Who Are You Having These Conversations With? Part II

So, I’m getting caught up on the various blogs I read when “He Who Would Be Head Pastor” points out to me that me and one of my message board moderators were on a list of folks called out by someone “looking for a fight.”

Christians love a good fight.

There’s nothing that gets the old spiritual blood pumping like going to war knowing you are on the side of truth. Even when you have apparently run out of targets and have to turn on each other. I’d daresay we spend more time fighting with each other than anyone else. Probably because we have to know “teh truth!1!” before we can proclaim it to anyone else. And you know, this sort of fractious behavior is definitely what we’re called to do, who needs all that silly reconciliation?

If you want to engage me in a conversation, engage me. Don’t try to maneuver me into some manufactured debate-cum-marketing scam. If picking fights is your idea of reaching out in love, then, well, go with your conscious. I tell folks on my message board all the time that just because an ass brays in a field, that doesn’t fill me with the need to jump down and bray alongside him.

Postmodern Negro sums it up best for me:

I saw my name on the list so I thought I’d put in my two cents. I remember reading Walter Martin’s “Kingdom of the Cults” years ago. I remember the end of each chapter where he’d compare each religious cult with the ‘clear teaching of scripture’. He’d say this is what the Mormons say and this is what the ‘bible’ says. And so forth. It would have been better for him to have said this is what Mormons say and this is what my own Christian tradition, Fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestantism says. He would have been a bit more honest if he had said that. The same goes for the many ‘critics’ of emergent and Brian McLaren in particular. Rather than say emergents say this and the bible says that it would be a bit more helpful for this discussion if there was a bit more transparency. That’s one issue. These guys don’t speak for ‘Christianity’! They speak from their on tradition-dependent concerns.

Which leads to why I haven’t responded to these guys. For the most part these guys don’t hang around my cultural orbit. I like to read some white male theologians…mainly the ones that are open to discussing broader issues. The guys that have mostly criticized emergent tend to be a white male theological conservative ghetto…so they don’t really speak to the concerns I have as an African-american Christian deeply wedded to the black prophetic Christian tradition. The issues these guys mostly raise are issues of concern for folks who hold to a foundationalist Euro-centric reading of the gospel. Its mainly out of my orbit…so I don’t really pay attention to it.

One of the things I’ve appreciated about emergents are their posture of learning and listening. I’ve tried to emulate their humility when talking to people (emphasis on trying – I’m not there yet). Come to find out it’s the arrogance, the certainty, of having answers for everything that turns a lot of folks off to the church, that makes them turn a deaf ear. I’m not a part of that Christian ghetto culture. Most portraits of Emergents are probably as fair as my “conversation starter” that involved me intimating that D.A. Carson is a racist. I’m a horror writer who is a Christian. I help run what many would label an emergent church. I walk outside the church ghetto with people who challenge my views and way of thinking. I listen to them, I respect them, and I even, wait for it, learn from them. And they listen. Why? Because I’m not here to pick fights or declare war on them. It’s how conversations happen.

All of which brings me back to my friend.* I explained to him that most of the misunderstandings we have boil down to differences in ministry styles. The point of my article which he objected to was th at you start conversations with what you have in common, by listening to one another; not by saying “here’s where you’re wrong (because I obviously know more than you).” I can’t whip out Bible verses to “prove myself” because the Bible has authority if you have faith in it. What I can do is be the Bible. Be the message. If folks aren’t seeing Christ’s love in me and how I live and talk, then I’m wasting my breath anyway (again, emphasis on becoming – I’m not there yet). People need to belong before they believe, even if they never believe.

I just don’t have the time energy nor inclination to be baited into a fight. That’s fore better Christians than me, I guess.

*To be completely honest, my friend’s humility and contriteness after our conversation is exactly why I have hope, and love, for the church. Neither one of us had to “prove” ourselves right. We were too busy trying to figure out how to best love one another.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Who Are You Having These Conversations With? Part I

Recently, I was involved in a misunderstanding with a person I used to attend church with. These sort of misunderstandings have been happening a lot more lately because my church has been labeled emergent. That’s fine. People are often guilty of relational laziness and need these sorts of labels rather than engage the people around them. Our church describes itself as missional because we’d rather be “being” the church than talking about it. Since I’m just as guilty of using labels as crutches as anyone else, I’ll describe my friend as a mainstream Evangelical with a fundamentalist streak.

This friend took umbrage with an article I wrote because, to his reading, I was losing sight of the “ontology of Christ”. Once I got wind that he had concerns, I called him. We talked about his concerns. To his absolute credit, he apologized to me and then, in an all too rare demonstration of what it means to follow Christ, he volunteered to go back and apologize to the people whom he had talked to about me.

One of my points to him was that I don’t have time for “ontology of Christ” debates. Honestly, whom am I going to have that conversation with? Other Christians who have spent too much time in church, around other Christians who’ve learned a lot. Which is fine, I’m called to love them, too. But that’s not where I spend a lot of my time.

Since this is mostly aimed at my Christian brethren, let me put this in jargon you’ll understand: I hang out with the “lost” (an ironic term, since my friends like Wrath James White, Harlequin, and Paul Puglisi know exactly where they are). Why? Because I don’t want to spend my days talking about whatever new doctrinal burr is up some people’s butts. A lot of the times those conversations boil down to one person who know everything talking to someone else who has everything figured out. They want to play who’s head is puffed up more or who has the biggest doctrinal penis. That’s a game I’m not interested in playing.

Of course these are unfair caricaturizations, but it sets up what I really want to talk about.

Tomorrow.

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If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.