Keepin' It Going Part 2
Good to hear from you again.
Ok. I'm back in the conversation! (Sorry it took so long).
Not a problem.
You bet. It has been a blessing for me, too. An admitted problem with the whole emerging thing is that it is by nature ill-defined, and resists definition. Nevertheless, it's important to have "some" idea of what you believe and stand for, so this discussion is helping me in that direction too.
Touche. And good point, humbly received. Looking back on my comment, it was a bit sweeping and unfair. I know mostly where that comes from (for me at least, not the EC) and I'll relate it to you, but I also realize that doesn't justify my own prejudices and judgmentalism. You see, before I worked for my church in my current capacity, I spent five years as a high school English teacher in an inner city school, working with mostly hispanic students at or below poverty level. Many were illegal immigrants or legally born citizens who are children of illegal immigrants. Anyhow, it was an eye opening experience, and one that I cherished and loved, and left behind reluctantly (to answer a different call for a time). Basically spending time among those at the opposite end of the wealth/power spectrum caused me to look at things from a different perspective. I saw much more readily all the places in our country, and even in our churches, where wealth and power are used to oppress. It is the abuse of these things, and the oppression that I truly hope to stand against, not the things themselves, although I think that wealth and power in tandem very very often lead to and encourage oppression.
I'm glad you didn't take my comment as an attack or judgement, and I'm honored that you shared some of your personal story so I could get to know you just a little better.
Let me share a little about my background too. I found what you said about your teaching experience very interesting. I think the school you taught at was a bit like the one I attended growing up. These days my life is very different than the life I had as a child. As a kid it was just me and my dad growing up. My mom left when I was 1, so I grew up in a single parent household. I never lived in a house as a kid but rather an apartment. At times there might be rats, mice, and/or roaches. The "hood" then was multi-ethnic; whites, rednecks & hillbillies, hispanics, italians, germans, some greek and middle eastern. I'm actually quite amazed people got along as well as they did. Although there was definitely trouble to be found if you were looking for it. I guess you could say we were poor, but I never really felt like it because I always felt loved and cared for. I had a great dad. I'm hispanic by blood on both sides, but you wouldn't know it to look at me so I suppose I may have had some little advantages there.
These days as I said things are different. We live in a "nice" neighborhood. An outer ring suburb that is pretty white, except for the Indian and Pakistani doctors that live here and the occasional black or oriental. I have 2 boys now, 18 and 14 so I guess that makes me a geezer. When they were a little younger I would sometimes take them for a drive to my old stomping grounds just to give them a little perspective. They would ask me " why are all these people so poor?... Is it because they are bad people", and you know, you really have to think hard when your children ask you questions like that. My answer to them may surprise you but here's what I said. I told them guys, some people are poor because they make really bad choices in their life and may have tremendous vices and don't really care about anything, even themselves. They won't even let God in. I've seen it. Some people are poor because even though they try very hard, they just have never really had many breaks in life, and maybe it's our job to help them just enough to get that break. But you know, being poor isn't always a terrible thing. I was poor and it didn't feel so terrible. Jesus said the poor would always be with us. We should try to help, but love is most important. So we need to love them and help them love themselves, and then maybe they won't have to be poor anymore, but even if they are they won't have to feel bad about it either. This is what I told them.
A couple of times I got to visit some relatives in the country of my parents birth, Ecuador. Poorer people I don't think you'll see anywhere in this country. But I don't think I saw more contented people either. As long as there isn't some despot with his foot on the neck of the poor, the poor can be just as rich if not richer than any of us. I'm not romanticizing. I lived it.
Thanks for helping me, brother. We are truly all working toward a common Kingdom.
Yes we are, and you are helping me just as much. You've been very clear and even-handed, I feel, in your responses. I'm learning a lot. Even though it may sound like I've been a bit negative regarding the EC, there are some truly thoughtful and Jesus-like things coming out of it I think. I have no problem at all with doing church differently. I don't feel overly attached to conventions, mechanisms, rites, rituals (except maybe communion) etc., especially if they create some kind of impediment to God. I don't hate them either, but if it gets in the way, begone! ;-)
I do know that one of the aims of Emergent (the organization) is to steer clear of political attachments that are either liberal or conservative. It's the idea that it's hard to be the conscience of a nation when you're in bed with one side or the other. I think there's also a desire in the EC to find a third way above and beyond the liberal/conservative stalemate in theology and worship, too.
This too, is probably very, very wise.
I think that there has to be room in the Kingdom for both Rick Warrens and Brian McLarens. Warren's reaction may be more thoughtful and careful than that of the EC, but I think it's also intended to reach a different audience.
I might disagree a bit here. Not about the "having room" for the McLarens and Warren's thing but, I think many (Warren is one and there are others) but not all evangelicals have always wanted to reach the unchurched too. Somewhere along the line they just lost the ability to understand the culture and as he put it, became just a big mouth known more for what they were against rather than what they were for. I'm thankful that some of them have become introspective enough to admit it.
The strength of the EC is its ability to reach people who have already rejected Christianity partially or completely, as well as those who feel excluded from Christianity (I would consider that to be "evangelical" in the classical sense, reaching out to the unchurched).
This is a very positive thing and needs to be worked into all churches.
BTW, I heard "A king and a kingdom" on your myspace. Awesome song. Not sure about that last line tho' ;-)
One last thing I'd like to share for now. It's an audio file of a sermon I heard entitled "Evangelism in a postmodern world". It's the third part of four. I don't believe his explanation of the post-modern condition is quite as nuanced as much of what I've read and what you've explained to me, but I think he says some very interesting, and important things. Maybe you've already heard it. If not and If you have time please give it a listen.
You may not hear from me in a little while as well. We're going on vacation for a week. Spring break. So take your time in answering. Hope you and your family have a truly blessed Easter.
Peace and God bless, Chris ;-)
Likewise--you have a wonderful Easter, too! I'll listen to the mp3 and get back to you soon.
One thing really quick, though--the song on my myspace is by Derek Webb, from his album Mockingbird. It's phenomenal (I like him "almost" as much as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan). I think the last line in the song you heard just points to the fact that we are so often quick to condemn everyone else, but just as often as not the true "enemy" is us ("he may not look like you think"). The rest of the songs on the album are just as deep and mind-blowing, so if you ever have the chance, find him and listen.