Christian, Please Don't Use "Progressive" As If That Were Good

The other day I went to a worthy event meant to raise awareness of global and local sex slave traffic. A documentary was shown, personal testimonies given, some tears were shed, prayers were said. All in all a moving and effective evening.

Very naturally throughout the evening the question of legislation came up. What are states, legislatures, and police forces doing to combat this great and pervasive wickedness? Sweden was held up as a model of effective legislation and prosecution, as far as I can tell, most deservedly. They have turned the country into one which slavers and pimps do not want to do business in by treating prostitutes as victims, and turning the harshest penalties on "johns" (the clients). This is unequivocally a good, wise, and strong change in how society deals with this problem. Most governments may penalize johns, most police forces may run stings, but the reality is usually that the men who drive the global slave trade get wee little slaps on the wrist and go on with their lives, while the slave suffer most.

The woman running that night's event praised the state of Georgia for recently passing legislation in the Swedish mode, lightening penalties for the slaves who are arrested, and increasing them for johns. The state of South Carolina, where we live, was criticized for being insufficiently "progressive". Votive expressions were made for similar change to come here.


This post is not about sex slavery. It's about the use of the word "progressive".

If you are a Christian, please don't use it. At least not in a moral or societal sense. Use it strictly in sentences such as "Jolene's jumpshot is showing progressive improvement." On second thought, don't even use it that way, that's an awkward sentence. Let's strike the word from our vocab.
Here's how to use the word.

When progressive is used morally, it means "using or interested in new or modern ideas especially in politics and education". A person can be "a progressive", in which case he is one who believes in "moderate political change and especially social improvement by governmental action".

The thing about progress is that it's going somewhere. Christians already have a story of progression: we are moving toward the redemption and judgement of the cosmos. We are moving toward Christ's return.

People use the word progressive because "evolved" sounds silly. Their narrative is humanistic and relative to local values. They can't use the word "good" except as a substitute for "pleasant" or "agreeable".

When it comes to moral questions, Christians ought not to care what is new or modern or even useful. We should use the word good. It makes all other moral concepts more meaningful. Which would you prefer, "justice" in a good world, or "justice" in a progressive world?


South Carolina doesn't have "progressive" or "unprogressive" laws. It has good or bad laws, and the Christian uses God's standard to describe that. There's an objectivity to this.

As the documentary I watched that night extolled (again, rightly) the punishment and eradication of the slave trade in Sweden, my mind couldn't help but flicker to that country's oppression of homeschoolers, especially in the Johansson case, in which police officers kidnapped a child from his parents off of an airplane departing to be with family in India, where the Johanssons knew they could live free from persecution.
By what standard?

This is not to say that Sweden is exceptional. This sort of thing happens in the less progressive United States too. But it is to say that ultimately "progressive" means only one thing: that which most of us agree is right. That which is "good" is that which the majority agree on. Which means that using the word against which this polemic is directed is a signal that you are putting your trust in states, in democracies, in mobs. This might lead to chaos, more likely to dictatorships, but it certainly doesn't lead to Christ.

Let the Christian not get overanxious when the king persecutes them, nor overexcited when the king honors them. God has a plan, a progression. We should trust in him and do good.

And let us do good. We have surrendered the gospel of Jesus to the world's progressive gospel. Christians and the Church behave as if caring for the widow and orphan is the state's work. As if redeeming the slave and prosecuting the man-stealer were only a civil question. Brothers, please. Leave off being progressive and come build the Kingdom.


  1. Wonderful thoughts, as always, my great bearded friend. It is something that always disturbs me when I see our brothers and sisters in Christ getting sucked into the world's viewpoint of "progressing" towards a more perfect state, and by that they mean that the moral objective standard of the Lord is being slowly eroded if that were a good thing. Yet, all the more reason to stand firm on the truth that we know. Thank you for a brilliant reminder that the language we use does make a difference.

  2. Thanks for your kind comments, and I'm glad the post was enjoyable/helpful!


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