Since I joined the Catholic Church ten years ago, I haven’t kept up much with the happenings in the Protestant world. But several weeks ago, I noticed that my friends Ron » and Bob » had several identical links on their blogs, to places like theOOZE », Mars Hill », and Solomon’s Porch ». This intrigued me, because not only do they not know each other, they feel very differenly about many things. So I checked out their links, and soon discovered the wave of post-modern or “poMo” Christianity, also known as Emergent, emerging church, post-Protestantism, post-foundationalism, and many other names which are meant to be as open as possble. (I tend to capitalize the M, to keep “pomo” from looking like “porno!”)
This is may be something big. Very big. I’ve visited dozens of poMo sites, and have also been visiting Ron’s church, Symphonic », regularly. I’ve also read Brian McLaren’s » A Generous Orthodoxy, and last week, I finished his two dialogue novels, A New Kind of Christian, and The Story We Find Ourselves In. (The final book of the set, The Last Word… and the Word after That, is to be released on Good Friday.) I’m impressed. I feel that Brian is essentially doing for Protestants what Matthew Fox tried to do for Catholics about 20 years ago.
One difference, however, is that McLaren is writing to a much broader, and generally more conservative audience, and is much more careful with words. (Fox was actually booted from the Dominican order for not being careful enough with his words.) In McLaren’s case, it’s even more critical, because in conservative Protestant circles, words tend to be interpreted as narrowly as possible. Christian can sometimes mean “someone who interprets the Bible like my pastor does.”
One of the basic ideas of the emerging church is that just as humanity moved from the ancient world to the medieval world in the 6th century, and the Middle Ages yielded to the modern world in 16th century, in the 20th-21st centuries, we are moving into the post-modern age. What that means is uncertain, except that modern institutions (including the modern conception of church), built in the modern age to serve the modern world, are no longer working that well and will soon be irrelevant to post-modern society.
This was just the sort of stuff I was looking for in my church environments about 15 years ago, but it simply wasn’t there then. In short, I’m thrilled about the potential of the emergent movement (though Emergent » says don’t call it a movement). However, I use the word “potential” deliberately. Some self-described poMo churches seem to be simply changing matters of style, creating “groovy” new ways to worship and evangelize, like the Jesus movement did in the 60s and 70s, while keeping a truncated theology that still sees getting people “saved” as the end of the road. Others have a sense that this really calls everything into question–and are open to the possibility that we have grossly misunderstood what Jesus’ Good News is all about–something that I as a mystic, strongly believe to be the case.
I haven’t really heard the emergent conversation address theosis or awakening yet. Because of this, I wonder if poMo Christianity might run the risk of looking for the answer, without finding it. Still, how wonderful it is to see people actually looking!