If there’s one thing emergent Christians can’t stand, it’s being categorized, or worse, stereotyped. It kinda goes against the whole idea that the emergent movement can’t be nailed down, quantified, etc. The funny thing is, most folks who are emergent would deny it if asked, not out of shame, but rather out of principle. It’s kind of like the old saying, “If you meet The Buddha along the road, kill him.” if it’s distilled down to a handful of component parts, it loses something…maybe everything.
Anyway, my wife, Amy, sent along the following clip which pretty much describes me with about ninety-percent accuracy, which is impressive. And given that it’s from a guy who is down on emergents, it does lend him a little bit of credibility to offer a critique.
The following comes from Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be). First, see for yourself if you’d qualify as emergent based on his criteria. Then I’ll follow up in a second post with a handful of his criticisms of emergents, coupled with my responses.
After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian:
- if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac;
- if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and;
- your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem;
- if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu;
- if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity;
- if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;
- if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie;
- if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty;
- if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life;
- if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant;
- if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found;
- if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count);
- if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance;
- if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid;
- if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic;
- if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide;
- if you want to be the church and not just go to church;
- if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden;
- if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus;
- if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway;
- if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker;
- if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way;
- if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us;
- if you disdain monological, didactic preaching;
- if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you…
- then you might be an emergent Christian.
Yeah, color me busted. I’m a lot of that stuff. More soon…
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.
Christian is the creator and editor of the BANNED QUESTIONS book series, which include BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.