Meet the Post-Progressive Religionist

To whom should I address this article, one of the first published on my new Integral Ministry blog and the recently overhauled The Integralist Newsletter? There are three different audiences I want to speak to over time:

  • Today, I want to address a group that I call the Post-Progressive religionists, who are people that are finding themselves outgrowing their religious organization and/or groups devoted to interfaith dialogue.
  • Next week, I want to speak to Evolutionaries who include “spiritual but not religious” people who are finding themselves on a path of growth in consciousness which has put them out of step with the New Age community.
  • And the following week, I want to welcome Metamodernists, who tend to be more secular-minded people who are concerned about overcoming the detriments of postmodernism.

The Post-Progressive Religionist

If you are a Post-Progressive religionist, then you have recently been involved with or committed to a progressive church, sangha, temple, or other spiritual organization. Whether you were a progressive Christian fighting for your theological life in a conservative church or a Unitarian Universalist (where the progressivism is already baked into the cake), you had at least one thing in common: you took a progressive or postmodern approach to faith.

Let’s use some of Steve McIntosh’s broad terminology for stages of consciousness. Superseded were religious justifications for war or jihad of Warrior religions. Superseded were the stale doctrines and orthodoxies of Traditional religions. Superseded were the cold rationalism or prosperity Gospels of Modernist religions. And superseded — just barely — was your faith in the Gospel of liberation politics which had so infused your Postmodern or Progressive religion that perhaps it became all-important. Liberation theology with its focus on feminism and racial justice (among other things) colored your interpretations of scripture, your church services, and your spirituality.

Progressive religion was good for you while it lasted, you suppose, but you hungered for a fuller truth. Like politics, religion came with theological differences along a spectrum of left, right, and center. It came with a yellow as glorious as the midday sun or a teal seemingly as wide and spacious as the ocean. You were ready for a leap of faith that somehow you could still work for justice, peace, and love… but still embrace a Bigger Picture. And so now you felt your spirituality was “none of the above”: it had landed on a higher ground.

The Post-Progressive Post defines some of the Post-Progressive position in politics like this:

Our perspective is post-progressive, which transcends progressivism’s downsides, while carrying forward its important upsides.

We advocate cultural intelligence, which integrates values from across the political spectrum.

Our strategy is to foster cultural evolution by showing how America can grow into a better version of itself.

Something very similar can be said about post-progressive religion. There is a “spiritual intelligence” which is one part of what McIntosh calls “cultural intelligence” and something we might call “social intelligence” as well. This intelligence is an active one which guides individuals to becoming a better version of themselves and thereby serves as a model for the Church or Spiritual Communion.

Just as the Post-Progressive Alliance is working to pave a new path forward for American politics, an as-of-yet unnamed group of people are working to create a New Path Forward in religion. I will usually call them Integral Metamodern (IM) folks in this newsletter and in my blogs. We’re not exactly a new religion, we’re some sort of “religion that’s not a religion”.

I do not want to unintentionally convey the impression that Post-Progressives are primarily concerned about politics over religion, which isn’t necessarily the case at all. Their outgrowing of a synagogue’s or sangha’s politics is typically an outgrowth of their outgrowing the group’s spiritual teachings. This is how the eminent developmental psychologist Dr. James Fowler saw the faith of people who I am calling Post-Progressives:

The emergence of Stage 5 is something like:

Realizing that the behavior of light requires that it be understood both as a wave phenomenon and in particles of energy.

Discovering that the rational solution or “explanation” of a problem that seemed so elegant is but a painted canvas covering an intricate, endlessly intriguing cavern of surprising depth.

Looking at a field of flowers simultaneously through a microscope and a wide-angle lens…

I think what these examples suggest is that people who are growing into advanced (Stage 5 and beyond) stages of faith are beginning to see paradoxes in ordinary life, gaining insight into contexts and construct for things that previously eluded them, and even gaining the ability to zoom in and zoom out of particular contexts and constructs. (For more information on stages of faith, see my “Who is the God of the Integralists?” or Corey DeVos and Ryan Oelke’s “Inhabit: Your Inner Theatre.”)

In this newsletter or in my blog posts, I may sometimes speak of you as Post-Progressives. As I see it, you are religionists who are working to move beyond liberation theology’s limitations while carrying forward everything progressivism speaks that is Good, True, and Beautiful.

You are the first audience that I want to address in my ministry. Let me officially announce that Post-Progressives are embraced and welcomed and affirmed in all aspects of my ministry. When you think that your church refuses to allow you to grow into who you are meant to become, I hope that you can always find a refuge in the Integral Metamodern community.

2 thoughts on “Meet the Post-Progressive Religionist

  1. Mark Benson

    Good to see, Joe.

    (I think we emailed a bit, years ago, after I read “Soulfully Gay” and tracked you down.)
    Great to witness your evolution.
    And, thrilled to be a parishioner of yours!
    Love to you

    1. Rev. Joseph Perez Post author

      Hi Mark,

      I remember our correspondence and am glad you tracked me down. Thank you for your kind words and watching as I take on more responsibility in the world and integral community.

      Love to you too, take care.


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