Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Motherhood the Highest Honor?

The Barbs Hidden in Honorifics

Laura Ziesel
Sunday, July 17, 2011

deceptive bendsphoto © 2003 Paul Lim | more info (via: Wylio)Since I have been on a journey of exploring what the Bible has to say about women and womanhood for the past two years, there is one assumption that has always perturbed me: The highest calling of any woman is to be a mother. This statement has not perturbed me because I desire to be childless, but because I believe this statement is both untrue and hurtful to women without children. It is untrue because I believe the highest calling of any woman is to be like Christ, to be His ambassador in a hurting and broken world. And it is hurtful because God does not call all women to motherhood, and when we artificially elevate motherhood, we imply that women who are not mothers have a lower status in their lives and calling. A woman who is not a mother is not any less of a woman simply because she has not been pregnant, given birth, breastfed, or mothered her own children.
But unintentionally hurting people when attempting to bring honor to other people turns out to be rather common. Regardless of the inherent truth in a statement, we must begin to think of the hidden barbs in our words of honor.
For instance, I honestly cannot think of life without my husband. He is my best friend and an amazing life partner. But when I say things honoring my husband or marriage at large, my words can implicitly dishonor singleness. How many times have you heard a sermon containing a line like, "No greater opportunity for sanctification will present itself than your marriage"? While I agree that marriage is a great opportunity for sanctification, we must remember that God does not grant everyone this opportunity, and their opportunities for sanctification are just as noble and glorifying to God. Single people often sit silently when marriage is elevated above singleness, being wounded and alienated from community.
The same is true for the attempts we make at congratulations or well-wishes. When a woman is pregnant or gives birth, many people say, "As long as it's a healthy baby..." But have you thought about how that makes parents of children with illnesses and disabilities feel? Does that mean that we do not want unhealthy babies? Similarly, when honoring our men and women in uniform, do our words imply dishonor to those who are not in the armed services? Or perhaps the most common in some ministry circles: Do our words praising pastors and missionaries wound those who God has called to be engineers, teachers, or chefs?
I know that thinking about all of the people we can possibly wound with our words is exhausting. We should not stop honoring marriage, motherhood, military service, or vocational ministry. But perhaps we can make attempts to honor singleness, childlessness, civilian life, or secular vocation in a balanced way? The pulpit might be a great place to start doing this. Since we usually hear a Mother's Day sermon and a Father's Day sermon, can we hear at least two sermons a year on the beauty and value of serving those outside our biological family? And perhaps your church can host a conference for single adults, divorced adults, or single parents every once in awhile in addition to the annual marriage conference. Let's get creative.
I'm not asking for perfection. All I'm asking is that we think about what we say before we say it and what we do before we do it. Our words and actions carry many meanings, and we should pay better attention to them.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Have you ever been unintentionally hurt by words that were meant to praise someone else? How did you deal with this? How can we, as the offended parties, deal with these situations appropriately? And how might we, the unintentional offenders, learn to love and honor all the members of God's family?

World's Most Dangerous Countries for Women

July 20, 2011

Targeted violence against females, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide (the destruction of a fetus in the uterus), genital mutilation and acid attack. A survey compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of TrustLaw Woman*, puts Afghanistan at the top of the list of the most dangerous places in the world for women. TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five contents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six categories of risk. The risks consisted of health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. The collection of images that follow were provided by Reuters to illustrate the dangers women face in those 5 countries. -- Paula Nelson(*TrustLaw Woman is a website aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s' groups around the world.) (37 photos total)

Women in Afghanistan have a near total lack of economic rights, rendering it a severe threat to its female inhabitants. An Afghan soldier uses a wooden stick to maintain order among women waiting for humanitarian aid at a World Food Programme WFP distribution point in the city of Kabul, December 14, 2001. The U.N. (WFP) started its biggest ever food distribution in the Afghan capital, handing out sacks of wheat to more than three-quarters of the war-ravaged city's population. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Continuing conflict, NATO airstrikes and cultural practices combine to make Afghanistan a very dangerous place to be a woman," says Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world. A woman walks past riot police outside a gathering in Kabul's stadium, February 23, 2007. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

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A victim is taken away from the site of a bomb blast in Kabul, December 15, 2009. At least four civilians were killed by the suicide car bomb outside a hotel used by foreigners in Kabul's main diplomatic area and across the street from the home of a former vice president. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
An Afghan woman checks on her daughter in a hospital in Charikar city, May 11, 2009. Nearly 50 Afghan teenagers were in the hospital after a mystery gas attack on a girls' school in the northern town of Charikar, the second mass poisoning of female students in a month. Attacks on girls schools have increased, particularly in the east and south of the country. A year prior, a group of schoolgirls in Kandahar had acid thrown in their faces by men who objected to them attending school. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #
The near total lack of economic rights render Afghanistan a threat to its female inhabitants. Women beg on a road as snow falls in Kabul, January 13, 2009. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
"In Afghanistan, women have a one in 11 chance of dying in childbirth." Afghan mothers visit a health clinic in Eshkashem district of Badakhshan province, northeast of Kabul, April 23, 2008. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
Shamsia, 17, a victim of an acid attack by the Taliban, lies in a hospital in Kabul, November 15, 2008. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters) #
The relative of an Afghan prisoner cries outside Pul-i-Charkhi prison on the eastern outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, February 28, 2006. A siege at Pul-i-Charkhi, Afghanistan's biggest prison, entered a fourth day but the government expressed hope for a peaceful resolution to a bloody revolt by hundreds of inmates. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
Women who venture into non-traditional roles, they are often threatened or killed. A damaged campaign poster for a female Afghan candidate for Parliament on a wall in Herat, western Afghanistan, September 8, 2010. (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters) #
An Afghan woman wearing a traditional Burqa walks on the side of a road as a Northern Alliance APC, (Armoured Personnel Carrier) carrying fighters and the Afghan flag, drives to a new position in the outskirts of Jabal us Seraj, some 60kms north of the Afghan capital Kabul, November 4, 2001. The Northern Alliance, a mix of mostly ethnic Uzbek and Tajik fighters in the north, is viewed with suspicion and enmity by ethnic Pashtuns, who operate in other areas. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters) #
Afghan women wait for their turn at a World Food Program (WFP) distribution centre in Kabul, February 10, 2011. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
An Afghan girl touches her mother's artificial leg at the ICRC Ali Abad Orthopaedic centre in Kabul, November 12, 2009. The centre, which is run mostly by disabled people, aims to educate and rehabilitate landmine victims and people with any kind of deformities, to help them integrate effectively into society. They also provide the patients with a 18-months interest free $600 micro credit loan. (Jerry Lampen/Reuters) #
An Afghan mother holds her child as she visits a health clinic in Eshkashem district of Badakhshan province, northeast of Kabul, April 23, 2008. Women die in childbirth every day in Afghanistan, a country with one of the world's highest maternal mortality rates. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #
A veiled Afghan woman waits with her son, whose legs have been amputated, for alms on a street in Kabul, August 4, 2008. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #
Women who do attempt to speak out or take on public roles that challenge the ingrained gender stereotypes of what is acceptable for women to do or not, such as working as a policewoman or news broadcaster, are often intimidated or killed. A woman attends an event to discuss the presidential candidates in Kabul, August 11, 2009. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters) #
The staggering levels of sexual violence in the lawless east of the DRC account for its ranking as the second most dangerous place for women. One recent US study claimed that more than 400,000 women are raped there each year. The UN has called the Congo the rape capital of the world. A woman who has recently undergone surgery rests at the general hospital at Dungu in northeastern Congo, February 17, 2009. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #
"Rights activists say militia groups and soldiers target all ages, including girls as young as three and elderly women", according to the survey. "They are gang-raped, raped with bayonets and some have guns shot into their vaginas," the report continues. People flee after renewed fighting erupting around Kibati village, November 7, 2008. Fighting between rebels and government troops flared in east Congo, and African leaders called for an immediate ceasefire to end a conflict the U.N. said could engulf the country's Great Lakes region. (Stringer/Reuters) #

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A mother breastfeeds her two malnourished infants at a Catholic mission feeding center in rebel-held Rutshuru, 70 km (50 miles) north of Goma in eastern Congo, November 13, 2008. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #
A woman displaced by war prays during a Sunday service in an outdoor church at the Don Bosco center in Goma in eastern Congo, November 23, 2008. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #
A woman displaced by war lies in a tent with her child at a makeshift camp in Kibati near Goma in eastern Congo, February 13, 2009. Congo's military claimed more than 40 Rwandan Hutu rebels had died in an air raid, as the 3-week-old joint Congolese-Rwandan offensive sparked rebel reprisals. A rights group said rebels had killed 100 villagers. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #
Women from a church choir sit on benches upon the lava floe from a 2002 eruption in the eastern Congolese city of Goma, August 14, 2010. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #
A government soldier carries her infant on her back at Mushake in eastern Congo, January 26, 2009. Congolese Hutu rebels had clashed for the first time with a Rwandan-Congolese force deployed to crush them. Civilians expressed fears they would be caught up in the violence. (Alissa Everett/Reuters) #
War-displaced Helene Namikano, 71, Rebecca Martha Kanigi, 75, Venancia Ndamkunzi, 65, and Atia Egenia Mobato, 74, sit together on the steps of a building in the village of Mugunga, just west of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, August 24, 2010. All four women have repeatedly fled fighting in North Kivu province over the past four years despite efforts to bring peace to Democratic Republic of Congo. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters) #

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A dying Rwandan woman tries breastfeeding her child next to hundreds of corpses waiting to be buried at a mass grave near the Munigi refugee camp, 20 km north of Goma. Thousands of refugees were succumbing to cholera or dehydration, July 23, 1994. (Corinne Dufka/Reuters) #
Pakistan is ranked third on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women. "These include acid attacks, child and forced marriage and punishment or retribution by stoning or other physical abuse." A woman is comforted by her mother while waiting for a medical check-up at a hospital in the Swat region, located in Pakistan's restive North Western Frontier Province, March 21, 2010. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters) #
Daughters of a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura in Pakistan's Punjab Province, November 13, 2010. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. (Adrees Latif/Reuters) #
Mukhtaran Mai gives an interview at a school in Meerwala, located in the Muzaffargarh District of Pakistan's central Punjab province, April 22, 2011. Mai, a Pakistani victim of a village council-sanctioned gang-rape became a symbol of the country's oppressed women. (Stringer/Reuters) #
"Pakistan has some of the highest rates of dowry murder, so called honor killings and early marriage." According to Pakistan's human rights commission, as many as 1,000 women and girls die in honor killings annually. School children sing Pakistan's national anthem during a rehearsal at the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Karachi, August 13, 2009, ahead of Independence Day. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters) #
India is the fourth most dangerous country. "India's central bureau of investigation estimated that in 2009 about 90% of trafficking took place within the country and that there were some 3 million prostitutes, of which about 40% were children." A woman weeps as she sits outside her house after police arrested her male family members at Bhatta Parsaul village in Gautam Buddha Nagar district of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, May 8, 2011. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #
Women laborers work in an onion field in Pimpalgaon, about 215 km (133 miles) north of Mumbai, January 23, 2011. Onions are base ingredients for almost all Indian dishes. Soaring prices of the vegetable have helped dislodge Indian state governments in the past, and rising food costs often spark street protests in a country where over 40 percent of the 1.2 billion population lives on under $1.25 per day. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters) #
Forced marriage and forced labour trafficking add to the dangers for women. "Up to 50 million girls are thought to be 'missing' over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide," the UN population fund says, because parents prefer to have young boys rather than girls. A veiled Muslim woman holds a placard during a protest in New Delhi, May 16, 2007. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters) #
A woman carries empty pitchers as another fills a pitcher with drinking water from the dried-up Banas river at Sukhpur village, north of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, May 12, 2011. (Amit Dave/Reuters) #
A woman laborer walks past a residential estate under construction in Kolkata, January 25, 2011. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters) #
Somalia, a state in political disintegration, suffers high levels of maternal martality, rape, female genital mutilation and limited access to education and healthcare. Somali refugees, having arrived at the Dagahaley camp, assemble a makeshift shelter, in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, April 3, 2011. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters) #
"Rape cases happen on a daily basis, and female genital mutilation being done to every single girl in Somalia. Add to that famine and drought. Add to that the fighting which means you can die any minute, any day." Mogadishu residents carry a woman wounded in fighting between African Union peacekeepers and Islamist forces in the Somali capital, October 28, 2009. (Feisal Omar/Reuters) #
A civilian pushes a woman on a handcart as they flee from renewed clashes in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, July 19, 2010. (Feisal Omar/Reuters) #
The most dangerous thing a woman in Somalia can do is to become pregnant. When a woman becomes pregnant her life is 50-50 because there is no antenatal care at all. There are no hospitals, no healthcare, no nothing." A woman holds her malnourished child at the Banaadir Hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, May 5, 2009. (Ismail Taxta/Reuters) #

Crippling lies and “tennis shoes” of truth


Posted by
20WednesdayJul 2011

I recall vividly the first time I tried to leave my abusive relationship with my first boyfriend.

We were driving home from church and I broke up with him in the car. He became angry, threatening to drive the car off the road and kill us both. So I did the logical thing and climbed out of the car at the next stop light.

I started to run away. I was sure I could out-run him and somehow find my way home once I had lost him…

But I was wearing high heeled shoes.

That made things difficult. I thought of taking them off and running barefoot, but the sidewalk was, as is typical of Metro Detroit sidewalks, freckled with broken glass.

I felt crippled.

My abuser easily caught up with me, picked me up, thew me over his shoulder, and carried me back to the car, reclaiming his property.

I hadn’t been able to escape that day, because, in a literal sense, I hadn’t been standing on equal ground with my abuser.

And I stayed with him for another two months, because I wasn’t standing on equal ground with my abuser in a metaphorical sense.

I grew up in a church and Christian school that taught me some unhealthy things about what it meant to be a woman. And my perceived definition of womanhood was, like my high heels, crippling.

I had learned that, as a lowly female, I was nothing without a man. I could not give anything to the world. I could only receive. I could not have a voice. I could only ask a man to speak for me. I could not stand up for myself. I could only submit to male leadership. Even my goals and dreams needed a man, because, as my church and school constantly reminded me, my “highest calling” as a woman was to be a wife and mother.

And I couldn’t find a better man. I had already given my body to my abuser (not to mention, I had been sexually abused as a child. My abuser was constantly reminding me of how “merciful” he was for being with me, even though I was “damaged goods”). And I had learned that a woman’s greatest gift is her virginity. Without that, I was a used toothbrush. A crashed car. Who would want me? No, I thought I had gotten the only man that my used body could afford.

In order to escape that relationship, I had to take off the lies, the metaphorical high heeled shoes that were keeping me from being on equal ground with my abuser. I had to put on some (pardon the cheesiness) tennis shoes of truth.

I have my mother to thank for my freedom.

I remember once my father saying, “If you get yourself knocked up, you have to marry the guy!” Crippling lies.

My mother refuted his suggestion, confidently and forcefully reminding me that no mistake I could make should make me the property of a man. Tennis shoes of truth.

A Sunday School teacher told me not to go to college. He told me that if my career goals distracted from my desire to be a housewife and mother, they were evil. Crippling lies.

My mother, upon hearing about this, reminded me that (as much as she wanted to be a grandmother) I was under no obligation to have a husband or children. And that, even if I decided to have children, I could still be whatever I wanted to be. I could be a mother AND a doctor, or a lawyer, or a college professor. Tennis shoes of truth.

I escaped my abusive relationship, not only because I found another opportunity to run (and that time I had tennis shoes on!), but because I had finally learned that I had some thing to run to.

Without the lies and shoes that were crippling me, I could finally face life without the man that I thought I needed. I no longer had to cling to my abuser like a crutch. And once I could stand on equal ground with him, I could hope for a fulfilling life without him.

Why Emergent Christianity IS NOT Liberal Denominationalism!

by Roger Olson
July 25, 2011

The following is a guest blog post by Brandon Morgan, one of the organizers and leaders of the Void Collective. Brandon is a seminary student and participant in an emergent church who has attended various emergent church conferences and meetings.

Brandon’s guest post (unedited):

I just got back from a tiring drive to North Carolina where a group of my friends and I performed an event at the Wild Goose Festival-a self-proclaimed community combining the various impulses of art, justice and spirituality that reside within Emergent and Progressive Euro-American Christianity. I have been conversant with and engaged in the Emergent conversation for a few years now, mostly dealing with the philosophical shifts within post-evangelical emergent types. I have to say initially that I was raised in a Southern Baptist family who were confessedly conservative politically and theologically. And because it is vitally important that the terms "conservative" and "progressive" be defined within a specific context, I will say that the conservative proclivity dominant within my nascent Christian spiritual journey commonly held anti-gay, pro-life views mixed with inerrant views of scripture and complimentarian views of gender in family and ministry. This will sound familiar to most evangelicals, even though many self-confessing evangelicals refute these views.

I generally have qualms with much of the political and theological conservatism rampant within conservative evangelical circles. I don't feel, however, that i have much at stake in the conversation about evangelicalism, its definition, its life or death, and its connection to right-wing political policies. I do, however, have a stake in the direction of the church in America and where the Emergent folks fit in to that conversation. I have this stake because I am a Christian in America and I am fairly conversant and sympathetic with Emergent forms of American Christianity. For a while, I saw Emergents struggling to recover from their fallout with fundamentalist Christianity. Emergents wanted to be as socially engaged as some of the folks they saw in the Mainline denominations. I am sympathetic with the concerns and criticisms of conservative evangelicalism and the way this group so readily conflated Christianity with right wing political agendas. The Emergent folks eventually wanted to become, post-conservative, or post-evangelical in light of their fallout with the conservatism in their evangelical past. This need to redefine the church in America apart from conservative evangelicalism has sort of left the direction of Emergent types up for grabs. They pledge to no center, institution or affiliation. They have no infrastructure and no money. Their strive for authenticity has lead to a number of attempts to reshape the church in America (and across the pond as well) in ways that transcends the evangelical-mainline divide. (I use "mainline" perhaps unhelpfully to describe denominations who align themselves with left-wing political views and who find themselves within an American form of the tradition of liberal theology begun in 17th century Germany).

Upon returning from the Wild Goose festival, I felt that the festival was, among others things, a blatant attempt to show how well Emergent folks and mainline folks get along (particularly regarding the LGBTQ community) and how they generally have the same enemies (conservative evangelicals). (Typologies are not necessarily helpful, but they will have to do here). If Emergent folks initially sought to bring together the evangelical emphases of conversion, scripture and discipleship with the progressive emphases of social justice, inclusion, and theologically progressive approaches to Christian doctrine (which, we must admit, often amounts to a covert denial of many traditional forms of those doctrines), then the question is: have Emergent folks succeeded in transcending the evangelical-progressive division in American Protestantism. Have they formulated a holistic theological approach able to include the benefits of both sides and jettison the negative aspects? Some may question whether this is actually the goal of Emergent folks. If this is not their goal, at least peripherally, then my personal understanding of being involved with the Emergent conversation is perhaps questionable. But more importantly, if this is not at least a tertiary goal, then my question is: why haven't Emergent folks joined the mainline denominations? Why have the negatives of evangelicalism been so easy to describe and virulently rebuke, while the negatives of the mainline denominations have barely shown up in Emergent concerns? Another way to ask this question would be: Why hasn't the Emergent critique of evangelicalism's involvement with the American nation-state and it's tendency toward creating theologically exclusive boundaries not found root in a critique of Mainline denominations, whose political interests also conflate the church with nation-state interests? Yet another way to ask this question might be: Why do post-liberals (e.g. The Ekklesia Project) look so different from liberals yet nothing like evangelicals, while post-evangelical Emergents look alot like liberals?

One reason for this is perhaps economic. Evangelical churches wont fund Emergent projects and the Mainlines, who have been trying to recover from their downfall, are willing to invest. But I sense economics is not the only issue. Another issue is the inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Many Emergents unquestionably advocate the way Mainlines have dealt with this issue, which is to see the church as a tool for social justice in America whose goals, therefore, tend to be ineradicably tied to the maneuverings and structures of the American nation-state. While I have deeply sympathetic opinions about the LGBTQ community and its relationship to the church, and while I also have my opinions about economic investment in Emergent projects, my more fervent concern is to ask if Emergent folks are really going to question the Mainline denominations' political and theological liberalism in a similar way they criticize evangelicalism's theological and political conservatism. If not, then its a question whether or not Emergent folks have anything new to offer to American Protestantism. If they do have something to offer, then perhaps it should be a critique on the conflations of liberal freedom (aka pluralistic tolerance) and Christian freedom in the Mainline church, or the attempt to manipulate nation-state policy to fit with the vision of such freedom. Maybe it should be a critique on conflating love with open tolerance to anyone, which eventually leaves everyone affirmed as they are and no one converted. It could be the failed attempt to reduce theological claims to social justice claims, which forces us to ask exactly what the doctrines of the church, the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Resurrection accomplish, other than pithy symbols used to advance left-wing forms of American democracy. The critique could be the loss of Christian uniqueness within American religious and political culture that suffers from a spiritually amalgamate ethos that can be summarized by a phrase made in Paul Knitter's Wild Goose talk: "I love Buddha and Jesus, but I still go home to Jesus."

I don't necessarily mean to lay my censuring cards on the table about Progressive Christianity in America (Notice, I critique conservatives too). I just mean to say that if Emergent folks find themselves comfortable in Mainline walls, particularly the walls of liberal pluralism dominant in both theological and political aspects of American liberal protestantism, then I question what new things the Emergent conversation has to offer. If they have something new to say, then angst about a painful past with fundamentalism will need to produce theologically fruitful reflections about the church that look different than a recovery of mainline dominance in the early 20th century. Emergent folks will have to start distinguishing themselves from progressive Christianity if they want people to think that something new and important is really happening. They will also have to start caring more about the theological and political space of the church itself than they do about using the church to bolster American nation-state policies. Simply put, emergent folks need some theological sophistication that cultivates distinctiveness lest they seep into the homogenized spirituality of progressive Christianity in America or find themselves directly tied to the project, initially espoused by liberal Christianity and copied by evangelical Christianity, of trying to use the Christian church to control the history of American politics.


Russ says,

Very well put… I have said again and again to my Christian friends that unless they participate in the “re-make” of emergent Christianity instead of debunking and critizing it, then they will indirectly suffer from its ultimate failure within their own faith constructs.

Emergent Christianity has a lot to offer but it cannot align neither right nor left… it has to be on its own distinctive… neither fundamental nor progressive but Jesus through and through. I applaud Brandon’s analysis and would encourage evangelics and emergents alike to better express postmodern Christianity lest it becomes stillborn in its own cradle!


Re: Brandon Morgan’s guest post & emergent Christianity

by Roger Olson
July 26, 2011

I think Brandon’s guest post should be read by all people involved on emerging or emergent Christianity and the emergent church movement. Please spread it around and invite discussion about it here and elsewhere. I will post Brandon’s responses to comments here.

One thing I have been thinking about (in this context) is how hopeful it has been that emergent Christians might find an alternative to conservative evangelicalism and liberal “mainline” Protestantism by exploring postmodern philosophy’s possible contribution to theology and practice. Lesslie Newbigin and Nancey Murphy (among others) have called for such a “third way”–neither fundamentalist (they both mean conservative evangelical) nor liberal but postmodern in some sense (not necessarily radical). Many of us have identified both conservatism and liberalism in European and American Protestantism as too tied to modern modes of thought. We tend to define both types of theology (and practice) by stances toward modernity–either rejection or accomodation.

If the emergent church/Christianity movement has anything to offer it has to be an alternative to those two types of Christianity and their rootedness in modernity.

(Here I am ignoring another alternative that I think we too often ignore–the premodern alternative. Many contemporary Christians, both educated and not, prefer to live and worship and think as if the Enlightenment never happened. But I would argue that’s very difficult to do–especially once one begins to think and interpret and explain and write. For example, many people point to Pentecostalism as an alternative to fundamentalism and liberalism or to conservative evangelicalism and liberalism. However, I regard the “tongues as initial, physical evidence” doctrine as very modern, rooted as it is in the craving for certainty through physical evidence.)

However, disappointment sets in when we hear emergent church leaders/spokespersons sharing their excitement in “discovering” a new type of theology that turns out to be thoroughly modern. For example, not long ago a leading emergent church personality shared his excitement in finding and reading Henry Churchill King’s The Reconstruction of Theology published in 1901. The problem is, that book is a classic of liberal (Ritschlian) Protestantism! It’s thoroughly modern! I don’t understand its appeal to a supposedly postmodern, emergent Christian.

I think Brandon’s challenge to emergent church types is worthy of very serious consideration and response, but by all means let’s not get bogged down in details of his analysis. His main point is obvious and we should dwell on it. It takes the form of a question to emergent church/Christianity leaders: How is your new, different type of Christianity different (at the deep level of theology and ethics) from “mainline,” liberal Protestantism?Your reaction to fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism is clear. Now what do you have to offer European and American Christianity (and hopefully the rest of the world) that is new and different from modernity-based liberalism?


Russ says:
July 25, 2011 @ 7:34pm

Very well put… I have said again and again to my Christian friends that unless they participate in the “re-make” of emergent Christianity instead of debunking and critizing it, then they will indirectly suffer from its ultimate failure within their own faith constructs.

Emergent Christianity has a lot to offer but it cannot align neither right nor left… it has to be on its own distinctive… neither fundamental nor progressive but Jesus through and through. I applaud Brandon’s analysis and would encourage evangelics/emergents alike to better express postmodern Christianity lest it becomes stillborn in its own cradle!

Ron says:
July 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I didn’t get to the Wild Goose Festival this year. Like the writer, however, I, too, have been conversant with the Emergent conversation for a few years as well, and I agree with much of his characterization of the Emergent movement. I did have a couple things I wanted to suggest in response, though. First, I am not sure that “conflating love with open tolerance to anyone” leads to a condition in which “everyone is affirmed and no one converted.” I dare say that those I know who have been hurt by conservative evangelicals/evangelicalism were won (by the power of the Spirit) more through love conflating with tolerance than through “love” manifesting as animosity and intolerance. You can proof-text it as “His kindness leads us to repentance” or “you can catch more flies with honey,” but many people I know have been repulsed and scarred by evangelicals whose “love” looks so much like “hate.”

As far as what “new things the Emergent conversation has to offer,” I would respond that, on the one hand, the Emergent movement probably doesn’t care about “what new things it has to offer.” I have been to a multitude of Emergent gatherings, conferences, etc., and I have never heard any overt “sales pitch” or recruitment for the Emergent movement. Group leaders and speakers have often encouraged and challenged participants to pursue God and a relationship with Christ, but I have yet to hear any emphasis put on the unique selling proposition or member benefits of the Emergent movement per se.

On the other hand, the statement contains at least one possible response—the Emergent conversation offers exactly that: a conversation. In the churches I have attended most of my life, having an honest conversation without regurgitating the party line was the quickest way to be excluded from fellowship. I think the conversation itself, though maddening to some who want conclusive straightforward and clear cut answers, has restored faith in the possibility of faith for many of us who were taught implicitly if not explicitly that honest conversation, especially about particular topics, was not acceptable.


Brandon Morgan's Response

by Roger Olson
August 8, 2011

Here is Brandon Morgan’s response to critics of his guest post here (about the ECM):

“I would like to thank Tony Jones, Scot Mcknight and Deacon Bo over at Homebrewed (see next article below) for taking the time to respond/repost my reflections after attending Wild Goose. A number of the comments from these blogs have asked many good questions, some of which I’m afraid I won’t have time to respond to.

Initially, I suppose, I would like to clear up some concerns that Dr. Jones had with my reflection about the relationship between ECM and mainline denominations. His criticisms were more directed toward methodological or stylistic concerns, which perhaps led him to interpret my seemingly important questions (or else no one would have noticed) as rhetorical conjectures rather than substantive questions. This inevitably led to a rhetorical critique against my writing style and “methods of research” than substantive responses to my thoughts.

I am actually surprised; first, that Tony disagreed with me at all. I would have assumed that, given his thoughts in his books, podcasts (particularly that AAR podcast with McKnight and Diana Butler Bass) and blog posts, that Tony would have been similarly concerned with the ease in which conversations among ECM people collude with the underlying methods of mainline denominations.

I am surprised, secondly, that Tony’s recent follow-up asking for a new word to describe non-evangelicals other than “progressive” or “liberal” does not at least convey an attempt to promote exactly what I hope ECM folks do, namely, transcend or at least govern imaginatively the evangelical-liberal impasse in American Protestantism. It would seem that Tony does not really disagree with me as much as perhaps feel defensive regarding my reference to my thoughts about Wild Goose because perhaps he felt I was targeting him. That was not the case.

That being said, I also assume that individuals who post on blogs asking questions (or who sit in church asking questions for that matter) need not convey elaborate qualitative or quantitative data in order for such questions to be on the table of concerns. My reflection on Wild Goose was the spearhead to a number of conversations I have had with mainline folks in dialogue with ECM ideas. So my thoughts do not spawn uniquely from that meeting, nor are they unique in comparison with others who have similar analyses.

In all honesty, I do not find ECM’s similarity with mainline concerns as a problem. Interestingly enough, mainline denominations do not generally see ECM as a problem either, but a promise. They do not see ECM as controversial because the mainline has already asked the questions that post-evangelical people are asking now. Their books generally include emergent ideas as a “shot in the arm” to an already established form of denominational life. So, it would not be a negative if ECM folks decided to find a home in mainline denominations. In fact, this was the very advice McLaren and others gave to VOID in order to get monetary support. It might actually benefit ECM in an attempt to overcome what Jeremy Begbie has called “naïve anti-institutionalism.” But it would convey a contradiction regarding what Tony himself, in an interesting spat with Diana Butler Bass, claimed as being the benefit of ECM, namely that it attempts to move beyond the division in American Protestantism.

Now, in reference to Deacon Bo, I think the difference between liberal and progressive is negligible. However, I do not think they are un-theological terms. Theology is always [sociological and] political and vice-versa. We do not get to call our names theological because they are unsociological or unpolitical. They do, however, seem to have similar theological trajectories. That trajectory is one which I find to be rather similar to the kind of theology that, as Bo mentioned, someone like John Cobb would espouse. However, Cobb’s differentiation between Liberal and Progressive rests on the same premise: that experience (gender, racial, national included) is a valid location for theological reflection. I do not generally agree with this claim, and so am definitely not liberal. I also do not think one has to be a liberal in order to confess such an idea. But the take away from the conversation of titles expresses to me that, even after a number of years, the ECM has failed to contribute significantly to a well-worked theological/missional trajectory. This is perhaps the reason why I think criteria for ECM need to be laid out before any effective analysis is performed. How will we know what we are looking for when our qualitative and quantitative analyses take to the churches? I am assuming this is what some of my friends, like Gary Black, are doing when they type away in their studies. We have to agree on what something is before we ever find it. My own Baptist tradition has this same problem. This problem in ECM may likely be due to the ideas expressed in Tony’s recent comment that:

“We’ve taken a pastiche approach to church and theology — we take a little bit from here and a little bit from there. The benefit of that is a great deal more freedom than many leaders in the church feel. The other side of that coin, however, is that we inevitably disappoint anyone who comes from a particular camp, because we’re never really enough of anything.” - Tony Jones

This comment in response to David Finch’s reflections about a book on ECM seems to convey the sentiment that I find already quite prevalent within the dominant political liberalism of contemporary America. The organization of contracted individuals to freely choose what they like from the consumer line of theological and social thought is not new but is in fact an orthodox tenet of American politics, not to mention the American university. Tony thinks the pastiche model really works. I do not. It seems that David Fitch’s comment that “all we’ve done is stir the pot, and then blended in with existing structures” is perhaps an overly grouchy-anabaptist way of saying what I was attempting to claim about EMC and its relationship to the theological presuppositions that reside in the mainline denominations. I will not spell out again the ways in which ECM has at its disposal to critique liberal or progressive forms of theological collusions with specific nation-state policies, or modern presuppositions about freedom, tolerance, personhood, rationality etc. I simply want to ask again how ECM is going to make itself up on the spot. Its thoughts have to come from somewhere and they can’t come from everywhere.

Personally, I find theological liberalism/progressivism to be a highly sophisticated approach to theological reflection, albeit ill-founded. Anyone who has even glanced at the work of Gary Dorrien will see that mainline liberal presuppositions are not toss-away categories. These are serious thinkers. But they are subject to critique in a number of ways. ECM will, I think, find its place to the extent that it can avoid what I see as the mistakes of the liberal tradition to theology and its approach to the church/world relationship.

So here are the (non-rhetorical) questions again:

1 - Why haven't Emergent folks joined the mainline denominations?

2 - Why have the negatives of evangelicalism been so easy to describe and virulently rebuke, while the negatives of the mainline denominations have barely shown up in Emergent concerns?

2b - Another way to ask this question would be: Why hasn't the Emergent critique of evangelicalism's involvement with the American nation-state and it's tendency toward creating theologically exclusive boundaries not found root in a critique of mainline denominations, whose political interests also conflate the church with nation-state interests?

I will also point out in conclusion that I have not been to every church in America. I do not have the time. So a number of churches, perhaps more than we realize, fall outside the typologies I or anyone else has chosen to use. That is the nature of the beast. That is why Bass can think Mainline is on the rise and others think it’s in decline. The same fact is true of every denomination. Because of this, I do not feel the need to account for every church community in order for my questions to bear relevance.

Lastly, my use of the pronoun “they” instead of “we” is perhaps due to my recognition that, in order for there to be a “we” there must be an agreement that ECM speaks for me. Since I am, at the moment, unsure exactly who ECM speaks for, other than the plethora of leaders that ride atop its cultural wave, then I am not sure what it would mean for me to say “we”.I am not simply saying that ECM does not speak for me, but more importantly, I am currently unaware exactly on behalf of whom ECM does speak.


Progressive is not Liberal

The problem with both “liberal” and “progressive” is that they are not inherently theological categories. They are sociological and political. “Evangelical,” on the other hand, is inherently theological.
As odd as this seems – I actually disagree with Jones on all three points. Liberal and Progressive are both thoroughly theological terms and everyone from Carol Howard-Merritt to Austin Roberts has been trying to tell me that Evangelical is a sociological distinction and not inherently theological. ( I still hold out hope)

In Podcast episode 101 John Cobb makes an important distinction by explaining it this way:
  • Liberal simply means that one recognizes human experience as valid location for the theological process.
  • Progressive means that one takes seriously the critique provided by feminist, liberation, and post-colonial criticisms.

I know that when many people think of Liberals they think of a caricature of Marcus Borg and have him saying something about the laws of nature and how no one can walk on water or be conceived in a Virgin so we know those are literary devices that need not be defended literally. It is someone stuck in the Enlightenment who puts more faith in physics than in the Bible.

Similarly, I often hear a flippant dismissal by those who don’t get the Progressive concern so [they will] resort to the cliche that “progressive is just a word non-conservative evangelicals who don’t like the word ‘liberal’ hide behind as camouflage.”

Both are woefully cartoonish.

Tony Jones, on the other hand is addressing a real concern. So if he wants to say “Those of us who are not conservative need a new label.” That is fine and I would probably even join team TJ – whatever it says on our uniform.

Just don’t say that Liberal and Progressive are not theological. They are inherently so and the distinction between the two is worth the effort. They, along with the term ‘Evangelical”, come with a historical framework, a theological tradition and a social application. They are not interchangeable nor are they disposable. They come from some where and the represent a group of some ones.

I think that they are worth clarifying, understanding, and maybe even fighting for – and over. They matter.

What is right and wrong with the emergent/emerging church movement?

Since the spring of this year I have been struggling with a definition of "Emergent Christianity" - what it is and what it believes - and have chosen to use the medium of this web blog to grasp practical, missiological, worship and doctrinal entry standards for this relevant Christian movement. And with this task I am including a few of my own personal beliefs and preferences that will be left open-ended for consideration but deem important to internalize on select topics and subjects.

A year ago, in 2010, Dr. Roger Olson had hit on a few of emergent areas he had personally noticed but as I am reading his piece I've noticed that they seemed generally untrue of my own emergent experience. For I have participated at Mars Hill Church under Rob Bell since its inception (1998? 1999?) and have witnessed it as "cooler" re-expression of classic evangelicalism into emergent form that has been provocative at times while at other times been very liberating.

And so, I've highlighted a few areas that I've either agreed with or think is important to know while including the sum of Roger's 2010 analysis. Coincidentally, at my first blush with Emergent Christianity many years ago, I too believed it reactionary in wishing to depose the sum total of our orthodox Christian heritage... but, as it settled down, it began to re-include our ancient heritage while expanding its understanding of theology and worship from a postmodernistic set. This then felt much more comfortable to me in our search for authenticity otherwise I had feared a re-expression of some contemporary form of Gnostic Christianity dressed up in postmodernistic dress.

Lastly, in that Roger's statement is nearly a year old, and in my more recent formal exploration of Emergent Christianity (beginning in March/April of 2011), there has been a lot of movement from within it - especially because of the severe evangelical backlash to Bell's Love Wins book (among other Emergent statements during this time). So that, somewhere between classic evangelica-lism, postconservative evangelicalism, and emergent-Christianity there is a movement afoot between all parties considered to recapture the life and faith that is within Jesus Christ and his Word.

And as such, this blog intends to participate and lend spiritual insight and resources as it can to these very relevant areas of exploration and discovery. For if I and others do not then we will have failed to lead in this newer expression of contemporary Christianity. A task which I would encourage all my readers to engage in.

- skinhead 

by Roger Olson
September 24, 2010

I get asked this all the time. Especially students, but also strangers, ask me “What do you think of emergent churches?” (Here I will use “emergent” and “emerging” interchangeably even though some are trying to distinguish between them.)

I can’t claim expertise. Others have studied the phenomenon much more thoroughly than I have. But I have attended several well-known emergent churches and I am either acquainted with or count as good friends some of the movement’s leading spokesmen.

Some years ago Pastor Kyle Lake of Waco’s University Baptist Church (where David Crowder is the music minister) sought me out and we became friends. We had lunch together about once a month from the time I arrived here until his tragic death. We talked a lot about emerging churches and the movement. Through him I came to know many others involved in the movement.

I led a retreat for emerging church planters, attended conferences where most of the speakers and attendees were somehow affiliated with the emerging church movement, had lunches and dinners with leaders of the movement, read books by emerging church leaders and about the emergent church movement.

What I have been searching for is something all the self-identified emergent churches have in common. But just when I think I’ve identified one, an exception pops up!

There are some generally true, superficial similarities (family resemblances):

  • mostly young leaders and attenders (20-something to early thirties),
  • no creed or statement of faith that everyone has to affirm,
  • belief and practice of the “belong, believe, behave” philosophy of community,
  • experimentation with worship styles (especially interest in ancient forms of worship),
  • eclecticism, candles and art (almost anything except Solomon’s head of Christ picture!),
  • contemporary Christian music (usually performed by a leader or worship band than sung by the congregation),
  • and a vague, generalized dissatisfaction with traditional churches.

In some ways the movement reminds of the Jesus People movement of the early 1970s (of which I was sort of a part). But there are differences, as well. Most emerging churches tend to be a little more cerebral than the Jesus People movement which also tended to be more fundamentalist in its theology.

Below the surface is where I want to go. What’s “down there”–on the deeper level of motivation and driving concern? The one thing that stands out to me as underlying almost everything about emerging churches is a passion for authenticity. It seems to me that most of the emergent church leaders and followers are convinced that most traditional churches (at least that they are familiar with) go through motions but don’t know why–except “that’s the way we’ve always done things.” Emergent church people are turned off by anything they consider inauthentic. I know some of them would rather have an authentic atheism than an inauthentic Christianity. (Kind of like the old Pietist saying “Better a live heresy than a dead orthodoxy.)

So what do they consider inauthentic Christianity? Any form of Christianity, church life, that is just going through the motions because it’s respectable or traditional or they fear change. I respect their concern for authenticity.

One hesitation I have is that many emerging churches seem somewhat adrift doctrinally. I’m not a dogmatician or creedalist, but I would like to see a greater emphasis on Bible study and doctrine in some of the emerging churches I’ve encountered. I’d also like to see more emphasis on transformative spiritual experiences (conversion, Spirit baptism, renewal through rededication, etc.). And I worry that some emergent churches tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater in their search for authenticity. Just because something is done inauthentically doesn’t mean it is itself inauthentic. (For example, hymn singing.)

Overall, however, I applaud the emerging churches and their leaders (with a few exceptions I don’t care to mention by name). And I am turned off by the ridicule heaped on them by some self-appointed spokesmen for evangelicalism. (Go to youtube.com to see them.)

So what is the future of emerging churches? Like everything else, the movement will probably tend to go mainstream as the leaders and leading followers age and have families, etc. I hope and pray they retain their passion for authenticity. And I suspect someday their grown children will think their songs and worship styles, etc., are kind of “old school.” It’s inevitable. Alexander Pope said “We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow. Our wiser sons no doubt will think us so.”

This past Saturday evening my wife and I attended an all community hymn sing. (I mentioned this in an earlier post.) One part of it was especially striking. On stage together were Kurt Kaiser (of my generation) and David Crowder. What a contrast! Yet, Kaiser was one of the founders of “contemporary Christian music.” I think a lot of his work has enduring value. Suddenly this thought struck me: Someday the middle aged children of Crowder’s fans will come to see him perform with their parents and say “Oh, he’s so old school.” Just an observation; not a value judgment. But it’s something to keep in mind lest anyone think the music or worship styles of their own generation are the pinnacle, the apex that will last forever.