I’ve been writing on Evangelicalism over the past few weeks partially as a theological exercise and partially to work out a my own critiques and vision for this movement. I would not consider myself a spokesperson for the movement, nor do I want to be, but I do recognize that I am in many ways a product of it and have been deeply influenced by Evangelical churches since a very young age. Finally, there is something especially unique about my reflecting on it as a theologian that aligns myself with the theology and history of the Friends Church, and has interest in that tradition’s longevity (it too has been deeply influenced by Evangelicalism).
I invite you into this conversation – to add to it, challenge and/or resonate with these views. I’ve embarked on this quest in order to offer critiques and possibilities for the larger discussion that surrounds this.
Visit my “Series on Evangelicalism” under the Featured page for the rest of the posts on this topic.
A critique on the movement as a subculture
What I like so much about Quakerism and the Emerging Church (not necessarily both together) is that they both hold values that extend beyond the restrictions of Evangelicalism and modernity. What both Quakers and Emerging Churches hold in common is a desire to transform secular space (see Ryan Bolger’s conversation on this), and see that all is God’s, all is in his realm and that his fingerprints are over everything. This is where the larger Evangelical church loses me and many in our generation. There seems to be a lack of ability to create things new and authentic. I was having a conversation the other day where my friend and I were making fun of those old G.A.P. (God Answers Prayers) christian tees. Now maybe I take that stuff too seriously but we rarely as the church generate ideas worth duplicating, instead we take the ideas of the world and slap some kind of christianese on it. This is the effect of a dualistic disease that sees everything as either Christian or non-Christian. Gap??? is not Christian but we can make it Christian by rephrasing what it stands for. Some things are not worth saving.
The Evangelical church has become a sub-culture, a group of people out of touch with the larger world. It is this part of the church that has largely moved away from the urban centers of the world and into the Suburbs, it is largely representative of Anglo-Americans and has largely represented conservative views on politics and culture. Even if these are only generalizations and don’t fit the whole of the movement, these generalizations in my mind constitute a reason to listen up??? and consider thy ways.???
Many of us were told as teenagers to throw, burn, and smash anything that was not Christian. Growing up under this kind of anti-secular sentiment, Evangelicals try and think what would a non-christian person like to do if he/she came to church??? or what kinds of songs would they like to sing,??? or what words can I use to change the way they think about Jesus.??? This is how we engage??? with the culture. The reality is that there is little interaction from those on the outside.??? A majority of church growth is transferring memberships from one Evangelical church to another (typically to bigger??? and better??? churches that offer more programs and services to me as a consumer).
This is the leg-up that the emerging church has on other groups, most of these people have un-learned their christianese, been baptized back into a real world where God rules over all not just the sacred.??? The church then is always looking to redeem and transform that which is around it, not obliterate it or run from it. One main obstacle for this is that there must be a level of un-learning??? that goes on. There are many people both at Fuller and world-wide that want to join in with radical Christianity, but its not a set of beliefs, or a certain formula you throw together in the food processor. No, radical Christianity moves beyond beliefs to practicing and living like Jesus lived (would Jesus wear GAP (or G.A.P.) clothes made in 3rd word Sweatshops?). His whole body was in this world, there were no dualisms in Christ, no one foot in, one foot out.??? He was baptized into the secular??? world, and he redeemed that world with the whole of his life.