Last week there was a gathering of emergent-esque folks here at MBCC as part of ReImagine‘s Spiritual Ecology project. Meant to be an open conversations about the future of the church, it gathered folks from throughout California for some conversations. Plus, it was also a platform for some authors to pitch their books.
Overall it was a good experience, filled with some meaningful conversations with diverse personalties and histories that might not otherwise happen. With that said, as these events are want to create, I am filled with conflicting feelings and thoughts about the specific experience as well as the larger conversations about all things, postmodern, emergent, emerging, etc. None of my concerns or appreciations are pure, but rather echoes of the gray in the midst of which most of my thinking happens.
In no particular order, but here are some observations about the ongoing conversations about the church postmodern, emerging and mystical. Really not order, but bulleted for clarity 😉
- We are still products of modernity, dammit! – I LOVE the fact that we are still caught up in many human, modern traps and obstacles when it comes to sustainability, vision, church, etc. It freaks the bageezus out of us that this new way of being has not provided any easy answers to the chaos of our faith and life. EXACTLY!
- If you have to say it, you ain’t it. – Sometimes it feels like we spend a great deal of time convincing ourselves that our approach to living the Gospel is valid. This “chip” on the shoulder of many folks seems really forced and not really conducive to building an expansive understanding of the church. I think that if we have to say we are being authentic, then we may very well not be. Part of this is having integrity about owning one’s boundaries, limits, etc. and not claiming one thing while REALLY meaning another. It seems that many in these conversations claim a kind of total openness that I really do not think can exist in this conversation. We all have limits. We all bring some kind of framework. The best of the postmod churches own em, work to make sure they are not oppressive and are constantly in conversation about the validity and helpfulness of those boundaries.
- I may not like ya, but I do see Jesus in you! – Now I will never claim to judge as well, as often or as wittily as some of my friends – you know who you are – but I will say that I am quick to rely on my intuition and can easily write people off. I have been accused of being aloof if you have not made my list, sorry, I think it is genetic. I love the fact that at it’s purest, these conversations still bring together people who I would not otherwise be in fellowship. And I am not just talking theology or denomination, but darn it, some people are just odd birds with personalities and quirks that quite frankly sometimes scare me. And I love it. Left to my own devices, if not for conversations that are brought about by these types of gatherings, I would hole up with people just like me, who are just as snarky and ultimately not a full vision of the Kingdom.
- Sometime we need to get over OURSELVES – I will admit that sometimes I am totally patronizing when it comes to people JUST “discovering” that realities such as racism, sexism, etc. exist. “Catch up you morons, I am soooooo over that!” is what the nasty little mean man says in my head. Obviously not helpful as everyone is at different stages of discovery about a great many things. Yes, context does dictate depth of conversations but to look down upon different stages of discovery like one is better than the other makes the baby Jesus cranky. I get the sense that this posture sneaks into the Emergent church culture as we talk about postmodern and emerging churches. As I have attended some of these events and people are experiencing the relief these conversations can bring, eye rolling and body language that gives off the vibe that have discovered the truth and the rest of you yahoos better catch up seems to be counter productive.
- Can we stop freaking REACTING?!?!? – Okay, one more GIANT over-generalization, but man, can we stop blaming either our conservative Evangelical roots and/or evil denominations for the downfall of the church past, present and future? Now I will be the first to admit that both of the aforementioned parts of the church have not always been helpful and there is room for reflection about ones past, but here is the deal. The next generation of church – emerging, mystical, postmodern, whatever – WILL NOT GROW IN BODY OR SPIRIT if our defining posture is, “This is who or what we are NOT” rather than “This is who we ARE.” Each community must finds its own voice determined by what God’s hopes us to be. Our past should never be ignored or forgotten, but I do not think God wants out future to be the defined by the diseases of our past, but by God’s hopes for our future.
- Ethos is hard to share. – I really appreciate folks like Tony Jones, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt who seems to be the guys at the center of public discourse around all of this. The Emergent ethos seems to be well articulated when talking with any of the three of them. The problem lies when this joyfully ambiguous worldview is translated and interpreted through so many other lenses. While good to have other voices, this is death to the possibility of there being a cohesive ethos that can be labels as “Emergent.” It just can’t happen with the magnitude of perspectives and personalities. And that is just fine!
- Down with the brown? – Even though it may not be authentically who the Emergent folks are now, that does not mean we can forget that brown folks and women are not significant voices in the overall conversation at this point. I agree it cannot be forced or fake, but at the same time, it can not be ignored.
So say we all.