Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Recent {Emergent} Christian Miscellany

Those rumblings you hear across the eclcesial spectrum in this country are the voices of the emergent conversation, a movement of believers disenchanted with the staid worship and theology of contemporary Christianity. Its leading voices--Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, et al.--have been lightning rods for both adoration by their followers and censure by their detractors.

My good friend Jake Myers, Coordinator for Missional Community at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, has entered this fray with both feet. ABP reported on a seminar he led at the recent CBF General Assembly. Entitled "Beer, Candles, & Kierkegaard," Jake's seminar was extremely well-attended, and I'm certain was conducted with all the wit, intelligence, and compassion Jake shows in his everyday life. You heard it here first: this is not the last you will hear of Jake Myers...

...which brings me to the second piece of Christian miscellany, again related to the emergent conversation. One could argue about what kind of effect blogs have on our mode of communication. Some would argue that blogs embolden individuals to express their views with far more vitriole than ordinary conversation; others might suggest that blogs simply mirror our ordinary conversation. In either case, a blog entry entitled "Is Tony Jones Even a Christian?" is troubling.

Those who seek to change the church at its very core will be the object of scorn and excommunicative diatribes. When an individual's faith becomes the stuff of public discourse, then we have lost a crucial sense of perspective. It is the oldest trick in the book to demonize your opponent instead of grappling with the substance of their argument. The author of the blog presumes that "gnostic mysticism" and "catholic" forms of spirituality are outside the scope of the Christian faith. Clearly, this writer has bought into the myth that the church is a homogenous body across time and space, one which is characterized by purity of thought and practice. The author of this blog excludes by definition a church which breaks the antiseptic bubble of propriety and narrow dogma...

...which brings us to the third piece of Christian misccellany. Al Mohler has voiced his displeasure that a Christian ministry committed to sharing the gospel in the pornographic industry chose to buy booth space at an adult entertainment expo. Citing the seedy surroundings, Mohler determines that this is no place for professing Christians to make their presence felt; Mohler explains, "There is a difference between talking to a prostitute about the Gospel and entering a brothel -- much less buying a booth."

A massive Christian hypocrisy is clear here. To be sure, the billions of dollars Americans spend on pornography is not a phenomenon isolated to the lecherous non-believer; likely, Christians propel the nation's thirst for visual sexual gratification at equal measure. Simply asking for Christians to detach themselves publically from the industry only deepens the hypocrisy. It seems to me a far from Christ-like act is to establish a prophetic presence even in the seemingly seediest corners of our culture. After all, Christ met the most detested of sinners in their context, whether it was their homes or an isolated water well.

Recently, Holley became involved in a ministry for strippers. In groups, women volunteers go to strip clubs with gift baskets and try to form relationships with the women working there. At times, they might even pay women to sit down and talk with them during their performances. I wonder whether Mohler would direct the same criticism to such an incarnational presence. In my mind, there is no more Christian act than to descend into those undesirable depths which society and religion deem wholly reprobate in order the shine the light of the gospel with love, compassion, and empathy.