well that video conversation with my friend john sparked a lot of great thoughts & perspectives! thanks for your contributions i really look forward to more so stay tuned! meanwhile, for the sake of the conversation on labels, i thought i’d share some additional thoughts that have been floating around in my head for a while as i’ve been observing a myriad of weird conversations related to the “missional’ and “emergent” streams. as i often say, most people i hang out with in my day-to-day couldn’t give a rip about either one of these words. at the same time, i have found myself drawn to both conversations & get a little bugged when things start to get ugly & divisive & weird.
i hate labels. always have, always will. i know they help define things sometimes and have a place in the world & help people organize & clarify thinking; but for the most part, i find them very limiting and can easily become an-easy-way-to-start-a-new-genre-for-book-publishers and start forming what can feel like islands. i also think we can make them too narrow & start lumping people in categories and start journeying toward an adventure in “missing the point.”
i believe firmly that most average, real people living their regular life (not a life consumed by church & theological ideas) don’t really care what people are called or what new or old stream of thinking they are aligned with. i think the average person is much more concerned with action than belief. practicality than ideas. love in action. justice in action. compassion in action. hope in action. i think for the average person, the proof is always in the pudding.
and i also think there are a whole bunch of people who find themselves in this weird conversation about spirituality, faith & life and don’t fully buy in to any of these streams; they are like me, attracted and thankful for a crazy hodge podge of ideas & groups but not fully aligned with any of them.
recently i’ve just been embracing that is my reality. and my choice. i could align more intentionally with certain movements and probably squeeze my way in somehow, but i just don’t have the stomach or the trust or even the desire to do it. i like too many other streams, too. instead, i think i’m going to lean into the reality that i am a post-evangelical-missional-emerging-ancient future-social justice-progressive-conservative-12 stepping-bible enjoying-”christian”mutt.
i think there are a lot of other mutts like me. and i’ll admit, being a mutt is sometimes a little lonely. it’s easy to be fully a part of a team or a denomination or a breed; it creates a stronger sense of belonging. and while i am very grateful for the lovely little niche that has emerged on this blog (and in my faith community) i sometimes feel like i don’t really fully belong anywhere in the wider systems.
- i am “post-evangelical” in that i can’t fully align with the lausanne covenant or the manhattan declaration. i don’t agree with a lot of what mainstream evangelicalism stands for anymore, and my views of evangelism aren’t connected to so many of the old terms that i used to be so familiar with. i am thankful for many things my years there taught me, but it just feels like now when i read what they are talking about and declaring and fighting for they aren’t things i really care about anymore. despite feeling on the outside of that world, i do believe in evangelism & sharing the good news, it just looks so different now; i remember this post i wrote almost 2 years ago “hmm, maybe i’m a re-evangelist?”
- i am “missional” because i love the incarnation of Christ here on earth & think that was the big idea that Jesus was getting at. he “became flesh and moved into the neighborhood” and calls us to do the same. while i have a lot of friends who i deeply respect in the missional conversation, i am often annoyed because it seems like it’s becoming a new exciting trend for most attractional churches now. of course there are a lot of fringe conversations i love & appreciate, but it seems to me that there’s a group of “louder” voices that i don’t really identify with because the power & voice tends to rest in the boys. to me it also kind of feels a little like it’s become a new pet project for evangelicals, to become more “missional.” sorry if that sounds harsh. i love the incarnational thoughts but still think so many issues of power & equality & what it means to be “poor” aren’t being addressed. some of the delivery seems to focus on “we are supposed to help those poor people” instead of learning that “we are those poor people.”
- i am “emerging” because i believe the church is always emerging & should never stop evolving & changing & morphing & experimenting. most people have questions about faith & life that a pat answer won’t take care of, and i love that the emerging stream has helped provide a place for that kind of honest dialogue. i also love many of the emergent-y people i have met over the past 4 years or so & the creative and fresh expressions of community that they are experimenting with. i have sometimes felt loved & included and other times felt totally on the outside looking in at the cool kids do their thing, but i’ll readily admit that is mostly my doing & hesitation to step up and into the conversation more fully. i think the theology focus just bogs me down sometime, too, and i don’t care enough about some of the lofty conversations to stay in them for long. but boy am i thankful for their courage & willingness to press the conversation out of the safe confines of where it once was. i am so sad at what a bad rap so many emergent thinkers have received & i think we should be thankful that they bravely upset the apple cart & take a lot of heat for it on our behalf.
- i am “ancient-future” (just saying that word makes me laugh for some reason) because i love the spiritual practices and wisdom from the old. i am not a liturgical geek but i like it now and then. i am trained as a spiritual director & appreciate all of the wisdom from the past & the deep value their words have today. i love candles & quiet now-and-then & space to soak in God’s spirit. but it’s not really enough for me. sorry. i just get bored with the seriousness & intensity, and want to throw a party to celebrate God.
- i am passionate about “social justice.” i think it’s my responsibility, the church’s responsibility to advocate for those without a voice, whatever that looks like–to stand for the oppressed, the marginalized, those without power & voice in really practical and tangible ways–through voting, activism, refusing to cooperate with systems that oppress and mistreat. i think we should be the front-runners on social change & i highly value the work of sojourners & ccda but don’t often know how it all fits into my day to day.
- i am “progressive” in that i am not afraid to let go of some of the things i once held tightly. i love ecunemical thoughts & the power of diversity of religious expressions. i love that there are progressive christians who don’t struggle with any of the nutty stuff post-conservatives do and have a lovely ability to embrace God without a lot of the trappings.
- i am “conservative” in that i’m old school in a lot of ways. i like tradition. i think we’re supposed to do things we don’t want to do because it’s the right thing to do. i believe in the trinity and God’s spirit at work redeeming this crazy broken world we live in. i don’t think Jesus was just a good teacher & a nice guy to follow.
- i am a quasi “12 stepper” and am not afraid of the word “recovery” or “‘healing.” i think the face of christianity would be different if every pastor/leader gave all their seminary tuition to the poor & went faithfully to 12 step meetings for free instead. the healing journey in safe, authentic, humble community is powerful. and i think AA, NA, CODA, al-anon & all kinds of others 12 step processes help with love–learning to love God, others, & ourselves & be loved by God, others & ourselves. we’ve dismissed so many of their principles because we might not be an “alcoholic” or a “drug addict” or be married to one when in all honesty most people are some-how addicted and have serious control issues. i don’t go to meetings all the time but i highly value the power & wisdom of these biblical-principles-that-so-often-never-get-applied.
- i enjoy “the bible” more than i ever have. i don’t read it all the time. i don’t pick it apart & read everyone else’s opinion on it first. i’m just trying to appreciate its power & wisdom & beauty and what it means for me, for us. like lots of other great things in the kingdom it got hijacked, and i’m trying to find a way to reclaim it for me. i am not afraid to say there are so many things that don’t make sense to me, i don’t elevate it above all else, and i honestly keep trying to step back from the need to legitimize or logic-a-tize my responses to the bible based on what other people told me it meant. i like the thoughts in there, i like the nuttiness of the stories, i like the power of the call to us as individuals & as communities of people.
- and yep, i am a “christian”! i still use the word, depending on what company i am in, ha, but despite all my questions, i never deny that this is the path that i have chosen, be it right or wrong or anything in between. since i was a kid i’ve always been drawn to Jesus and have a funny feeling i always will. and while i value their teachings & respect others journeys in this direction, i do not follow buddha or krishna or allah. i am into Jesus and am trying to continue to grow and learn what it means to follow him & experience the radical, ugly, beautiful, wild, nutty ways of the kingdom now. and yeah, i have an awful lot to continue to learn.
when i look back on my life, it is kind of funny because i’ve always been friends with the jocks & the stoners & the smarty-pants & the special ed kids all at once; my #1 on the strengths finder is “includer”, ha! but some days i wish i was a pure-bred in one of these streams. i’d probably be sleeker & smarter & make more money (we all know the term “jack of all trades, master of none.”). but i think i like my muttness. it takes off some of the pressure & helps me respect and be thankful for the different ways each of these movements, groups & conversations all shape & form me .
how many of you can identify with being a mutt, too? what’s the upside? the downside?
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ps: i was almost done writing this post when i read this piece from my blog friend sonja. thanks sonja for putting to word some of my thoughts related specifically to the recent weird tension in blogland over differences of opinion & theology. i try to stay out of it, honestly, but sometimes i get that sad feeling like there will never be the collaboration & cooperation in the kingdom that so many of us dream of.