November 20, 2017

Progressive Antidotes: Worship not Performance – the Pursuit of Authenticity

Mirror, Photo by Gary Lund

Mirror, Photo by Gary Lund

Progressive Antidotes
Worship not Performance – the Pursuit of Authenticity

We are spending some time with Morgan Guyton’s new book, How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity. Guyton represents one of the three main streams that has flowed out of American evangelical culture to form post-evangelicalism. This third stream, as we discussed in the comments last time, is somewhat diverse and includes people who might be deemed “emergent” while others might be labeled “progressive.”

Whatever the particular nomenclature one uses, people in this stream would likely be on the left end of the spectrum politically, more interested in social justice issues, less institutionally inclined, more focused on “authentic” spirituality and practice than on fitting into traditional patterns and structures.

Guyton’s first chapter brings up this issue of authenticity immediately, as he contrasts worship as “performance” with “loving God.” What he would call “toxic Christianity” is the type that is consumed with “performing” to please a critical God or others rather than simply trusting in the love of God and expressing childlike, unselfconscious delight in him.

He begins by talking about little children dancing in the aisles during his church’s contemporary worship service.

Even if they weren’t singing the words on the screen correctly, they were delighting in God’s presence. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” That is worship. That’s what human existence is supposed to be. God is the DJ of the dance party that is our world. Like every good DJ, God’s goal is to make us dance with abandon and wonder. Without an agenda. Without worrying what other people think.

Sentiments like these are appealing, but in my opinion they show both the strength and the the weakness of much of the teaching that takes place under the label of “authenticity.”

First of all, the text that Guyton uses to introduce this idea is from Matthew 6, which talks about doing one’s religious practices in public for the approval of others. What he doesn’t quote right away is Jesus’ antidote to this. In the verses that follow, which deal with giving alms and praying and fasting, Jesus doesn’t tell us to just forget about what people think and worship God publicly like children. Instead, he tells us to perform our acts of piety in secret, away from the gaze of others.

The contrast is not between performance and authenticity. It’s between public display and genuine piety that no one sees. Jesus even goes so far as to encourage us to hide from our own left hand what our right hand is doing. He is not encouraging us to be children, as Guyton suggests, free and unselfconscious and not “paralyzed with worry about making mistakes” or offending someone. Rather Jesus is advocating very mature and conscious decisions to invest in our hidden life with God without advertising it all the time.

“Authenticity” is the battle cry of youth. I remember screaming it from every rooftop myself when I was younger. The millennials of today, many of whom gravitate toward this emerging, progressive stream of faith-practice, are hungry for reality. They want to feel a sense of coherence in their faith and lives. They want to see that in the church, and they are leaving it in droves because they perceive it missing. But they have a limited perspective on what authenticity can look like.

I know as a young pastor it was hard for me to understand how people could not be simply ecstatic about Jesus, how people didn’t drop everything they were doing to go to Bible studies, how their singing and worshiping seemed so bland and without feeling. I didn’t get why people didn’t embrace small groups where people shared intimate struggles and feelings. Why they didn’t get so worked up about injustice as I did. It is easy for folks who are true enthusiasts to get discouraged and think that others who don’t express themselves as freely and openly aren’t genuine, and are perhaps hypocrites. We might even take their lack of enthusiasm as criticism of our deeply felt and publicly expressed piety.

Now let me be the first to say that I love the enthusiasm of youth and their desire for authenticity. I am constantly challenged by it. There is a lot of good in what Morgan Guyton says in this chapter. His insights on the performance mentality, for example, and how it leads to constantly trying to justify ourselves is spot on.

However, I suspect that much of what I used to consider mere “performance” in worship is a lot more genuine to the folks that practice it than I ever really understood. Because if they were doing it in a Jesus-shaped way, the bulk of their true faith and love for God was secret and inaccessible to my judging eyes. And perhaps it was even hidden from their own cognizance.

I have found that one’s understanding of what is truly “authentic” changes as one gains more experience and gets to know and understand oneself and other people better. And that’s not about becoming children again. It’s about growing up in profound and often painful ways.

• • •

Photo by Gary Lund at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Let’s quit looking at children as examples of “pure” worship. Their “worship” is without experience and knowledge, authentic for their own passage in life, but not necessarily for all.

    The same goes for the young adults. They seek something that they can relate to, and that usually means rejecting, or looking for an alternative to, whatever it is they see around themselves. In a sense, they are looking for something more that what they see, not realizing that their vision is limited by their lack of experience. Yet, they ARE genuine.

    But us older saints, we have our OWN conceits. We THINK that we have knowledge but fail to see how our presbyopic vision can only encompass a limited circle of understanding.

    But what we ought to focus on is how OTHERS see worship and rejoice with them in what they have found. and in turn, with time passing, they will see what WE have, and appreciate that as well.

    • Robert F says:

      My wife and I were talking with my mother-in-law on the phone the other week. She told us that she, a Baptist, had gone with my sister-in-law and her severely developmentally disabled son to their own Vineyard church a couple Sundays ago. She didn’t like the loud praise rock band, or the apparently chaotic character of the worship; she thought the “message”, as she called it, was good.

      But what seemed to actually impress her was how her grandson’s penchant for standing in the middle of the aisle while the music was playing, and conducting the band with his hands raised in the air, was completely accepted, and even unnoticed, in that service. It would not have been accepted at her own home church, and she told us that she thought it must be a good thing that there is room in God’s church for styles of worship that are suited to the needs of people like her grandson (my brother-in-law).

      I have to agree with her; my brother-in-law’s behavior would not have been accepted in my own traditional liturgical churches, either. It would have been seen as disruptive, and, although he would not have been excluded from the church or church membership, I imagine that ways would have been found to get him out of the center of liturgical action, and into some inconspicuous corner. I think it’s a great thing, an accommodation made by God, that there are places of worship, styles of worship, where he, and his manner of being and acting, is not a problem to be solved.

      • Robert F says:

        I should mention that my severely developmentally disabled brother-in-law is a full grown adult, in his twenties.

      • Eeyore says:

        It’s things like this that remind me that, despite all my theological arguments for the superiority of liturgical worship, that it is not the universal panacea for all our problems.

        • Robert F says:

          Otoh, my mother-in-law didn’t say how he did during what I have to imagine was a lengthy sermon, on the order of 45 minutes if the normal evangelical pattern was followed.

        • Robert F says:

          And then there’s the fact that most, or many, evangelical churches require a believer’s baptism for full membership, a baptism prefaced by a testimony and confession of faith indicating that one understands what one is saying and professing; in which case people like my brother-in-law are not be able to become full members, and frequently are precluded from participating in Communion. As far as I’m concerned, people like my brother-in-law should be, are needed to be, full members of the church, baptized and in Communion with their brothers and sisters in Christ; their inability to undertake believer’s or credo-baptism should not stand in the way. On this basis alone, I believe in traditional paedobaptism.

          • Robert I have known mentally handicapped adults who were accepted in to the membership of evangelical churches and baptized if they said they believed in Jesus. I don’t know how severely handicapped your brother-in law is, but if he is able to speak at all most evangelical churches I know of, including baptists, would baptize him.

          • flatrocker says:

            Jon,
            With no snark intended, an honest question…
            Is the ability to speak a determinant for baptism? And if it is, why?
            And what of those who can not?

          • StuartB says:

            Well if the mouth doesn’t confess…

            Next you’ll be saying nature alone is enough for evidence of God and salvation! It’s the words that count. And something about the heart. But I guess just really, really mean the words. Say them every week perhaps.

          • Flatrocker,
            No snark detected. Personally I’ve never had to make the choice with whether or not to baptize someone who is mentally handicapped. But for those who hold to believers baptism, it wouldn’t make any sense to baptize someone who cannot in some manner indicate their faith in Christ. I think in most traditional credo baptist churches severely mentally handicapped people, as far as their accountability before God is concerned, would be considered much as infant and toddlers.

          • Robert F says:

            @StuartB, As far as I’m concerned, being born is evidence of God and salvation, and enough to warrant baptism, provided one’s parents or guardians are baptized Christians and willing that one should be baptized.

            @Jon, I don’t know if my brother-in-law has been baptized or not. He speaks haltingly, and perhaps he could profess, or has professed, faith in Jesus in some simple form adequate to the requirements for believer’s baptism in an evangelical church.

            But my concern with inclusion is not limited to him: I’m thinking of all the severely challenged who cannot utter or understand a word. I want them to have full access to the Communion table, and to be full members of the church, just as I want the same for children and infants. I believe the Orthodox Church gets it right when they baptize infants, and admit them to Communion as soon as they are able to chew and swallow whole food. I see no reason why those who cannot speak or understand speech should be excluded in any way from the church; I believe that they have been redeemed in Jesus Christ along with the rest of the church, and that baptism marks them as full members of Christ’s community on earth, with all the sacramental privileges that entails. I need to be in full communion with such members, and I believe the rest of the church does too. Faith is a quality and orientation of the church as a community, not the capacity of the individual to understand and accept the right beliefs; none of us can have faith alone, though we may own the faith that God offers us through the church.

          • Honestly Robert until today I hadn’t given it much thought, but you have certainly given me some things to think about.

        • Then again, we have a twenty something Down syndrome adult doing the same, joyfully, at our Anglican parish…. so maybe it depends…

      • Steve Newell says:

        In my small Lutheran church, we have several families whose members have special needs. Some are mild to others have significant needs. All go up for Holy Communion and our pastor gives the bread and wine to those who in their own way have shown faith in Christ while others receive a blessing, similar to that given to children.

        We also have a Sunday School class for special needs adults where they can hear and talk about bible stories at their level.

        In our prior church, a very large Lutheran, we had special needs adults assist in the liturgy by lighting candles, holding the processional cross and taking offering.

        There is a place for our brothers and sisters who have special needs and it is up to us to find a place for them.

    • H. Lee says:

      I think this is exactly right, Oscar. To everything there is a season.

  2. Christiane says:

    ” . . . the bulk of their true faith and love for God was secret and inaccessible to my judging eyes. And perhaps it was even hidden from their own cognizance.”

    this I love

    • Christiane says:

      I have a son who lives in a group home at Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat in Wyckoff NJ. He has Down’s Syndrome and many medical issues, but he can walk . . . a blessing because so many of the residents there are stretcher-bound or in wheelchairs. My son does not talk, but communicates in other ways. I have witnessed him interacting with those in the group home who are not as fortunate as my son . . . I have seen my son choose toys from shelves and bring them over to stretcher-bound residents, and gently lay the toys in their hands . . .

      in our faith, his service to the less fortunate would be called ‘an act of loving-kindness’ . . . and it is written that those who love, live in God, and He in them
      🙂

  3. Danielle says:

    The words “pure” and “authentic” are unhelpful if they are taken too seriously by whoever is using them. They suggest that if you run away from, burn, purge, or otherwise purify enough things, or the correct things, or go far enough out into the wilderness, and then summon enough “spark” from some point far enough away or so concealed that you can’t scrutinize it too closely, you will finally have the “real deal” and will escape the problems inherent in what is familiar. The longing for the ‘authentic’ is good, but the labeling things as inauthentic and the attempt to seize ‘authenticity’ for one’s self turns into a game. This game is, ironically, precisely what one was trying to escape at the beginning. Maybe a little charity toward others and one’s self is in order.

    I wonder if a word like integration is more helpful. The discussion of authenticity seems like its genesis is out of a sense of ill-fit or disjuncture, that something important is being unsatisfied or denied. And out of a lack of being able to long for and focus on the rights kinds of things. Integration shifts the conversation into bringing things into alignment.

    • “Authentic” is only a buzzword and has no fixed meaning.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      They suggest that if you run away from, burn, purge, or otherwise purify enough things, or the correct things, or go far enough out into the wilderness, and then summon enough “spark” from some point far enough away or so concealed that you can’t scrutinize it too closely, you will finally have the “real deal” and will escape the problems inherent in what is familiar.

      “Purify” as in Puritans?

      History is full of those who “run away from, burn, purge, or otherwise purify enough things”:
      Clericalism in the form of Cloistered Monks/Nuns
      Calvin in Geneva
      The French Revolution
      Massachusetts Bay Colony
      Orthodox “Monk-a-bee” posers
      Wahabi branch of Islam (and its more-Wahabi-than-Thou offspring the Taliban)
      Utopian communes/cults going into the wilderness (or Guyana)
      Khmer Rouge

    • Stephen says:

      Isn’t the desire for “authenticity” at heart a desire for one’s “own” experience, one not mediated or accepted second hand? In that context what is important is experience not “style”.

  4. This is one of the major problems with most things considered progressive or post-anything. They tend to claim to be rejecting the rigid and judgmental ways of the people they left, only to establish their own rigid and judgmental ways and opinions.

    • +++1! Even HERE? Since humans are fallible creatures then, YES!

      • StuartB says:

        Hmm. Curiously strong reaction to that statement.

        Friendly reminder that a lot of progressive or post-anything people are actually returning back to the roots we all came from, that the previous generation threw off.

        • Danielle says:

          History loves irony.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Nine out of ten new ideas are really old mistakes. But to a generation who weren’t alive the last time these old mistakes were made, they seem like fresh new ideas.”
          — G.K.Chesterton

          Looks like Chesterton’s statement applies to more Old Things than just Old Mistakes.

  5. Burro [Mule] says:

    Having spent some time on Mr Guyton’s blog, I have to admit I was underwhelmed.

    A lot of what passes as ‘authentic’ is really trendy, and to be immediately discarded as the mad parade of fashion moves on in its relentless pursuit of momentary distraction.

    Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber and I may need repeated exposures to each other, but I think there’s a reason she’s working out her progressive salvation within the confines of historical Lutheranism rather than in the Emergent circus.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A lot of what passes as ‘authentic’ is really trendy, and to be immediately discarded as the mad parade of fashion moves on in its relentless pursuit of momentary distraction.

      “Nothing gets stale faster than over-Relevance.”
      — my old Dungeonmaster

      “Oh, that’s so Day-Before-Yesterday!”
      — Buffy the Vampire Slayer (original movie)

  6. I can only speak for myself, but when I talk about authenticity it is two fold. One is relational, I don’t want to waste my time being in “community” with people who have no interest in anything but superficial relationship. The other facet is that I don’t want to feel as though you are trying to manipulate me. I remember giving one church a significant look just because their music wasn’t flashy, and the pastor didn’t have an overpowering personality. The idea being that of I was getting into a song, it wasn’t because of the skill of the musician, it was because the words engaged a true feeling of worship within me. For the sermon, I wasn’t in danger of accepting something because it was packaged well, or because I liked the pastor, but because I was actually convinced that it was true.

    I’m not there for three reasons. They were a cold, arms length community, the pastor failed to convince me that what he was teaching was true (at least often enough)… and my wife didn’t like it :).

    • The charge of being “inauthentic” is just a “looking down your nose” way of saying “I don’t care for it”. On the other hand, “authentic” really means “this resonates with me”.

      Rather than labeling each other why can’t we just TOLERATE (in the TRUE sense) each other and admit that people are different?

      Dallas, I “resonate” with your comments.

      • I agree that in many cases you are correct, but I think that there are valid categories for those words.

        I visited a church once that was celebrating their 40 year anniversary. They had invited back their former pastors for the celebration. The previous pastor got up to speak for about 15 minutes, and just the cadence of his voice was soaked in pure manipulation… that was categorically inauthentic.

        Every Wednesday I am in my car at 3 in the afternoon, and if I flip through the stations there is a pastor whooping and hollering on the “a Christian” station. The man never utters a word that isn’t screamed… that is inauthentic.

        Going to finish with a layup, seeding your audience to “work” the altar call is inauthentic.

        Maybe I should just stick to the truer uglier word, and just say that I despise manipulation, and it is more widespread than we would like to admit.

        • Points to you for directness. But one person’s screaming is another person’s spiritual prodding. Just not for you nor I.

          • StuartB says:

            Spiritual prodding. One man’s ‘screaming’ kicked off the worst spiritual awakening our country has ever had. How many souls lost because of that man…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Which Screaming Man?

        • StuartB says:

          Going to finish with a layup, seeding your audience to “work” the altar call is inauthentic.

          This type of thing came up in a seminar I attended recently. I’m allergic to manipulative selling, and apparently that’s my fault for not creating a need and fulfilling it. Yet I detest that type of thinking. Creating an artificial need that magically you can fulfill.

          “How can you be happy when you are going to hell? Oh you didn’t know you are going to hell? You are. You are sin. You could die any moment and be dead and burning in hell. FOR ALL ETERNITY. But here’s a plan of salvation to save you. Just say the words and really, truly believe them. Aren’t you glad I came along to set you straight?”

          Notice how the mark assumes. Notice the artificial demand. Notice the pitch. Notice the close.

          i hate it

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Every Wednesday I am in my car at 3 in the afternoon, and if I flip through the stations there is a pastor whooping and hollering on the “a Christian” station. The man never utters a word that isn’t screamed… that is inauthentic.

          Echoes a comment about Ted Cruz on morning drive-time talk radio today:
          “If he wasn’t a Senator, he’d be on a street corner with a bullhorn and a Bible, screaming at people.”

      • I find it interesting that you use the word “authentic” that way, Oscar. I certainly don’t. I use more or less a dictionary definition: genuine. I’m a little surprised that anyone would use the word in any other way. Honestly, your definition comes across as uncharitable to me, because it sort of presumes to interpret what people “really” mean when using the word. I believe “inauthentic” is as apropos descriptor for a lot of the baptigelical worship I experienced growing up. The rock band and lights were cool, but the performance was only genuine to the performers, not the (non)participants.

      • Rather than labeling each other why can’t we just TOLERATE (in the TRUE sense) each other and admit that people are different?(/I>

        That sounds so good but it falls so far short. Show me where Jesus said, “By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you TOLERATE (in the TRUE sense) one another.”

    • StuartB says:

      When the pastor and the billboard speak of “authentic”, then it’s not.

      When the congregation talks about everyone being authentic, it tends to be.

      Kinda simple.

  7. Richard Hershberger says:

    I asked a few days ago if I fall into the category of “Progressive Christian.” I don’t know, because I don’t know what that means. Reading today’s post, if this is it, then I’m not.

    I also don’t know what “authenticity” means. Or rather, I know what the word means in ordinary usage, but when I am told that worshiping the same way Christians have been worshiping for two millennia isn’t “authentic” it is immediately obvious that the word is being used in some other way.

    If it means the ability to get kids riled up, then I am unimpressed. Riled up is their natural state. A Taylor Swift concert will have them more riled up than any church can manage. (Or so I imagine. I have as yet dodged that parental bullet.)

    What here is different from standard Evangelical worship? I don’t have enough information to be sure, but I have a suspicion that this is really about music style. The standard Evangelical praise band is a slight modification of the Baby Boomer rock band. In other words, of the stuff played on the oldies station. Is there more here than an updating, to a slight modification of what The Kids are listening to now?

    • Robert F says:

      Does Taylor Swift rile kids up? I’m surprised she doesn’t put them to sleep.

  8. Danielle says:

    “…when I am told that worshiping the same way Christians have been worshiping for two millennia isn’t “authentic” it is immediately obvious that the word is being used in some other way.”

    I *think* it is being used in an typically evangelical or charismatic way. In other words, I think the emergents have the age-old problem that “you can take the boy off the farm but you can’t get the farm out of the boy.” The rebellion has been declared, but the old categories are intact. Quickly now – to the new spiritual virtuous who are “tapped into the Spirit” and mean what they sing. New boss, same as old boss?

    But I’m not sure, because I’m confused about what the concrete flesh-and-blood example is supposed to be. I want to know what happens when you poke it with a stick.

    • Let’s face it, this whole discussion boils down to the ages old argument over “worship” and liturgy “styles”. It has all been said before and regurgitated many times. It has become a discussion (to quote Shakespeare) “…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

      • That’s Macbeth, by the way.

      • Danielle says:

        Possibly. But this is what I don’t understand. I understand that Baby Boomer Christian Rock is the foil for both the pro-liturgy, ancient-future types and for the emergents. But what are the emergents actually doing on Sundays? And where?

        I’m curious because it seems like I share most of the emergent concerns, along with some of their critiques and opinions. Demographically, I appear to line up, too: Former evangelical? Check. White? Check. College degree+, middle class or professional job? Check, check. Politically left-leaning? Check.

        Yet while I have seen “emergent” blogs and books, I haven’t run into “the emergent church” off-line. To my knowledge – maybe I’m just not looking — I haven’t seen it in my city neighborhood, or in the corners of the particular corners of the mainline church where I’ve spent my time. I can think of one possibility up the street from me, but I think they’re a small contingent of Congregationalists – and probably a separate phenomenon. I should drop in on them and find out who they are.

        Are people with emergent-like concerns, who have migrated into the historic mainline, “emergents”? If so, that makes me one almost default. Or are they their own church network? Where do I go to poke it with a stick?

        • Danielle says:

          Um, Sorry about the terrible editing fails. Fast typing at work.

        • StuartB says:

          Boomers are programming the church services and stations. Millennials are saying no to the Boomers, we want to go back to what the church has been about for centuries.

          It absolutely is about worship styles. Boomer’s preferred worship styles.

          Now go back to your lawn and stay there.

        • There may be some emergent groups that meet as housechurches. But they may not necessarily advertise themselves, making them hard to find.

          a lot of the’dones’ (people who have, for the moment, left institutional christianity) may not have anywhere to go on a sunday morning. We don’t yet know of any groups that seem to represent whatever it is we’re looking for. For me, it’s (I think) some kind of ‘authentic’ community where you can work out the big questions, and wrestle with them, and generally just ‘do life’.

          Though that may be more of a group of friends than a church.

          • StuartB says:

            The tragedy is probably many of the nones and dones were emergents, or were looking at emergent churches to save and help their faith. When that folded, it seems the remaining churches are happy to cast them out instead of reforming since the nones and dones won’t adapt.

            Won’t change and be like us? Too bad for you.

        • Danielle, the attention given to what was called the emergence movement started maybe twenty years ago and dwindled maybe ten years ago. You can still buy books written by those who were the most well known in the movement, and some of them still pastor churches. You can find individuals who indeed became progressive liberals and those who ran afoul of the Wartburg Watchers, but for the most part they have just quietly kept on doing their thing in a great variety of settings. If the movement had any identifiable character, it was that of encompassing a wide variety of belief and practice, as does the Monastery here.

          I have never run across a church that identified itself as emergent and would be suspicious if I did. I have never identified myself as an emergent to anyone other than here in this discussion. Most people would have no idea what it means, probably including most people here. It’s a done deal. I would guess 10% of the church at large is emergent in mindset, whether or not they have ever heard of the emergent movement. That’s not likely to change much, and many of those people will continue to attend a regular church of one kind or another, if they are not joining the Nones and Dones. I think young people are more likely to think emergently. It is part of the overall post-modern movement, which is a done deal even tho many consider it a passing fad that is over. Young people tend to be post-modern whether or not they have ever heard of it. It’s a major change from the five hundred year old modern age.

          What do I do Sunday morning as an emergent? Enjoy sleeping in if possible altho once a month I set my alarm to attend a spoken liturgical service without music. That same church is starting to hold Saturday afternoon services and I may attend some of those when Communion is offered. Tonight I am going to a meeting of Friends, or Quakers. None of these people likely self-identify as emergents tho I could be pleasantly surprised. What they have in common is an absence of dogma or any requirement to hold particular doctrine. That might be an identifier of emergent thinking.

          • StuartB says:

            I meal prep, which has led to me losing over 50 lbs of weight in a year. I spend more time in quiet and meditation. I focus more on growing my side business. I plan and prepare for my week.

            Not having church in my life has been the biggest blessing, and the downsides I thought I would experience…I really haven’t, especially once I recognize how toxic those were.

          • Robert F says:

            I suspect that one of the large local Mennonite churches in my area, that traded in its busy old sign and name for a sign with a vaguely hip design and the single word, ALIVE, presumably it’s new name, is what would be called emergent. They had only the new sign with its single slightly enigmatic word for a couple of years, but recently have added another part to the new sign listing church services and activities, like the sign they had before the big change. Perhaps emergent hasn’t worked for them, and they’ve now opted for submergent, or something…

          • flatrocker says:

            > they’ve now opted for submergent

            arr, arr, that’s a good one

          • Danielle says:

            Thanks for the responses. Charles, what you say about the 20 and then 10 year marks makes sense. It seems like I bumped into books and media about it between those marks. When I ran across these, I was surprised and pleased because a lot of the questions were similar to ones I was posing to myself – but mostly in private as I had no place for articulating them. At the time (and truthfully, now as well) I’d probably have hacked off my left hand just to have coffee with someone who wanted to talk about those question.

            However, at that time it wasn’t clear to me what solutions were being proposed; I thought maybe Brian McLaren (the particular ’emergent’ I encountered, courtesy of Barnes and Noble one afternoon in a hot Indiana summer), who was pastor a non-denominational church, might be hoping to replicate a church model. He seems to have mainly published books, talked to groups, and done the kind of things evangelicals do to form networks. So I’ve always assumed the movement had “feet” somewhere on the ground.

            But at the time, I was quietly attending a local mainline church, taking communion, and trying to sort myself out, so I didn’t go hunting for the emergent church / movement / whatever it is. I hoped I would run across the phenomenon from the book in real life and find out what it was up to, but – as I said – I’ve never really bumped into anyone identifying this way. Being unsure what it “is,” off the page, I haven’t used the term, either.

            It’s interesting who recognized and responded to the label here at IM. I’m guessing, given the responses, that this really described a mood or a set of questions. Those affected by it were never organized, and it hasn’t coalesced anywhere in particular?

  9. StuartB says:

    Sidebar article comment – while the article is talking the refuge crisis and tangentially Islam, the idea of a decrease in religious freedom seems to be a feature, and not a bug, of most religious faiths. A decrease in religious “freedom” is the end goal, because we have the Truth and why would you leave. An increase implies competition, and that’s bad, you might ask questions. Just like under a Roman Christian Emperor, just like under Sharia Law, the majority will just accept the faith and keep their heads down, no options.

    • Suzanne says:

      Absolutely! People are scared of the “others” because encountering them just might make them question their own beliefs, which is scary. Suppose I discover my whole worldview is a sham??

      I would say, so what if it is? If your beliefs can’t stand up to a little scrutiny, they aren’t much to begin with.

      • StuartB says:

        Suppose I discover my whole worldview is a sham??

        Sounds like my life. Not just once. Not twice. At least 4 times now.

        Fool me how many times?

    • As a frustrated diety once put it in a work of the great Terry Pratchett, “Thou shalt not subject thy god to market forces!”

  10. I’d just be happy with an end to albums of religious music (or any music) that use “4” instead of “for”. “Songs 4 Worship” and such. There is no reason for that: You are saving TWO CHARACTERS of type; it’s not like a hard word to spell or understand.

    I can only interpret it as dog-whistling: a low-tone whisper of, “Too lazy or ignorant to use correct spelling and grammar? This one’s for you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I interpret it as both “being clever(TM)” and fallout from texting or writing code, where you use a LOT of abbreviations.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      The former artist formerly known as Prince, may he rest in peace, did this in many of his songs.

  11. I’m coming to the conclusion that whatever else this Guyton guy may have to offer, his primary talent seems to be the ability to make people angry and intolerant and divisive and to speak in apples and oranges with contempt and great offense. This one is ten times worse than the last one, both in the main post and in the comments. I suspect that most of the trouble involves semantics. I probably should just close the tab and do something else.

    How can a group of people who have found their main point in common as having emerged from the Evangelical wing of the church badmouth the emergent wing of the church? This is crazy. I have been emerging from society at large and the traditional church in particular all my life and expect to continue to do so to the end. I can with some time identify those with an emergent mindset in any group of people including any church and these are the only people I would choose to hang out with. The Monastery would be the main example I could point to, whether or not anyone here recognizes their thinking as emergent, tho not all are. Again I think we are talking semantics.

    But to put me in the same box with progressives just infuriates me. I am not a progressive as classically demonstrated over the past hundred years. I have no problem with people who choose to major in this ideology doing their thing, but it is not my thing. That does not make me a conservative. It makes me someone who does not think in ideological terms and that would include religious ideology. I find ideology stultifying and anti-life, I would hope that as I draw my last breath on this planet, I am striving for authenticity in God’s eyes. Others can do as they choose.

    I put off reading the article that was linked to last week’s discussion of this book and now it’s gone. If someone could supply that link it might help me to read it, or perhaps make it worse. I have no intention of reading the book itself and suspect it might pop an aneurysm if I did. And if Nadia Bolz-Weber’s church is not emergent, there is no meaning to life and we might all just as well turn on the TV.

      • Thanks, CM. I had to skim a lot but I believe I got the drift. This guy is indeed a self-identified progressive, but not offensively so. In my view trying to counteract the brainwashing of his conservative upbringing by trying to replace it with his opposing liberal brainwashing along with all his own definitions as shoulds and musts. Maybe quite helpful to some who have been captured unknowingly. I never felt captured by the Pentecostal Evangelical wing I spent five years in. Took me longer than that to fully understand what was wrong with Dispensationalism and Theonomy, but they just didn’t pass the sniff test provided by the Holy Spirit, which was the good I took with me and still use today. Telling quote from the article, “But Jesus’ solidarity with sinners required his brutality against their judges.”

        I have no desire to write a book for those giving me my early education saying come out of her my people. There are different strokes for different folks. If you are happy and comfortable where you are, God bless you. As pointed out in the comments, much of what is being discussed here is a matter of style and personal preference. Live and let live. If anything, books need to be written on how to identify attempts to brainwash and control, including this book, so a person can protect themself without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, tho that wouldn’t help young children. This guy means well and may accomplish some good, but please don’t put me in the same box with him. If his thinking is at all emergent, it is emerging about 25 years behind the cutting edge.

  12. A perspective:

    “Today, young people seek experiences. They are not content with a materialistic life; nor with the rationalistic society that we their elders hand down to them. Our children, being icons of God, “called to be gods,” seek something beyond the logical forms of the materialistic philosophy and atheistic education we offer to them. They seek experiences of true life. And, certainly, it is not sufficient for them to be told about God. They desire experience of Him, of His light, of His Grace. Many of them search in vain, resorting to many cheap substitutes to find something outside or beyond logic because they do not know that the Church has both the ability to comfort them and the experience they thirst for…”

    -Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life, by Archimandrite George, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos. 2006.

    Theosis here is defined as “to become gods by Grace. The Biblical words that are synonymous and descriptive of Theosis are: adoption, redemption, inheritance, glorification, holiness and perfection.”

    This is as non-evangelical a view as you can get, and yet there is great cross-over. Young people want experiences (of God), and they want to be honest (authentic) about the life experiences, both good or bad, that they’ve already had in order to live an integrated life.

    Authenticity is a rejection of compartmentalization.

    To the degree that life in the church encourages or inhibits honest seeking, and honest truth-telling, is the degree to which young hearts will be captured. My two cents.

    • Today, young people seek experiences. They are not content with a materialistic life; nor with the rationalistic society that we their elders hand down to them.

      Sean:
      This could have been spoken in 1973. It certainly represents the sentiments of those of my generation who became Christians at that time. I am not sure what we became co-opted by. What started out as a bit of Jesus music in the church has grown into something I am not comfortable with.

      I still crave authenticity, and fortunately have it with a few people. The difference between now and then is that now I realize that authenticity requires vulnerability to some degree, and sometimes you can get very hurt. So being discerning is important. I also now have grace for those who cannot or have a hard time being authentic. I had no grace when I was in my 20s. Boy am I glad I was never in a leadership position!

      Thanks for your message, I am going to read it again. A breath of fresh air for this baby boomer!

    • >>To the degree that life in the church encourages or inhibits honest seeking, and honest truth-telling, is the degree to which young hearts will be captured.

      Sean, your two cents is worth at least a twenty in my view. Well spoken.

  13. Sean,
    You are a lot more optimistic than I am. The young hearts are a lot like they old hearts. Too many aren’t looking for honest answers, they think they have the answers and are looking for people who agree with them.

    • You are on to something when you say they aren’t looking for answers. See above quote. But I couldn’t disagree more about looking for people who agree with them. Have you asked young people what they are looking for, personally and honestly?

      • Sean what interaction I have had with young people through the years hasn’t led me to believe that this generation of young people is somehow different from other generations. I don’t believe that a place that gave all honest truth telling would necessarily capture young hearts. It would capture some. It would capture some old hearts as well. But it would repel a lot of hearts, both young and old, as well.

  14. Christiane says:

    for me, ‘authentic’ means something ‘original’

    as for ‘authentic’ people, I suspect that the really authentic types are non-conformists both to ‘the norm’ and to ‘what’s trendy’ . . . .
    I suppose that’s why I like eccentric people . . . they aren’t concerned with trying to be what they know they are not and I suspect such folks are more at peace with who they ‘are’ than many who work very hard to stand out as ‘special’ and unique (or at least ‘attractive’ to the attention of others)

    Give me the eccentric folk, and I will be able to be genuinely respectful . . . you could probably measure just HOW eccentric they are by how much you could ‘be yourself’ around them . . . but that is a personal thing, and I really can only speak for my own experience . . . these people are my heroes and heroines in that they march to their own drummer and speak a language that is less fearful of condemnation . . . something to admire in that freedom, I think

    I can see Nadia Bolz-Weber as an original . . . you would think people would be put off by Nadia’s manner, but I am sure that there are an awful lot of people out there who, on encountering her, instinctively know she can be trusted. It’s that instinctive knowing that discerns those among us who are ‘authentic’ when the presenting appearance is not in conformity with what is ‘expected’. Yes, Nadia certainly kicks butt when compared to the phony kool-aid purveyors of mega-salvation.

  15. Robert F says:

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