do have many non-Christians who are involved with us. I think it’s because they recognize that what we’re doing isn’t about building walls with religion, it’s about love and tolerance. Though we profess some explicitly Christian beliefs, we welcome anyone of any faith (or lack thereof) to participate with us in any way they feel comfortable.
- Do you ever encounter negativity and criticism about your beliefs and how do you generally respond?
Regularly! A day doesn’t go by when we don’t receive some sort of message or comment in opposition to what we’re doing. Thoughtful and coherent rebuttals to our positions are few and far between; most of the dissent we get takes the form of long lists of verses from the King James Bible followed by semi-coherent all-caps screeds about how we’re all destined to burn in Hell for being false teachers.
How to respond? If it seems like there’s room for productive dialogue, one of our team members with too much time on their hands will often seek to engender some degree of understanding.
- Unfundamentalist Christians appears to speak out regarding many social justice issues. Do you see this as an integral part of Christianity to take up such causes?
I think that, as Christians, we have no greater call than to do our best to address the pain, suffering and injustice in the world around us. We are called to advance the Kingdom of God on Earth and to exhibit Christ’s love to all people.
- What do you feel is the single most important issue facing the Christian community? Follow up: What do you feel is the single most important issue facing humanity?
The important issues facing Christians ARE the important issues facing humanity. At the forefront is how to negotiate a world that is both increasingly diverse and increasingly connected. Never before have so many beliefs and so many cultures been so intertwined. How do we remain true [to] our personal beliefs, cultures and traditions while still being part of a diverse global community? How do we learn to live with others whose views may be drastically different than our own? How do we relate our often overwhelming social and economic privilege with a world in which such benefits are in such scarce supply? These are the challenges and explorations that UC really helps us face and process every day.
- How can communities of different faiths, and the non-religious community, work together toward tolerance?
We can listen to each other. So much strife is caused be refusing to really listen. Listening doesn’t just mean hearing; it means seeking to understand. It takes patience and humility. And when we truly listen, we often find that we have more in common with one another than we first assumed.
- What does the future hold for Unfundamentalist Christians?
I hope we will continue to grow, both in numbers and influence, but honestly, if even one person finds their faith and life enriched by what we’re seeking to do, then it’s been worthwhile. That said, I do think that what John Shore wrote as the tenets of the group–our What We Believe document–is where the future of Christianity lies. I think that’s why the group continues to grow. John was, I believe, the first to articulate a Christianity that keeps Christ and rationally, point by point, jettisons everything in Christianity that is clearly antithetical to the message and purpose of Christ. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a groundbreaking document.
- How can people contact you or become involved with your work?
The best way to stay in touch with what we’re doing is to Like our Facebook Page, engage in the comments and dialogues that happen on our group blog, share posts from that blog, submit guest posts for it, let your like-minded friends know we’re out here—and write us to say hi every once in a while!=
A special thanks to John, Dan and the entire team over at Unfundamentalist Christians for this interview and for the amazing work they do!