Have an account? Log in or

I Received a Fascinating Email…

…from one of my heroes and a pioneer of the internet. He encouraged me to post this but asked that his identity be withheld.

Dear Tony,
I actually procrastinated a bit this morning and read your chapter (partly because I’m interested in new books, as I’m writing one of my own). Obviously (given the length here) either I really wanted to procrastinate, or your writing struck a chord. Probably both. I thought the chapter was well written and interesting, but I wanted to lodge one very basic critical complaint. You, in line with the reported view of the “emergent” Christian phenomenon (which was entirely new to me, thus my interest), apparently believe that there is a “third way” and a “more complex reality” than left and right. This is a claim about political philosophy, ultimately, and difficult for this philosopher, at least, to swallow.

That’s because one can draw a clear distinction between the left and right: the left stands for Social Progress (i.e., Egalitarianism) and the consequent breaking with Traditions of all sorts wherever necessary, while the right stands for what they regard as the positive elements of our past, with special emphasis on “traditional” morality and minimal government. At the level of ideology, these are mostly mutually exclusive, even if they aren’t jointly exhaustive options. And even if we find current notions of left and right, progressive and conservative to be ultimately incoherent, there are other much more coherent “axes of disagreement” that roughly (not perfectly) match up to the left-right divide. For example: more legislation of morality (right), or less (left); more control of economic life (left), or less (right); more secularization (left), or less (right); more internationalism and pacificism (left), more nationalism and emphasis on military defense (right). To fail to recognize that these are very real, very relevant differences of political view is not anything like enlightenment; it is merely to bury your head in the sand.

The only other movement I can think of that really successfully mixes the cherished doctrines of the traditional left and the traditional right is the libertarian movement. But libertarianism is still an ideology! It still takes specific positions on the above ideological divides: less legislation of morality, less control of economic life, more secularization.

Still, I think it’s great, if true, that a new kind of Christianity is emerging in which left and right are brought together and put their differences aside. If it does so by pretending that there aren’t differences, or that the differences aren’t meaningful or that they don’t matter, however, they’re fooling themselves and the facts sure to come back to bite them in their fantasies, as facts are wont to do!

If I had to guess, I would say that the leaders of the emergent Christianity phenomenon (as you’ve described it) are, in fact and perhaps unadmitted to themselves, good old-fashioned liberals. It is one of dear old habits of the left to reject all “categorization” in political terms, or to say that they lack ideology, or are “mainstream” or “moderate” (with everyone to their right often being dismissed as knuckle-dragging right-wingers). But if they are liberals that actually tolerate conservatives, instead of dismissing them as knuckle-draggers, that’s wonderful. Likewise, if the movement has fundamentalists who nevertheless are willing to break bread with gays instead of saying they’ll go to hell, great. Sounds like real Christian love to me. 😉

The point, which I’m not saying you don’t already get, but which doesn’t come out in the first chapter, is this: you can’t escape ideology except by escaping politics altogether. You can, of course, form communities in which ideology doesn’t matter so much. Sure, society has long had many groups and whole institutions in which that was the case–sports clubs, for example. But it would be a mere confusion to think that the possibility of such communities somehow means that there is now magically another way of “doing politics.” No new political discoveries will come out of emergent Christianity, but if the community is actually made up of diverse people who actually tolerate people with viewpoints that are very different from their own, that’s fantastic.

The worry I would have about “Emergent Village” is that it wants to be inclusive and tolerant, on the one hand, and yet committed to political action (“missional”), on the other hand. My question is why you would expect that, over the long haul, a particular bent of political action would not emerge in the group, which would then drive off (or keep away) people of one ideological stripe. In particular, probably, over the long term, the progressives will come to set the “missional” agenda, and thereby alienate any conservatives on board. (Unless you have some specific constitutional way to prevent this from happening–an Emergent Village “neutrality policy.”)

The only way to guarantee true ecumenicism, I imagine, would be to avoid political and other divisive issues altogether, not to pretend that people can be led to agree about things which they manifestly do not agree about and never will. But this actually demonstrates the impossibility of “true ecumenicism” of Christianity: as long as there are fundamentalists, there will be people who regard the entirety of the Bible as “literally” interpreted as crucial and not anything to be ignored or set aside. Those people will always appear more “conservative,” and you will always appear “liberal” compared to them. Sorry, until all Christians share the same basic ideology, ideology-free Christianity ain’t going to happen.

And, speaking of ecumenicism, why have there been so many different Christian “movements” to bring Christians together? Why can’t we even bring the together-bringers together? Do you think yours will be able to accomplish this?

The really interesting and exciting thing about Emergent Village to me is not the alleged change in religious attitude, or the ecumenicism (to believe that, I’d need to see hard data); it is that religious life is being vigorously reorganized (for some people) via the Internet. That was news to me. That, more than the other features, strikes me as what is what is truly innovative about emergent Christianity. To that extent, it reflects an ongoing, broader shift toward using the Internet to reorganize society generally.

For the record, I’m an agnostic and have been since the age of 16 or so. I’m just not one of those Christianity-hating agnostics/atheists–I actually take tolerance seriously. If I were a Christian, I would be very excited about your movement. I’m still waiting for a group of agnostics that I like. 🙂



Don't miss a post! Enter your email address to receive Tony's blog posts in your inbox.

  • Great letter–why doesn’t anybody ever write stuff like that to me. Oh, yeah, I didn’t write a book.

    Regarding letter-writer’s question, “why you would expect that, over the long haul, a particular bent of political action would not emerge in the group, which would then drive off (or keep away) people of one ideological stripe?”

    Sojourners is an interesting friend of emergent and this non-polarized way of thinking. They are doing wonderful things from the “moral center.” As a member of the religious left, I’m a big fan. However, not without criticizing them for skipping over some contentious issues–women’s rights, GLBT rights, environment to an extent–to name a few. They are a very public organization that tries to float the middle ground, but in doing so picks clear issues that don’t anger either the left or right. So Sojo is no “third way” perhaps, but it’s a good way forward.

    http://adamjcopeland.com

  • I would ask why we have such a hard time living in the tension between polar opposites. Very few people live in poles but instead in the middle ground. Life just present us with simple axises.

  • chrissiwright

    Wow. It’s amazing when a brilliant outsider comes and looks at what you’re doing and gives his truly insightful and honest perspective. I’m going to go have to think for some hours now. I still think that there are a variety of issues which have been perceived as important which are, in fact, not and can be put aside for the sake of unity. He is right, however, that there are some areas in which Christians will never agree and some of those areas are important. Anyway, I’d rather think for and comment less, for now. I wish I knew that guy.

  • Tony,

    This is a very cool response to your book. If only we led more agnostics and atheists to say “If I were a Christian…”

    I need to sit down and take a look at the first chapter to better comment on this “Third Way.” I share some of the skepticism around the realities of a supposed new way. I remember someone saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I’d like to think that ultimately it’s local congregations that are the third way. Movements tend to by nature divide into camps and reinforce the polarities.

    Blessings on the book tours.

  • Regarding Adam’s comment: I’m glad that, as a member of the religious left, he (Adam) isn’t offended by Sojourners. But I don’t think you’d find the same response from those of the religious (small r) right. I personally know many – that lean right – that are often frustrated by what they percieve as a overtly leftward bias with Sojourners.

    And I think this goes to support the point made in Tony’s mystery letter. The political/philosophical location known as “the center”- is relative, depending on where you’re standing.

  • Wow.. my head hurts a little after that. I certainly have not attained the point of being an apologist for emergent Christianity, but I think we can gain some insight from what he said and once again hammer out our theology.

    I know it is trite and over used a bit, but I subscribe to WWJD. I try and think that way in whatever issue I come across, sometimes that makes me more egalitarian, sometimes that makes me more of a “conservative”.

    The problem is that liberal and conservative are general terms that are used in relation to where WE are at a given point in time. As such I think the answer is that we stop calling eachother one or the other and work on what we all have in common, a Love of Jesus and the strong desire to follow him…not follow his church in the baffles and errors that have riddled the last 500 years of church history.

  • anniebullock

    I agree with Darren King above. He said more or less what I was going to say.

  • who knew that you’d get an email from…………..

    MATT DRUDGE

    🙂

  • It is certainly interesting to read the thoughts of one particular agnostic on this issue but I am afraid that the issue is a little different for followers of Jesus than for those that are not. Followers of Jesus are attempting to partner with God in His work here in this world. Therefore, they believe that there is a dimension of reality that is not immediately obvious to us like the physical dimensions in which we live. With this belief why should a follower be limited to simply choosing between left or right or even choosing between left and right on individual issues?

    I have a picture in my head of Brian McLaren’s Neo pointing out the two obvious options and then saying that “the third way is here” while motioning his hand above the two obvious options.

  • He made a great point in his e-mail. You can’t ignore ideological reality, but if there was a way to discuss it in a respectful way and find middle ground… that would be a third way. But then again, probably nobody would be happy.

  • It’s fascinating to see peoples’ fascination with emerging, Jesus-following spirituality. And while I haven’t read your first chapter yet, my hunch is that what characterizes this third way is not a breaking away from the wheels of political discourse (choosing to endorse Barack Obama, or self-identify as Republican, for example) but a forward-thinking appreciation for the diversity of political ideas that represent people who are struggling to follow Jesus authentically. Jesus doesn’t divorce us from politics; he involves us as we become more integrated human beings. Personally, I think one important quality of true ecumenicism is that one can maintain his or her own political identity and engage in vigorous debate over important issues and still be brothers and sisters in the end. None of this watered-down kum-ba-ya stuff.

    And, for the record, Go O8ama!

  • Regarding Darren King’s response (5 above) to my initial response (1) when I spoke of Sojourners and its “moral center” and the responses of the left.

    Darren’s response keyed some important issues in the dialog. Two words are used to describe the response of the left and right to Sojourners: “offended” and “frustrated.”

    As a religious left person myself, I’m not offended by Sojourner’s particular choices of issues, but I am frustrated. I imagine they are seeking similar positions from the right–not to offend, but knowing some of their work might be frustrating because they don’t take such clear moral stands on issues cheered by the right.

    Perhaps, then, finding a center is about a balance of not overtly offending and only slightly frustrating. Some emergent churches connected to mainline denominations deals with this thin line. They seek to do church differently and know that will frustrate some traditionalists. The key is not to offend too much.

  • Ted

    I don’t agree much with the emailer’s essentialist take on politics. He says, e.g., that the left stands for less legislation of morality, while the right stands for more. I’m not sure what counts as “legislation of morality”… and I’m less sure how we’d ever quantify something like that… but even putting those issues aside, his claim seems transparently false.

    The left legislates morality in lots of ways. Anti-discrimination laws (regarding race, gender, and orientation) all legislate morality, or try to. Sexual harassment law legislates morality in the workplace. Campus speech codes legislate morality. Left-supported anti-porn laws legislate morality. Rape law reform was aimed at legislating morality. Etc.

    Take gay rights as an example. We on the left believes in gay equality — we take a moral position on that point. We aren’t satisfied to believe it ourselves — we want others to believe it to, and we want the law to reflect our belief. So we want anti-discrimination laws, hate crime laws, civil unions, and gay marriage. All of those are aimed at legislating morality.

    The left seeks to legislate morality just as much as the right does. We just have different moral beliefs that we’re trying to vindicate. Occasionally, as a strategic matter, we resort to the Millian language of classical liberalism… but that’s mostly just a facade, isn’t it?

    I am not sure that I see much in the way of ideological coherence on either side. Both parties are just coalitions of interest groups. Both big business economic conservatives and rural fundamentalist conservatives are part of the right. What exactly do they have in common? Almost nothing, other than a strategic relationship to gain and share power.

    I think, moreover, that if you looked across history, and across different cultures, that you’d see even less in the way of essential ideological differences.

    On libertarianism…

    It’s true that libertarianism is something different, in that it seems to be motivated more purely and more consistently by an over-arching ideology. But even that is largely an illusion. What is the libertarian view on abortion? There isn’t one, because libertarianism has no internal answer to the question about whether a fetus is a human or not. No amount of Mill or Rand or Hayek will answer that question in a remotely satisfactory way. The Libertarian Party has a position (pro-choice), but its position is essentially arbitrary, having little or nothing to do with principles of libertarianism. (Thus, Ron Paul.)

    His use of the phrases “libertarian movement” and “really successful” in the same sentence made me giggle. The libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party have been around for decades. What exactly has it accomplished? Has the size of government shrunk in that time? Are there any signs that it’s about to start shrinking? Has either major party shifted any position in order to co-opt libertarianism? Did any Republican candidate this year make any effort to incorporate Ron Paul’s arguments?

    I’m sympathetic to libertarianism. But the libertarian movement has been, for better or worse, an abyssmal failure.

    As to his critique of your book… I don’t really know enough about theology to know whether you are really offering something like a legitimate third way. I do agree, however, that as a political matter, some of your description of emergent makes it sound like good old-fashioned liberalism… but like you just aren’t quite willing to say so out loud.

  • Tony Arens

    Wow – this is a wonderful letter – the mystery writer has hit the nail on the head in many ways. Thanks for sharing this Tony! I found one comment here quite interesting in how it lends credence to the letter:

    “I still think that there are a variety of issues which have been perceived as important which are, in fact, not .”

    “Which are, IN FACT, NOT?”… wait a minute here who’s in charge of determining which issues are important?

    Much food for thought…

  • Regarding Left and Right divides, I have noticed something interesting over the last year or so in terms of the emergent/emerging conversation. And in my mind it poses a problem with no easy answer.

    In my experience with emergents from mainline and evangelical backgrounds, I still see some startling and chasm-like differences when it comes to theology. I know we are all reaching for this third, higher plane (at least in theory). But the problem seems to be that when we turn from the abstract to the more specific, what this third plane actually looks like is vastly different for the two groups (post-mainliners and post-evangelicals).

    And maybe this also speaks to what Tony’s mystery emailer is getting at. Some viewpoints are more entrenched than we like to admit. And many of these issues are polarizing- by their very nature.

    I’ve been thinking and praying about this for some time now, and plan on writing about it in the future. But, in light of this present discussion, I thought I’d throw out my preliminary observations.

  • Pingback: Why I don’t vote… can I say that here? « Life by Nate()

  • I love the mystery person’s positive and agnostic nods:

    Mystery person says:

    “Still, I think it’s great, if true, that a new kind of Christianity is emerging in which left and right are brought together and put their differences aside.”…

    Like many others (big conservative evangelicals and liberals), even the agnostic community is questioning if a “new kind of Christianity” is actually emerging. Is the emerging church just a nice window dressing for the same liberal theology concepts of the past? This seems to be a routine critique of Emergent and the like.

    First. A cavalier study of any period in church history would reveal that there has always been an “emerging church”. Take your pick: 1st century Jerusalem council results led to a new church emergence, 450 Chalcedon saw the world church change in theology and new orthodox churches took root, the Prod Ref led to dozens of new emergings… To emerge is our nature and history. So yeah, new good church stuff is constant and healthy. Label it however you want, but (thanks to new stylistic and scholastic approaches) the Conserve/Lib lines can be pretty blurry these days. The feverish pursuit of the “3rd way” is special and to be applauded. Good leadership only shows up when courage and risk is accessed. For that I say thanks to both Tony Jones and Mark Driscol types. These two guys may have different personalities and even beliefs, but both will create waves. Jesus people simply need to start accepting the fact that waves will be (and always have been) made.

    Second. If we accept the fact that change is good and healthy, then we ask (like mystery person does) can change take place harmoniously between all the craftily labeled factions? Change, inevitably, means to disrupt harmony. Simple logic. So while harmony and the placing aside of differences may not be certain, love is. We can experience change and love without ever-present, restful harmony. When my dad watched me grow from boy to man, he saw some ugly stuff take place. But he never stopped loving me. He remembered that this is how life works, He recalled his emergence, he hoped for the best, he thought outside the box, he channeled Jesus, he knew his role, he knew I would be different, he passed the torch, he laughed and cried, and he loved and cared the whole way. It is possible to love during the whole emergence.

    Third. In support of the church revolutionaries we are seeing in America right now, I salute them. I also add that if we cease to learn, change and grow, we will cease to know God. We will quit seeking and practicing truth.

    W

  • Wow.

    I think your Mystery Writer makes a profound point that many of us attempting to find the “via media” in Christian theology desperately need to understand.

    My initial response to this e-mail is to say that if emerging Christianity really proposes to be post-partisan, it must be, necessarily, non-theological. As your writer points out:

    “Still, I think it’s great, if true, that a new kind of Christianity is emerging in which left and right are brought together and put their differences aside. If it does so by pretending that there aren’t differences, or that the differences aren’t meaningful or that they don’t matter, however, they’re fooling themselves and the facts sure to come back to bite them in their fantasies, as facts are wont to do!”

    If emerging Christianity is really going to succeed in its goals, those goals must be ecclesiological rather than theological. Of course, we must have our own individual theologies, but to say that we have found a theology that everyone can agree on is totally naive.

    Wow.

  • Pingback: Does the Emerging Emperor Have Any Clothes? « If Mercy Falls()

  • Korey

    Really enjoying the book so far. I’m on page 179. This conversation is interesting too. I liked Ted’s critique (#13). I find the mystery writer too unwilling to dig beyond conventional categories. He claims as much when he calls those who resist categories “liberal”.

    I find it frustrating when he says “If I had to guess, I would say that the leaders of the emergent Christianity phenomenon (as you’ve described it) are, in fact and perhaps unadmitted to themselves, good old-fashioned liberals.” From my exposure to emerging christianity (and midwestern liberalism) it is hardly monolithic. I gather this from my own experience as a member of a United Church of Christ congregation, having grown up Free Methodist, and from the various blogs I’ve read. Really what are “good old-fashioned liberals” anyway?

    When he states “And even if we find current notions of left and right, progressive and conservative to be ultimately incoherent, there are other much more coherent “axes of disagreement” that roughly (not perfectly) match up to the left-right divide.” Do they really? I imagine many people, emergent or not, do not fall clearly into the left-right divide. The question is not are left/right and progressive/conservative incoherent, but rather do they actually describe anyone with much accuracy? Or when someone claims the label, do you actually know if they favor more legislation of morality or less and how they’d respond to proposed legislation on a specific moral issue?

    I guess that the left-right divide might adequately divide decisisons into two sides, and these sides may even constitute significant idealogically pure minorities, but not necessarily the majority of people. Is there another angle to make the slice in the pie? And if two slices might be helpful at times, are they troublesome at others? I can’t find anywhere that Tony implies differences don’t exist, but that people aren’t ideologically pure and don’t necessarily fit into any of these conventional categories or even new categories. Really maybe that’s the point. Differences are real, but categorization, though perhaps helpful at times, can also be unnecessarily divisive, confusing, simplistic, and inaccurate.

  • Nick W

    I would not suppose I am as intelligent as this mystery writer, (really, I mean that) but I would say must dissagree with him or her on several points. The first point of disagreement is that there is only one side or the other and no middle ground or “third way.” I think that is the thinking that those on the right and left want us to believe. Either your with us or against us. This is the ideology of both left and right, but the reality is that the middle is not only possible but most likely. For example I am in favor of “legislating” morality if it ends abortion, but I do not take the conservative position on Capitol punishment. I would support marriage rights to alternative lifestyles from Gay men, and Lesbian women to Men or women that desire to have more than one spouse (polygamy, is think is how it is spelled?). Told you I was not as smart as the mystery writer. But I do believe that some ecumenism is possible even with poeple on the far right and far left, and the majority of us in the middle.

  • Nick W

    I just read Korey’s response and thinks he said what I was trying to say only better and more thought out.

  • As a bit of an anarchist myself, I hold a fairly centrist economic philosophy and a rather strong individualist drive.

    Having subscribed to Sojourners and the Emergent Village blogs for the last few years, as well as having read many of the books that have come out of them, I have to admit that despite the rhetoric about ‘moral centers’, the end results are often far from what you would think a truly prophetic indictment would look like, and much more like attempting to create balance by pandering to the Democratic side as the Republicans have been pandered to.

    And if this is not the intent, it is the result that I’m seeing in many of the ’emergent’ churchgoers that I’ve met.

    Really, for the church, there is merely one requirement for unity, and that is Christ. Anything beyond that will estrange some to some degree, and even that minimalist baseline with exclude the most extreme (those who attempt to claim Christianity without Christ and those who damn everyone but themselves.

  • I want to “ditto” much of Darren’s response (#15), or at least affirm the spirit of it.

    In my less gracious days I would refer to emergent thinking/ideology/theology as “evangelicalism in sheep’s clothing.” I was put off by what I saw as an attempt to cloak the “evangelical absolutes” in pretty, respectful language. I’m glad that now I understand it differently.

    I am a proud leftie progressive, and I have, over the last few years, become increasingly comfortable with the emergent take for a couple of reasons.

    1) (I think) I have dropped my arrogant attitude of the emergents and have begun to see the underlying connections between that expression of faith and mine.
    2) I have witnessed the emergent conversation wade into waters that do not flow from an evangelical source.

    I would both affirm and refute Darren’s assertion that the “third plane looks vastly different” for p-m’s and p-e’s.

    I would affirm because I see the relationship as being one between typologies. If one looks closely at the situation, one can see similar differences between women and men. Women and men have different starting places (relationship, autonomy) that affect the way they engage their world (cf. Gilligan; Belenky, et al.). So, in that way, yes – very different.

    But I would also refute in that, When I read Tony’s (will finish today) I find a kinship with another typology that doesn’t want to remain in his typology. He fully admits his bias and history, but also expresses a strong desire to not let that be the only way he sees it. Put another way, I find someone who is sure of where he has come from but deeply desiring to enter into my way of understanding to see what is of value and what resonates.

    (Sorry – I really didn’t intend for this to turn into a TJones hagiography!)

    That’s what we’re witnessing, I think, with the push back of BMcLaren’s move to Sojo, or even (dare I say it?!) Warren’s embrace of AIDS. What I’m disappointed in is that I see no Spongs, Borgs, Crossans, Pagels, etc that are willing to say “Damn it – we need to evangelize!” or “People seriously! We can do better than abortion!”

    My 2 cents. thanks.

  • Rob

    Doesn’t postmodernism have something to do with this? I recall Diana Butler Bass’ illustration on an EV podcast: our religious differences are 3D — one axis (liberal/conservative), one axis (missional/establishment[?]), one axis (modern/postmodern). So while Bishop Spong and Pat Robertson are on different sides of the liberal/conservative split, they both are modern.

    It seems to me that political philosophy (at least in this discussion on this post) hasn’t quite included the critiques of postmodernism, which might (as I understand) blow apart our distinctions of liberal/conservative.

    — Peace —

  • Pingback: Zizek, Obama and the Emerging Church : Jesus Manifesto()

  • Unless I’m misunderstanding you, Rob, I don’t know if pomoism would so much “blow apart” our distinctions as much as it would not allow us to place one as more valuable than the other.

  • I think the Holy Spirit is a two edged sword with a right and a left side. I think it is precisely because of this dual nature that God can penetrate the hearts of men so effectively. The disagreements between the right and left is iron sharpening iron making the sword that much sharper. The beauty of Christian unity isn’t that we have the same opinions, but that we can love each other and work together in spite of our differences. We find meaningful ways to cooperate even though we come from different angles, backgrounds, and understandings. While a bouquet of roses is nice, monoculture is susceptible to disease and pestilence. And many who thought they were originally roses, over time have found themselves to be petunias, lilies, and zinnias. The challenge of living with so many different flowers is what helps us grow the fruit of the Spirit.

  • toddh

    I don’t think many emergents would claim that they are “ideology-free.” That kind of thing is a pipe-dream. I think instead emergent ideology simply revolves around other concerns than traditional liberal-conservative ones. That may be something that the anonymous writer doesn’t quite get. I’m not sure I could name those specific concerns (maybe I’ll read the book), but there’s no question that they are there.

  • dlw

    I think it is fair to say there are serious limits to the usefulness of the left-right spectrum to describe USAmerican politics as it actually works out.

    But for many people, these distinctions are treated as really important and they do serve some usefulness in collating a lot of political information when used wisely.

    I think we can acknowledge the need for ideologies to help us deal with a complex and changing reality and that some ideologies may be better suited than others in this regard. I think that Xty tends to unite people with different ideologies (The Matthews and Simon the Zealots) along lines that are ultimately to be more fundamental for bringing lasting changes from the bottom-up, not the top-down.

    dlw
    ps, I’d like to share with folks my Christianist Economics post that Andrew Sullivan linked to not long ago after I sent it to ESA.
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/01/christianist-ec.html

  • Rob

    @Landon [27]: (sorry I’ve been away for a while) You’ve caught me in hyperbole. “Blow apart” is too imprecise, really. I would say that pomo would not allow us to privilege one ideology over another.

    I guess my thought was — and what I took Bass’ point as — that the farther one gets into missional and postmodern church, then the distinction between liberal and conservative seems less wide.

    I was trying to think of a way out of the liberal/conservative distinction that the anonymous writer posited, and responding to the other comments here that was considering it. I don’t think anyone mentioned postmodernism yet, and wanted to throw that into the mix.

    Not that I’m an expert on postmodernism or want to privilege it or know exactly what it could mean for the church universal, but perhaps the liberal-conservative line comes out of the Enlightenment. (The political sense of the terms of “left” and “right” derived from where representatives sat in the French Assembly after the French Revolution, if I’m not mistaken.) I guess I think the Enlightenment is fair critique.

    — Peace —

  • Rob

    should read: the Enlightenment is a fair subject of critique.

  • I think we essentially agree and we’re now on to exploring the finer philosophical points (which works for me!).

    I basically agree with Bass and where she wants to go, but I think her theory is a little muddy. Once she gets past the typological discussion (mainline/evangelical, left/right, woman/man, etc.) I think her ideas get less helpful for me. Not to get too off in a corner, but I primarily draw upon the integral theorists (Wilber, etc.) for this discussion. ( I was happy to see BMcLaren included Wilber in Generous Ortho. I had wondered for about 3 years if any emergent thinker was reading him.)

    I guess where I’m wanting to make a distinction is where I feel that the different types are getting merged into one thing. I’m not sure that the left/right divide actually gets less wide. I think we just get more comfortable with the divide and develop abilities to move between the two poles. Perhaps that’s what you meant by “seems less wide.”

    Where you and I certainly agree is that the Enlightenment is a fair subject of critique. It was needed when it was born, but it is now (for many) bumping up against the limits of it’s usefulness.

  • Rob

    Landon: Sounds good to me. You express it better. I’m new to this conversation, and I’m trying to read and respond my way in. — Peace.

  • Tony,

    I hope you’ll remember this note from an agnostic if you ever feel the pull to box the conversation into the narrow limits of Evangelical theology. You know, physical resurrection and those “pre-enlightment” worldviews. (I’m kidding so don’t jump off the deep in on me!)

  • Ioannis

    Excerpted from the “Letter”
    “The only way to guarantee true ecumenicism, I imagine, would be to avoid political and other divisive issues altogether, not to pretend that people can be led to agree about things which they manifestly do not agree about and never will.”
    …”I’m just not one of those Christianity-hating agnostics/atheists–I actually take tolerance seriously.”

    In response to these excerpts from the letter, we might reflect together on an aphorism by Mahatma Gandhi as the “only way to guarantee true ecumenicism:”
    “I saw that nations like individuals could only be made through the agony of the Cross and in no other way. Joy comes not out of infliction of pain on others, but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself.
    ( ‘Young India,’ 31st December 1931)
    ‘Selected Writings of Mahatma Gandhi,’ edited by Ronald Duncan, Boston: Beacon Press, 1951, [241] .

    A remarkable similarity appeared centuries earlier than 1931 in the Greek letter addressed to the “Hebrews:”
    Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. [‘NJB,’ Heb. 12:2]

    –Ioannis
    Miami Beach