I have noticed that we’ve been getting quite a few new readers and commenters over the past couple of months, so it’s probably the right time to do an iMonk 101 post restating who we are and what we are all about here at the strange and wonderful world that is the Internet Monk blog. Perhaps it might serve as good review for many of us “oldtimers” as well.
I’m Chaplain Mike, the lead writer. Jeff Dunn is our “Abbot” who oversees the blog. We have several excellent writers who contribute regularly and we often ask guests to contribute posts when we find their insights compelling. We put up at least one post each day, and often two. I write every day except on Thursdays and Saturday mornings, when Jeff weighs in. Our other writers and guest posters contribute when they can or when we solicit material from them. We also regularly feature articles from the archives by Michael Spencer, who founded the blog in 2000. He is, and always will be, the Internet Monk.
Anything you see here that is in red ink is a link. As a start, I encourage all newer visitors to Internet Monk to read the following posts:
To learn more about Chaplain Mike’s journey, I would suggest reading the following posts:
- My Post-Evangelical Wilderness
- Wilderness Update
- Wilderness Update: The Next Step in the Journey
- My Debt to Evangelicalism
There are also a few key posts explaining why we do some of what we do here on Internet Monk and posts that will give you a good overall perspective of our founder, Michael Spencer’s outlook and approach:
- When I am Weak: Why we must embrace our brokenness and never be good Christians
- Our Problem with Grace
- A Conversation in God’s Kitchen (on how to approach the Bible)
- What Is Jesus-Shaped Spirituality?
- Talk Hard (On the Role of the Critic)
If you would like a full-length treatment of Michael’s thinking, his book Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality will give you that. (BTW: the link takes you to Amazon, which is offering the book at a bargain price at this time).
Many of you have noticed that we often have a somewhat limited focus here on Internet Monk: our articles contain a lot of critiques of “evangelicalism,” especially the American variety. Our byline is “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” This reflects the fact that Michael Spencer and most of us who have been entrusted with carrying on his legacy have our roots in the world of American evangelical Christianity, but have also left it by one way or another.
If you would like to understand what we mean by “evangelical” and “post-evangelical,” I suggest you read: “Defining Terms: Evangelical and Post-Evangelical.”
In general, “evangelicalism” refers to the churches and Christian groups in revivalist traditions that gained ascendancy in the 1970’s through the 1990’s in the U.S. and developed an entire evangelical culture (described below). “Post-evangelicalism” refers to those who have become disenchanted with that religious culture and are seeking other ways. Many still find themselves in the “post-evangelical wilderness.”
The other day, I wrote the following to a commenter (it has been edited somewhat to flow better here):
When it comes to evangelicalism, we here at IM all know that your mileage may vary. Some of my best friends are in evangelical churches, and I know many fine congregations and good pastors.
The critiques in our articles generally focus on the public face of evangelicalism, particularly those who put themselves forward as spokespersons for Christianity, culture warriors, and those who dismiss historical traditions and practices in favor of do-it-yourself church. Frankly, we hardly even bother with the “fringes” anymore.
“Liturgy” is not our soap box [a critique often voiced in the comments], but matters of worship are and have always been central to the faith, and one of the ways that many of us came to see the deficiencies of revivalist evangelicalism was through participating in and leading services that purported to be “worship” but bore little resemblance to the way the church has worshiped over the centuries.
Most of us think we are at the end of an era. “Evangelicalism” had a great ascendancy in the 1970′s through the 1990′s in conjunction with conservative politics in the U.S. It was characterized by the church growth movement in its various forms, several charismatic movements, the “Christian-industrial complex” of media and publishing, culture war politics and social engagement, and a number of doctrinal battles over such matters as inerrancy, creationism, eschatology, at the same time that churches were “dumbing down” and becoming more pragmatic and less dogmatic. That entire culture of evangelicalism is in serious trouble, in our view. Michael’s most famous and widely disseminated posts were called “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.”
It is this culture and its characteristics, not necessarily any particular church, leader, or ministry that is usually our focus.
The reason many of us have fled to historic traditions is that we came to the conclusion that this “evangelical culture” has departed from historic Christian thought and practice in so many ways as to actually have become something new and different, with the power to disconnect people from important aspects of our family heritage. The historic traditions we have joined have many, many problems too. But since they also have the liturgy, the church year, institutional ballast, strong theological and pastoral traditions, and respect for the past, they at least don’t have the downside of being something recently created and autonomous.
Michael Spencer called himself “post-evangelical,” and to clarify that he would say that he had moved past present evangelical culture to seek a “broader, deeper, and more ancient” form of Christian faith. His book further describes his journey as being from“Churchianity” to a “Jesus-shaped spirituality.”
That is the journey we’re on too.
So, whether you want to join us, debate us, criticize us, sympathize with us, or just hang around and listen to the conversation, we are glad you’ve started reading Internet Monk, and we hope God will use it in your life for good.