Thursday, February 19, 2009

Emergent blind spot

I just mentioned one of the posts I am working on in the previous entry. However, I am working on another music related post. It is actually related to ministry, the emerging church, the recession, ministering to those struggling (especially the middle class) and a band that I think speaks to all of this at this moment, Drive-By Truckers.

As I have thought of emerging churches and the recession, I have noticed one of the weaknesses of the movement (speaking of me, too). In some ways I would agree with those that claim Emergent is a group of elitists. It is Elitists ministering to other elitists and the poor. However, we are not presently part of the middle ground. We are not good with answers and ministry to the working poor, the working-class or the blue collar; the people of my heritage that I ran from when I got educated.* This is a place the modern church, especially the fundamentalist church is speaking to (even though it screws people up in many ways).

I think this is incredibly important because those that may have considered themselves elites, or at least educated white collars are beginning to experience life from a working class/ blue collar/ working poor perspective. As our churches, neighborhoods and families grow in this direction, how do we respond? When the problems of the inner city, rural America and "trailer park" become the problems of the suburbs, urbanites and upwardly mobile members of society, does the Emerging church hold any hope beyond our theological discussions, told-you-so attitude and artistic expressions?

I think so, but people need to acknowledge these issues and consider the response (to people)... and listen to Drive-By Truckers for a lens into this coming (and present) world.

Any thoughts out there on this? Anyone else considered it?

*yes, I am generalizing a bit (when I speak of elitists I am thinking culturally and intellectually, not financially).


Penitent said...


Long time reader first time commenter,

Yea I agree with you that Emergents can be elitist, especially intellectually. The formula for emergence is based in large part on a sufficient knowledge of the theories, theologies, and histories one is rejecting. So most emergent folk have climbed the mental ladder pretty high before they "break through" to their next plane of thought.

I've noticed this in myself even when I fellowship with other Christians who are part of the new strain, but not necessarily emergent. I toss out big thoughts and penetrating insights I glean from emergent thinkers that just dead-pan in the room. When this happens, I can't help my initial thinking of "well, they just aren't there yet".

That, I think, is another indicator of our weakness. Too often Emergents talk about when they "emerged" as if it was a second baptism, and speak of their "emergence" in terms of how far down the road they are. When we do this it implies that we have some sort of guru status, some sort of enlightenment, and that we are further down these roads (which are inherently intellectual) than are others.

I've noticed this snobbery even aimed at other emergents. Of course, I've never seen an uncharitable attitude associated with such statements, but I have noticed them and wondered at their placement, and the culture that seems to be taking shape in the emergent community.

Your right to call attention to this, I hope you take these thoughts deeper in the future, I am eager to see what you uncover.

Anonymous said...

this is going to sound elitist:

many of the people in the middle ground aren't even aware of the particulars of the theologies of the mainline and evangelical church traditions of which they are currently apart to consider questioning them, let alone be equipped with the tools (largely education) to be able to question them in a meaningful way, let alone be capable of formulating answers to those questions.

i think this is at the heart of the intent of the Transforming Theology project being spearheaded by Philip Clayton and Tripp Fuller. to get theology out of the ivory towers of the seminaries and back into the churches where it belongs. if we can't explain our newfangled ideas to typical pew warmers, all our revolutionary ideas mean nothing.

Jonny said...


Stumbled across your blog today while on a google search.

You're spot-on. I've encountered too many smart-arse contrarians calling themselves emergent who totally alienate the groups mentioned in this post. Look forward to more of your thoughts!