December 23rd, 2006


I forget, now, what started me on this investigation, but I have been researching the emerging church movement (Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, etc. for those interested. New word of the day: panentheist. These guys apparently are trying to do immanent AND transcendant AND personal. Good luck, kids). Lots of buzz words in this post-modern, culturally sensitive crowd. The standout, however, is Both-And, which I am now running into _everywhere_. It seems to come out of the Harvard Negotiation crowd (Getting to Yes -- for the record, I was very unimpressed by these people when I last looked into them in 1997-8). I heard Daniel Pinchbeck use the phrase on the Colbert Report and it popped up in a Barack Obama quote in a recent Newsweek.

For those who haven't run into this phrase, it's typically used something like this:

Q: Do you think the sky is green or purple?

A: I don't think that's a good way to frame the question. It isn't really an either/or thing. I think it's both-and. (Translation: the sky is both green AND purple, or possibly the primary color which is a component of both green and purple, depending on how cynical you are feeling when you hear this answer).

The emerging church movement (unrelated to any of the above, other than that they, too, use both-and) is interesting. They don't like the political wedge issues that have been defining evangelicals. They are young'uns. They are part of the (admirable) we-should-do-something-about-Darfur thing. They are conspicuous in being unwilling to commit to a position on gay marriage, which is fascinating all by itself. A lot of them seem to be second or nth generation born-again evangelical fundamentalists and therefore may constitute a way that movement is adapting across generations, altho they also describe as post-evangelical. The emerging church movement also includes the environmental steward trend.

This is a pretty definitive book list:

That site is a good way to explore their thinking in general.

I'm trying to figure out what I think about these people. Are they the Xtians I would hang out with, if I felt a strong need to attend church? Are they complete tools, unable to walk away from a belief system that is bankrupt beyond belief, trying desperately to adapt it? Are they a bunch of retreads, reinventing what everyone invents when they realize primitive christianity doesn't work when the end doesn't arrive in a timely fashion? Are they frustrated literary critics, unable to keep up with the Big Boys, reproducing that work within the land of incompetence that is evangelical scholarship?

I'm reasonably certain I would rather hang out with a bunch of UUs or Episcopalians than this lot, altho among this crowd I think I might find people who understand some of what I grew up with (and indeed, there is at least one ex?JW posting there).

Oh, and I remember what started me on this. Rorschach gave me a copy of _Misquoting Jesus_, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I decided to check the reviews on Amazon, to see who hated it (not very many people!), or at least had issues with it. That led me to recommendations of McLaren and Sweet, and from there, to the emerging church in general.

Hey, it's better than dominion theology, right? OTOH, that's kind of like saying Wonder Bread is better for you than Twinkies.