03 August 2006

My Scarlet Letter

Here I go again pasting my red A on my chest. I have recently discovered the joy of carnival blogs. Through one in particular, I found some beautiful bloggers, some new daily reads. I feel like I entered a new clique. I linked one of my posts to this carnival blog, unknowing at the time that I was breaking the rules. Since then, I learned that there are requirements for this particular carnival (from the comments of a wonderful blogsite, which I found through said carnival). This one is a Christian carnival. And I believe it is only for women. Okay. I happen to be a Christian and a woman. The hostess requires that all adhere to the Nicene Creed. The hostess asks that all believe in Christ as the only way of salvation. So far, so good. The hostess asks that in all submitted blogs, theological controversies and debates are omitted. Fair enough. Then the hostess requires that no where in the blog, not just the submitted post, but in any of the entire blog, does it “promote the emergent conversation/movement/whatever.” This leaves me out.
I do not attend the emergent church, and while I do think some of the things that some of the churches are either just shallow changes or maybe borderline (depending on the church, but hey, isn’t that the case for all churches/movements/denominations?), I think they are doing a grand job reevaluating epistemology and ecclesiology in order to be missional in this post-modern culture. Honestly, I've been frustrated that there has been so much labeling and division on both sides, especially when all adhere to the ancient creeds. “It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label. To identify is to control, to limit. To love is to call by name, and so open the wide gates of creativity. But we forget names, and turn to labels” (Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, pp. 112-13). Christ said that our unity and love for each other would tell the world of the Father's sending of his Son for redemption and restoration. We are not telling the world that message very loudly right now. Instead we fight over the spiritual celebrities as to whose side they are on much like the Catholics and Luther fought over Augustine. I actually saw on one website that good Christians should no longer listen to John Piper because Piper quoted Dallas Willard who may or may not support the emergent church. I happen to love Dallas Willard. I also happen to agree with a lot of the philosophies in the emergent church. Just for clarification, the emergent church means a lot of things. It has become a wide encompassing label for anything that may look in the least post-modern. It includes more seeker-sensitive services (which is not how I feel we best incarnate Christ’s love and peace and truth, personally). It includes liturgical. It includes small house churches. It includes mega-super-size-me churches. It includes Calvinists and Covenants and Dispensationalists. Like our fragmented culture, the emergent church label has been placed on a variety of churches.
So what does it mean “does not promote the emergent conversation?” I’ve talked about hermeneutics in my blog. I’ve talked about rethinking the platonic model in our Christianese. I’ve talked about the nature of the Bible. I’ve talked about frustrations with the marketed church. Maybe I’ve promoted the emergent church, maybe I haven’t. Either way, to respect the wishes of the hostess, I will have to refrain from entering any more blogs on her carnival, which is unfortunate because upcoming topics include chocolate and music, two loves of my life. But to heck with it. It’s her prerogative to put the requirements she wishes. From what I’ve seen on her blog, she is a lovely woman seeking God and beauty. This is me. And my scarlet letter.


J Hearne said...

you can email me at:

jdh24 [at] duke [dot] edu

Robin said...

Great...just great! I have been reading for quite a while, and NOW I get your comment, lol :). No time to post my thoughts, but you already know I have them. I'll be back to read more, I LOVE your site "dedication". Guess I have the same "necklace" you're sporting these days ;)

Jennifer said...

An interesting bunch of thoughts here. I'm fairly new to your blog, but some of those links look interesting and I will have to check them out.

I will comment on one thing, that you said that "It includes more seeker-sensitive services (which is not how I feel we best incarnate Christ’s love and peace and truth, personally)." I have to say that I agree with this so much. I think that many things can be changed to make church seem more open to non-churchy types, including changing music, avoiding church-ease, but I think that dumbing down the sermons, or making them catchy and cool, isn't one of them. I think it just leaves people wanting for more.

Michael Hamblin said...

As a postemergent, normally seen as a critic of the emerging church, I often find myself being pushed out of conversations. Treating others with "charity" and having a "generous orthodoxy" in practice only applies to those people that we agree with - the emerging church still has much to learn in this regard, which is part of the reason why I continually harp on the gospel as reconciliation.

It is easy to become emerging and become part of the conversation - all one need do is self-identify as emerging ("I'm an emerging Christian!") as if this act in itself carried some kind of sacramental value. A critic of the emerging church, however, has a steep learning curve ahead of him: He must first become part of the conversation, he must be subscribed reading and interacting with dozens of blogs, he must read all the rights books (a list which differs from person to person and site to site, always growing longer), he must interact with the right emerging church thinkers, listen to the right sermons, attend the right conferences, and when he does achieve this herculean plateau of interaction and achievement that would cause even the most dedicated doctoral student to flinch, he must qualify everything he says until his statements are so heavily qualified that they have no significant critical value, or he is dismissed out of hand as "not getting it," that more work is needed to have "a deeper understanding of the emerging church" (as Tony Jones told me).

Strangely, most of the folks I know who would consider themselves friends of the emerging church do not keep up with the emerging conversation as intentionally or comprehensively as I do. They often resent my opinion when I do not fawn over Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz, but rather state that his writing is merely a Christianized J. D. Salinger. As one of my friends noted after exchanging email with Don Miller, the book really does not state anything profound. People see things in it that make them think, but what they are getting out of the book is merely what they are bringing to it. They read their own vision into the text, but that vision is not there in the text itself. Our take of the book is by no means popular. Don Miller is adrift in culture; I, however, am an exile in this culture, an alien and stranger in a strange land. And as such, I find myself outsted from the community that cannot tolerate a heretic in their midst.

In short, outgrouping and silencing is part of the pain that comes from not living the gospel. I have suffered enough pain of exclusion in my life, and the thought of being "relevant" as a means of belonging seems to miss the point of the gospel, where belonging is based on our identity in Christ.

Heather said...

I am sorry that you feel left out and rejected by this movement. I do agree that "relevant" is the catchword of the day and has become idolised at times.
Though it is the re-evaluation of epistemology and ecclesiology of some of the emergent churches (but really of the larger cultural shift in general) that attracts me, I want to be clear, as I stated above, that I feel the division is a result of both the emergents and the traditionalists (Robert Webber's term).
Personally, I think the what is emergent, what is not emergent, which church model is right, which church model is wrong is already outdated and tired. I'm ready to just be me. No justifications.
One of the greatest lines in Rent is "to being an us, for once, instead of them." Both sides feel like them, but in reality, we're all part of the kingdom, and in the greater picture, we're all a part of humanity. So aren't we all an "us"?

willowtree said...

Ha! If I wasn't excluded for the whole 'no womb' thing, I would have definitely been thrown out for my thelogical views.

But then I consider it an honour not to part of her blogging party. I wish her no ill will, she just sounds a bit anal to me.

Margo Carmichael said...

What if emergent turns out to be the same as Laodicean? Just--what if? Like Karl Menninger said in his book titled, _Whatever Happened to Sin_?

Yes, we are not called to be happy, we are called to our ministry of reconciliation. Not to be applied with cheap grace, because it was very, very costly.

Heather said...

I agree with a hatred of the term "cheap grace." No matter what how we misuse it (which Paul predicted in Romans), it cost God everything.
I think that there is a danger in some churches in the emergent movement becoming just a happy-go-lucky lukewarm spit-it-out-of-your-mouth milk. But that is the case in any church denomination or movement. That is always a danger. There are many denominations and types of churches in this emergent heading, some of which I applaud, some of which make me cry (see my marketing church post). Who knows how God is going to use this.

Heather said...

Ya like that "what how"? Nice.