Fishing for Religion...

An Emerging Theme Song?

This song recently came to mind - I'm not sure why. It's been years since I listened to my old Arrested Development album, but there's a track that does such a great job of conveying angst and frustration with unsatisfying religion.

Click below...

Fishin' 4 Religion

The lyrics...

Grab the hook, grab the line
Grab the bait, grab the box and wait
Tackle and shackle the topic the faculty has chosen
Chosen by many, chosen by plenty, chosen by any
man or woman who can't understand
the topic that's known - nobody does - and
flock and clock the topic
as I drop my hook and get a bite:

The reason I'm fishin' 4 a new religion
is my church makes me fall asleep
They're praising a God that watches you weep
and doesn't want you to do a damn thing about it
When they want change the preacher says "shout it"
Does "shout" bring about change? I doubt it
All shout does is make - you - lose - your - voice.

So on the dock I sit in silence
staring at a sea that's full of violence
Scared to put my line in that water
cuz it seems like no religion is in there
Naively so, I give it another go
Sitting in church hearing legitimate woes
Pastor tells the lady it'll be alright
Just pray so you can see the pearly gates so white
The lady prays and prays and prays and
prays and prays and prays and prays and prays... it's everlasting,
"There's nothing wrong with praying ?" It's what she's asking

She's asking the Lord to let her cope
so one day she can see the golden ropes
What you pray for God will give
to be able to cope in this world we live

The word "cope" and the word "change"is directly opposite, not the same!
She should have been praying to change her woes
but pastor said "Pray to cope with those"
The government is happy with most Baptist churches
cuz they don't do a damn thing to try to nurture
brothers and sisters on a revolution
Baptist teaches dying is the only solution
Passiveness causes others to pass us by
I throw my line till I've made my decision
until then, I'm still fishin' 4 religion.

* * *
read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

A Trip to See Obama...

My wife and I saw Barack Obama live in Eugene last Friday.
Read about it here...

* * *
read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

Emerging & Emergent

“The Religious Right is so huge, so powerful, that any divergence from it will automatically become the Religious Left.” — Jim Henderson

“There’s confusion between keeping relevant and just keeping up.” — Leonard Sweet
Words are a funny thing: meaning is rarely fixed. And in consumer-driven America, we gorge ourselves on catch-phrases and kitschy slogans until their mere-mention makes everyone nauseous. So with Emergent, emerging, missional, postmodern, and so on... Not all that different from "born again" or other Evangelical standards we've done to death.

Lots of folks use words like "emerging" and "Emergent" but they often mean very different things. A few years ago I almost got myself into some trouble writing an article for Relevant Magazine on Emergent, what it’s been, and what it’s becoming. The original manuscript focused on three interviews: with Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jim Henderson.

The controversy surrounding the article was palpable and a little surprising, as I wasn’t attempting to decry or defame Emergent. In fact, till that point I had considered myself an “Emergent” Christian. In most ways, I still do today. I find myself compatible with many of Emergent's approaches to Christianity and discussions about faith. More importantly, I share the broad and flexible worldview that gave birth to Emergent in the first place. So I'm still a friend in the conversation. But I tend to find that the term “emerging” offers more space – a little more freedom to play and experiment with words and ideas without organizational baggage.  I might reject the term "Emerging" altogether and change this blog's name to "" but I don't feel like going to the trouble of rebuilding web traffic.  And I don't want to sound like I'm trying to play off my friend Rachel Held Evan's new book Evolving in Monkey Town.

What is the difference between Emergent and emerging? Sometimes very little - sometimes a lot! Many emerging Christians could stand next to Emergent Christians and see no difference in worldview/Godview.  More and more, most "hip" Gen-X Evangelicals look no different, either. But there are plenty of divergences between members and subsets of Christian "emergence"…

EmergentJust what is Emergent? Is it emerging from something or to something? Hopefully, it is both. Tony Jones acknowledges that there are many misunderstandings of exactly what Emergent is and isn’t. “It’s not a denomination,” he says. “It’s not a theological think tank. It’s not a capitalist moneymaking venture. It’s not heresy. It’s not the new Christian Left.”

So then, what is it?
Try this on: “Emergent is an amorphous collection of friends who’ve decided to live life together, regardless of our ecclesial affiliations, regardless of our theological commitments,” Jones says. “We want to follow Christ in community with one another. In a very messy way, we’re trying to figure out what that means.”

Brian McLaren puts it a slightly different way. “We've tried to accurately describe ourselves as a growing friendship engaging in what we hope will be constructive conversation.”

According to Jones, there is one principle that ties Emergent together. “What binds people in Emergent is that most everybody would rally under the flag of hope,” he says. “We have hope for the future. We have hope for the Church. We have hope for the kingdom of God to break into the present and transform the present.”

Whatever your feelings on Emergent, it’s fair to say that one primary difference between emerging and Emergent is that Emergent is an organization with a board of directors. For several years, Emergent even had a national director: Tony Jones (I was impressed to see Jones step down from that position in 2008 in an attempt to allow more diffused leadership through a network of directors, sharing in the process of plotting Emergent's ongoing course). Those Christians, leaders and churches affiliating themselves with Emergent are taking a bigger risk in their alignment by directly associating themselves with personalities like Brian McLaren, Doug Paggit, Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Karen Ward, Tony Jones and others.

The Emergent Village website explains:
Above all, we became convinced that living into the Kingdom meant doing it together, as friends. Thus, we committed ourselves to lives of reconciliation and friendship, no matter our theological or historical differences.
Despite some of the things Tony Jones has said (“we’re not Liberal, we’re not the Christian Left, we’re not a theological thinktank,” etc…) there are outward indications of where the tendencies of Emergent adherents lean. Emergent Christians probably are slightly more liberal than many of their “emerging” counterparts (I probably wouldn’t include myself in that clarification). And it is likely that the greatest value most Emergent Christians find in Emergent is the theological and ecclesiological ideas produced by the collective. A thinktank, like it or not. Emergent does a great job of providing opportunities for community and connection, both online and in the flesh through national, regional and local “cohort” events. But the majority of Christians attracted to Emergent probably glean the most tangible benefit from the books, websites and other publications of its leaders.

Emerging Emerging is… well… broader. Anyone who is Emergent is emerging, but not everyone who is emerging is Emergent.

Make sense?

Let’s try this: Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Seattle fame was an original member of the Emergent collective in its nascent stages. Mark is certainly not Emergent any longer – he abandoned the movement in distaste and frustration with what he perceived to be strong liberal (equated as "heretical") undertones.  Mark remains an active (and powerful) voice in emerging church dialogue, as his network of churches gains in adherents and influence. But Mark is a neo-conservative with very strong stances against women in leadership, and against the LGBT community.

However, radicals like Shane Claiborne, futurists like Leonard Sweet, evangelists like Jim Henderson, activists like Jim Wallis and pastors like Erwin McManus all fall into the broad category of “emerging” Christians. With perhaps some crossover from time to time. Marcus Borg has even begun to call himself "emerging," a marked change in direction from the classic liberalism found in his academic endeavors.  Now he wants to produce work that is actually practically beneficial to the church.

The term “postmodern” has become tossed around almost synonymously with Emergent and emerging in reference to Christianity. This may be unfair, but in practice, these movements were the first widely recognized efforts within the church to address the challenges of shifting cultural, intellectual and philosophical realities. Particularly in a postmodern setting.

“The way forward is going to require something much bigger than any one group, including Emergent,” Brian McLaren says. “I believe that in the postmodern world, truth and power are widely distributed. What I'm hoping to see is a network of collaborative networks—maybe like birds feeling the urge to migrate north at the same time because they all sense the same smell of springtime in the air. I am quite certain Emergent will be one little flock in that migration. I hope all of us who are catching that scent can migrate together, guided by the True North of Jesus, the Gospel and grace.”

McLaren has a nice way with words.

For more information:

New URL, New Features...

...coming soon, that is.

I finally broke down and bought some webspace. You can now access this blog at two urls:

You'll notice the blatant (but nonfunctional) buttons near the top of this page. In the next few days (or weeks, depending on my Hebrew homework) each of those will link to more general information (from my point of view) on common questions relating to the Emerging Church, Emergent, postmodernism, heresy, liberal v. conservative, what our responsibility is, and why I care... and maybe why you should waste your time reading my rants.

You can read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

They Said "I'm Sorry"...

“Pete, we just wanted to call and say… well… we were douchebags back in youth group.”

“Yeah, we were jerks. You were right. And we’re sorry.”

“All those things you talked about – about postmodernism and the church? Well, we think we're there too now. We agree. And, yeah, we're sorry.”

Last weekend I got that call from several young men who used to attend a Wednesday small group I tenuously led at the local megachurch several years ago. These boys were funny, good-natured and mostly well-intentioned, but they were also the most loudly condemning of the questions I raised. I was gentle, especially in that setting, and mindful not to destroy any worldviews. But I did question the watertight conservative Evangelical worldview they’d been raised with. And I gave them permission to question, too.

These three boys called me a liberal, and brought me toy guns as gifts, in hopes I’d be converted to their brand of militant teenage conservatism. I assured them I had already come from there, and knew all-too-well the worldview they had inherited.

Their parents disapproved of me too.

The wonderful thing was, the boys kept coming to Wednesday nights. Granted, one of them stopped for a time. He was too frustrated after I suggested a Christian might vote for John Kerry for religious reasons. But he eventually came back (equipped with newly prepared retorts).

And now, three years later, they all apologized to me. With their own eyes, they can see the inklings I shared. And they’re not afraid – they’re excited by it!

Oh, if adults could be so gracious as to sit through stretching sermons and small groups, remaining in community with the folks they disagree with. Sooner or later, we might all stretch each other. We might never agree, but the Holy Spirit can’t work among us if we’re not together. I can’t admit to you that I’m a douchebag if you’re not in the room to hear it.

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

Popular Posts