burning the church…

consciousness has been the topic of conversation for philosophers for centuries. as in, what does it mean to be conscious, aware or enlightened?

that last word, for some, conjures up pictures of bald buddhist monks lavished in red and yellow robes contemplating in a temple somewhere, not to mention most likely Asian in descent. this description of enlightenment which is based on our cultural assumptions and experience limits our experience ultimately, not to mention that it does not allow the word or idea to evolve at all. dogmatists know this too well.

phenomenology, very simply, asks important questions about how one experiences’ events, moments, words, feelings and etc. in life. for many the church tends to conjure up a concrete foundation, bricks, mortar, or maybe some wood paneling (depending on the geographic location). then when we enter inside the building we might either have some greeters or no greeters, a band, a pastor, maybe a youth pastor and some other
relevant leadership in place.

mind you, i am not setting up the perfect church here (i dont believe it exists, and the vulgar fantasy of such a thing will slow down the progress of a future non-institutional expression of the ekklesia), but demonstrating our presuppositions. and also how our memory (anamnesis; the same word jesus uses for the eucharist; ‘remember’) impedes our progress. it is our memory (what we recall) that lurks in the corners of our experience of phenomenon (how things in reality emerge; how we experience these ‘things’) that sustain immobility.

philosopher jacques derrida speaks of how when we write things down its so we don’t have to remember. and also goes on to state that writing is based on an absence, it tries to supplement the absence, it wants to communicate out of desire. without getting too complicated, writing is a cover-up for our desire. take that a step further, memory is a stand-in for our desire to be in that moment, basically a form of nostalgia.

letting go is hard. catharsis doesn’t feel healthy, because its a purging of not just the moment, but the emotion of the moment. it is a sort of dying to that point in history. to allow for other memories, good ones, to emerge in its place. nostalgia will keep the emergent church from emerging.

cultural theorist kristeva refers to the word ekklesia (greek word for church) not as some brick and mortar creation, but becomes very basic in her understanding and borrows the term directly from its greek context. which was a group of foreigners who were allowed to assist in making democratic choices, it was so all were represented in making choices for the whole of the greek society. for her, she uses the term ‘a community of foreigners’. people from all walks of life, poor/rich, religious/non-religious, political/apolitical, black/white and etc. it was the place where all were equal. equality is still a notion today met with both urgency and tension. we all want it, and we want it now.

the main issue is that we all have different fantasies (due to desire; phenomenology) of what this equality means and looks like. but i think we err when we start with the whole (idealism). in fact, i think it is the greatest of errors, it will impede us, and to be extremely general – most are nostalgic (we want what ‘they’ had’ ;the early church; or what we might have experienced before now) and use their past experiences to judge their now. but as we all know, this is living in the past without room for emergence. emergence does presume an eventual moving away. into newness. the longer we remain nostalgic, the longer we remain right where we are.

paul uses the body, but when doing so, fragments it. ‘some are an eye, some are a…’ – we are fragmented (this does not mean sinful). what it does mean is that we are prone to the illness of idealism. we all want to be whole and perfect and harmonious. i think paul was doing something radical here in this metaphor. i think he purposefully reversed the order. the word for body is the greek word ‘soma’. carl jung defined it this way, a body who casts a shadow other than itself. he actually used this definition to explain a lot of his psychoanalytic work, but the definition is not his own, he borrowed it from its origin. and paul would have known the implication of using such a word.


if something casts a shadow other than itself, its not being real or true to itself. paul uses that word in his metaphor. and then goes on to speak how we are a fragmented body. i think there is a hint in here; that we all find our purpose first (meaning: are you an eye, foot, nose, ear and etc.?) and out of that the whole will naturally emerge, the body will occur. the ekklesia (humanity) will just happen (not perfectly) but it will happen…


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  • Lyle Taffs

    “..nostalgia will keep the emergent church from emerging…”

    Troubled waters! – but could possibly be the 8 most significant (prophetic?) words written about the emergent church. Save me from idealism! Lets hope it really does finally emerge without sliding back into the mainstream like the Jesus Movement.