Friday, July 15, 2011

Who's sub?

I'm beginning to grow weary of the presumption that new "communities" (the word preferred these days rather than "church") are absent of cultural proclivities. That is, we easily spot the barriers of a certain Christian "sub-culture," decide to jettison the distinctions, then form a community that supposedly is raked clean of such weeds. In other words, despite all the efforts of the emergents (you know who they are) and the post-emergents (you may know who they are), we're still creating "sub-cultures" within our Christian faith.

Rather than deny the distinctives of our particular community, shouldn't we celebrate them? And, if so, how do we do that NOT at the expense of the "other"?


matt gallion said...

Hmm. Interesting thoughts. I'm not sure that most of the emergents I've looked at (and not to sound presumptuous, but I've looked at my fair share) would agree with this post. The distinction they (and I) would make would be to point out that some "cultural proclivities" are worse than others. Granted, some of them are often times very pointed in their rhetoric, giving the impression that they are elitist or dismissive.(In fact, some of them just are dismissive, which is sad.) That said, I think it is wise to call all such "proclivities" into question--"testing the spirits," I believe it's been called--and to at least to attempt to "jettison" one's self from such tendencies. Isn't that what the continued process of redemption is all about?

In other words, I'm not sure to what extent emergents or "post-emergents" (interesting category) actually believe that their rejection of one "sub-culture" leaves them free from any "sub-culture." They might instead suggest that they are living in a healthier (a word they enjoy immensely), more honest, and (extremely important for most of them) more inclusive sub-culture.

As to your final question, I think one must discern the goods and bads of every particular community. Then we can begin to evaluate those that are consistent with our understanding of the Kingdom and those that are not. However, tradition should never be accepted on its own basis. The thoughtful work of those who established our traditions can only be truly honored if we are willing to question it.

Rodney Reeves said...


Great thoughts. That's what I'm questioning: Is there such a thing as non-sub-culture? But, when we say:

"consistent with our understanding of the Kingdom and those that are not."

There's the rub. Whose understanding? All of us? Some of us?

B Grif said...

This is certainly a bothersome question. However, you said something in class once that continues to impact me today: "In the Church, unity comes by way of the Spirit not despite of diversity but because of it."

Although I'm still irked by disputes of doctrinal purity and the like, I'm challenged by others' cultural proclivities. In response to your final question, I often feel like the answer is none of us (as long as the church is divided). Both Jesus and Paul seemed to tie our relationship with others to our relationship with God much more closely than modern Christians like to admit.

matt gallion said...

In response to your question, I would say that we all start where we are. Granted, the emphases that many emergents are adamant about--human rights, equality, inclusion, 'spirituality,' et al--are notably aspects of a Western and 'liberal' (meant more broadly than partisan politics) culture. Some might deny that, but they seem inescapable. How might a vision of the kingdom that has been so culturally informed jive with that of a recent Christian convert in the Global South? Obviously there would be significant differences. But some such differences are so ingrained in one's 'thrownness' in the world that they can be nearly impossible to discern. At that point, one's continued recognition, questioning, and celebration of his/her particular tradition can be incredibly affirmative. At the same time, however, some traditional idiosyncrasies can be devastating. Therefore, we ought be persistently uncomfortable with our taken-for-granted assumptions.

So far in my young life, this is the best that I've been able to come up with.

stephen said...

I may be mistaken - but are you calling for a post-post-emergentism? I have a lot of catching up to do.

In order to "celebrate the differences while NOT doing so at the expense of the other", we very well may have to cease in celebrating our own communities' differences and instead begin to celebrate those of the other.

Tarquinius Superbus said...

We are a people who's cultural preferences tend to correspond with similar social, political, and religious views. Our churches often find themselves to be as accepting as they deem correct but lacking any actual distinctions between members to either celebrate or tolerate.

You're right: subcultures are being built and I have a slight concern they are also becoming more esoteric in nature.

I think your question can be addressed through a look at Paul and his desire the church should worship together as equals. Obviously there are many passages which apply.

Let our congregations become as strange and different as they wish. Only, teach the people their preferences, taste, even theology du jour is secondary to the principal we should worship together as equals. Submission to one another is a thing we must always remember to teach.

Rodney Reeves said...

Great insights, Matt, BGriff, Stephen, and Tarquinius.