Progressive bashing of evangelicals and Catholics is getting a little old, as is the converse. It is pointless, alienating and risks becoming an exercise in self-righteousness.

Family members unveil Botham Jean Boulevard in emotional ceremony

Calling it a bittersweet moment, Botham Jean’s family on Saturday unveiled a new street sign…

This is particularly so when the charge is that these groups are unloving and unaccepting without acknowledging that the meaning of the terms “love” and “acceptance” are part of the disagreement.

The most recent occasion for expressions of everything from progressive disappointment to progressive outrage was a statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Francis, declaring that “homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” and therefore cannot be blessed.

Catholics, traditional evangelicals and Orthodox Christians find in the biblical narrative and the tradition of the church support for a particular understanding of the created order that they find intellectually coherent and emotionally satisfying. It appears in this document to be hierarchical and binary in its animal form, gendered with regard to humans, ordered by eternal laws, and embraced in its entirety by God, whose relationship with it gives it purpose and meaning.

The relationship of God to this created order is characterized by the word “love,” and thus the maintenance and restoration of this order is the essential act of love. The life of Christ, and particularly his death on the cross, is the ultimate act of divine love to restore this order.

When love is defined in this way, acts that discipline individuals into conformity with the created order are acts of love. They are human expressions of God’s relationship with God’s people over the millennia. There is no contradiction in saying that the Catholic Church loves LGBTQ persons and that it refuses to bless their marriages. The refusal to bless a particular homosexual behavior is an act of love intended to bring into, or keep LGBTQ persons within, the order of creation as taught by the church.

So as the full statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says: “[it] is not intended to be, a form of unjust discrimination. … The answer to the proposed dubium does not preclude the blessings given to individual persons with homosexual inclinations, who manifest the will to live in fidelity to the revealed plans of God as proposed by Church teaching.”

For Roman Catholics (and Orthodox and evangelicals), this understanding of the created order leads to tension with the basic assumptions of contemporary society. The modern world is built on concepts of human freedom, human self-responsibility, continual change/evolution/progress, and both personal and communal self-fulfillment. That quintessential modern document, the U.S. Constitution, tells us that “we the people” will take responsibility for the social order under laws that we will make.

In this modern context a distinctly progressive understanding of Christianity emerges. Similar movements emerged among other religions as well, most obviously in Reform Judaism, but also in Islamic modernism.

Progressive Christianity has broken from Catholic and evangelical views of how Scripture should be interpreted. It does not read the biblical narrative as a description of God’s unchanging order for creation. In Genesis 1 and 2, progressives find less a fixed order and more a process of orderingThat process is placed by God in the hands of human stewards. It is evolutionary as it responds to changing social situations and needs.

Not that progressives believe that humans are left on their own. They are not deists. Rather, the scriptural narrative reveals the fundamental principles God has put in place to guide the continual progress of creation under its own natural laws and human stewardship. And it promises God’s spirit in guiding the progress of creation.

For progressives Jesus Christ then comes to heal a creation and humanity whose ability to progress has been broken by sin. Through his death and resurrection, Christ, by his spirit in the church, restores humanity to its task overseeing the continual progression of the created order toward the reign of God as revealed in Jesus Christ’s own ministry.

While progressive Jews and Muslim don’t share this particular understanding of Jesus’ role, they do share a focus on fundamental principles for ordering a society in the process of continual change and evolution rather than continuous reiteration of an eternal order.

And this leads to a progressive understanding of God’s love, and thus human love, that breaks sharply from the traditional view of love found in Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity.

For progressives God’s love revealed in Christ aims to fulfill as well as restore creation. Love accepts and embraces emerging forms of self-understanding and social relations so long as they move humanity and creation toward the ideals of God’s reign. Love accepts, even as God does, emerging ways of understanding and engaging in human relationships marked by faithfulness and fruitfulness; given that we still await the “full revealing of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 7:19)

Perhaps put more sharply: For Roman Catholics and evangelicals, humans advance toward the “glory of the children of God” through a restoration of the original hierarchical, binary, gendered, human order while for progressives the movement is toward ways of being human too complex and diverse to be captured in that old order.

So ultimately there is little point in making accusations about who is or is not acting in “love.” Within their different frameworks for understanding progressives, Catholics and evangelicals all love LGBTQ persons. What they do not have is a shared understanding of what the word “love” means.

Nor, when it comes to it, do we Christians have a fully shared understanding of what it means to “accept” LGBTQ persons.

Almost all Christians, and no doubt Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and other religious people would affirm that LGBTQ persons should be accepted as fully human and fully in possession of their rights as citizens. However, progressives ask for more: that we accept LGBTQ experiences as giving an emerging insight into what it means to be fully human in God’s eyes. Only for progressives do those experiences offer a vision of God’s reign rather than exception to God’s rule.

In my wife’s language there is a saying, “like chickens talking to ducks.” As if this is going to change anything. While my sympathies this may be clear in this essay, it seems unlikely that religious people, regardless of where they stand, can make the fullest contribution to society by attacking one another without even grasping why they disagree. So instead of quacking and clucking we might consider trying to find the common language I believe exists, or at least learn to be quiet long enough to hear and thus be heard.

Robert Hunt is director of Global Theological Education at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News