Archives For Emergent/Cluetrain

UPDATE: Brian McLaren graciously responds to this post, my previous post on Framing the Discussion and my later post where I have Questions for him (which he responds to).

I have no time today to write a substantive review of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity. (As an independent producer/director, I have work that needs to get finished.) So I will point you at two reviewers that I would recommend you read and some further background for the on-going discussion.

Mike Wittmer has begun a series on the book. He’s on Question 2 right now. Of course, Mike is part of the Military Industrial Complex Theological Seminary/Church Leadership Vested Interest Group (TS/CLVIG for short) and a Kuyperian, no less. You’ve been warned. 🙂 Here are direct links to his Introduction and Question 1.

The second link is to Darryl Dash in a review that is possibly stronger and more blunt than I’ve ever heard him before. He quotes Brian on the need to rethink the whole Christian enterprise,

At some point, though, more and more of us will finally decide that it would make more sense to go back and revise the contract from scratch. And that work has begun. It is nowhere near complete, but the cat is out of the bag… [emphasis added by Darryl]

And Darryl responds,

And that cat is on a tear. McLaren attempts the impossible, essentially tossing out what you always thought was true, and starting again from scratch. The Fall of Genesis 3? That’s really a coming-of-age story. The storyline of the Bible? It’s really about the downside of progress, and about how good prevails in the end anyway. The Bible is a community library, and the violent, tribal God of the Genesis flood is “hardly worthy of belief, much less worship” – but those were early days, and our view of God is always changing. Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, nor is Christianity the answer in itself. In short, almost everything you know about God, the Bible, and Christianity is wrong, according to McLaren. [emphasis added]

McLaren is quite upfront that his theology has been powerfully informed by Harvey Cox’s The Reason for Faith and by the theology of Marcus Borg. (He identifies Borg as a fellow emergent traveller and Cox winds his way through McLaren’s footnotes.) So you might find Borg’s BeliefNet post on John 14:6 informative – as it squares with that of Brian’s understanding of the verse in ANKoC. And this will give a little taste of the theology of Cox along with this. (I confess that I find Cox’s definition of the present “Age of the Spirit” rather bizarre – as if the Holy Spirit was incapable of doing much until now. An extremely low view of the power of the Spirit I would posit.)

As pointed to in the previous post, Jeremy Bouma has begun a series that investigates and questions the theology of the Emergent Village wing of the Emerging Church. As Brian has been and still is a key leader in the theology of EV, Jeremy’s posts are important to the discussion.

I also want to point you to my friend Sonja, blogging as Calacrian, and her post from this morning that begins with a Frost poem that has been resonating of late for me, as well.

…we’ve come to a place where there are a goodly number of people who are comfortable with the way things are (or are headed) in the emerging conversation. But there are also a goodly number of people who (for a variety of reasons) are no longer comfortable with it. Me, I feel like Robert Frost standing at the two roads diverging in the woods. Do we really have to choose?

This discussion around Emergent and ANKoC is going to be hard. Lines have already been drawn. (I hear, “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong” echoing that last sentence.)

I was awake until 4am last night struggling with this stuff. Wondering how a conversation that had begun in part about oppression had itself become oppressive – where transparency would be talked about but not practiced. Where questioners would have shame labels hung around their necks – while the questioned would play the victim card. It has begun to feel like the Twilight Zone or perhaps what my kids once called Opposites Day.

I awoke this morning to an interlocutor suggesting I was in league with Screwtape – because I dared to ask questions – of an Emergent leader.

That is the level of dis-ease in this discussion. Which extends further and deeper than the present presenting symptoms – as stories of betrayal, infidelity and coverup are woven into the very fabric of the marketing of this new kind of Emergent Christianity.

And yes, Bob, Screwtape is laughing. But at what or whom, exactly?


UPDATE: Brian McLaren graciously responds to this post, my next post on Reviewers Reviewing and my later post where I have Questions for him (which he responds to).

Brian McLaren's new book is now appearing in the hands of those who pre-ordered it. My copy of A New Kind of Christianity arrived last Thursday. I grabbed fleeting moments over the weekend to quickly read it. From the dust cover of the book,

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the church. Not since the Reformation five centuries ago have so many Christians come together to ask whether the church is in sync with their deepest beliefs and commitments. These believers range from evangelicals to mainline Protestants to Catholics, and the person who best represents them is author and pastor Brian McLaren. [emphasis added]

Brian's book tells us immediately that Brian best represents those of us who question the institutional church. A little "all your leadership are belong to me" perhaps – at least for those of us who dare question the present state of the church. Now, perhaps it's just marketing hyperbole. Maybe Brian really doesn't think he's God's answer to the present state of the church.

Or God's ten answers that is.

But he certainly wants to frame how his book is reviewed.

Scot McKnight pointed to the binary "Quiz" Brian ran on his blog:

"If A you probably are a Fundamentalist…"

"If B you are curious…"

Scot responds,

…the arrangement smacks of radical individualism and denies the foundational role our communities play in our knowledge and social construction of reality. What's wrong with asking about every new idea what "the Church" or my community thinks? Or if it is logically consistent with what I've already concluded to be sound? Not only that, but the world of Jesus was much more like the first answer than the second, and that is has been brought to the fore by cultural anthropologists like Bruce Malina, who adapts the research of Mary Douglas and others.

I also wonder if this is not a false dichotomy: I know plenty of fundies who are intrinsically curious people, who wonder "what if?" and who are always chasing down their questions. I know plenty on the other side who aren't in the least curious.

My friend, Darryl Dash in his post, Ending the Discussion Before it Starts, says this,

I’ve found that there are ways to end a discussion before it even begins. It’s easy: you set the terms of the discussion so that if you disagree with me, then it’s clearly because you have a problem, so it’s no use even continuing. It’s not really fair, but it allows me to pretend that I have the moral high ground while it effectively silences you, if you let it that is. [emphasis added]

And then later responding to Brian's writing at the end of A New Kind of Christianity where it would seem that Brian insists that he and his friends should get to set the terms of the discussion of his book, Darryl writes,

…if we say that we have concerns, it’s implied that we have a problem and we’re trying to shut things down. This makes it hard to review a book, never mind deal with the kinds of issues raised in a book like this.

There is a level of cognitive dissonance in a writer who offers his book as the answer to all that ails Christianity and then also wants to frame how we engage with that book. And the dissonance is deeper in that said writer chooses to label those who disagree with him as close-minded Fundamentalists.

Perhaps it's time to read the 99 Theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto, Mr. McLaren. You sound like the companies they attempt to educate.

I'm sure it's rather unfortunate for you, but you don't get to decide how the rest of us engage with your book. Let me be blunt, your approach is reminiscent of the divisive politics perfected in the nation you call home. Where people who disagree with your president are labeled as racists – or those who agree are socialists. Of course, you showed some of that tendency yourself here, so perhaps I should not really be surprised.

Jeremy Bouma said this in his Goodbye Emergent post yesterday – a post that has generated a lot of response,

Recently, Doug Pagitt wrote on his blog and Brian McLaren said in a video that those of us who take them and others to task are held in bondage to fear and thoroughly un-loving; my motivation for analyzing the theology and beliefs of leaders within the emerging church is fear-based and inherently un-love. One word: ridiculous. I am not fearful; this has nothing to do with fear. In fact, the loving thing to do is in fact confront, prod, and question. [emphasis added – links to Pagitt and McLaren at Bouma's post.]

Let me offer this piece of advice to you, Brian, if you don't want to receive reviews that question your ideas then simply stop writing. It really is that simple.

Otherwise you will need to deal with the reality that the days of the idea gatekeepers are over. Welcome to the networked conspiracy.

I'll begin to review the book in my next post, later this week.

A Real Prophet, Clay Shirky

kinnon —  June 19, 2009 — 2 Comments

In the previous post, I ranted about the twisted prophets of profit. In this post, let me point to a contemporary prophet who I’ve pointed to numerous times before, Clay Shirky.

Video link

Important Net Reading Material

kinnon —  March 21, 2009 — 2 Comments

Ed Brenegar is a good friend I met through blogdom on these interwebs. He’s provided me with wonderful wisdom both personally and via his blog. Today it’s via his blog. I’m running out the door to The Evolving Church conference (and will back hard at work later today, Dave.) Read Ed on Three Communities and Change. (Clay Shirky was one of the triggers for his post.)

The business and governmental institutions of our world as currently organized are incapable of adapting to the rapid changes that have been happening in global society. And I would add to this list traditional social, educational and religious institutions as well.

Each is attempting to survive in a time of chaos. Each attempting to find some sort of continuity from day to day, from one crisis to the next.

Many of these institutions since the end of the Second World War have lived in an era of expansion of their programs and complexity of their organizational structures. As they have grown, operating efficiencies have provided these institutions financial capital to expand their reach. All that is now ending as global economic contraction happens.

Please read it all.

…you’re an idiot. This video from his memo today. (But only if you freed the beagle.)

Generation WE: The Movement Begins… from Generation We on Vimeo.

(Apologies up front for the length of this post. It began as a short comment on the video above – viewing of which was prompted by a Tweet from PresenationZen's Garr Reynolds – @presentationzen. It grew to over 1300 words.)

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you know I often write about Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads. Roy is one of the more prescient business/thought leaders on the planet. Roy wrote this five years ago,

At the peak of the Baby Boom there were 74 million teenagers in America and radio carried a generation on its shoulders. Today there are 72 million teenagers that are about to take over the world. Do you understand what fuels their passions? Can you see the technological bonds that bind them?

Baby Boomer heroes were always bigger than life, perfect icons, brash and beautiful: Muhammad Ali… Elvis… James Bond. But the emerging generation holds a different view of what makes a hero.

Boomers rejected Conformity and their attitude swept the land, changing even the mores of their fuddy-duddy parents. But today's teens are rejecting Pretense. Born into a world of hype, their internal BS-meters are highly sensitive and blisteringly accurate. Words like "amazing," "astounding," and "spectacular" are translated as "blah," "blah," and "blah." Consequently, tried and true selling methods that worked as recently as a year ago are working far less well today. Trust me, I know.

The world is again changing stripe and color. We're at another tipping point. Can you feel it?

Most people couldn't feel it. Some still can't.

The video above acknowledges today what Roy was talking about five years ago. Though I might challenge Gen-We co-writer, Eric Greenberg's assertion (in the video) that Generation We are progressive. To a boomer, progressive suggests a pure liberal agenda. I don't believe that accurately describes millenials.

Might I suggest that Generation We are more correctly Progessive Conservatives – concerned about social justice, social welfare, family stability, community life and more. (Red Tories in the Canadian political vernacular.) They have many of the attributes of what Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation" – the parents of the Boomers.

Williams again (posted on my 49th Birthday),

Baby Boomers were idealists who worshipped heroes, perfect icons of beauty and success. Today these icons are seen as phony, posed and laughable. Our cool as ice, suave lady's man James Bond has become the comic poser Austin Powers or the tragically flawed and vulnerable Jason Bourne of The Bourne Identity. That's the essence of the new worldview; the rejection of delusion, a quiet demand for gritty truth. We're seeing it reflected in our movies, our television shows and our music.
[NOTE: Daniel Craig's James Bond is truly James Bourne – more Matt Damon than Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery et al.]

Baby Boomers believed in big dreams, reaching for the stars, personal freedom, "be all that you can be." Today's generation believes in small actions, getting your head out of the clouds, social obligation, "do your part."

A Baby Boomer anchored his or her identity in their career. The emerging generation sees his or her job only as a job.

Baby Boomers were diplomatic and sought the approval of others. The emerging generation feels it's more honest to be blunt, and they really don't care if you approve or not.

Boomers were driven, self-reliant and impressed by authority. Emergents are laid back, believe in working as a team, and have less confidence in "the boss." [For his own sake, the President Elect needs to keep this in mind.]

Idealistic Boomers had an abundance mentality, believed in a better world, and were opulent in their spending. Emergents see scarcity, believe in doing what it takes to survive, and are more fiscally conservative. [Make a point of reading this, as well.] All emphasis added.

Responding to Roy, I wrote this in my long essay/short book, A Networked Conspiracy (now available as a free pdf download here – or click on the link in the right column to get the CD/Booklet version from Amazon or Wizard Publishing),

…to begin to understand Emergents*, we need to understand their attitudes and values.

They have:
– A hunger to be part of authentic community.
– A commitment to lasting relationships.
– A desire for their stories to be heard.
– A disdain for hype and empty rhetoric – Don’t tell us what you believe, show us – be real.
– A mission in life beyond money, sex & power.

[*The word "Emergents" is used here to mean millenials.]

Boomer Progessives want to believe these Millenials have idential values to them. They don't!

Gen-We played a huge role in giving President Elect Barack Obama his mandate – but if he becomes simply a Chicago Pol in power – they will abandon him. (I hope the decision of Rahm Emanuel as Chieif of Staff has more to do with Emanuel's steel-willed pragmatism than it does with his and President Elect Obama's strong ties to Chicago's Daley Machine.)

The Gen-We video rightly states that these millenials are not interested in partisan politics. They did not vote for Obama because he was a Democrat. They bought his message of Hope and Change. (Note the stat that 41% of college students consider themselves independents – and as a further example, over 30% of the Colorado electorate are registered independents.)

Greenburg and Weber (acknowledging the impact of Generations writers, Strauss and Howe – who also had a significant impact on Roy Willams understanding of generational change) highlight the difference between the confrontational world of Boomers and the civic-mindedness of Gen-We,

Every survey and attitudinal study— including our own—confirms that today’s young people respect and are eager to learn from well-intentioned people of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. This is a dramatic change from the experi- ence of many people from past generations, who grew up believing that intense intergenerational conflict is natural and unavoidable. In their massive study Millennials Rising, generational scholars Neil Howe and William Strauss report, “Most teens say they identify with their parents’ values, and over nine in ten say they ‘trust’ and ‘feel close to’ their parents. The proportion who report conflict with their parents is declining.”

Although Baby Boomers may have invented the motto, “Don’t trust anyone over 30”—and even lived by it, at least until they themselves turned 30—their children, Generation We, are ready to trust and work with them. Page 141, Generation We pdf document.

In the hyper communication speed of the third millenium after Christ, Gen-We have a realistic expectation that the incoming president will live up to his post-partisan positioning/posturing. Follow their discussions on Facebook, on Twitter and in blogdom. They are watching, talking, texting and blogging and President Elect Obama will have a very short time frame in which to show he can and will live up to his statement,

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

With God's help and our prayers, I believe he can. The strong hope of Gen-We, is that he actually will.

UPDATE: In further scanning Generation We, whilst still seeing much good in it, I feel it's important to recognize that there is a level of anti-Christian sentiment in the book. Christians (specifically evangelicals) are seen as part of the problem. (Greenburg surveyed evangelical Christians in Denver, CO and Birmingham, AB. Those particular locations would tend to skew results, methinks.) See the comments and quotes on pages 110, 114, 142 and 167. And though he is quoted extensively, from Greenburg's perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's strong Christian faith appears to have had no bearing on his actions. The book is significantly more pro Alternate Spirituality – reflecting Greenburg's own spiritual journey – Page 186 pdf document.

As he writes on page 196, Greenburg was influenced by Dr. Paul Ray who helped him "craft the thesis of the book." Ray, co-author of Cultural Creatives (described by one wag as the New Age version of Richard Florida's Cultural Class), is the Director of the Institute for Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University – a school founded by Matthew Fox, a defrocked Dominican Priest and panenthesist – Fox is best known for his Creation Spirituality.

Addendum: Please note that Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber's book, Generation We is available as a free download

Also note that this post has been written before I've actually read Generation We. The end notes and the search function in Skim, the pdf reader I use, helped me discover the impact of Strauss and Howe on Greenburg and Weber. And that search provided the quote five grafs above.

My buddy, Brother Maynard, weighs in on the guy-church story with a little Cluetrain wisdom. He ends with this,

When you stop listening to the community outside your walls, you fall out of touch, and out of favour with the community. The way to endear yourself to them once again is not to contextualize your message and market it to them as your target… ultimately, that just further distances you. (And you know you’re in trouble with this when you begin with statistics on your market size.) Try discoursing with the community, and things will come back in line. Slowly, perhaps. The problem wasn’t created overnight and won’t be fixed overnight. Incarnation is for the long haul… but it works. Where did all the men go? I quote thesis number eighty-seven. “We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.”

Please read BroMayn’s entire post.

Jonathan’s post from today, Change vs. Tradition is one of the reasons he’s one of my first reads in Google Reader. Jonathan uses the Helen Mirren movie, The Queen as the recurring metaphor in his post:

I am a realist at heart. I recognize that the change doesn’t always produce what we want it to. I consider my own journey with the changing of the church. The cost of my journey within the emerging church could have drastic consequences for some, perhaps even my children. And the risk I take in participating is change that comes at the loss of valuable tradition, which at best is very destabilizing and at worse could be completely wrong.

I wrestle with the traditions we have inherited that seem stifling and even oppressive to some. The value of the traditions is also their burden. Like Queen Elizabeth who was virtually locked in her incapacity to respond to Princess Diana’s death because of protocol, the traditions with the church can and often do incapacitate us to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Please read all of Jonathan’s post.

…of the Church. Scott hits the ball out of the park:

We cannot seem to get beyond the love affair we have with celebrity culture. Even in a climate of anti-heroes we are easily infatuated with the cult of personality. It is a sad fact that very few people who pretend to speak for the average Joe have ever lived like him. Few of our leaders can truly understand the crushing grind of a lifetime of thankless labor for insufficient money. They do not know what it is like to only have two weeks of vacation a year. They are, after all, on a book tour, or “ministering” in Thailand and conferencing in the Bahamas.

UPDATE: Jordon Cooper steps into the batter’s box after Scott and knocks another one out of the park. (I’m not sure what’s with my baseball analogies.)

The church is a lot like NASCAR, it markets and sells those that are successful. The stories of success are what is needed to sell books, book people into conferences, sell DVDs, or have people come to your church. While there is a lot of talk about faith and God’s blessing, there is an entire industry out there that is selling the opposite message, it is about speaking, leadership, vision and they have the tools to help get the church there and I think we have bought into that far more than we will ever admit. To sell those items, they need a face and a story to share and depending of the product, they partner with those that people resonate with, kind of like George Foreman and his grills.

Some people in the church seek out celebrity status while others it just happened to. Those that seek the status will quote whore themselves to irrelevance and keep releasing the same book with a different cover and a couple new stories again and again. Others will be stuck with it because at a certain point they captured the imagination of a people. I don’t blame them and I don’t even blame the industry that produces them. Their bottom line is the bottom line and for decades have been producing all sorts of crap. The people I blame are those of us who are looking for the secrets, the easy way out, the success, the glory, and will pay $295 for a one day seminar with them as they tell us what they wrote in the last three books.

A Prayer Request, Please

kinnon —  June 17, 2008 — 1 Comment

Cluetrain writer, interweb maven, linux evangelist and all round good guy, Doc Searls is in the hospital after complications from some medical testing. Weak-kneed when it comes to anything medical (actually I should say, weak-limbed as my extremities seem to lose feeling when medical discussions arise – but this isn’t about me), I won’t attempt to tell you what’s going on. Other than to ask that you pray for a speedy recovery for Doc.