Texas college culture
March 18, 2008, 5:38 pm
Filed under: college ministry, culture, the purple door

Tomorrow morning, we say goodbye to the last of three teams of college students that have visited Seattle, and stayed at The Purple Door, while on spring break trips over the past three weeks.  One group was from Minnesota, and two were from Texas.  We have a ton of fun with most of the teams that come hang out with us (even though we all sleep less – including me, who actually lives somewhere other than The Purple Door).

There were several highlights of this time, which I could go into here.  But one oddity I’ve noticed about the state of Texas when it comes to college students, seems worth noting.  The gang signs.  Every college of every size in Texas has some funky little contortion that people put their hands into to represent their school and/or their mascot.  I had been familiar with the famous University of Texas “hook ’em horns” thing, which not-so-vaguely resembles the kind of sign that the metal kids love to throw when Ozzy gets on stage.  But every school in Texas has these things.  From a claw sign to a pistol sign to some little finger configuration that supposed to resemble a rare species of frog.  Not only that, but when you’re talking to one of these students, and you mention another school, they’ll say, “Oh, yeah, xyz school,” and flash that school’s gang sign.  So.  Weird.

Granted, I did my undergrad in SoCal, and at a school that had almost exactly zero sports teams, and no school spirit.  But still, I haven’t noted the pervasiveness of these hand signs for other schools in other regions.

Sorry for the pointless post.  I just had to muse on that for a moment.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day
March 17, 2008, 7:12 am
Filed under: blogging, culture

The Wacky Emerging Church: Reason #2.76

This post is part of a continuing series. You may want to read my list of disclaimers and intro remarks here, if you haven’t done so already.

Reason #2.76: The other white meat

Sad, but true, folks. White dudes with money are still pretty much in control. If you took a poll of emerging church folks, of who the ten most influential people in this whole scene are, you’d certainly end up with a very homogenous list. Yes, we have a few prominent people that we can point to as good examples, but I think we all know that it’s not enough. As a white dude with money, I have to face my own little identity crisis here – who am I to call attention to this? All I can do is try my best to keep this issue on the table, and work to change my own practical approaches to this.

For all our talk about new forms of theology, praxis, and leadership, and all our talk about God’s concern for the marginalized, we still have to look at the raw data: who’s getting the publishing deals, who’s keynoting at the big conferences, who’s getting celebrated on the blogs, who’s showing up to the conversations.

I’ll say that there seems to have been some good progress in the number of women that are gaining a voice. Cool. But what about non-white, non-Eurocentric cultures? Not only are we rarely seeking connections and bringing these folks into the public discourse here in the West, we’re almost completely ignorant of things taking place outside of our Western culture.

Why is that? Really? Is it that we just haven’t taken the time to learn about groups like Amohoro in Africa, or La Red Del Camino in Latin America, or Emergent Malaysia? Or is it even worse than simply accidental ignorance of what God is doing in the world?

I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons that the emerging church conversation is so dominated by those in the white middle class is that people in minority and poorer segments of our society don’t relate to the kinds of questions being asked, and so much of the talk is just irrelevant to where they live. While I think there’s validity to that, I think it probably indicates a continuing attitude of colonialism/paternalism. Yes, many of us in the emerging church want racial reconciliation, and we want to defend the causes of the poor, and serve them. But in so doing, are we listening to what they have to teach us about God, and how they’ve learned to follow Jesus? Do we set aside our overpriced educations and impressive libraries long enough to sit at the feet of those who God favors? Do we make the same old broken assumptions that “if they’re poor, they must not be smart?” Do we really believe that spiritual gifts of wisdom and teaching and discernment are limited to those of means?

How many emerging church people do you know that, when they became dissatisfied with the church culture they grew up in, decided to go join a church pastored by someone of a different cultural background? How many emerging church planters do you know that, when they decided to start their church in an urban poor environment, took the time to sit and learn from the pastors of the existing churches in that neighborhood? I actually do know a couple of people that did so, but they’re the exception by far.

I can’t overstate the importance of this issue, friends. It’s just not good enough for us to continue talking as though we’re enlightened, and not really racist or sexist or classist ourselves, unless we’re actively working to bring about change. Talk isn’t cheap here – it’s costing us dearly.

Thank you for your attention. That is all. Comment at will.

It’s a really good kind of tired
March 14, 2008, 7:11 am
Filed under: uncategorized

Yesterday turned into quite the marathon day for me – I think I was going for 21.5 hours.  It was cool, though – definitely had a good time.

Our inter::mission evening went well.  I made Mexican Meatloaf, which was, er, interesting.  Not a bomb, not a raving success – it was my first meatloaf of any variety, so I was a little on the nervous side all day.  Fairly good, but if I ever make it again, I’ll definitely be tinkering with the formula.

Jim Henderson and Jason Clark came rolling in, and ate with us.  It was really good to see Jim again – it’s been several months.  And it was terrific to meet Jason – we share some common friends, so it’s good to connect the dots a little.  Jason was only in Seattle for 10 or 11 hours, so we’re really grateful that he spent a few of them with us.

Jim told his story of faith, and how his approach to evangelism has changed.  We had at least a couple atheists in the room, which led to some good, lively discussion.  Both Jim and Jason were terrific at turning the conversation in a relational direction.  Traditional I’m-right-you’re-wrong apologetics isn’t that interesting or helpful, but making friends, and walking together, experiencing life together is.

Jason actually spent a few minutes demonstrating evangelism for us at one point by trying to convert Jim to being a Mac user.  Brilliant.

Jim’s jumping on a plane this weekend to go visit Sunil Sardar, who we’ll be working with in India this summer, so that was a good connection for us as well.

The conversation around the house kept rocking until well after midnight (I left at around 12:45am).  That’s one of my favorite parts of this whole experiment – people enjoying the relationships. 

Off to get things done for today.  Got a group from Hardin Simmons University flying in this evening.  Good times.

This week at The Purple Door
March 11, 2008, 10:33 pm
Filed under: emerging church, friends, inter::mission, Seattle, the purple door

It’s a busy time of life for us in Seattle’s U-District!  Busy with really good stuff, though, so that’s fun.

This Thursday evening, for our inter::mission teach-in, we’ll be joined by Jim Henderson, doing his Off The Map thang.  We were going to keep things pretty low key, but as it turns out, we’ve invited some UW students from the Secular Student Union to come.  I’m really looking forward to the conversations.  As an added bonus, Jim will have Jason Clark with him.  Jason is the leader of Emergent UK, and always has some good perspectives, so we’ll get him in on the action.

All that, and I get to hang out with my friend Wes, too, who will be in town from Vancouver, WA.  Sometimes being busy is just plain worth it.

The Wacky Emerging Church: Reason #6
March 11, 2008, 9:58 am
Filed under: blogging, culture, emerging church

This is the third entry in a continuing series. You may want to read my list of disclaimers and intro remarks here, if you haven’t done so already.

Reason #6: Did you hear what Bill O’Reilly said about Jerry Springer??? OMG!!!

We’re a big bunch of total suckers for controversy. We take pleasure (whether it’s admitted pleasure or guilty pleasure) when some prominent conservative dude says something sassy about some emerging church dude. We like to jump up and down when an emerging church pastor calls another one a heretic or a sissy or a Republican. Better yet, when a blog gets people riled up, we like to jump on the dogpile and throw down . . . 246 comments later, some new controversial thing gets said, which spins the original thing off into a whole new direction. The emerging church blogosphere sometimes resembles the checkout lane at the grocery store, with all the magazines and their tabloid headlines.

What’s the deal with that anyway? Most of the things that get people all fired up are silly and lack substance. And yet we spend the time to read what so-and-so said about the other guy, and what the other guy said back. Guess what folks? Middle school is OVER, and there’s a word that accurately describes much of this stuff: Gossip.

Geez, I wish I hadn’t said all that. Because I am soooooo guilty. Really. Dangit.

Oh, and one other thing. You know how a lot of us in the emerging church have jumped on the nonviolence bandwagon? Yeah, so, you might want to consider how these controversies that we so eagerly jump on, frequently do violence to our souls and the souls of others. We say mean, hurtful things to one another all the time. And even if we don’t actually speak or write the words ourselves, the fact that we subscribe to the blogs and magazines that are regularly controversial tempts us to meditate on things that make us feel angry or disrespectful. Nonviolence starts at home, in the heart.

One thing I do with regularity, is review the subscriptions in my feedreader and see which ones are likely to stir up a bunch of negativity in myself. Whether it’s a “news” site or some blow-hard’s blog, I’ll delete the feed, at least for a while, until I can put myself in check. It’s a simple step, but one that I’m certain has saved me from stupidity more than once. When I’m asked, “Did you hear what Prime Minister Goofball said about the Dark Lord of the Stupidrome?,” I can just smile and say, “Nope.” Think about it, eh?

Thank you for your attention. That is all. Comment at will.

The Wacky Emerging Church: Reason #14
March 9, 2008, 12:43 pm
Filed under: blogging, Christendom, emerging church, theology

This is the second entry in a continuing series. You may want to read my list of disclaimers and intro remarks here, if you haven’t done so already.

Reason #14: The new Kool-Aid still has that same funky aftertaste as the old kind.

I’ll start by saying that this reason doesn’t feature as prominently in the emerging church movement as it once did, but it does rear it’s head on occasion, so I’ll go ahead and mention that prefix we’ve all come to love so much. Ready? Say it with me now: “Post-_________ .” At some point, all members of the emerging church must take a blood vow to be at least two of the following: post-Christendom, postmodern, post-critical, post-mega-church, post-Chris Tomlin, post-evangelical, or Post Raisin Bran. Postmodern, of course, is the favorite post- of all. Mind you, almost none of us can tell you what postmodern means, but we’ve even figured out how to be ironic in admitting that.

I did not read much postmodern philosophy in college. I’ve read more of it in the past seven or eight years. But, it’s still a bit of a fuzzy fish . . . by definition. What I have figured out is that I relate to many of the questions and challenges that postmodern thought has raised. I can critique the Enlightenment project and modernity as well as the next guy.

But in all of the brokenness that we have come to see in modernity and foundationalism, we have to be prepared to admit something very important. Postmodernism is broken too. I’ve heard many people blast away so much at modernity and toot the horn of postmodernism so much that I think some of us have failed to see this. Some of us wave the flag in favor of postmodernism, never noticing that it’s going to end up biting us in the butt the same way modernity did. It’s a potentially helpful way of thinking – nothing more, nothing less. But it ain’t no savior.

Most critics of the emerging church flail away at how postmodernism threatens the very core of our belief system as Christians. I disagree with that. But mostly because these critics are betraying an allegiance to modernity that’s no better than an allegiance to postmodernism. They’re both good for some things, and bad for others.

So let’s just agree here that we can keep both kinds of tools in the toolbox, but they’re only that. The Kingdom of heaven does not rely on philosophical structures or systems. We have free access to it, through multiple points of entry. We need not be critical of those who enter the Kingdom through a different mental process than we do. We can encourage them to let the Spirit lead in them in a unique way, just as the Spirit does with each of us.

Thank you for your attention. That is all. Comment at will.