January 30, 2007
When I was in my late teens, I was introduced to alternative Christian music, which began my “descent” into what I would call the alternative church.
Different than Isaac's definition of the Emerging Church, this type of church may have had an authority figure at the top, but from where it stood it was changing the notions of convention. It wasn't the dress-up-and-look-your-best-shop-talk type of church. Rather, to give an example, it was about 6-7 people dressed in all black, makeup covering their faces, looking edgy, some might say gothic, in a dark basement lit by candlelight, singing gothic worship songs (to this day I am not even sure I can describe that!), and talking about a particular passage in the bible. It was a place where people like this could feel safe and could meet God where they were in their lives without the criticisms of those whom were more “conservative” in style. This church and it's corresponding music reached out to a generation of young people whom weren't being touch by “conventional wisdom”.
The musicians – bands like Delieverance, Vengence Rising, Tourniquet, the Violet Burning, Echoing Green, and others – were ridiculed and called demon worshipers dressed in sheeps' clothing. Yet I couldn't tell you the number of people they reached. It has always stuck out in my mind. They stood out because they were different and in some form were an image of Christ on this earth. They were the outcasts who were reaching out to other outcasts and providing a spiritual form of healing through music.
One song in particular, which had a great influence on my life, was Steve Taylor's “I Want to be a Clone”. Steve Taylor's comments and criticism about the estabilished church reach out to the disillusioned and challenge those who “clothe themselves in righteousness” but forget the very foundations of Christ – His love. Thus, without further ado, the lyrics:
I'd gone through so much other stuff
that walking down the aisle was tough
but now I know it's not enough
I want to be a clone
I asked the Lord into my heart
they said that was the way to start
but now you've got to play the part
I want to be a clone
Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'cause I could never know the way
to serve him on my own
I want to be a clone
January 29, 2007
by Bowie Snodgrass
reflections from today on Isaac's post below:
We can not just ignore the id
we must bless our passions
G – d made us as animals
who can never know it all
You can't control the wind
you can set your sails
Jesus calmed the storm
he walked on the water
We need some original
thoughts about religion
More voices, more vistas,
vantage points and views
Good people with new ideas
calling in this fresh new reign
January 27, 2007
So John MacArthur, a radio evangelist, recently released a fundraising letter/diatribe against the Emerging Church. Among other things he claims that the Emerging Church is a “threat” and that “the danger is real.” Dan Kimball, a pastor who identifies as emerging, wrote a lengthy refutation to this. Go read it at The Ooze.
The thing is, I actually find MacArthur’s portrait of the EC to be much more compelling than Kimball’s, which seems to be indistinguishable from traditional church (rigid authority structures, 45 minute sermons, modernist doctrinal statements, etc). If presented with a choice between the two, I’d take MacArthur’s Emerging Church any day.
Take this one juicy bit:
“The result is a movement that thrives on disorganization, lends itself to mysticism, distrusts authority and dislikes preaching, feeds intellectual pride and recognizes few (if any) doctrinal or moral boundaries. You can see why the movement is so appealing to college-age people young people – it is fleshly rebellion dressed in ecclesiastical robes.”
Yup, this pretty much describes me to a T, minus the bit about the ecclesiastical robes – I can’t say I’m interested in dressing my fleshly rebellion in anything other than what they’re already wearing. I like it so much that I kind of want to paste it in the “about us” page…
Yes, we thrive on disorganization. We have abandoned rigid, top-down authority models in favor of a lateral authority model. Emergence is a term borrowed from Self-Organizing Systems Theory. I recommend everyone go read The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.
Yes, we lend ourselves to mysticism. Mysticism has been in the Christian Tradition for a very, very long time, and anyone who contests this should go reread Augustine, Anselm, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Keating, and Richard Foster. It is precisely the lack of mystery which makes traditional church unappealing to so many postmodern people.
Yes, we distrust authority and dislike preaching. When our culture is telling us what we need to value (wealth, power, status), advertising campaigns telling us what we need to buy (iPods, cars, soda), and our government is telling us who we need to bomb (usually people whose per capita GDP is less than a tenth of ours), do we really want our churches to be training us to be passive towards authority? Churches ought to be training us to be active thinkers, to critically engage each other, and to read our Bibles for ourselves.
Yes, we feed intellectual pride and recognize few moral and doctrinal boundaries. Well, sort of. We love it when people begin thinking for themselves and value intellectual diversity. We distrust systems of moral and doctrinal boundaries precisely in the way that the New Testament distrusts religious legalism. We rely on grace while we try to follow Christ: feeding the poor, caring for the meek, and welcoming the marginalized into our homes.
We are a fleshly rebellion. We affirm our bodies as good creations (good enough for Jesus, at any rate). We acknowledge that a Christian can be spiritual AND earthly in the same way that God can be immanent AND transcendant, Jesus can be incarnate AND redemptive, and communion can be body AND bread. We recognize that drawing closer to God does not entail a denial of the body. Dancing, yoga, exercise, and sexuality can be profoundly prayerful.
There was recently quite an active discussion around one of our early posts about what it means to be emergent, and I agree with our Lurker that the term is becoming less and less useful as it gets tossed around more and more. I think we’re going to need a new word to describe those of us on the radical fringe of Christianity.
January 24, 2007
So Transmission hasn’t started evangelizing en masse yet, nor are we likely to. We’re a small group, word passes by word of mouth, and people are slowly finding us. That said, if we ever do decide to start an evangelizing campaign, I recommend Karate For Christ!!! Hmm, I’ve heard that ninjas can walk on water…
No, seriously, there seem to be at least four teachers in NYC, including the Warriors of the Light Christian Martial Arts Center on Eldridge Street. We should take a field trip.
Personally, although I have tremendous respect for the martial arts, it seems to me that it might be more Christ-like to practice a physical discipline focused on healing rather than one focused on combat. Yoga, for example. Then I found out that protesting yoga seems to be the only thing that brings Christians and Muslims together these days. Yeesh.
Well, I say to heck with that. We’ve used Yoga in Transmission services before and I wouldn’t mind doing so again. The Genesis story leads me to believe that we ought to love, cherish, and care for our bodies rather than denying all things “of the flesh.” Fortunately, at least one person agrees with me…
January 24, 2007
I was just reading this chapter at Bible Gateway and just thought it was simply awesome! Those who went before us did some awesome things in the name of God and all of it in faith and obedience. Some excerpts if you will:
11:5 – By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…
11:7 – By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.
11:8 – By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
January 23, 2007
Last Monday, I went up to the Bronx to hear the Presiding Bishop deliver a sermon on Martin Luther King (since I work for a parish in the Bronx, I didn’t feel like too much of a carpetbagger). I walked into the service about 15 minutes early but, as you might expect, the place was already filled up. The usher handed me a program and said, “there might still be a few seats in the back corner, behind the choir. Unless you’re clergy, of course – we have reserved seating in the front for clergy.”
Now I should have said that I was a priest; the New Testament makes it quite clear that there is only one priesthood: the priesthood of Christ. Furthermore, we are all initiated into it by the merit of our baptism, making the entire church a priestly nation.
If I were really on top of things, I could have shouting something like, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes and love the best seats in the synagogues! They shall receive the greater damnation!” Maybe I could have waved my arms around a bit to increase the effect…
Unfortunately, I’m not that quick on my feet or nearly that snarky. Instead I just shot my girlfriend a look and went to find a seat in the corner. Later on, I remembered that Jesus suggested that we “go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‚ÄòFriend, move up higher.‚Äô Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.” Maybe this is why so many churchgoers like to sit in the back…
Anyway, this weekend I had the singular pleasure of helping a bunch of high schoolers plan a worship service for the Cathedral of Western Michigan. These guys did not have reserved seating for clergy. In fact, there was barely any sitting involved at all. The congregation wandered around, did the “Thriller” dance, gathered around the altar in a clump, and threw juice boxes at each other. It might not have been the most nuanced and evocative liturgy I’ve ever seen, but there certainly weren’t any power dynamics on display. It was really, really cool to see how engaged the kids were in making a service for themselves.
And I guess this is why I’ve found my way into the emerging church. I’m just not interested in seeing worship created for me by an ecclesiastical elite; I want to make worship for myself. I’m not interested in feeling like a spectator, I want to be engaged. I’d rather have my worship feel a little rough around the edges than feel like I’m a second-class citizen.
January 18, 2007
Excerpt from letter: John to Jackson, Jan 13, 2007
To read full text, see more pictures, and read more letters, visit
Tears and laughter, blood, betrayal, singing and dancing, Hebrew and primal scream – this has been your second week.
I guess this biggest news of this week is your conversion from Animism to Judaism. The Jewish midwife, who was good enough to assist with your birth on the Sabbath, recommended I call 1-800-BABY-BOY, which connected me with a really nice Rabbi named Jehoshua Krohn who exclaimed that you needed a Bris right away, and offered us a cut rate for letting you be a quick stop between other gigs.
January 16, 2007
- Liberating Rites by Tom Driver
- Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne
- Sexism and God-Talk by Rosemary Radford Reuther
In terms of “things that might be less recognizable as theology,: Ike says:
- Deeply into the Bone by Ron Grimes
- The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams
- The Concubine by Elechi Amadi
Bowie‚Äôs List (caveat: I never did like systematic theology all that much, but here are three books that I‚Äôd include)
- Liberating Rites by Tom Driver
- Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web by David Weinberger
- The Wedding Dress by Fanny Howe
My three brothers would probably insist that the Ishmael series by Daniel Quinn be included on such a list (in a heartbeat)… so I gotta give them a nod too.
Hey, yo, Transmissioners – what would you list?
January 13, 2007
MON, Jan 15 : MLK field trip!
Some of us are planning to go to St. Ann‚Äôs Episcopal Church in the South Bronx, where the new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be preaching at the annual Bronx MLK Day Service starting at 10am. * John was born in the rectory of this historic church and hopes to bring along baby Jackson. Isaac and Elaina both work at a Lutheran church in this area. * Please email email@example.com you‚Äôd like to join us.
WED, Jan 17 : Transmission resumes! Baby Blessing & Avalon Vision
We are hoping to do a short baby blessing ritual for Thomas Jackson, followed by a discussion of our vision for Avalon. Isaac and are drafting a vision statement/project proposal that we‚Äôd like to workshop with you all (in small groups and as a whole group), and we‚Äôre inviting a few people who are also interested in helping us develop the project. * Please let me know if you‚Äôd like to bring food or drink to share.
* Background on Avalon ‚ÄúTwilight for old Limelight as owner shops mall idea‚Äù
* William Augustus Muhlenberg, founder of Holy Communion Episcopal Church
* Muhlenberg‚Äôs 19th Century ‚ÄúMidnight Mission‚Äù
MON, Jan 22 ‚Äì field trip!
My web guru friend from the west coast, Bob Carlton (who keeps up an excellent blog) will be in town and we‚Äôre going out to dinner. Any and all Transmissioners are invited! * Please rsvp if interested.
SAT, Jan 27 ‚Äì field trip!
MOBIA @ the American Bible Society is putting on a concert which will feature a commissioned piece by Mario Diaz de Leon. I know Mario from working with the 20/30 Connection at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and plan to attend to support this amazing young composer. I will also be inviting members of the 20/30 Connection. The event is free and I‚Äôve reserved some spots. * Let me know if you‚Äôd like to come.
Wed, Jan 31 ‚Äì next Transmission!
* Anyone want to plan the evening, our ritual, or the food?
January 13, 2007
two poems from our Advent stations apt.church. I found them while cleaning up my place. written by two of our participants. collage below by Gareth, our friend from Moot.
In darkest despair
In brightest light
Oh holy star
Oh sacred night
I cry out to you Lord
Take this pain away
Bring unto us
The dawn of a new day
We are a forgetful people.
God is faithful ‚Äì
we forget. God sustains ‚Äì
we forget. God provides ‚Äì
we forget. God delivers ‚Äì
we forget. God’s ways endure
‚Äì we forget. God made us
in His image ‚Äì we forget!