Hello, my name is John Jensen. With my wife Raquel, and my daughters Ade and Cheyenne, I have been creating and taking part in small communities of faith, mostly among those that do not fit into our normal traditional Christian boxes. Our current community is in Long Beach California. We have found these communities of those that are radically diverse, and committed to a bottom up empowering of people in all of the social fabric, have had a transformative effect on our life, and that of those around us. My website johnthereverend.com has many similar articles, as well as occasional videos, hope you will join the discussion.
My pedigree is pretty strong in the “emerging church” world. Though I may not have any degrees, my wife and I were on the vanguard of this brave new world where art, post modernity and mission were innersecting. I was on staff with a missions and church consulting agency that was helping churches prepare for this changing landscape long before the discussion of “emerging” was even in the public square. Our first youth ministry was way outside the box, and our first church plant “the belonging” was surprisingly influential. The third church plant we worked with was written about in The Shaping of Things to Come.
Long before people were writing books for and against the emerging church, we were living something radically different, and continue to do so. There are many people that are very well respected authors and conference speakers that were part of this conversation way back in the day.
I think however we have gone in two directions. We have either gone in the direction of “emerging church is a style” or “emerging church is a ideology” The one looks at, how we can do things better to reach our goal of saving the lost. The other is more about challenging the thoughts and theologies of the traditional church.
I want to speak a bit about the second part. I admit, I may come across as a bitter, under educated and anti education guy, but hey, I might be a bitter, under educated and anti education guy!
What I have begun to see more and more commonly among this circle, is theological mumbo jumbo. This tendency to come up with the most extreme, shocking, or mystical ideas and to throw them around as some testimony as to how unique and non traditional we are. To show how our post modern deconstruction of the faith has allowed us to embrace all kinds of thoughts. And to escape any real critique because… it isn’t really about right and wrong, black or white, it is all about the wrestling, the journey.
Well, this is where I get to my title. I am more and more convinced that any ideology, any theology, any Christology that does not have flesh on it, is quite frankly bullshit. As much as I find the clever rhetoric to be a bit too cool for my tastes, Peter Rollins is quite correct when he said, “I deny the resurrection of Christ every day I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, every time I turn my back on the poor”. This infatuation with coming up with all kinds of deep and meaningful ways of deconstructing scripture, pontificating upon abstract concepts, and creating “conversations about God”, is basically bullshit if it doesn’t actually cause us to become part of the way.
The early church was not known by its beliefs. The truth was that by the Nicean council the church was incredibly diverse in its theology, if a bit less so in its structure. But what it was fairly united in, was the way in which it lived. It was the Way. They cared for not only their own sick and poor, but those of the Romans. They were good news to the poor and the marginalized. They were devout in their generousity, and scandalous in their equality. They stood against the tyranny and oppression of both religion and state. They would often fast not for spiritual reasons, but so that the money they saved in not eating could be used to buy a community member out of slavery.
So as fascinating as some of the differnent theories of atonement might be, as interesting as a study of what heaven may be like, and as unique as some post modern take on St. Pauls scribbles in the public toilet in alexandria might be…
If it doesn’t result in love, especially for the least of these, then it’s a banging gong, a noisy symbol, it is in fact just theological bullshit