I have been reading one of my Christmas gifts lately. It is An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. This book is a collection of essays by leaders in the Emergent Church movement. It is an attempt to drive home their viewpoint and their goals to those who are unfamiliar with the Emergent Church. I will be blogging about some of the individual chapters because there is so much in this book worthy of blog posts al there own. However, one thing is standing out and coming across as an underlying and unifying factor in the Emergent movement. One theme continually pops up that unites these very different men and different theologies. Well, two themes if you count ‘missional’ as a theme, but really what is ‘missional’ and what does that mean seems to be different for each writer, but another post for another time.
The main unifying factor seems to be an open rebellion against the Religious Right. And by that I mean a rebellion against those religious leaders who jumped into the political arena like Jerry Fawell, Pat Robertson, and Dr. Dobson, but also the more theological leaders like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. This is one of the reason these people like to call themselves ‘post evangelical’. The word evangelical is as much a political word today as it is a religious one. These people do not like the politics of the ‘evangelical movement’ and its leaders and have rejected the whole system. Listen to the words of Brian McLaren:
Here in the United States we see large sectors of the Christian community associated with American hyperconfidence, white privilege, institutional racism, civil religion, neocolonialism, and nationalistic militarism – often fortified by a privatized faith in a privatized nationalistic/tribal god. (pg. 148)
Other writers make similar comments. In fact, Tony Jones specifically mentions the hope of the Emergent Village being something that can counter the work of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (pg.130). These men and women really seem to be the next step in evolution of the Liberals and their Social Gospel from the early part of the 20th Century. Then the Social Gospel took over and the message was changed from one of salvation to one of helping the needy. However the Social Gospel took over the institutional churches and made few other changes besides the message. Thus, people sang the same sort of songs, sat in the same pews, and worshipped in the same manner while hearing the social gospel message. The Emergent Church wants a return to the social gospel of liberalism, but they are also throwing off the system itself. Why keep the same old trappings? Why not throw off all vestiges of that old authoritarian system and find a new way more in keeping with the message? This group is on board with Progressive/Democratic politics and it is angry at the Republican domination of the Evangelical message.
While I can agree that Evangelical as a political term is a bad thing and the mixing of the Republican Party with Christianity as is done by Robertson and others is a serious error, I do not agree with the radical solution. There is of course a middle ground, the ground always held by the church. Preaching Christ and Him crucified along with being living sacrifices of thanksgiving. I am against the ‘Republican Party will save us’ mentality that pervades so many, I am equally appalled at the ‘throw everything overboard and hope the Democrats can save us’ mentality taken by the Emergent church as well.