I stopped actively blogging in… 2011? Hard to pin down the year exactly because the blog no longer exists, but I think of it often. My blog started as both an exercise in spiritual reflection, and in preparation for a book. Over time, it evolved into a life and identity of its own. EmergingChristian.com revealed my wrestling with the Evangelical faith of my upbringing, my religious exploration through a seminary education that began in 2005, and the cognitive dissonance I felt between the Christian world I had inhabited for so long, and the “secular” world I encountered, day-to-day. The subtitle I started with was: “My evolving story of faith.” But later on, the inevitable happened and I changed it to this tagline: “I used to pick fights with liberals, until I accidentally became one.”
And I guess that’s a quick recap of my personal religious trajectory.
For those of you with a toe still in Evangelicalism, the emerging church movement really started quietly in the 1990’s as an exploration (by both Mainliners and Evangelicals) of what Christianity could or should look like in a postmodern context. How could Christianity remain relevant in a postmodern, postcolonial, post-Christian society? In a religiously diverse society? Most terrifying to the Christians I grew up around: what happens to Christianity in a culture wherein “absolute truth” is a rejected premise?
In the early 2000’s, several authors hit bestseller lists with books about emerging Christianity. Immediately, others hit the same lists with books denouncing emerging Christianity as moral relativism, a rejection of orthodoxy, Satan in hipster clothing… you get the idea.
In my opinion, however, as soon as it became a commercial enterprise, the emerging church movement began to evolve (or be co-opted) into another version of the “Seeker Sensitive” movement some of you may remember from the early 1980’s. “Seeker Sensitive” was at best a way of acknowledging that religious language and traditions made little sense to non-churchgoers. At worst, and at its pinnacle, it was an advertising campaign: make Christianity as unassuming and approachable as possible. This was a bait-and-switch, because the churches adopting this approach held the same heaven-or-hell, saved-or-lost paradigm as the fundamentalist church down the street. They just had savvier marketing.
Looking back (I did not see it then) most of the prominent bloggers, authors and speakers in this growing ecosystem were men. Straight, white men. Just like me. Surprising?
And they were cool. They were hip and trendy and iconoclastic. Challenging, but thoughtful. Irreverent and faithful. Good hair… This was appealing to me: to make changes in the church – in the world I had grown up in and knew so well. I imagined being like Martin Luther, reforming the church all over again. It sounded like a PURPOSE. It also sounded sexy.
But that all became a slippery slope for me toward a progressive, egalitarian, universalist form of Christianity. Looking back though, I feel like there were some close calls. I could have just as easily followed the egocentric path of someone like Mark Driscoll (an iconoclastic, fundamentalist/misogynist disguised as “new, emerging” Christian voice).
As I am contributing here, and enjoying the process, it’s made me reflect on the path that got me here, starting in 2005 on blogger.com, beginning seminary soon after, and marrying the person who would become my pastor, soon after that. I feel so grateful that this is where that path led. I will be doing some additional reflections following this train-of-thought…
Peter, this is SO good. Thank you for distilling so much of our collective experiences into these posts. It’s cathartic and healing. Also, “good hair.” 😂😂😂