Day two of the Mainline Emergent/s was again, if not earth-shattering, meaningful. As I reflect on my time at this event, I think the excitement that I am NOT feeling is more about my expectations of the event (more later) than the actual content. Still the friendships nurtured at places like The Brick Store Pub are invaluable.
Two highlights of Day 2
- Best quote of the day came from the presentation by Diana Butler Bass when she told a story about a young person who was observing a church fight over the virgin birth. His response, "The virgin birth is so beautiful that is has to be true whether or it happened or not." Bass used this to illustrate the way that divergent world views perceive truth/reality/faith. Good stuff.
- Doug Pagett talked about how we relate as communities. The diagrams were very helpful and I’ll update the link when I find it.
- Bounded Sets where we set the boundaries and those within those boundaries are part of the community;
- Center Sets where Christ is in the middle and all else flows from the center, regardless of where it goes;
- Relational Sets where community is about inter-relational connections. A kind of Six Degrees of separation;
The other thing worth reflecting on was the Workshop that I attended, "Emerging Issues in Theological and Cultural Diversity" lead by Jay Voorhees and Tim Hartman (deftly handled BTW). We did talk about a great many aspects of diversity: theological, ethnic, socioeconomic, etc., but I wanted to make an observation about the issue of Race/Ethnicity within the emergent movement. I realize this is a complex issue that is actually handled better in face-to-face conversations so I am only make some observations and a suggestion.
My reflections come out of one thread of the conversation that took place during the workshop. We began talking about the "Modern" structural solution to issues of racism and sexism, the "boxes" or "baskets" that we so easily put people into to define their worth and usefulness to the system. While helpful to be intentional about righting injustice for a certain period of time, most felt like there must be a new/better/emergent way to address issues of racial/ethnic diversity in the church. I TOTALLY agree!
But . . . and isn’t there always a "but" —- my observation has been that the postmodern or emergent response to issues of diversity takes place in one general way. Because we take all contexts seriously, all types of diversity and how we approach them are given equal weight. Whether it be visible diversity of gender or race or more subtle diversity such as class, theological perspectives, etc. there is this sense that we should approach both types in the same way. This is where I think there needs to be some adjustment. The response I have heard from some self-proclaimed emergents is more savvy than a "I am Color-Blind" posture, but more of a "I am not going to make assumptions about one’s context, because they are [blank]." On the outside, this makes sense, and maybe for diversity issues such as theological perspective or socio-economics this is the way to go. But, when it comes to race and gender, I think we are required to do more work than see the other as a blank slate, no matter how much value one places upon that slate. As an Asian-American – and self-proclaimed postmodern, urban, presbyterian emergent – I do not want to be seen as a blank slate. I want to enter into a circumstance where "Cultural Compentancy" reigns as the norm; where we understand the context/story from where one comes without making the turn towards stereotyping and uninformed assumptions. For me, my experience as an Asian-American has required me to be culturally competent, if for no other reason that to gauge the relative emotional/physical safety of situations. When I walk into a room, I try to value the visual/audio/contextual cues I received so that I can engage more meaningful and appropriate interactions with others.
While this observation is subtle, I think it does have something to do with why there are not more visible Racial Ethnic emergents. The critical mass of the movement has yet to show to many Racial Ethnic folks that this is any more than one more growth strategy of the dominant church. And while this does seem a bit cynical this is a real perception. But – and now the good but – I think the overall approach and posture of the emergent movement has GREAT potential to change this perception. As an Asian-American, I have found great release and "exhaling" as I have found voice and vernacular for my own emergent self. I am in no way alone in this, there are many who need the same kind of opportunity and experience. The Emergent Movement just needs to find ways to actually live out a cultural competency that that will in turn develop into a Emerging Diversity. I have trust that given time and more conversations this will take place . . . it has to.