May 20th, 2005


Post-evangelical musings

Wrapped up Blue Like Jazz this morning. Some thought-provoking stuff sprinkled through the second half, and I want to be on my guard not to simply dismiss those things that rubbed me the wrong way. Taken as matters of fact, many of Miller's observations are highly questionable; as opinions, they simply are what they are. Really, the book is a lot like reading someone's journal, and it's easier for me to give it the level of consideration its due by not viewing it more highly or prescriptively than that. Since I read the journals of other interesting people daily, I don't think I stand as awed by it as some readers seem to be. Even so, it's good to have some challenge in order to better evaluate what I believe and consider new perspectives. Maybe I'll go back and dig in a little more later.

Had a good talk with John a while back about the "post-evangelical" mindset. Seems that lots of those driving the emerging church movement come from a strong but restrictive religious background, complete with home and/or Christian schooling (from what I gather, those qualities apply to Miller). In many cases, their leanings are a response to, and often rebellion against, this culture, as well as an exploring of the limits of newfound freedom. It can be a challenge to reconcile all that with continued devotion to Christ and a high view of His Church, and that's the challenge so many are taking up. It's akin to Amish rumspringa in many respects, though the old authority structures often completely lose voice in the life of a post-evangelical. Thus, they can be left to continue wandering without much call from community to commit to a (non-self-defined) life of faith—unless that community is built from the ground up by like-minded, "relevant" people.

Since that's not my background, I'm often puzzled by where some of the post-evangelicals are coming from. My first exposure to it was in my seminary intro theology course a few years back. The rest of the students seemed floored ("disrupted," in their jargon) by dealing directly with some of the messier aspects of theology, often leaving class stunned and sometimes spiralling into a crisis of faith. I didn't get the big deal. Had these folks honestly never thought about some of these issues and their implications?

But that's the thing—they hadn't. It was probably avoided in their churches and schools, which were also insular from other perspectives (Christian and non). And so, it's completely understandable to become skeptical of a faith system that seems to have withheld God from you, perhaps so skeptical that it seems a better thing to reject religion altogether (at least in its historic forms) and begin fresh with a "nonreligious Christian spirituality." Still, from where I sit, that can be a self-centered cop-out, an immature response to legitimate (but often misattributed) pain. I'm challenged and honored to share the journey of following Christ with these brothers and sisters, but I'm not likely to seek them out as leaders—not until the pendulum swings back a bit and the Kingdom's reality outside their experience becomes more real and compelling to them.
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    Pegleg Annie, "For The Author"