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Emergent: Monologue or Dialogue?

(this post was originally for friends only)

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Okay, I just have to say this.

I wrote the core of this post a couple days ago, then decided that I shouldn’t say it, since it may offend people. Well, since certain people have promised to cut off contact from me, maybe I don’t have to worry about them now, and can just write openly.

For those who have not talked with us in person or read between the lines of my last post, let me fill you in: we have had some very emotional lash-back on these two posts. Several of our friends (not people we know locally – stop trying to guess!) have told us that if this is how we think/feel, they can no longer be our friends. They have cut off all contact.

I revised my original post where I thought I was going a little over the top, and started my second post with the apology you see. This was not a ploy! I could see where my words were overly harsh and vague: I really wanted to clear up that confusion, and affirm those who are still inside of the emergent phase. I thought I was pretty clear that God can really bless “emergentism” as a stage, or (depending how you use the word) God may bless an “emergent Christian” who is really just living the ancient faith in a modern way. I tried – I really, really tried to be clear, and to speak the truth in love. Writing this second post has consumed my week: I put as much effort into it as I put into most sermons and some research papers. At least twice, I deleted all of my work (4 pages the first time, seven the secound – that’s single-spaced) since I thought my words were too strong, or came out with a self-righteous spirit.

Apparently, that was not enough. Comments received still indicate that if I am going to plant a flag, to make a decision about my family, to declare an opinion on right and wrong then I am arrogant and selfish.

I just don’t get it.

I thought that to be emergent was to be all about relativism (I have my truth, you have your truth, etc.) – so what is so wrong in saying, “this is what I think”? I thought being emergent was all about journey and conversation: why can’t I say, “This is where we have been, I think this is where we are going…” I thought being emergent was all about following Jesus boldly, in free and relevant expressions of the faith: why can I not say, “I feel freedom and blessing in this direction: this is where I will be taking our family!”

This lack of toleration and openness, this inability to dialogue, this quick-to-judge attitude (isn’t there great irony in “judging” somebody by calling them judgmental? lol) is especially striking when compared with the amazing toleration, grace and love which I received from my “institutional church” friends who seemed not at all offended by my attacks, rants, loony ideas, questioning, criticizing, etc., etc. of all that they held sacred, during my emergent phase.

Apparently, the old emergent stereotype is inverted: it is the institutional church folks who are open to dialogue, who “can take it,” who are willing to be friends with those who are struggling/hurting/questioning, who do not look like them, who openly criticize/question their beliefs. Maybe I am just spoiled in my church experience: however, this is how it has turned out for me.

By contrast, my emergent friends seemed to have dropped me at the first sign of unloyalty to “the tribe.”

Strange, very strange.

2 Comments »

  1. Josiah: you tend to paint with a rather broad brush. Not all the emergent movement will react to your journey the same way, and not all “institutional church” folks are open to discussion.
    Regarding the aversion to a fixed position: if the emerging church truly does hold dialogue in that high a position, fixed positions have to offend it. Fixed positions end conversation, and that’s unacceptable. (Now I’m the one painting with a broad brush.)

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