I’m working on wrangling the final submissions for book three in the Banned Questions series, which will be Banned Questions About Christians. It’s funny because sometimes the seemingly easiest questions are the ones that respondents struggle with the most.
Case in point: I got an email from Carol Howard Merritt today, who is writing for the book. She has wrestled with a question for days that effectively asks: what is an emergent Christian? After trying in vain to get out of answering at all (typical emergent), she came up with what I thought was a wonderful narrative response (typical emergent) that she felt was woefully inadequate in answering the original question (typical emergent).
So in order to clear up any confusion, once and for all, I thought I’d compile a list of simple criteria to help you figure out if you are officially an emergent Christian or not.
You might be an emergent Christian if:
- The list of Christian bloggers you follow has more than five women with three names.
- The words “substitutionary atonement” cause reflexive sighs or eye rolls for you.
- You find you always use your fingers to make little air quotes when you use words like ‘salvation’ or ‘sin.’
- Wild Goose is your new annual pilgrimage destination.
- You identify yourself as some hybrid of multiple denominational names, perhaps with a “-mergent” thrown on the end for good measure.
- You commonly use phrases like “some of my best friends are atheists,” or “that reminds me of what Zizek said about…”
- You know what “The Event” is.
- You can’t read an article by or about Mark Driscoll or John Piper without wanting to hurl your fair-trade soy latte at your MacBook.
- You consider the fact that you’re a Christian to be more than a bit ironic.
- You find yourself quoting Derrida in regular conversation.
- You can fill in these names: ______ Pagitt; Nadia Bolz ______; _____ Caputo; _____ Rollins (no, not the guy from Black Flag).
- You have a bald head, facial hair and hipster glasses.
- You prefer “faith community” over “congregation,” “gathering” instead of “worship” and you always hesitate self-consciously before using the word “church.”
- You cringe when God language (or any language about pretty much anything) is not gender-inclusive or gender-neutral.
- You use the words “authentic,” “context,” “ecclesial” or “metaphoric” more than two dozen times in an average day.
- You say things like “I don’t really preach any more…”
- You consider calling someone a “post-” something or “post-post-” something is a compliment.
- You answer every question with either another set of questions or a series of deep, reflective sighs.
- Something just doesn’t feel right unless you’re boycotting something.
- You have any idea what “postcolonial hermeneutics” means.
I should be clear that you don’t have to identify with all of these to be an emergent, and really, if I told you how many it took to be emergent, that wouldn’t be very emergent of me. So sit with these, engage in dialogue about them, and maybe take them with you on your next spin through the prayer labyrinth made entirely of compostable materials.
But whatever you do, for The Event’s sake, don’t actually call yourself an emergent. No self-respecting emergent would ever do such a thing.