Tag Archives: emerging church

Wisdom Literature and the Emerging Church, or Where do we go from here?

I’ve read about a bazillion books about the emerging church, and they’ve all kind of run together in the disordered maelstrom that is my brain pan. Consequently, I can’t remember exactly where I read the suggestion that the Bible’s “wisdom literature” (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) could have special value to postmodern-type people — if ever they were inclined to read them — because the writers approached faith and relationships (with God and others) through the lens of personal experience.

When I read it (sorry, emerging author who shall remain nameless due to negligence and bad memory), a light bulb appeared for a split-second over my head. (Okay, okay. Not a literal light bulb. But that would seriously rock if it happened.) “Hey, Self,” I thought to myself. “Wouldn’t it be sweet if someone could present the content of those books in a medium that resonated with persons of the postmodernish persuasion?” And that is how My Lover Is Mine was conceived. (Our due date is February 5.) Ash and I and our friend Ramon put our heads together and tried to figure a way to make Holy Scripture appealing to non-Bible readers. We were helped immensely by gratuitous sexual content.

And now it’s time to decide where we go from here…which is where you come in. Of the four remaining books that fall into the wisdom lit category, which would you most like to see presented in a similar poetry/fine art format? (I’m laboring under the assumption that you care.) Take a gander, when you get a minute, at a couple of the original chapters (see links above) and let us know what you think. I’m leaning toward Ecclesiastes, since the original form and length is close to that of Song of Songs (so we’d know what to expect)…but I’m open to suggestions. A few of the more gut-crunching Psalms, perhaps? Or maybe the wacky-ass metaphysical conversations of Job and his good-for-nothing friends?

Help a sista out.

Deconstruct this

I have an experiment for you to try.

Here is the wikipedia article on deconstruction.

As you read it, wherever you see the word “deconstruction”, substitute “emerging church”.  Wherever you see the word “philosophy” or “meaning” or related terms, substitute the word “theology” .

And, wherever you see the word “text”, substitute the word “bible”.

It won’t be a perfect match each time, and sometimes this process will produce nonsense…  but it mostly seems to, uh, you’ll pardon the reference, “make sense”.

See whatcha think.

Just think of me as “the other”.

Retrofitted Christianity?

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of people you may not know.

One is Mark D. Roberts, a blogging presbyterian pastor, who is a seriously thoughtful guy.  (Remember, I’m the guy who was bashing mainline denominations recently.)  I have enormous respect for the man, and his writing.  His book on praying through the Psalms, “No Holds Barred”, is simply wonderful.   Don’t take that as meaning I agree with him on everything he writes…  Hey, it’s me!  But he’s someone to contend with.

The other is Andrew Sullivan, whose blog, The Daily Dish, is often interesting and provocative.  Sullivan is a frequent writer for Time and other “mainstream media” outlets.

Sullivan has written a book, “The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back” that is reviewed by Roberts here.

Here is how Roberts introduces Sullivan:

A skilled writer and creative thinker, Sullivan combines in one man several attributes that rarely share the same human body. He is a gay, Christian, Roman Catholic, conservative who voted for John Kerry. (He may be the only one of this species in existence today.) It’s no surprise that such a combination leads to unusual perspectives, many of which can be found on Sullivan’s blog,

This is a very thoughtful review, of a book on conservatism that will surprise you.

If you aren’t familiar with either author, this review of one by the other is a great place to start.

Here is Robert’s description of Sullivan’s reading contradictions into the gospels:

Once again, I fear Sullivan has bought into a bit of retrofitted Christian dogma, which exaggerates the differences among the gospels for the sake of discounting them. Ironically, the kind of literalistic reading that allows some scholars to find multiple contradictions among the gospels is exactly the sort of thing Sullivan despises among fundamentalists. I am not the first to point out that fundamentalist Christians and liberal scholars who reject biblical authority both tend to read the Bible in the same, overly literalistic way.

Is something like this also at issue re: the different ways emergent church(EC) folks and the “traditionalists” read scripture?  I have the feeling sometimes that the leftward tilt of much of the EC is defended by very literal readings of certain scriptures, and very post-modern interpretation of others….

Others have observed that the various religious traditions simply differ on which parts of scripture they take seriously.  You know: Nazarenes stress the “free will” parts, and Baptists stress the “elect” part.  :-)  Is that all that’s really going on in the EC?  Or is the EC something new?

Robert’s opinion is that Sullivan seems to embrace a “retrofitted Christianity”.

I find Sullivan’s thoughts about Christianity fascinating for several reasons. One is that he epitomizes something I’d call “Retrofitted Christianity.” What do I mean by this? If you look up “retrofit” in the dictionary, one definition reads: “To provide with parts, devices, or equipment not in existence or available at the time of original manufacture.” If you retrofit a classic car, for example, you might give it a new engine that wasn’t available when the car was first built. So retrofitted Christianity is a version of classic faith that includes new parts that weren’t there at first. Some people, like Andrew Sullivan, think this is a better or even more authentic version of the faith. Others, like me, for example, are concerned that the retrofitted version of Christianity exemplified by Sullivan lacks some essential parts, even though it gets some things right.

I think something like this is at the core of my concerns with the EC.  But I’m still reading.

McLaren Just Killed Santa Claus

So I just finished the third book of Brian McLaren’s trilogy (The Last Word and the Word After That) and my brain hurts.

Here’s the best way to describe what I’m feeling right now: I’m nine years old and it’s December 20. I’ve known for oh, about five years that there really is no such person as Santa Claus, but everybody in the family has always talked the jolly elf up every year, and I’m not about to declare “the emperor has no clothes on” for fear that the goodies won’t be under the tree on Christmas morning if I don’t play along with the game! But now someone comes along and suggests something outrageous: What if we could have an even better Christmas without Santa Claus? What is there’s something better than presents that are broken within a week? (Better than presents? How scary is that?)

Who out there has read all three of these books? I would value your feedback! I feel like I’ve been holding my breath and just playing along with everyone else for 35 years for fear of being banned a heretic.


Of Blogs and the Emerging Church

Aside from smart-ass but salient wise-cracks, this is my first official post on the first blog I’ve ever been on, so be gentle…

Paul and I are in our 50s, which means this whole blogging phenomenon is very new to us. I think we’d still be BVs if it weren’t for Chad and company graciously inviting us to participate. So all wise-acre commentary aside, I’m truly appreciative of being welcomed to this forum.

While we were walking yesterday morning, I was pondering the difference between blogs and ye olde chat room experience and realized the vital distinction: in a chat room, one is a nonentity floating in a sea of little screaming amoebas, each clambering for their pathetic little insecure selves to be noticed, whereas on a blog thread, each person’s opinions and emotions are recognized as being noteworthy (if not agreed upon). Because I know the blog community is actually listening (gasp) and weighing my comments, it stimulates me to attach more weight to what I put out there, instead of babbling for a laugh (which has traditionally been my normal mode).

So my theory is that a healthy blogging community kindles provocative thinking, which leads to humans who are evolving because they are wrestling with (not shouting down) each other’s ideas and feelings. If the community’s agreement is that every person’s opinion gets a fair, open-minded hearing, then there is a free flowing river of ideas that (hopefully) results in growth for everyone involved.

Okay. So here’s the segue.

This whole “emergent church” phenomenon has revitalized me in a way that hasn’t happened since the early 70s when I was a hippie-evolved-into-Jesus Freak at the Light & Powerhouse in Westwood and later up in San Francisco, solely producing the Right On underground newspaper for the Jack Sparks’ Christian World Liberation Front.

The Jesus People movement took a whole generation of adolescents who had rebelled against their traditional fundamentalist upbringing and allowed us to come in from the cold (hippiedom). We were enabled to come back to the fold because the rules were all different: we could come back but keep our weed, bongs and free love. What a great deal! All grace, all the time. Old time religion in the Age of Aquarius — yes, thank you! We brought our love beads and Birkenstocks to live communally in places like the J.C. Light & Powerhouse (where I was from 1970 to 1973), listened raptly to Hal Lindsey, Bill Counts and Tom Brewer, breathlessly read Watchman Nee, grooved to Larry Norman, trooped to Dallas for Explo 72, drank, smoked, and waited for the Second Coming. It was so very stimulating. We knew exactly who we were were and what it was all about.

And then we got married.

So here I am 30 years later, Rip Van Winklette, reading Brian McLaren and feeling dusty neurons firing for the first time in decades. This post is getting too long for me to describe the profound epiphanies I’ve been having for the past few months, but I think I speak for many when I say that the EC authors are articulating exactly why I’ve grown cynical about religion (not spirituality) in the past 30 years. And this time around, it’s not just changed window dressing on the same old message. We’re not stoned adolescents anymore; we need real thinking that makes sense. I feel like the attractive woman in the Twilight Zone episode who lived in a world of disfigured people. She thought of herself as an ugly misfit, until one day she was brought to a small colony of other people who looked just like her (Malibu Kens and Barbies).

Like a healthy blogging village, the community that populates the world of EC thinking is doing just that: thinking. Gosh, it feels great to get back to…thinking.

The Dementape Letters: Six

Posts in the The Dementape Letters series

  1. The Dementape Letters: One
  2. The Dementape Letters: Two
  3. The Dementape Letters: Three
  4. The Dementape Letters: Four
  5. The Dementape Letters: Five
  6. The Dementape Letters: Six

[Ah, Aunt Dementape...how we've missed your misanthropic take on the Emerging Church. It's been so long since we've had the horrific pleasure of your correspondence that some of us may need to refresh our feeble memories here, and thereby relive the dark magic of your virtual poison pen.]

To my dear niece, Gutrot:

Please accept my apologies for my long absence. As you probably know, I was on a Special Covert Assignment — handed down directly from Our Father Below — and was not able to communicate via normal channels. I cannot reveal the details, but I will tell you that all’s well on the sub-Saharan front. Be assured that I’ve been kept abreast of your progress.

I’ve lately been perusing your most recent reports on the local Emerging Church (yes, my Assistant Under-Head, Swellgore, has kept the files meticulously up-to-date), and I am pleased with the newest developments. You really are out-darkening my lowest expectations, Niece. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine you would prove to be such a valuable contributor to my Department of Kingdom Thwartation. Keeping on your current track, your descent down the ladder of success will be swift indeed, and the buffet of souls virtually endless. (If my magnanimity makes you apprehensive, never fear…I had such success with my CovertOp that I’m finding it difficult to be my usual malevolent self, but I’m confident I’ll regain my equilibrium presently.)

The confusion you have sown in your local E.C. with regard to the concept of “Righteousness” is delicious. I can almost taste the Chaos. However did you think of such an ingenius approach? You’ve masterfully suggested they pay special attention to certain books and theologians which explain that “Righteousness” is best understood as related closely to “Justice.” And while we know it couldn’t be more true — though not quite in the way your Subjects imagine — this “new” idea has certainly stood them on their heads.

Does this mean personal Holiness is a paranoid idea birthed by the evil, obsessive Puritans and now we can stop being so concerned with our behavior?, they ask with frantic fervor…half-hopeful, half-afraid. Does this mean we can do whatever we wish, so long as we don’t oppress anyone, so long as we’re passionately active in setting the captive free?

Oh yes, Gutrot. Sumptuous. They’re positively titillated by the possibilities, blinded to the Truth that Justice is never truly Just when divorced of good old fashioned Morality, and that Morality is never really Righteous if not married to a prophetic demand for Justice. Hell knows why The Enemy’s Children have always found it so difficult to hold these concepts in tandem, to see how fundamentally akin they are. How can they not sense in their miserable guts that “personal” Immorality is necessarily oppressive, that a Moral Righteousness is the warp upon which the very fabric of Justice is woven?

Well, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. (I realize I’m preaching to the demonic choir, as it were…you’ve done remarkable work.) I encourage you to continue your twin attacks in this arena, as they are proving most effective. On the one front, persist in allowing them to be enthusiastic about Justice For All — so long as you keep up the second front (tempting the individual Subjects toward unHoly thoughts and acts of all kinds), it can’t hurt. If we are lucky, their feelings that their “personal Holiness” is wholly irrelevant to the dratted Kingdom will undermine all their Just pursuits…and wreck their lives and relationships in the process, which is always nice.

Keep up the Evil work, my dear. You are a credit to your Mother.

Your vile and affectionate Aunt,

Previous in series: The Dementape Letters: Five

Beer Appreciation Night

Remember this? Good news! It’s back, and it’s on, tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 4th), starting at 7:30. It’s around $20, plus the cost of food and a cab ride home, if you hit the brewsky a bit too hard. I cannot emphasize enough to you all how awesome this will be. The theme of the night is Oktoberfest, and it will be wall to wall deep dark german beers. Yum!

It’s at BJ’s in Woodland Hills (google maps). I’ll be there at around 7:00 to grab some tables. Let me know if you’re coming by leaving a comment here, or email me, and I’ll make sure you have a seat.

Just to clarify, this is an open invite. If you read the blog, but don’t know us, and would like to, please feel free to swing by and share in the good cheer. Look for this guy:

Mike and Gretchen

Love like Gravity

You breathe in, you breathe out, and that quickly, everything you know about love changes.

We were driving home today from Phoenix, where the whole family had gathered to celebrate my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. People flew in from all over to be together, to share memories, to hold her hand and talk softly. She’s not doing very well – she had to be wheeled to the birthday party in a hospice chair, with an attendant nearby most of the time – and the unspoken thought of the weekend was that we might not have another chance to talk with her before she’s gone from us. She fell, early last week, and had surgery to pin her hip together. There’s no such thing as a minor fall or a simple surgery when you’re 90, and you can see some of the strength ebbing from her eyes when you talk to her.

She met Sophia for the first time, and Sophia reached out for her, and her Great-Grandma kissed her, as old women and young girls have always kissed, and they shared that secret joy called family, even though one is too young to know what it means, and one is so old she sometimes forgets, and even though they share none of the same blood, and have only just met – love sometimes works that way.

There is a lullaby that my wife and I sing to our daughter, and as this weekend unfolded, I kept singing the words over and over in my head.

Sophia, my beauty, I love you,
But you don’t know yet what that means

Love always works that way – it is given to those who are ignorant of its full value, in a thousand private acts of sacrifice. My daughter doesn’t know that we love her – she has no knowledge of its absence, and so, to her, it is just life. It is just what Mama and Dadda are to her. May it never be otherwise!

This is the great mystery of love – that my Grandmother and my daughter can be caught up in its grasp, even though they had never met, and may never meet again. It is a force of nature, like gravity, and even though it might never be played out between them in those thousand acts of patience, of compassion, of sacrifice, it still binds them together.

My daughter doesn’t know this yet, but it is also true – I don’t know what love means either.

We all love in ignorance. Truly. We give in ignorance, and we receive in ignorance, and by these commissions we practice the art of love, knowing nothing of the force that compels it. It is the strongest force in the world.

There are deep rivers
beneath these still waters
and this love is more than it seems
this love is more than it seems

On the 210 freeway, driving home from Phoenix, at 80 mph, our left rear tire separated. The tread peeled off from the tire, and in an instant the steering wheel jerked loose from Gretchen’s hands, and we started to skid across 4 lanes of busy Sunday afternoon traffic.

As Gretchen fought for control, she grabbed the wheel, struggling to straighten out the van. We swerved sharply in the opposite direction, and as we did, I felt the van start to break loose – I saw the mountains sink below the window, and the pavement rise up on the other side, and felt my stomach turn upside down. The van started to tip over.

Your mother and I both had tutors
In heaven, and down here below

Sometimes Sophia decides she wants to do something, and nothing can dissuade her. If I push the matter, I can see her eyes flare up, and I see a glimpse of how strong her personality will be.

My dear daughter, you have no idea.

As the days of your life unfold, your mother and I will sit with you, and tell you the stories that you are a part of. My girl, there is fire in your veins – you are a daughter to strong women, women who love fiercely, and live deeply. You are the daughter of women who boarded ships to sail to strange lands, who forged homes in dark and inhospitable corners of the earth, who built businesses and fortunes in times when women were not allowed in boardrooms, who worked 12 hours a night to pay for their children’s medical care and schooling, who sent husbands and sons off to war and prayed for their safe return, women who never finished high school but whose daughters hold master’s degrees – my dear little girl, you are the daughter of strong, beautiful women.

And the strong and beautiful women who are your heritage have always taught their sons and daughters how to practice the art of love. They love like breathing in and out, like gravity, and it is a force that compels the world to turn.

Whatever we know of love, we learned at their feet.

You weren’t old enough to understand the words that Grandma said as she held you, but I will repeat them to you until you are.

“Love them.” She was looking at you, and at your mother, but she was talking to me. “Love them – you know that’s your most important job, don’t you? They are God’s blessing to you. Love them.”

They taught us the meaning
of love without ending
and, baby girl, that’s how we know
baby girl, that’s how we know

Gretchen was driving, my brother was in the front seat, and I was in the back seat next to Sophia, who was strapped into her car seat. We had all of our luggage in the back of the van, along with a big TV that my dad had sent with us to drop off for him at home.

As my stomach turned upside down, and the van tilted further and further, as the tires screamed and horns around us blared, I threw myself across Sophia, grabbing the far side of her seat with both hands, crushing her little body beneath my chest.

All I could think about was the massive TV spinning forward from the back of the van, crashing into us.

Sophia, my beauty, I love you,
But you don’t know yet what that means

You can’t possibly understand this yet, but I have never loved you more than when I was crushing your face into my chest, and you were screaming and beating me with your fists.

I can’t make you understand this yet, but everyone in that car would have done the same thing. And so would Papa, and Grammy Weiss, and Grandma Lee, and Grandpa, and your mother’s sisters, and their husbands, and your Uncle David, and Auntie Kim, and your dad’s aunts and uncles, and his cousins.

And even though she can’t move her legs, and even though she has to have help feeding herself, and getting dressed, and even though she sometimes gets confused and can’t remember where she is, even though her body no longer obeys the commands of her heart and mind; in her heart, and in her mind, your father’s father’s mother would do the same.

And behind her, a hundred generations whose bodies gave out before they could demonstrate their love for you.

There are deep rivers
beneath these still waters

My grandmother’s love was almost always the peaceful sort – the still waters. It was gentle, and compassionate, and it usually was accompanied by simple cards, and gifts, and thoughtful words.

And it was poured into my dad over 60 years of simple recurring acts of love.

Which was how he taught it to me.

And I will teach it to you in that same way – by simple repetition of silent sacrifices.

What I cannot explain to you, the deep mystery of love, is this: the still waters of simple repetition and silent sacrifice are the ripples on the surface of a raging torrent.

I will swing you in my arms just to hear you laugh, and to share in your joy.

I will also raise my arms to shield you against any onslaught, and will spend my last breath so that you can draw one more.

And though I cannot explain to you how, it is the same thing. Both acts are drawn from the same well. It is love.

At the last moment, when the van pulled itself upright once more, and as your mother guided it across 4 lanes of traffic to a safe stop on the side of the freeway, the first thing she did was reach back to touch you. You quieted instantly, and reached out and took her hand.

this love is more than it seems,
this love is more than it seems

In a few days, or weeks, or God willing, a few months more, Irene Lee will breathe her last breath, and someone beautiful will have gone out of the world.

I’m glad you got the chance to meet her, and I’m glad that you reached out to her, and that she kissed you.

When you grow, and you begin to imitate your mother, and she shows you how to live in that secret strength that the women in both of our families have always carried, and you begin to practice the art of love, it will not be something new that you do – it will be something very old. It will be something handed down from generation to generation, lived out in a thousand acts of patience, of compassion, of sacrifice.

Love is learned by imitation, and taught by repetition, and as my Grandmother leaves this earth, I pray you will take her place in this dance.


Sophia’s Lullaby
by Michael Lee

I Believe in Phlifterofftenopf

Dieter, the new Storyteller at Humble Ancient Future Gathering of All Saints Church in Austin, has some great guidelines for the Emering Church. I think his voice is one that should be heard at the table.

These are not rules, only personal opinions forged out of years of painful introspection and emotional implosion. These rules were revealed to me while handling my chakra beads and crawling through a labyrinth in a bakasana yoga position as I listened to Morrissey on my iPod.

Read the rest here.

(ht: JollyBlogger)

Ben Miller in Rio

Several months ago, I got an email from Ben Miller, who is a part of the community called Word Made Flesh in Rio De Janeiro. He lives and ministers among the poor in that country. He was writing to ask if they could use the song “Let Your Justice Roll” as the music behind a video they were putting together to try to raise awareness and support.

There are some creative works that cease to be yours as soon as they leave your pen. This is one of those songs. Of course I agreed, and asked Ben to send me a copy of the video when it was finished.

So, here is the video that they put together. I haven’t watched it all the way through yet – I’ve been reading enough of the stories behind the pictures from Ben and others that I get stuck half way through, and can’t finish it out.

Then earlier today, this post from Ben’s site, “… and again he asked why” showed up as a link back to Addison Road. You should read it. Then, maybe, you should go here. I’m preaching in 7 hours on heroes. On courage, honor, and sacrifice, and about the desperate need for heroes to go and stand in the gap, to defend the weak until the coming of the Kingdom of God. Ben is standing in that gap.