One of the first things I noticed as I began reading emergent books and blogs, visiting emergent churches and events, and meeting emergent people, was that there seemed to be a uniqueness about them and the way they were. I have heard of a church that jokingly refers to themselves as “the island of misfit toys” for this very reason. There is an element where we emergent folks just don’t fit with the traditional, institutional church. I noticed that about my Emergent friends rather quickly (and found I had this in common with them).
(By the way, I realize “culture” is in the eye of the beholder and changes for each person. My “church” culture was suburban evangelicalism in the institutional church, which certainly contributes to the “culture shock” I experienced. Perhaps not all would have the same experience.)
As I met these new friends, these were people who did things differently, did church differently, but they had good reasons for it. This was not the scenario of the college kids dying their hair purple because nobody else was, or liking dub step because no one had every heard of it. Instead, they were counter-cultural in real, theologically formed ways.
For example, they sat in couches for worship, instead of pews or chairs. They did not do this because couches were “cool,” but because it was conducive to the conversational style they wanted their services to reflect. Related to this, they did not have one person with a microphone, but they had many microphones hanging from the ceiling. Church was in the round (before that was cool) because it better facilitated conversation. They felt like multivocality was a theological value to protect (see last week), and so their meeting area reflected this in ways that seemed strange.
They wore different clothes, not because they wanted to start a new fashion trend, but because they were against displaying labels, or giving money to big corporations, or to further a cause they supported. (Shane Claiborne, for example, makes all of his own clothes, not to be “cool”, but to be a prophetic voice to his generation.)
They lived in community, not because they could not afford to live alone, but because they felt that communal living was actually a better, more biblical way to live.
Suffice it to say: We live in an age when being different is the thing to do. As a former youth pastor, I was always amazed at how differently some teens would dress just to fit in (just remember: you are unique, just like everyone else). The reason was social currency. I noticed something different in Emergent. These people were different, but they had deeply rooted theological reasons for being the way they were. That is respectable. It is mature. And frankly, I think it is something that outsiders miss about the Emergent movement.
So, may we continue to be counter-cultural, but in ways that give honor to God. Ways that challenge our culture to notice and consider the reasons.
What other ways have you noticed the theologically informed counter-culturalism with the Emergent movement?