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some thoughts on emergent

Monday, January 30, 2006
Many of you know that I have been involved in the emergent conversation for a couple of years. I'd love to be part of an emergent cohort, but Albuquerque lacks one currently. I read just about anything I can get my hands on from the emergent folk, participate in discussions about it, and read ridiculous amounts of blogs regarding emergent. Today I was asked by a friend how to respond to a discussion that labels emergent as something that could really hurt Christianity and feel that my thoughts are worthy of a blog post. I promise I'll give a life update sometime this week, but for now you get my email response to a backlash against emergent.

There are some huge misconceptions of the "emerging church" (I hate calling it that because what I think is emerging is conversation). In that same vain I'd say there are some churches that sometimes dive into less accepted views of Christianity. Now personally, if you asked me beliefs on some things, I know that many people at counterculture would consider me heretical... but that's a different point entirely.

There is no one view held by emergent about how things should go. It varies from fully embracing evangelical thinking with a twist to full out postmodern liberal thinking where salvation tends to not be a big deal. But those are extremes... I think most people are more in the middle of those things and it is outliers that change the conception of what emergent really is.

I guess I ask myself this... there was strong opposition to Luther and his theses and a backlash that caused the death of thousands over the Protestant/ Catholic split but overall many view that as a good thing. I don't see this emerging community as causing that much of a stir, but one has to consider the history of reformation before making sweeping judgement calls. Throughout history, our theology has been reflected by the culture, so why is it that right now there is so much fear in emergent because it chooses to not completely ignore the culture surrounding it? I mean take for example the gospels, each written for a different community in different times. The various cultures shaped each gospel, gave each one different meaning to different audiences. Romans wouldn't have understood Matthew just as Jews wouldn't really get Luke. Culture played a huge part in the formation of the canon and continues to shape our views of theology whether it be liberation theology, systematic theology, etc.

In my humble opinion, the modern era has done some serious damage to our understanding of theology. Suddenly we think that we know everything about God and claim infallibility for ourselves. The fight among most evangelicals and emergent is over power. For 40 years, the modern day right wing conservative evangelical has ruled the religion scene, especially in America. Mainline protestant denominations have dwindled, and overall church attendance has plummeted. Emergent is offering an alternative and the backlash has been rough. Of course there is going to be criticism as it may be true that the tide is shifting as far as how people relate to God and how religion is perceived.

I guess this email turned into a rant about how people judge emergent as a whole when there are really good things happening because of the conversation. I find that people criticizing either side of the issues tend to be completely belligerent (sometimes myself included, but I'm working on it) about what they believe and look for things to be wrong on the other side. What I love about counterculture is that for the most part I feel free to be in conversation. Yes, I'm well aware that my views stray from the norm there, but it is safe for me, and I see it as a place where I can learn some about being humble and where I can open the eyes of others to some things.

The label of an "emergent" church makes me cringe honestly. If being an "emergent" church means we follow a set form of worship, only believe in certain things and are just having a harsh reaction to the religion of the 20th century... I want no part in it. If emergent means that we're willing to discuss tough issues and may not have all of the answers but discuss for the sake of discussion, I think its a great thing. It is a great tool for us as Christians to stop living in our Christian ghetto with our Christian friends, owning our Christian merchandise, listening to Christian music... Jesus wasn't afraid to talk about difficult things. It has been a long time since we as a Christian community have been able to tackle those tough issues, and I think we're shooting ourselves in the foot by not doing so. Why is our age group not part of a Christian community as a whole? Mainly because opinions are not welcome, and if they get beyond that they are not valued.

So I guess I'd say to this guy, be wary of the label of emergent. It doesn't mean the same thing to all people, and it certainly isn't meant to draw people away from Christ. Sure, there may be some far fetched ideas about things (and yeah I hold a lot of those), but on the whole, I think there is some healthy renewal going on in these emergent communities. I've personally spoken with a lot of the leadership of emergent and I would never discount their passion for Christ and what the renewal in the church means to them. To do so would be to discount the infinite possibilities that God has to work through people.

Martin Luther King Day

Monday, January 16, 2006
Technically, I did not have today off. I was kind of shocked by it because I've grown up with MLK, Jr. day as a pretty important holiday. After much discussion, (I think I called the church racist at one point), it was decided that Tracy and I would work a half day and then go find something to do that gets me out of Albuquerque and seeing things I haven't seen. So that's what we did. We collected Christmas stuff and took it to the storage unit, gave a ton to the thrift shop and then made an attempt to figure out what to do. After much deliberation, we decided to go eat lunch with her husband Scott and then head up the mountain even though it was cold. Afterall, we could drive and not really get out of the car much and stay warm.

So after a delightful lunch (indian food = delicious), we headed off through Placitas and up a dirt road. We saw a cave that looked interesting, but the ice was frozen over so we kept driving. Then there was this guy repelling off of the side of the mountain. We wanted to figure out how to get up there, but again... cold. So we get to this point right here and the check gauge light on the car dings. I notice the temperature gauge is a bit high, so we pull over. I hear the sound of something hitting the ground... not good. Coolant is rushing out from underneath the jeep. We open the hood... it is bubbling over, the cap isn't secure. Yikes. So we sit there and wait for it to cool down as it appears that everything is ok (having to take a test about cars at Mtn TOP helps me out now and again though I managed to kill 3 while I was there). So we head off again soon we're near the top. I get a glimpse of the ski resort and we decide what the heck let's go up to the peak.

So we drive up, park the car, hunt for cash to pay the parking fee and get out. At which point I hear an "oh no" come from Tracy's side of the car. To which I respond... "Did you lock the keys in the car?" The answer to that question was yes. We go inside and one of the guys tries to get the door open, but as it is a newer car that has automatic locks and windows, he doesn't want to break anything... so we call Scott and wait until he can go get the extra set of keys which would be close to a 2 hour wait. So, hiking anyone? What else is there to do but hike around the trails? So we head up to get a better look at the city, but it was pretty cloudy. We picked out major roads and kept walking. At the top, Tracy took this picture of me. Still smiling even after all of the trials of the day. Eh.. who am I kidding we laughed the entire time. So we head down and then back up to the visitors center. The guys in the center gave us hot chocolate cause they felt bad about our day. We waited, watched birds and then Scott showed up and we got to leave. I love how my attempts at adventures always turn out to be just that... adventures. I guess if that is what I'm going for, that is what I get. It was definitely fun to be up on the peak and look down, even though I've got the fear of heights thing going for me. I will definitely try to go up there when the weather is more favorable for seeing the city. I also want to go when there's more snow and play in the snow play area. I mean really... sledding is cool.

So it is back to work tomorrow for me, staff meeting and all. I leave you with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
Only love can do that."

From me to you... I'm looking to spread that light and love.

under fire

Sunday, January 15, 2006
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” Malachi 3:3

Fantastic counterculture last night. We talked about being under fire and how fire is a powerful source of change. I don’t know if it is just the fact that in the past 6 months my life has changed pretty drastically or what, but it really resonated with me. In refining silver, there is a long process of removing the impurities for there to be something that is valuable. Being under fire gets rid of everything that is impure and allows the silver to be something that is valuable. Through our turmoil, God can mold and shape us, it is a long and arduous process, but one that God is there for throughout the entire process. In refining metals, they can’t be left alone or they may get too hot and be ruined… God is constantly shaping and changing us and cares how long we’re in the fire.

The other major piece of this message had to do with testing. At first that made me slightly uncomfortable as I don’t like to think that God does things to test me because that’s not really the God that I know and follow. I really don’t think that God throws problems our way to make sure that we’re faithful. Though this could have been where the message went, it didn’t. Instead it was more about us testing God. This isn’t saying that it’s a good thing to test God by jumping off a cliff and asking God to save us. We all know that wouldn’t end well. Instead it was much more of an interactive test where we make attempts to discover who God truly is and seek to know how much God truly loves us. We do things like move 1500 miles away to an unknown city and an unknown job not only because we want to work for God, but also to make sure that God’s calling is true and right and good. Trust and faith in God is a tough thing to grasp, something that isn’t always second nature, especially if we’re under fire. It isn’t easy to be under fire, and it isn’t easy to just give in to God’s will in our lives. I have peace while under fire because I know that God is right there shaping, refining, and forming me into something that is utterly beautiful in God’s eyes. The most interesting piece is that when silver is ready, a silversmith sees his/her reflection in the silver. When we’re ready, God sees a reflection in us like in a mirror.

we got a sign!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Now I can stop telling people... come to this building and go to the office that is on the south side and go behind the 2nd to last wooden frame thingy. Call when you're outside and maybe I'll come out and get you. Haha. We have a sign we have a sign! This blog post brought to you by the "I spent way too much time in stores with families today."

So... one doctors appoitment, 4 stores with a child who gave up past the first store, filing and then one more emergency store run later... and its the weekend! My job is crazy... fun, but crazy.

But we have a sign! Posted by Picasa

Christmas and all that jazz...

Monday, January 09, 2006
So I’m back after a long hiatus. The week before Christmas was over the top busy with activities for our families including a trip to the natural history museum, a Christmas party, craft activities and a trip to the interactive science museum Explora! I missed out on that one as I was flying home to see family and friends back in the great state of Illinois. Time with loved ones took priority over blogging, and my return to work was enough to keep blogging away for another week.

I had a great time at Christmas and am thankful my parents still put up with me enough to let me come home. I know I impede on their schedule needing to use their car, staying out late, having my friends over, etc. so I’m really glad they still invite me home. I stayed through the new year, and really had some quality time with my friends from high school. One of my roommates from last year got engaged the day I came back to Albuquerque which is awesome, so I have a wedding to be in the summer of 2007. I’ll likely have more than one to be in that summer actually.

Now that I’m back, I’m starting to get back into the groove of things and work is rarely dull. I’ve been having some great theological conversations via email with daddyo. He’s the guy I found counterculture through. I’m excited about working with my church to start up our Monday night study worship service, though I’m still not really sure what role I’ll be playing when that all starts. I’m also joining a bible study on Tuesday nights that is going to focus on the historical and cultural aspects of biblical interpretation which should be quite cool. My calendar sure fills up quickly.

Things at work have been good for the most part, but the end of last week was pretty rough. I’m hoping the situation smoothes itself out, but it may be a bit before it does. And no, we still don’t have a Saranam baby. We went to the hospital this morning, but apparently the contractions weren’t the right kind of contractions… who knew there were multiple kinds of contractions?

I’ve been doing lots of reading lately, so maybe I’ll work on drafting up some thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. My friends from school are off on a mission trip in Louisiana and not having them online all of the time seems to free up some good reading time.

That’s about it I guess, I’m back in the routine and just hoping people decide to come and visit me soon. It is gorgeous here and I haven’t had to wear a coat since I’ve been back (of course this morning I regretted that decision, but whatever). The mountains are gorgeous and I need some friends to help me explore. I came to the realization that I’m just shy of being ¼ of the way done with my job, and I’ve barely been outside the city limits (ok so there really isn’t that much outside of abq to track down but I haven’t been to Santa Fe yet… come on!). But besides that I feel like I’m missing out on some of the richness of what Albuquerque has to offer me. I’m not a New Year’s resolution type person, but if I were… mine would be to get out and explore this city.
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