e-mail: "Why are Emergents so Angry?" [final, pt.4]

You said: "Why are so many “emergent” Christians seemingly so angry with traditional Christianity, or are they perhaps angry with a caricature of the traditional branch of the faith?"

I guess I’d jump back to my answer to your first question. And I don’t think we’re angry at a caricature. Caricatures are painted either to emphasize existing features (to simplify) or to make people laugh. Or to make money at a fair. All three are probably happening now. Too often, though, the caricatures are all-too-accurate. But there are caricatures of emerging/Emergent folk (of which I may be one: white, Gen-X, educated, privileged middle-class, hipster…) and sometimes they’re fair, and sometimes they’re unfair. In my view, your questions reveal a caricature you’ve developed (perhaps with validity, from experience) about emerging Christianity. But I know some “Emergents” who are FAR more conservative than I. And I know others who make me look like Pat Robertson. So there’s diversity here, as anywhere.

You said: "Also, what is the appeal of Obama for emergent Christians?"

I must admit, I think that some of it is generational. I’m twenty-nine, and for me, Barack Obama is the first politician I have ever seen who literally speaks my language. Whether that’s “postmodern” or “multicultural” or just terribly positive and articulate, he holds my worldview; my optimism; my hope; my belief in responsibility and hard work, as well as compassion and caretaking: “I am my brother’s keeper,” he said. Obama sees the world in a different way than American politicians I’ve witnessed in my brief lifetime, and he sees America’s role in the world differently. He is not a bully, and he does not seem to be an ego-driven leader. In fact, in a late election-night interview with Obama’s “Inner Circle” of advisors, they revealed their shared, earliest “concerns” about Obama’s candidacy: they worried that he didn’t want it enough. He wasn’t driven, in their minds, by a desire for personal achievement. He simply thought he could do a better job than anyone else. They feared that desire wouldn’t be as strong as the classic “need to lead.”

Finally, forgive me for saying this, but Obama is also a Christian without being a prick about it. Many Christians are exhausted with having to make excuses for why we aren’t George W. Bush sorts of Christians. Similar to Americans sick and tired of apologizing for America when abroad.

I like that Obama is a Christian, and I like even more that he can articulate it in a way that is personally meaningful, socially redemptive, but not defensive, retaliatory, negative or aggressive. I don’t think that sort of faith (of any religion) should lead a Democratic country. I just wrote an article about Elizabeth Dole’s “Godless” commercial, where she accused her political opponent of being an atheist.I ended the article this way:Personally, I’d rather have a Muslim or an atheist in offices of power (Obama and Hagan are neither), than corrupted, jaded Christians who use their spiritual status as campaign fodder.

I appreciate your e-mail (and new Facebook friendship) and I hope this e-mail doesn’t sound overly-defensive. I certainly hope it doesn’t sound offensive. I genuinely value your questions, and enjoyed writing this admittedly long-winded response. I expect to be blogging some of this e-mail for the next few days, so feel free to stop in and comment.

Keep in touch. I know you’ll feel free to disagree, and that’s absolutely fine – I so-much prefer Christians thoughtfully exploring these issues, rather than making blanket or knee-jerk reactions. Thanks for taking the time to listen. I hope I remember to do the same (my wife says I have a problem)!

Blessings to you, in Christ,
Peter Walker


Kimberly said...

"Obama is also a Christian without being a prick about it."

This is exactly the kind of line that keeps me reading, Peter.

Thanks! :)

Peter said...

Ha ha! Thanks Kimberly. I try not to be overly self-aware, but that's my favorite line too ;)

Existential Punk said...

i guess i am angry, which is part of the process i am going through, because of all the manipulation, fanaticism, religiosity, and inauthenticity i personally experienced in my non-denominational, charismatic, and fundamentalist church. i know i cannot remain angry, bus as with other things i have had to deal with in my life, it takes time and is a process.

Life is not pretty and is often more messy than neat. i think some of the anger i have is justified. To not be honest about my anger and hurt is dishonest. i have seen plenty of angry right wing fundies!

Peter said...

Adele, sometimes in my attempts to be as generous as possible, I gloss over the fact that there is absolutely a place for "righteous anger." And I said in my e-mail posted here that I hoped I didn't sound "offensive," and that's true. True for me. Because I've BEEN offensive a lot in my life (particularly, coming from the far right). I am trying to learn how to be an emerging/left/liberal/other individual DIFFERENTLY than I was a conservative.

But before I could get to that place, I had to let myself be angry, indignant, offensive, and deconstructing (and some readers may feel I continue to be ALL these things!). I was able to get through that phase more quickly than, perhaps you or my wife because frankly, I had less personal wounds to heal. The deeper the wounds, the longer and harder the process of deconstruction, reconstruction, and whatever else necessary to HEAL.

So be angry! I only pray the Gentle Healer helps mend the places in your heart that have been cracked and bruised. I pray that for my wife too, every day.

Thanks for the comment. It reminds me of a bumper sticker: "IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION!"

Existential Punk said...

Thanks Pete! yea, anger is like a grieving process. Actually it is a step in that process. Everyone is different in how long they need/take to grieve. i sometimes come across angry and bitter and i do not want to be that way, but what happened to me in my experience is a part of my story and anger is a natural outpouring of my waking up to the injustice and honestly dealing with it. OY VEY!!!!!!!!

i appreciate your prayers and encouraging words. You are a gem!

LOVE the bumper sticker.

BTW, off topic, but did you hear about Bush saying he liked going to Africa b/c they waved to him with all their fingers as opposed to how we wave to him here? i CRACKED up!

Peter said...

Oh sad! You know, as outraged as one can feel about the Bush administration, Jen (who is far more liberal than I) says "poor Bushy" several times a day now. She's got a lot more compassion for him than I, but I have to admit: it's pretty sad what's happened to him. Yes, it's partly his own making, and partly the company he chose to keep, but it's never fun watching the human spirit crushed. And I think what he must be going through MUST be crushing.

I haven't seen the film "W" yet, but from what I hear, it's made pretty apparent - what we expected from the start - that Bush was a puppet and a creation of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Those are two men I have no compassion for. I do pitty Bush - and of course think the last 8 years are a terrible pitty.

But maybe we needed them to wake us up. Maybe we'll be a better people, because of it.

Popular Posts