Monday, February 4, 2008

A Journey of UnEmergence pt. 2: Lazy-boy on a La-Z-Boy

So I wasn't familiar to any of the emergent literature during my time in Fundy bible colleges, but somehow, about the time I got married, I stumbled onto a copy of A New Kind of Christian (ANKOC). I put it aside in the hustle and bustle of getting married and starting a new job with Starbucks. About a month after I got married (this puts us in about February of '04) I picked the book up and started reading it on breaks at work. I was entranced. McLaren's writing style was hypnotique. Never before had I read theology in a narrative sense. On top of the style, the substance of his critique resonated deeply with me.

Perhaps a bit of autobiography is in line at this point. I had just spent two years at a Fundy bible school. I was a bit of a theological malcontent and a I had a bit of disdain for the rules and structure (especially in my second year); but I wasn't a "bad" kid per se. Nevertheless, I was asked never to set foot on the campus again due to "theological differences". In their minds, you could not separate theology from morality, and so my "bad" theology was the result of my poor morality.

This false idea of tying morality and theology together was a prime example of the things McLaren was writing against. Like a ugly kid who finally found a date, I embraced McLaren's way of thinking whole heartedly. The problem however was that the lifestyle that McLaren spoke of was by-in-large radically different than the way I was living. He really was advocating what seemed to me to be a new kind of Christianity.

I can vividly remember sitting in my green La-Z-Boy chair weeping and thinking, "O No, I am going to have to change my life. What if Ange doesn't like the changes I feel so false".

Well, luckily for me, ANKOC didn't cause a divorce, but it did cause me to begin to think in different directions. I immediately signed up for a budding new publication called Relevant Magazine. In fact, the first one I got looked like this.

I began to visit Mars Hill Church on vacation to Michigan. I started reading every piece of literature that the fledgling movement could produce. I began to explore the ideas of totally scrapping Christianity as I had come to know it. I questioned my ability to continue my job at a denominational church. I was on a mission. I had plans. I would work for Starbucks in management, and plant a church on the side.

The problem was, no matter how much I resonated with the movement, I was frustrated by its tone. It was all critique and no construction. I didn't know how to deal with this. And so, turned off by the strong negativity I kept searching, still holding on to the Emergent...


Kilo said...

I remember a mantra Christian Charette once had, "The last thing I want you to do is become a Pharisee about Pharisees. It would be easy for me to spend all day bashing fundamentalists for dressing up at church and failing to see that cigars and alcohol are not inherently bad, but all that would accomplish is to make us prideful and ignore our own problems."
I agree it could be said that Emergents can be all talk and no action, but doesn't this befall all churches? And the difference I feel here is, Emergent talk has actually brought about positive change for me. Studying the Bible at WOL made me more cynical of the Bible than I could have ever have dreamed...all the holes and inconsistencies, and downright pathetic attempts to explain them away. I had grown up being taught that the Bible is all-or-nothing, and felt like I either had to accept the full inspiration of every book we hold today, or be an Atheist. Choice B was the only one I could accept without dummying up and accepting things I knew didn't add up, until an Emergent church and some like-minded online friends taught me that Christianity and "Inspiration" are not mutually exclusive.
It brought about lots of positive change in my life, especially in my conversations with non-believers, no longer was I a parrot for things I barely believed, and they took me alot more seriously.
So talk, at this point, is a form of action, if you ask me.
It won't suffice for much longer, but for now, it's a good start.

JackthePirate said...

This is a fantastic matter of reading. It appears that you were drawn to McLaren around the same time (and circumstances?) I was drawn to Marcus Borg.

I can't wait to see where Tom Wright fits into this for you....

Justin Woodall said...


I feel you bro, I really do.

There is a great deal of good that needs to be said about the emergent church, but there is even more that needs to said from within our generation by way of critique.

Though the emergent church has been blasted among the ruling class of Christianity, we as a generation have not been critical enough of ourselves, and when we have it is almost with the air of self-degradation for self-degradations sake.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe Emergent churches are not action oriented, in fact, just the opposite. The problem comes in their actions to actively "reconstruct" a theology.

I know that is a somewhat modernist way of putting things, but it a necessity.

You mentioned Inspiration. I too have some problem with some ways that the church has classically defined this. The emergent church offers us solace in that we are not alone in this feeling. But what does it leave in its place.

All that to say this: After deconstructing the Modern church, what are we left with and who is to say its better?