Since the other posts I’m working on will take a lot more time than this little thing I wanted to throw it out there as it has been on my mind; for like a day or something.
As I began to break away from fundamentalism I didn’t really have any books that helped me along. In a sort of awkward and stumbly way I came to most of my initial positions on basic questions surrounding Evangelicalism by myself. But on the recommendation of a friend I read Blue Like Jazz. It was a refreshing book; and I still recommend it to people; but by that time I was already there. His jokes about beer, swearing pastor’s and weed were funny and not uncomfortable for me. In time, because everyone else was doing it, I read Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian” and Rob Bell’s “Velvet Elvis” and had a similar experience.
But that’s about it as far as my active involvement with anything “Emergent.” I’ve never been to a cohort meeting (mostly because of the ungodly time and day for the cohort in Minneapolis – I’m not sure who thought that up) and I don’t call myself “Emerging” or “Emergent.” Not least because of all the culture wars that have sprung up around it.
But I was watching some panel discussion with Tony Jones, Scot McKnight, Kevin DeYoung, and two other guys I forgot their names, and I was just outright angry at the nonsense DeYoung was spilling. So I wanted to write this to defend EC from the neo-fundamental-reformed types who keep scouring the Church to destroy whomever they don’t like.
First, here are a couple reasons why I am not Emergent.
– I don’t want to constantly be talking about ‘who we are.’ I helped plant and fail a church, and for years all we could talk about is who we were and who we wanted to be. It got so incredibly boring and infuriating talking about it that it was part of the reason I left. That part of the ‘conversation’ is one that I just don’t care about.
– I don’t want to have to defend a group which is supposed to be amorphous. My mom has a book about how the ‘Emerging Church’ is an end times deception of Satan (it’s not hers, somebody gave it to her). My uncle is convinced that everything Al Molher says about the EC is right, and that I’m some latte’ sipping, St. Paul hating hippie who doesn’t believe in anything. It’s so funny because it’s so ridiculous. I, like Tony Jones, do not drink latte’s. If I drink something with cream it’s a cappuccino, unsweetened, from a reputable coffee shop, but for the most part I drink black coffee, French Pressed thank you very much. The point being is that I want EC to remain so vague and diverse that I can continue to say “there is no such thing as an emerging church.” If I start calling myself Emergent I have to deal with my fundamentalist relatives and defend myself which I just don’ care to do.
– I think that Phylis Tickle’s book went too far – way too far in defining the EC and giving it a theological (hegelian?) historical meta-narrative based on iffy ideas of major things happening every 500 years. Not only that but the changes are related to big garbage sales? And then every player in the EC game gushed over in praise of the book and for a second I thought that it was going to define the EC for good. I’m just too damned “post-modern” (whatever that means) to start to claim history as my vindicator over against current operating paradigms of Christianity. I do believe that God is working some new and great things in the Church, and that EC can be a part of it; but I prefer to let “reception” among the Churches be the dominating factor in deciding what changes are going to last.
– I think that sometimes the “post-modern” term is used flippantly without a conscious awareness that “post-modernity” is not the “end of history” nor of theology or epistemology. Indeed, it seems a legitimate point to me that the “postmoderns” rarely become thoroughgoingly “post”; most of they are a “hyper” modern. On this I definitely still buy the case put by certain strands of Radical Orthodoxy.
– Sometimes a couple leaders in the EC are too anti-establishment for my taste. A rather shortsighted position in my opinion, what about the children, and their children’s children? Are we going to canonize free church independent deconstructionism as the final destination on the Church train? Are we really talking about an internet magisterium? Please.
There are reasons that I am Emerging and why I defend the Village and plan on being more involved both in EC and in Anglimergent
– There needs to be a safe space for questions, legitimate doubts, non-confrontational conversation, ambiguity and grace. By (I believe) the grace of God, the EC has opened that space up. (I know Mainline, you’re tempted to say you can do that there, with that smug look on your face. No you cant’. Everything gets boiled down to heated and dirty exchanges over homosexuality and “inclusivity.” Battle lines are clearly drawn in the Mainline. Plus everyone still thinks the old liberal protestant magisterium is relevant. Theology has moved on guys, get over it) Until the Church at large is able to understand what it means to be in a somewhat post-denominational age, the neutral space is needed; and will probably forever be needed.
– Critique of both right and left is needed in the Church, and EC is at its best, able to do this.
– In my opinion, many attempts by Evangelicals to contribute to the EC are not brave enough to cope with the secular age. It is still strangely similar to just updating the clothing and relevance. For my buck that’s just not good enough. More radical changes are needed and so far most Evangelicals are not willing to move beyond arguing about inerrency and whether church history really goes back 1500 years earlier than they think it does.
– In my opinion, many attempts by the Mainline to contribute to the EC are not confessional enough. Until the Cross and Resurrection are returned to the center of even our ‘enlightened’ care for the poor we are kind of not going anywhere. Let me be clear. 1 – Pentecostals and Nazarene’s were ‘ordaining’ women before you were. 2 – Evangelicals and Catholics were helping the poor, um, since the beginning. You did not invent social justice, get over yourself. 3 – You are no longer the only ones doing critical study of the Bible and theology. Time to get off the high-horse and participate in the larger church with humility.
All that to say, I am Emergent. . . sort of