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

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review & Videos: Emergence Christianity by Phyllis Tickle

Emergence Christianity:
What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters
by Phyllis Tickle

Book Description
September 1, 2012

Whatever else one might say about Emergence Christianity, says Phyllis Tickle, one must agree it is shifting and re-configuring itself in such a prodigious way as to defy any final assessments or absolute pronouncements. Yet the insightful and well-read Tickle offers us a dispatch from the field to keep us informed of where Emergence Christianity now stands, where it may be going, and how it is aligning itself with other parts of God's church. Through her careful study and culture-watching, Tickle invites readers to join this investigation and conversation as open-minded explorers rather than fearful opponents.

As readers join Tickle down the winding stream of Emergence Christianity, they will discover fascinating insights into concerns, organizational patterns, theology, and most pressing questions. Anyone involved in an emergence church or a traditional one will find here a thorough and well-written account of where things are--and where they are going.

Emergence Christianity by Phyllis Tickle
(click on the blank screen to begin)

Phyllis Tickle - "Emergence Christianity" - Session 1

Phyllis Tickle - "Emergence Christianity" - Session 2

Phyllis Tickle - "Emergence Christianity" - Session 3

Embracing Emergent Christianity
Phyllis Tickle on the Church's Next Rummage Sale

Product Details

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Baker Books (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0801013550
ISBN-13: 978-0801013553
Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Welcome to the story that's still being written . . .

Whatever else one might say about Emergence Christianity, one must agree it is shifting and reconfiguring itself in such a prodigious way as to defy any final assessments or absolute pronouncements. Yet in Emergence Christianity, Phyllis Tickle gathers the tangled threads of history and weaves the story of this fascinating movement into a beautiful and understandable whole.

Through her careful study and culture-watching, Tickle invites you to join this investigation and conversation as an open-minded explorer. You will discover fascinating insights into the concerns, organizational patterns, theology, and most pressing questions facing the church today. And you'll get a tantalizing glimpse of the future.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Emergence Christianity

"You will find many wonderful things between the covers of this book: provocative questions and astute observations about sacred space, hierarchy, authority. Tickle's insights will help the church reflect on a larger question: How can we best serve the kingdom of God right now?"-- Lauren F. Winner, author of Mudhouse Sabbath and Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

"Phyllis Tickle is in a unique position by reason of experience, education, and personal courage to say things that many cannot say--or cannot see. Here she does it very well--once again. Christianity is emerging with or without Phyllis Tickle, but she is sure helping the rest of us to emerge along with it!"--Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico

"Finally someone has put the emergence conversation in the wider historical context it deserves--showing how what is now emerging owes so much to contributors over the last century. Phyllis Tickle gets it right and conveys it beautifully, so more and more readers can be a part of it . . . with a clearer understanding of what 'it' is!"--Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker/networker

"What a fascinating read! A page turner! I read through each story with anticipation as I eagerly awaited the next set of connections Phyllis Tickle would make between seemingly unrelated people, movements, faith, and culture. Never in one volume have I seen such a diverse set of Christian movements not only listed but analyzed for their meaning as it related to the bigger picture. As we have come to expect, Tickle has done her homework, and the result is a unique contribution to the conversation about what Christianity has and will become in the twenty-first century."--Ryan Bolger, associate professor, Church in Contemporary Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

Evangelical Hermeneutics vs. Pauline Hermeneutics

Would Paul Have Made a Good Evangelical?

by Peter Enns
May 24, 2012
Even when you account for 2000 years of cultural differences between Paul and Evangelicalism, the answer is no.
Why? Because Paul didn’t treat the Bible the way mainstream Evangelicalism says you need to.
The way Paul handled his Bible–what we call the Old Testament–would keep him off the short list for openings to teach Bible in many Evangelical seminaraies and Christian colleges. Heck, John Piper, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul probably wouldn’t let Paul lead a home Bible study, at least not without supervision.
Here is the main reason why:
  • For Evangelicals, the Old Testament leads to the Gospel story. For Paul, the Old Testament is transformed by the Gospel.
  • For Evangelicals, the Old Testament, read pretty much at face value [(literally)], anticipates Jesus. For Paul, the Old Testament is reshaped in order to conform to Jesus.
  • For Evangelicals, the Bible is God’s final authority. For Paul, Jesus is the final authority to which the Bible must bend.
You see, Paul had a monumental theological and hermeneutical task before him. The Old Testament is centered on Israel’s need for obedience to the law of Moses in order to stay in God’s favor–what the Old Testament often calls “life.” God’s favor is most clearly demonstrated by Israel’s remaining in the Promised Land–if they obey, they stay; if they disobey, the are cast out (which is what the exile to Babylon was all about). And, as an added benefit, when Israel is faithful to God, the other nations will take notice and also bend the knee to Yahweh, Israel’s God.
  1. Obedience to law;
  2. Holding onto the land (and along with it worship in the temple);
  3. Conversion of the Gentiles. All central elements of being an Israelite.
The Gospel of Christ that Paul preached said:
  1. Law was a parenthesis, a temporary measure;
  2. Holding on to land is now a non-issue;
  3. Gentiles can claim Israel’s God as their own as Gentiles.
Clearly something has to give. For Paul, it was the Old Testament.
Paul cites the Old Testament 106 times; 59 times in Romans. For example, look at the string of quotations in Romans 9:25-29. Paul is arguing for Gentile inclusion in the plan of God–Gentiles do not need to be circumcised, thus following Jewish law. They are included as Gentiles simply by faith in Jesus the messiah.
Paul could have simply said, “Jesus is here and we are turning a new page. From now on we welcome Gentiles with open arms without them becoming Jewish first.”
That would have been a pretty radical message all by itself, but Paul gets even more radical. He argues that in the Old Testament itself teaches that Gentiles are to be included among Israel solely on the basis of faith–not obeying the law. Paul claims that Gentile inclusion without circumcision was God’s plan all along.
If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you would be right to wonder how Paul is going to pull that off, since the Old Testament is so adamant about maintaining the distinction between Jew and Gentile.
In this string of quotations in Romans 9, Paul cites two passages from Hosea and two from Isaiah to support his claim that Gentile inclusion is part of God’s plan. The problem, though, is that all four of these passages have nothing to do with Gentile inclusion. They are all aimed at God’s mercy at restoring Israel.
This is not a minor point. Paul is not getting a little creative with some passages, tweaking them a bit, teasing some fresh angle out of them. He is saying that these passages support his Gentile agenda, even though a plain reading shows unequivocally that they are about Israel.
Flip over to Romans 10:5-8. Paul places two passages from the law of Moses side by side–and he pits them against each other.
The first is Leviticus 18:5, where Yahweh tells Moses that the Israelites are to “Keep my decrees, for the man who obeys them will live by them.” Note that keeping the law is assumed to be attainable and a benefit to those who do so.
But in very next verse Paul brings in another passage from the Law, Deuteronomy 30:13-14. In Deuteronomy, these verses have a very clear meaning. The commands that God is giving to the Israelites are doable. They are not out of anyone’s reach. They are not up in the heavens or somewhere acoross the ocean. They are right here–”in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.”
The Israelites were expected to keep these laws, and keeping them brings life, which is sort of what Leviticus 18:5 says. The two passages are in complete harmony.
But Paul contrasts these two verses to pit law against faith.
For Paul, Leviticus 18:5 is correct insofar as it goes, but Paul clearly does not present obedience to the law as a benefit to anyone–which contradicts the point of the passage.
Paul’s handling of Deuteronomy 30:13-14 should, by all standards, drive mainstream Evangelicals crazy. In Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites to keep these doable-written-on-your-heart commands. Paul says it is not about commands at all but about having faith in Christ, apart from the law of Moses.
Either Paul can’t read or something else is up.
Something else is up.
Paul handles his Bible the way he does for two reasons:
(1) Judaism has a long history of manipulating scripture in the interest of supporting theological arguments. Paul, in case you need reminding, was a Jew trained in this way of using scripture.
(2) Paul’s grand goal in Romans is to make the case that Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing before God; Paul’s angle is to show how the law itself made that same point all along–which requires Paul to take get very creative with the Old Testament.
If anyone else were doing this–me, you, the Pope, Jehovah’s Witnesses, an emergent pastor, a liberal theologian, a first year seminary student–Evangelicals would call it “distorting the inerrant Word of God.” Paul, however, either (1) gets a free pass because Paul is an apostle (and apparently it’s OK for apostles to do this), or (2) Paul’s reading of the Old Testament is defended as being consistent with the Old Testament meaning (which leads to overly subtle and back-breaking arguments).
Here is the great irony. Without question, as a first century Jew, Paul believed his scripture was God’s Word. He had what Evangelicals like to call a “high view” of scripture.
That is correct. It’s just that Paul’s high view and an Evangelical high view are clearly not the same. I’m just glad Evangelicals weren’t around at the time to try to stifle Paul, to keep him from landing his gig as apostle to the Gentiles. We would have missed out on a lot.


Trying to Imagine the Age of the Bible in Our Contemporary Present

Long, Long Ago, in a Land Far, Far Away…. (What I’m Saying is the Bible is Really, Really Old)
by Peter Enns
August 28, 2012
This is the eve of a significant event in Jewish history. 2532 years ago tomorrow, August 29, 520 BC, according to Haggai 1:1, God gave the command to rebuild Israel’s temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC.
That’s a long time ago, is all I’m saying.
Think about it. Just 1/5 of this length of time takes us way back to about 1500, the days when Europeans were just staring to explore (and exploit) the known world by ship and people still thought the earth was the center of the cosmos.
If we were transported back to those days, only 500 years ago, many of us would probably be dead within a week, unable to negotiate the dos and don’ts of daily life.
Take just half of 2532 years and we are back in the mid-8th century. Vikings began invading Europe, the stuff of legends. Paper was introduced to the Arabs by the Chinese.
We live in a world where huge numbers are thrown around daily: trillions upon trillions of dollars of national debt, billions upon billions of galaxies each containing billions upon billions of stars, trillions of cells in the human body. We can’t wrap are heads around numbers that large, but they are part of our daily consciousness.
With numbers that large floating in our heads, we tend to forget how large numbers like 500 years, or 1000 years, or 2532 years are when seen from the point of view of our daily human experience.
So, Haggai began urging his countrymen to rebuild the temple over 25 centuries ago. 100 years, 25 times.
Imagine living to be a hundred–and doing that over and over again 25 times. Frankly, I have a hard time truly “experiencing” in my minds’s eye what just one 100-year span looks like. I am currently watching Ken Burns’s excellent series The Civil War, with photographs of soldiers, wives, children, slaves, buildings, and farmland 150 years old. I am taken by the profundity of how much time has elapsed, how foreign this world is to mine.
And the Israelites began rebuilding their temple 2532 years ago.
This bit of the human drama will forever remain outside of my capacity to comprehend. The distance of it all. I cannot get inside of it. I remain a foreigner to this ancient landscape, and outsider looking in.
I guess my point is this. It seems many of us, myself included, can get a bit careless, even cavalier, about the Bible, thinking that we “get it” because we happen to read it regularly in our native tongue. Perhaps we should regain a sense of respect for the distance this book has travelled to land on our coffee tables and work desks.
Perhaps we should remember that in the Bible we are coming face to face with a very foreign (and small) slice of the human drama–with customs, habits, a whole consciousness, that we do not share–and so we should be respectful enough not to claim for ourselves too great a familiarity.
We can study it and even teach it, as I do. But we kid ourselves if we think we control it.
Perhaps we can try to keep that in mind when we disagree over what it means. We are all on foreign soil.

How God Became King: Putting Creed and Canon Back Together Again

How God Became King


by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
August 2012

Putting creed and canon back together.

For the past decade I've endeavored to be something of street preacher in my neighborhood. Granted, when I came here it wasn't my neighborhood. I was marked as an outsider, not only because everyone around here seems to know everyone else, but also because I'm white. And in this Southern town, white folks don't belong in Walltown.
Everyone knows this, but no one communicated it more clearly than the young guys who used to stand on the corner, just four doors down from our house. I used to wave when I'd pass by them. They wouldn't wave back. For months, they never said a word. They only glared.
The month we moved here, one of these guys on the corner was shot in the street by another guy who drove by, stuck a gun out the window, and pulled the trigger. A friend happened to be driving behind the car that slowed down to shoot. He stopped his car, jumped out, and asked the guy who'd been hit in the elbow if he needed a ride to the hospital. "Naw," this young man said, gritting his teeth and pressing his hand against the wound. "I'll be alright." The next evening, the same car drove by again, taking better aim this time. We learned at his funeral that the young man shot dead on our corner was named Robert.
When our household of outsiders invited a guy from Walltown who was returning home from prison to come and live with us, we started to hear secondhand what the guys on the corner were saying. When we first came, they'd thought we were a police house, sent to monitor drug traffic. Then some said we were a plant from the local university—part of a secret plan to take over the neighborhood. Finally, they settled on calling us a church house because every Sunday and Wednesday they watched us go in and out of the Saint Johns Missionary Baptist Church, our Bibles in our hands.
About this time, the guys on the corner start talking. I learn their names and they learn mine. A couple of them start stopping by the house for dinner. Whenever I get a chance, I stop by their corner to catch up. One day, a fellow named Andre—who likes to rap when he talks—says to me, "You're a preacher, uh huh. / You want to talk theology, don't you?" I ask him what's on his mind. "Well, I'm a Muslim," he raps, hands flying up and down, "I'm a Muslim because / Christianity's about what you believe in your heart, / but Islam is about how you live."
I'm a Christian who grew up singing "King Jesus is all / he's my all and all." I get up every morning and go to bed every night praying, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." But I cannot argue with Andre. The Christianity he has seen is a feel-good spirituality, a get-me-through-another-week kind of faith. "Crack religion," some folks around here call it. But Andre prefers the real thing. Still, these theological conversations on the street corner are what make me into a street preacher—not the "turn before you burn" type, but something more akin to Paul on Mars Hill, always probing to see where God fits in. Always asking questions. One day I say to a guy who's run the streets since he was thirteen, to a young man who thought he was king when other people started selling his drugs for him, "Jesus said, 'If you live by the gun you'll die by the gun.' " There's no good use for a gun in this neighborhood, I tell him. And he says to me, "You oughta tell that to the police." Jesus is well and good for the church house, but out here on the street, he says, religion can get you killed.
He asks the same question Andre asks, the same question these guys have been asking me for a decade: What does your Jesus have to offer a guy like me? "As I have both studied and written about Jesus and the gospels," writes N.T. Wright in his newest offering, How God Became King, "I have had the increasing impression, over many years now, that most of the Western Christian tradition has simply forgotten what the gospels are really about." This celebrated scholar and former bishop of the Church of England seems to agree with the guys who hang out on the corner in Walltown. "What we need is not just a bit of fine-tuning, an adjustment here and there. We need a fundamental rethink about what the gospels are trying to say."
For the scholarly Wright, the first question to ask is, How did we ever forget the main point? How did the Jesus who ignited a popular movement by promising abundant life to marginalized people like the guys on the corner in Walltown become an irrelevant idea that scholars write about or an otherworldly deity that pious people worship? The answer is not simple, but Wright makes it comprehensible. It is a tragic accident of history, the sad result of thinking that the gifts the Holy Spirit offered at one moment in history can simply be packaged and delivered to our contexts today.
Wright's gift for clarity rests in his ability to make crucial distinctions, and the one most central to this book's argument is the historical difference between the creeds and the canon. The creeds, Wright observes, are doctrinal statements that Christians developed to answer the particular challenges of the 4th- and 5th-century church. In their context, they make perfect sense. But because they are a response to particular heresies, they necessarily do not say everything that must be said about who God is, why Jesus came, and what the Spirit is doing in the world today. This, Wright says, is why we have a canon—four gospels that have their own story to tell. And most of what they have to say is about the gap that comes between Jesus being "born of the virgin Mary" and "suffering under Pontius Pilate." That is, the gospels, by and large, cover ground that the creeds skip over with a comma.
In the great storehouse of Christian tradition, we have both creed and canon. But in the midst of the particular challenges that the Western church faced at the dawn of the modern era, creed trumped canon and doctrinal claims seemed more important than the story that the gospels tell. Wright masterfully demonstrates how this tendency is common to those groups that have most vehemently disagreed with one another in the church and the academy—conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and progressives. We all seem to have agreed that creed and canon are separable, some clinging to doctrine whatever the cost, others saying that Jesus is an interesting historical figure, even if he wasn't God.
At the core of this book is an invitation to re-read the gospels—to hear them as the story of how God became King by paying attention to the ways they make claims about four themes that were central to the hopes and longings of 1st-century Israel. Those themes are:
  1. the story of Israel,
  2. the story of Israel's God,
  3. the hope of God's renewed people, and
  4. the conflict between God's rule and the kingdoms of this world.
For all of its value as a clear and concise argument about the meaning of Christian faith itself, this book is at its best highlighting Wright as a Bible teacher. The gospels come alive in these central chapters, singing the song that all of creation longs for, flowing like living waters in a dry and weary land. I wanted to stand on the corner and read several passages aloud.
But for all of his gifts as one of our best contemporary Bible teachers, Wright is not content to end this exploration with applause from guys like me who love the Bible anyway: "Part of the tragedy of the modern church, I have been arguing, is that the 'orthodox' have preferred creed to kingdom, and the 'unorthodox' have tried to get a kingdom without a creed. It's time," Wright says, "to put back together what should have never been separated." This work of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again is the work of communities that read the gospels and recite the creeds, living God's mission as the body of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wright concludes by saying that the answer to this riddle isn't in the power of "all the king's horses and all the king's men." It's in little communities who try to live by the power of the Spirit in a place like Walltown.
This, I fear, is where Wright is most likely to be misunderstood: after so many years of Christendom, the news that the gospels are really about "how God became King" may come to some—especially those who worry that the Western church is in decline—as an invitation to rebuild our institutions, renegotiate our relationship with the power structures, and reclaim a sort of theocracy. I live in the Christ-haunted South. We're always susceptible to the promises of a Jerry Fallwell. But this is not the hope that the guys on our corner ache for, nor is it the good news Wright is proclaiming. "The implicit ecclesiology of all four gospels is a picture of the complex vocation of Jesus himself," Wright says. It is "to be kingdom-bringers … first because of Jesus' own suffering and second by means of their own." The Revelation is right: we will, one day, rule the nations. But we'll only get there the way Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father—by suffering with those who've been pushed to the margins until we learn to see together, through creed and canon alike, that another world is possible. Indeed, it's beginning to appear right now in our conversations on the corner and around the dinner table.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is an associate minister at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. The Rutba House, where Jonathan lives with his family and friends, is a new monastic community that prays, eats, and lives together, welcoming neighbors and the homeless. He is the author most recently of The Awakening of Hope: Why We Preach a Common Faith, just published by Zondervan.

An Evening with Peter Rollins (Emergence Christianity in the Present Tense)

Thinking of Christianity in the Present-Tense: The Politics of Discipleship
(Emergence Christianity)
An Evening with Peter Rollins
Peter Rollins at Cornerstone University, Monday, April 16, 2012.
Presented by the Cornerstone University Society for Philosophy.
Chaired by Dr. Michael Van Dyke.

The Legacy of the Christian Blogosphere

a deeper story
Chick-Fil-A, Love Wins, the maelstrom over a particular post about 50 Shades of Gray – sometimes I find myself worrying that this will be the legacy of the Christian blogosphere, that these controversies (and hundreds like them) will be all that people remember in twenty or fifty years.

Sure, we wring our hands at the unpleasantness of it all, but that’s usually while we are busy rolling out the outrage machine and the language of persecuted minority or righteous-defender-of-all-that-is-good-and-true.

We say we wish it wasn’t like that, that we don’t want to be this way, that they started it.

But, sometimes, I really don’t think that’s the case.

I think much of the blogosphere can’t do without it. We have become the outrage-industrial complex, building a digital empire by speaking in the vitriolic language of us vs. them.

I think that if there wasn’t a conflict we would have to start one.

I worry that if people twenty years from now remember the Christian blogosphere as driven by controversy, outrage, and infighting, tragically they might be more right than wrong.

How many blogs would soon fall silent if there wasn’t an “enemy” to oppose? We get a high off it, but like any junkie we are quite talented at denying we have a problem, no matter how much damage we are doing, no matter how out of control it has become.

And it’s a shame, because so many of you have beautiful stories to tell, and incredibly brilliant ideas to share. So many bloggers are writing and doing things that are redemptive, imaginative, an outworking of the Gospel story.

But those bloggers, the sort who don’t want to play the game, they often tend to drop out over time, exhausted and disheartened by it all. Or, these wise and quiet voices get passed over in our mad dash from one controversy to the next. And so, one way or another, we never hear them.

I suppose that is part of what I appreciate about this community. True, it is not afraid to address difficult or controversial issues – but it finds its identity not in outrage but in grace, love, and the little bits of life that we share through our stories.

I think if all the controversies went away, by some miracle of God’s mysterious grace, the people here would have just as much to say. These writers would not fall silent.

Because it isn’t simply writing about a controversy that’s the issue, it’s when we start to confuse these controversies with the Gospel, and confuse our stance on them with our identity as children of God. These controversies are not our story, or at least, they shouldn’t be, because our real stories are far better.

And it’s those stories, those stories about love and grace and resurrection, that I hope people remember long after the controversies have been forgotten.

About Mason: Mason is a husband to Melinda, seminary student, blogger, and freelance writer in Grand Rapids, MI. He is passionate about theology, community and justice. What little time is left amidst his busy schedule is devoted to reading, coffee snobbery and a new adventure in home brewing.

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