On paper, progmos want same-sex marriage, female ordination, theological liberalism, no one to judge them when they drink coffee, and for conservative members to drop dead. In other words, on paper, they want the Community of Christ.

But this raises the question: wait–why don’t they just join the Community of Christ? Or, for that matter, the Episcopalians? Or the PCUSA? Or the Unitarians, if they’re really looking for something light and fluffy?

Because, if I think through all the progmos and progmos-now-exmos I have encountered, I can only think of maybe one who has ever joined a liberal church. Most of the ones who don’t leave Christianity entirely stick around in the Church for years, griping about how much they don’t like it.

I can think of a few explanations for this phenomenon. The most generous is just that progmos grew up in the Church and feel it is their home, so they stay despite the fact that so many other churches align almost exactly with their beliefs.

But this explanation doesn’t do it for me. A lot of the progmos who say they still feel like the Church is their home eventually go on to leave it. What changed? And if you’re leaving anyway, why wouldn’t you try another church, one that fits your beliefs?

A less generous explanation for why progmos don’t go to liberal churches despite having liberal beliefs is that liberal churches are, by their nature, lifeless and boring. Plus, progmos can get all the progressive gospel they need from the media and universities.

Progmos stay attached to the Church because it is conservative, youthful and thriving. It’s one of the last strong institutions that isn’t part of the corporate-media-political leviathan. Like parasites, however, progmos can’t help slowly killing their host, threatening to turn it into one of the deadgraying mainline churches as they try to convert us, their friends and family, to their new religion.

The bottom line is if progmos really wanted a liberal church, they’d go to a liberal church. But they don’t. What they really want is the low costs of a liberal church and the generous benefits of a conservative one.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing in the long run. Only one, maybe two generations can get away with looting a church’s spiritual capital until it’s gone. Thriving, liberal, church: pick two.

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