The great, vast landscape of American Christianity is in the process of changing– something that should bring us great encouragement. Christianity has always gone through such changes at the chagrin of those who dominate culture. The process goes something like this: reformers begin to challenge the status quo, challenge those in power, and eventually win some level of reform. After a time, the reformers themselves become the status quo until a new generation of reformers come along, and the process repeats itself.
It’s one of the beautiful things of Christianity– it’s always reforming, always contextualizing, and always adapting.
Right now, is no different.
For those of us who have become jaded or disillusioned with American Christianity (especially the conservative Evangelical version of it) but who desire to continue following Jesus, there is great hope. To quote Bob Dylan: “the times, they are a changing…”
The religious right, once the dominant force in American Christianity, is losing it’s grip on the future and a new era is coming. Mark my words.
The beautiful irony of the current reformation occurring and the power shift that is about to take place, is that these anti-reformers actually created and facilitated this event– to which I say, thank you.
Thank you for pushing us to the margins. You see, what’s facilitated this change is that so many of us grew discontent with antiquated expressions of our Christian faith that refused to contextualize and adapt to a rapidly changing culture as we shift from modernity to post modernity. Those who wished to maintain power and control had little tolerance for people like you and me– folks who were completely okay with rocking the boat. As a result, we were quickly ushered to the margins of Evangelical faith… set aside, cast away, and relegated to outsiders.
However, a funny thing happened as we were hanging out at the margins: we found each other, and realized we weren’t alone.
One of the most common emails I receive from readers is “I am so happy to discover I’m not alone in feeling this way”.
Well, you’re not. There are a ton of us. The current cultural shift, as I see it, it’s the classic case of the school room full of children realizing there’s 19 of them, and only one teacher.
Conservative Evangelicalism has marginalized so many Jesus followers who “didn’t fit”, that it actually created a massive group of Christian outsiders who eventually realized they weren’t alone in being an outsider. Much of this started several years ago with the birth of Emergent Christianity, which marked the beginnings of outsiders realizing they weren’t alone (if you’re a fan of the blog, you’re most likely part of Emergent without even realizing it). Since that time, the death of Emergent has been greatly exaggerated– we are alive, well, and finding more of each other every day. What was once a loose gathering of people at the margins, is now beginning to consolidate as we realize how many different categories of outsiders share common goals for the future of Christianity here in America.
Soon, we’ll be taking the keys. We want a Christian culture that looks more like the Jesus we see in the New Testament, and less like the conservative Evangelicalism we’ve experienced, and that’s the direction we’ll be taking things in.
The religious right is in the process of dying off. They’ve lost the battle of ideas and lost their relevance in culture. Old congregations are closing their doors as people fade away without having cultivated a younger generation to take over– instead sending their young people to the margins of faith, where we’ve all become friends.
Some of us call ourselves Emergent. Some of us call ourselves Neo-Anabaptists. Some call themselves “Progressive” and still others “Post-Evangelical”… Some call themselves all sorts of things. What’s important is the fact that we outsiders, have finally found each other– and we’re going to be working together from here on out, because we all have a lot of common goals for the future of American Christianity.
Yes, we’ll be taking the keys soon– whether you’re interested in handing them to us or not.
If you’re a Christian Outsider, I want to encourage you– so many of you find me here and experience your first stages of feeling less alone in where you’re at with your faith. We must remember, that we’re actually not alone– you’re discovery of this type of expression of Christian faith is happening in so many places, and there are so many other people just like you.
You’re not alone. We’re all here together. And, as long as we stick together, we’ll be getting those keys before you know it.
For the first time ever, I believe the numbers are going to shift our way. As they die off without replacements, you and I will find ourselves with the wonderful opportunity to steer the future of American Christianity in a direction far more beautiful than the direction the last generation took it in.
We need everyone involved, which is why I’m glad we found each other here at the margins. Together, I am convinced that in my lifetime we will be able to steer our culture in a beautiful new direction as we all find a “new kind of Christianity” compared to the twisted version we were given. Together, we’ll find an expression that looks more like the loving, nonviolent Jesus, than ever before.
If you’re a fellow Christian outsider, please don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.
Because, we’ll be taking the keys very soon.