How Emergent is Your Christianity?

At the moment, I’m working through the book, “Why We’re Not Emergent” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. To be honest, I’m only picking it up because David F. Wells wrote the foreword, and he’s a fantastic theologian, one of my favourites.

I’ve only finished the first chapter so far, so I have no particular opinion on the book so far. In the introduction though, there was something fascinating with how much of my form of Christianity is similar to the emergent Christianity described within the book. I admit I’m a bit of a hipster, but the correlations to emergent Christianity is interesting, almost when alternativeness is taken to an extreme and applied to theological epistemology.

DeYoung gives a long list of attributes which are somewhat generalised, but such measures are important when describing a diverse and somewhat undefined movement in Christianity. Then again, it is all the more dangerous because there is no single proponent of it, but a collective message of many pastors who are more subtle in their change. It is difficult to combat because there is no Le Corbusier, no Jean Paul Sartre, no Thomas Hardy, no one  pushing ambitiously the movement forward.

Anyway, the following quote is a checklist of sorts that I seem to somewhat fulfil most, which is kind of disparaging to me, for all my efforts to be not one of this group:

“You might be an emergent Christian:

If you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from the Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists of primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Breannan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, david Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Wink and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic naive and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritise urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular vide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism – if all or most of this torturously long sentence describe you, then you might be an emergent Christian.”

How emergent are you? Does it worry you that your favourite blogger is seesawing on the fringes of emergent churchery?

127 Hours in Overcoming Adversity

The first time I saw it was when it first opened in the movies, I am a huge fan of Danny Boyle and what themes he explores in his movies. This one was not entirely a departure with his favouring toward close-up shots and stylised sound effects. The DVD was released the other day and on a second watch, I totally remember why I totally loved it. The story is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid hiker, on one of his expeditions into Blue John Canyon. He walks through a narrow passage and an overhead loose boulder is jarred loose. Coming down from above him, the rock falls down and pins his arm against the canyon wall, trapping him. The movie focuses on his act of survival for 127 hours as the title suggests, showing every inch of pain and suffering that he perseveres through.

“You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.”

I think the power of the movie lies in the bleak simplicity. Where James Franco is the sole actor in front of the screen for most, if not all of the 94 minute film, every emotion is able to be seen in his every movement. Truth be told, I’m still slightly sad he didn’t win an Oscar for his performance. But I do understand that Oscars don’t work on one single performance, but more of a career of acting. That and Colin Firth didn’t win for his performance in “A Single Man” the year before. But James Franco puts out a truly gut-wrenching performance, that lifts the movie above mediocrity. He truly acts from the heart, and I think it is one of the best performances I have seen in film for a long time.

Sitting through the somewhat short but action-packed movie, my mind was just continually being ingrained with this Bible verse penned by Simon Peter:

“For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  “So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” 1 Peter 2:6-8 (English Standard Version)

You see, how I viewed 127 Hours was that Christ is the rock, he is either the cornerstone of our faith, or he is a rock of offense in our lives. In 127 Hours, there is something hopeful in amidst all the pain and suffering he is experiencing. Though, his hand is wedged between the rock and the cliffside, he is still hopeful. Even near the end of the film, he is just thinking about his life and how he has been an isolationist individual removing himself from the world.

There are two ways to approach adversity when we are approached with it. One is to crumble under the pressure and give up, or on the other hand, persevere and become stronger in the Lord. I am reminded of the story of Job, he lost everything he trusted in, his wealth, his family and his friends surrounding him were poisonous to him. He did not speak against God once, but he remained faithful and he persisted.

Throughout the course of the movie, everything James Franco tries free himself fails, as he tries to wrest himself out of this rock that has been predestined to fall on his arm. Human effort failed as a multitude of different tactics, all of which involved trying to rescue his hand. He begins to show despair in his situation, and he scratches on the walls: “RIP ARON RALSTON” crudely with his blunt pocket knife. In some ways it is wonderfully ironic of the rebirth that subsequently happens: He starts thinking of all the regrets that he had in his life, documenting all his thoughts on his handheld camcorder.

He thinks how much more he would have invested in his relationships, especially replying to his mother’s voicemail. In the time of utmost helplessness, 127 Hours reminds us that sometimes, God removes everything we trust in, to know how futile we are in His presence. How something so small and insignificant as a carpenter from Nazareth could change the course of history. So too, does faith come in a small mustard seed into our hearts, but when God waters it, it flourishes larger than imaginable. The more we give up of ourselves, the more skill and freedom God will work with in our hearts.

The ending of the movie I won’t discuss, but all through the movie, it feels like an inevitable conclusion if you have read the story of Aron Ralston elsewhere, I won’t ruin it for you. But from what comes from the movie at the end, I thought that Aron Ralston came out of that ordeal a better man, certainly more determined than before. The movie characterizes the human struggle in life, and I think it does have a good discussion point in what the rock means. The question is of whether the adversity that God brings in our lives is a stumbling block for us, or the beginnings of a deeper faith.

also, i must say, this movie is probably the closest i have ever come to fainting or throwing up. my head was really light at some parts. i am thinking that the R rating is somewhat deserved.