Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I am an Emergent Grup and so are you (yet another marketing demographic)

Yet again I have been pegged by journalists and marketers. After years of erroneously thinking I was an original creation, I have found that I am nothing but just another GRUP, or YUPSTER or Alterna- Yuppie, along with everyone else within the bowels of the emerging church conversation. Adam Sternbergh has declared himself and other Thirty-somethings that refuse to grow up as a specific cultural group in New York magazine.

According to this excellent article you must read (and find resonance and resistance with its stereotypes and assumptions), there is a group of formerly designated Gen Xers that are destroying the generation gap by identifying with those born much later, dressing like kids, listening to indie bands, hating the idea of being "the man" and refusing to head to gymboree for parent/child time.

Although many would attempt to deny this, I believe this cultural dynamic is tied to the emerging church movement in ways yet unexplored. When reading this article and studying it, we would say that it is shallow and we are much deeper than this article presents. We would say that identity is less important than theology, etc. However, what about us has led us to this desire for a fresh theology, cultural identity and desire for missional approaches to ministry? It is not because we all discovered Newbiggin and Grenz in a vacuum, or came to our ministry positions after class time with Derrida and Foucault.

We came to philosophical, missiological and theological positions out of who many of us are. Many of us came to the emerging church, missional approaches to ministry, the writings of postmodernists and missionaries, deeper expressions of spirituality and new theological forms from the Cure and the Smiths, from Independent Film, from Converse Allstars and bed hair. We found common ground in the emerging church for our granola eating ways, independent approach to commerce and love of the Simpsons.

Because we were who we are, we found the emerging church. Because we were not in the mainstream to begin with, whether it was tattoos and piercings, alternative medicine and organic food, art house films and leftist politics or Fugazi and T-shirts. What interests me is where many of us will journey as we age and the conversation we helped begin continues to mature and gain mainstream acceptance.

Will we age gracefully, becoming like the old guard of Evangelicalism or mainline theologians in our approach (yes, becoming the MAN). Or, like this article alludes to, will we find a new way to mature and lead, one which will continue to frustrate those looking to younger emerging leaders to follow in their footsteps, but one which will make its own mistakes, not repeating those of past grown ups? Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.*

*I felt it appropriate to end this article with a reference to an 80's band. I also admit that this article and my response could be full of BS. It could be that my high school reunion is this weekend and I am finding it troubling that I have to grow up.

*yes, I am overstating things just a bit. I know some people were jocks in High School that beat up on nerds and only came to the light later. I know others were good Christian kids that listened to Amy Grant, wore golf shirts and attended Christian colleges, only to come to the dark side later.

This article has been around since April I believe. I have attempted to write about it numerous times, putting it off until I had deeper insights into the connection between the emerging church and this demographic. As you can see, the inspiration never came.


Mike said...

not to start anything, and don't take this as a slam...


as far as "not wanting to grow up" and all and the emergent movement i see the conection (in some cases, not all) as folks who grew up in youth group and now they want church to be like youth group.

i have always got the impression (and i am willing to admit error here and this is JUST my impression) that Emergent worship feels a lot like a youth group meeting with a bigger budget. it is entertaining, "relavent" cool, hip, you want to bring your friends to it etc. those aren't bad things i guess. but there is a feeling i get from some (not all) emergent folks that they are like teens reacting against their parents church and not wanting to join the long history, or the traditions that have been around longer than they have.

i don't think i made any sense, but i tried.

i guess i should prepare myself for the usual counter attack about how i don't get the emergent thing and blah blah blah.

kidpositive said...

i read that article, didn't quite know what to think of it. i guess the only part i really wholeheartedly agreed with was the part about how yipsters just want to be passionate about their work.

thing is, i feel like much of the new found "freedom" for adults is really due to the impact that technology has had on our society, and more importantly on the workplace. it used to be that, in order to support a family and take care of all those "grown-up" responsibilities, you had to devote yourself to a single company for the rest of your life, because that was the only way to find job security and actually advance in terms of a career. today, the career path for most individuals is much more horizontal than vertical. i think this is due to the deregulatory effect that computers, and more important freedom of information, has had on our society.

if you look at any group, in any society, i think you'll find that power and class structures tend to disintegrate as information becomes more available to the people. or rather, people's independence is directly related to the amount of information they can have. the rise of computing power, and the internet, has had a drastic effect on our world, and i think this whole phenomenon of yipsters (or grups) is merely a manifestation of this larger process.

that said, i don't think generation gaps will ever disappear. but that's because i believe generation gaps have little to do with what music you listen to or what clothes you wear. instead, i think the generation gap is a product of the cognitive structures in a person's mind. if your children are a product of you, then they will grow up to have many of the same mental models of the world as you, except that they will also grow past your way of thinking. it's sort of a natural outcome of evolution: subsequent generations advance on their parent's generation. in this way, the generation gap will never be closed, because the child will always take from the parent, and then proceed to adjust their views in accordance with how they see life. of course, it could also be that the generation gap is slowly closing for human beings, and that we're somehow asymptoting towards a final point of "perfection" (maybe it's the kingdom on earth?). i think it's the former, but i really don't know...

alright, i've talked too much on your blog.