emergent is dead (to me)

emergent is dead (to me) February 4, 2014

To be honest, I had completely forgotten that I was a contributor to this blog. Back in April of last year I had started a post called, “farewell emergent?” Up until that time, I was really interested in the whole “conversation,” and I wanted to be part of it. I was reading as much as I could, listening to as many podcasts as I could, and I even started a group that was sort of an emergent “cohort” of skeptics and progressive Christians here in Raleigh. I really thought that I had found a niche, a group of people who felt “stuck.” Maybe there are still a lot of those people around. I don’t know.

Since that time, I’ve mostly backed away from these conversations. I’ve stopped reading almost entirely. I don’t listen to very many podcasts any more. I handed off the group to a few others, and, as far as I know, it has died. So, what happened? And, where am I now?

I think I quickly came to realize that emergent seems to exist primarily as a “brand” and not so much the “future of religion” as I once thought it was. I also see much of the effort being put into the “new atheist” or “humanist” movement(s) in the same way. And, both of these brands seem to be primarily parasitic upon fundamentalism. If you pay much attention to these blogs, podcasts, and so on, much of it is about making fun of “those stupid fundies” (or the hipper evangelicals). Which is fun. But, is that what you really want to be known for? To be blunt:

Nothing in either of these movements has caused me to re-examine anything in my life.

And, that’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. But, I love my life. I have a great marriage. I love my kids. I have a decent job. Good friends. And so on. I guess I came to see that these movements and conversations just weren’t going anywhere. And they are completely optional.

I don’t think emergent (or atheism/agnosticism/humanism) are “the future.” At least not for me. I’m gonna just keep on keepin on. Maybe at some point we’ll cross paths again. But, for now, it’s just really boring.

Thanks for inviting me to participate. Please consider that, for many people like myself, your movement is the final stage in a long process of opting out of the conversation completely.


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  • Jay Bakker

    First rule of emergent, deny you’re emergent. (:

    • RD

      I was introduced to emergent, ironically, by a dude who told me “you’re so emergent you don’t even know it.” That was like 2001. Soon after, I read your first book.

  • spinkham

    Bad for us, good for you. 😉

    Those groups are all primarily for tribal bonding: The ideas are always secondary. IMHO the best of the ideas you mentioned, humanism, is banal precisely because it has won the majority culture already, so why exactly do I need to visit with other people who label themselves humanists?

    Yeah, the group is dead or at least mostly dead: I have had too many things on my plate I care about more and nobody else stepped up when I asked. The Philosophy club also seems to have died out with the loss of the location.

    Glad to hear you’re doing well, and have more interesting things to keep you busy. Hope I’ll see you around.

  • mhelbert

    Rob, I think that I tend to agree with you. (Not sure, but, maybe…I don’t know.) As I’ve continued to visit with the Progressive/Emergents, Atheists and humanists online I’ve become increasingly bored. Shooting at fundagelicals is not sport anymore. Our faith, if that’s what we call it, seems to demand more. It requires some kind of transformation that moves us beyond the trivialities of ‘he said/she said.’ Thank you for sharing this.

  • Rob…Great post. I couldn’t agree more with you. I posted my last post on this blog last month. Unfortunately, the “emerging church” seems to have capitulated to liberal ideologies and have become lost. They have become the thing they critiqued. Fundamentalism is fundamentalism is fundamentalism – it’s not just a “conservative” thing.

  • jeffstraka

    My recent experience in both the EV and the EC group pages (I’ve left both) shows that post-theism is seen as a threat. It seems like you are allowed to deconstruct only so far. If they were TRULY serious about serving the least of these, they would be serious in forming partnerships with ALL progressives, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and humanists. The recent CANA formation (which some think will be the next evolution of EV) shows that Christian tribalism is still part of their ethos. http://www.canainitiative.org/

    • $104110035

      partnerships are good, but the ones you suggest constitute going to Hell with each other.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “Emergent?” “Progressive?” Bah! Humbug! How about “returning to roots” followers of Jesus? “Regressive,” perhaps?

    It seems to me that Cardinal Ratzinger, long before he became Pope Benedict, was correct when he is quoted as saying that in order for the Christian church to survive, it had to go back to the early roots of the followers of Jesus.

  • Joe

    . If you pay much attention to these blogs, podcasts, and so on, much of it is about making fun of “those stupid fundies” (or the hipper evangelicals).

    Part of the problem is that fundies say things that you know what they are saying. You never know what the hell non-fundies are saying. They seem like they say something but then if you say that they say it, then it turns out they were saying the complete opposite. Or you don’t know what the hell they are saying at all. Presumably because it’s all nonsense but they don’t want to explicitly be pinned down on one damn thing they say. Fundies have less fear of looking like idiots and will say the dumbest things and not give a crap at all.

    • RD

      When your “movement” is founded upon Continental/postmodern philosophy, you have the freedom to (not) say what you’re (not) saying.

  • A movement named after a department in a hospital has always seemed odd anyway.

  • Roland Darkchylde

    People come, people go – a boring observation 🙂

    • RD


  • Rett Copple

    Here’s the fatal flaw behind the emergent, atheist, or humanist movements. They presuppose that only Christians who hold to biblical authority are fundamentalists. For the reason, the aforementioned groups always seem to make poor philosophers. Epistemologically speaking, the question isn’t “are you a fundamentalist” but rather “what is your fundamental highest authority?” What is it, that you will not have validated by any outside source? For Christians, it’s God’s self-revelation in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Often, for humanists and atheists, it’s their own autonomous reasoning guided by sensual observation. Which of course, is the same for the theologically liberal and/or emergent. The problem here of course is that when one starts with their own finite reasoning as the foundation for knowledge, they undermine the possibility of certain knowledge which leads to post-modern gooblygook. In otherwords, they’re building on the same shifting sand the humanists are, being blown about by every wind and wave of secular doctrine, so it would be impossible to expect a different result.

    • RD


  • Chubby Lenin

    So, he’s leaving a “movement” that never meant anything, anyway? It was never anything more than saying what you are against and how dumb other people are. IOW, it was an ego trip. What took so long to figure that out about emergent? I guess maybe he’s just saying he matured.

    • $104110035

      No, it’s just to ‘torch the record room’ before he escapes, so it will be more difficult to track the slime trail of heresy back to it’s new home, which is wherever he now resides.

  • Clare Nolan

    I may not fit the profile for people looking at this blog?

    I’m a committed, maybe you’d call me progressive Christian. I am active in a
    faith community… a pretty straight up Episcopal Church in an urban setting. I
    have, for many years, worked with youth and am a lay preacher in my
    congregation. I also teach preaching, although I by no means have an
    academically religious background. I’m one of those people who has read a lot
    of books, (from Phyllis to Brian to…) and attended a number of workshops
    concerning emerging church ideas. And I do believe that this swirl of ideas
    needs to become part of the framework for “making church” in the 21st
    century, if indeed, church is to continue being made and remade. I also believe
    profoundly in a shared journey of faith…shared with God of course, but also
    shared with other humans. That is why I hang in there in an imperfect
    congregation, in an imperfect denomination, and in a faith tradition that has
    been compromised by the limits of human understanding ever since Peter wanted to build little houses (to protect/ commemorate Moses and Elijah and Jesus?) up on that mountain.

    I feel pretty sure that we get it wrong more often than we get it right, and I
    ask for God’s forgiveness for my ongoing part in that pretty much every day.

    All of that said, I DO seek out others who are willling to try… to reignite
    and perhaps to catch on fire themselves. Is I grow older (I’m 56), I become
    less and less interested in “protecting myself” against the power of
    Holy Spirit, and I continue to hope that emerging church ideas may help to
    provide a framework for making faith communities more functional, more outward
    looking… more on fire.

    I hope that this movement isn’t “dead”. I want to do more than
    “keep on keeping on”. I am, actually, doing more… and am so
    filled with joy on those grace-filled occasions when, with others, I help to
    welcome in a moment of church… of shared spiritual journey…of recognized
    one-ness with Spirit, that transcends our collective limits. When that
    happens, I thank God for being always in the mix… and for helping me in that
    moment to listen and to act.

    Happy Transfiguration Sunday friends… As the story goes…

    ” Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a
    high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their
    eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then
    they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with
    him. Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you
    think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for
    Moses, one for Elijah?”

    While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped
    them, and sounding from deep in thecloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”

    • Tim Lamb

      You may not fit the profile? Seems so many are “leaving” perhaps you are the only profile. Ah, and there’s me. And untold numbers of others. Seems to me you need a head for heights and a stomach for big waves in the emergent village. Then we can surf

  • randywoodley7

    Movements are like having a family name. Sometimes it helps to be together with your family and other times it helps to be apart. But life goes on and each family contributes something during their time here. The names change over time through marriages, divorces, etc. The new families swirl their lives and ideas around, keep some of the original and forget others. Life goes on. Emergent has been helpful to some, for some the ideals still are helping, for others they caused movement to another place. Bottom line: We are all related. And, although some may want to act like they are not related, they are…you can’t leave that.

  • Tim Lamb

    Emergent is an ongoing process, otherwise it would be emerged. How can you be bored with a destination you haven’t arrived at?travelsick maybe, but not bored. Change carriage maybe if you don’t like the conversation, but the train is continuing its mystery tour