Charles Toy holds no high ecclesiastical office but this Oregonian has more influence then most any high church official can claim. Working with a team, including Rev. Mark Sandlin, this lay leader has brought together a community of over 200,000 progressive Christians to organize for the common good and to debate the important issues of our time.
The Christian Left plays a special role in the life of the progressive Christian movement in the United States, because of the size of the audience it can reach and the values of love, grace and justice that Jesus taught which TCL amplifies with volunteers working for no pay and looking for no glory.
This ought to worry Republican candidates as they seek the 2016 presidential nomination for a chance to win the White House after eight years of Barack Obama's stunningly consequential presidency.
All roads to the White House run through Iowa and South Carolina for GOP candidates, and that means courting the religious right. It creates a dilemma as the positions they take against birth control and immigration reform -- sweet tea for the folks at the Values Voters Summit - just don't resonate with moderate voters including the Christian left and progressives seeking environmental protection, economic growth and a world where diplomacy comes before war.
Some GOP candidates, like Governor Scott Walker, have gone so far as to say God wants them to run for president:
"This is God's plan for me and I am humbled to be a candidate for President of the United States."
A lot of good Christians would say these candidates might need to get their hearing checked as they propose radical cuts to social spending that would hurt those Jesus called "the least of these."
For the GOP, there are conferences and forums across the country where they can work to promote their conservative credentials.
For religious progressives, often wary to mesh partisan politics with faith, the old Constitutional belief that there should be no religious test for office holds firm.
Still, there are places online, such as TheChristianLeft.org, where religious progressives can talk politics and faith.
"We feel free to critique politicians from both parties," says Toy. "Our members are more concerned with living out the Gospel -- particularly our obligation to the poor and oppressed -- then to any political party."
"What you'll find in our membership," according to Sandlin, "are Christians frustrated with GOP leaders who proclaim to be Christian while working to oppose immigration reform, when Scripture tells us to welcome the stranger. Just as frustrating are those candidates that use the Bible to justify discrimination against gays and women. Those candidates are misusing faith for political gain."
Members of The Christian Left will not endorse a candidate this primary season. "A lot of our members are supportive of Bernie Sanders' economic agenda, but there is strong support as well for Hillary Clinton. Many are impressed by her work on behalf of women and her agenda fighting college debt," say Toy. "We intend to give all the candidates a place to be heard."
"In the end, no one from The Christian Left is going to tell you that you cannot be a good Christian if you vote for or against one candidate," says Rev. Sandlin. "What we will do is push hard to make sure progressive Christians voices are heard and counted to help move the nation in a more compassionate direction."
My own writings have been lifted up on TCL. Opinions always vary on what I write -- depending on the issue -- but it is great for progressive Christians like myself to engage online with hundreds of thousands of people who share the belief that we can make this nation and world a better place.
With The Christian Left so active, the Religious Right no longer has a monopoly on the Christian faith.