Q & R: A 25-year-old asks if there's hope
Here's the Q:
... I'm currently reading Everything Must Change and Naked Spirituality, and it's all really meaningful and helpful stuff. Even my dad, who usually doesn't read theology, was very impressed by what I was reading outloud to him. The only problem is---I have this sinking feeling that you're (we're) trying to turn around the Titanic. Can the Emergent church movement save American Christianity from itself? And thereby help American Christianity save humanity from itself? One things for sure, this revolution will have to be an incremental one. All the best,
Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. I'm so glad you're reading EMC and NS ... glad you're dad is enjoying them too. A couple things ...
The Titanic is a great metaphor. Hubris/overconfidence led the Titanic to disaster, and too often, our leaders - political, economic, and religious - are similarly sailing into greater and greater danger, keeping busy with symptoms, without addressing the deeper diseases - starting with the ones I bring up in EMC.
Will there be a civilizational collapse? I hope not. I think people like us have to do two things at once: do all in our power to advocate for wisdom and change in regards to the big four crises: the planet (extraction over stewardship), poverty (growing gap between rich and poor, ongoing transfer of "common wealth" to the personal wealth of the wealthiest), peace (nuclear weapons, over-militarized nation-states, and terrorism), and religious hostility (which fuels the first the problems). We have to advocate for the Titanic to turn, and at the same time, face the possibility that it won't. I guess you could say we hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
You mention emergent ... I wouldn't have survived spiritually if it weren't for the emergent conversation ... and I think that reports of its demise are not only premature but flow from a failure to understand what it really is. But I think that we self-sabotage when we think a magical movement from somewhere is going to save us ... by whatever name, whether emergent, tea party, revival, Pentecostal, whatever. I think the emergent conversation has already played an important role, and will continue to play an important role, in giving birth to a larger revolution of hope ... but that larger revolution isn't "out there" inviting us to join it - it's "in here" inviting us to help create it ... all of us who hear a call to put God's will for the common good above our own personal, ethnic, economic, political, and national interests. That will, just as you say, involve enormous faith and patience as incremental change grows like mustard seeds ... and it may also, in times of crisis and opportunity, surprise everyone by leaping forward in eruptions of grace, earthquakes of hope, and tsunamis of love.
Small signs of hope are bursting out all around us. I just witnessed one here in Florida, and there's one going on in DC at this moment ... As Bruce Cockburn said, "Around every evil, there gathers love. Bombs aren't the only thing that falls from above, down where the death squad lives."