*This is old. I found it in my archives, unpublished, and I was loathe to delete it, though it seems impossible to complete at this future date. I’ve since come to some conclusions about the Emergent movment, but to say everything right would require an article far too long for me to complete with my current time costraints. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share this “as is” for you consideration.*
“Hey look at that.” I pointed at a bumper sticker on the SUV next to us.
“Yeah? What about it?” Valerie was obviously not impressed.
“It says, ‘I’m proud of my cub scout’ on a bumper sticker!”
“OK. So what?”
“Well, if they’re so proud of their son, how come it’s on a bumper sticker?”
“Because they’re proud of him.”
“Well, look at it this way: it must have been an easy sales pitch – ‘you know, if you were really proud of your son, you’d buy this bumper sticker that says so.’”
“Kyle! They don’t have bumper sticker salesmen. You have to go out of your way to buy one. It’s not something you get pressured into.”
“But, why would somebody be proud of being a cub scout?”
“My brothers were proud of being cub scouts. They went through the whole program. Dale is an Eagle Scout, and Alex is working on his Eagle Scout.”
“Hm. Maybe I just don’t have any appreciation for it because when I was a cub scout, all the leaders were our moms.”
“Some people like achieving things and being honored for them. I liked being on the honor roll in high school, and my parents were proud of me for it.”
I didn’t remember if I was on the honor roll in high school or not. I certainly don’t remember my parents being *proud* of me for it. I do remember getting honor roll certificates nearly every semester in undergrad. I felt about it something close to the way I felt when teachers would compliment me for having the fortitude to go to church on Sundays. What’s to be proud of?
“I guess I’ve felt pretty disjointed from the rest of the world for most of my life. I never fit in, never felt like I was part of the community. And I’ve been exposed to so many communities that achieving something acceptable to them just felt like jumping through another set of hoops. When you’re not part of the group, it’s hard to see the things that are praised by the group as something worth achieving. And, the few times that I’ve really felt like I was a part of the group, that group usually disintegrated within a few months.”
“Is it? I’ve always thought it was normal. It’s been my experience that every organization is always tottering on the brink between disintegration and calcification.”
“That’s not a very charitable view of the world.”
”No? It’s what I’ve experienced.”
“Does that apply to families too?”
“I guess not. Families have something stronger than agreement that keeps them together. They have a covenant that forces them together and prevents them, in a sense, from leaving.”
“But isn’t it still a pretty cynical view of the world?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just never been able to force people to stay.”
I’m repeating this conversation for another reason besides a look into the neuroses of Kyle French, and the other obvious fact that my parents didn’t praise me enough in my endeavors at scouting. (:)) It’s this emergent thing I keep hearing about. I don’t get it.
Everybody who’s anybody is in on it, and its one major distinctive is that it doesn’t know what it is. “Emergent” is the new cool word for what used to be known as “post-modern.” As far as I can tell, everybody switched when it came into view that post-modernism is an oxymoron, since “modern” is the definition for whatever is going on right now. Defining post-modern is as productive as asking what happened before the big bang, or what is the sound of one hand clapping. On the other hand, Emergent means *cutting edge.* We’re here, and we’re different, but we don’t know exactly what we are yet.
I’m supposed to be emergent. I’m fairly certain I am. But I’m leery about it. Being part of a community is important to me, if for no other reason than that it takes an incredible amount of effort. I always feel that I have to either reshape myself into what an acceptable member of the community is supposed to conform to, or reshape the community in such a way that I fit. Fitting in is a decision I have to deliberate about, so I want to know exactly what that entails.
I suppose my uncertainty about whether I’m emergent is in itself proof that I’m emergent. I’m attending at a Baptist church, and I’m confident that *this* isn’t what I want. I’ve seen the charismatic movement up close and, while I’m in agreement with them in a lot of ways, *that’s* not exactly right either. If anything’s emergent, I aught to be. But I don’t know. I’ve been down the road of throwing out tradition, and it’s a very short road. A new system *will* be created, and it can take as little as a week.
I think the key is in how you define “Emergent” (oxymoronic as that may sound). Steve Barna has recently reorganized [The Barna Group](http://www.barna.org/), into an organization more focused on creating leadership within the church than in equipping the leadership they believe is largely non-existent. One of their tools in their new focus is going to be
> 3. BarnaBooks — “a strategic partnership with Tyndale House Publishers … Starting in 2005, these branded books will reveal what is happening in the emerging Church – not the postmodern, candles/coffee/couches types of anti-modern ministries, but the Revolutionary ministry that is percolating to the surface of American society through new forms of ministry such as the cyberchurch, house churches, marketplace ministries, and tribal faith experiences.”
Here you have two different characterization of emergent Christianity, and frankly, I can’t tell the difference. But [Steve Knight](http://www.knightopia.com/journal/archives/000642.html#more) can:
> This is some heavy stuff. It’s just a pity that his view of the “emerging church” is such a caricature. Hopefully he’ll do some better research on the EC and get the real thing.
Again I’m lost. And I’d probably be doing better if I had gone to the [Charlotte Emerging Church Meetup Q&A](http://indieallies.meetup.com/27/events/4469086/) last night, which I missed. But it seems to me that everything truly “emergent” should fall under the category of “formless and void.” If somebody wants to negatively characterize a certain portion of what’s emerging, that may be an unfortunate nuisance, but how can it be inaccurate? Unless, of course, someone is saying that coffee shop Christianity *isn’t* emergent. More hoops to jump through.