by Bo Sanders
I have been following Daniel’s reports from the Emergent Village meeting with great interest. I am very appreciative of his perspective and the care that he took to fill-in those of us who could not be there. Dan Lowe asks some questions on the most recent post and I started to type out some thoughts but quickly realized that it was too much for the little ‘comment’ box! Here are some of my thoughts on the subject – I hope that you will jump in with your reflections, objections, questions and responses.
Just in way of introduction: in the past I have been an emergent type who has come to care more deeply about contextual theology and non- Imperial approaches than about the philosophical arguments that originally brought me to the emerging conversation.
Dan asks: Thank you for your thoughts and reflections on the conference. It was extremely insightful and maybe a little hopeful. I have a couple of questions, though… My assumptions are that the “Emergent conversation” originates in a Western context.
The Emergent movement actually started outside the U.S. and is still quite vibrant in Australia – New Zealand, Germany, and other post-Christian countries. When the U.S. gets ahold of almost anything it tends to begin to dominate the market and co-opt it. This is a complaint that I have heard in other places of the world – that the U.S. book publishing industry, marketing campaigns and TV/Radio power is overwhelming for a little movement that is , at its core, a conversation.
Dan: When the “Emergent conversation” is had within other cultures, is this because other cultures have brought it into their own contexts or has it been brought in by others? If so, how is it shaping, or being shaped by, that cultural context?
Because it is an intentionally decentralized mentality and a fringe critique at this point, I do not see the Emergent conversation as Imperial. Keep in mind that it is not A single thing, it is not a denomination, or a brand. It is an approach. So it is very unorganized and not capable of enforcing any type of conformity or control. Emergence is a term borrowed from science and is best thought of as how plants grow up from the ground – they emerge. So emergent conversation comes up from locations and concerns arise from communities. It is ‘organic’ in that sense.
Dan: Is the “Emergent conversation” itself becoming a colonizing thought, in that it is spreading around the world, specifically Brazil and parts of Africa? I think this relates to the first question a bit.
I think that it is fair to say that the Emergent movement is a post-Christendom concern, and that is why – in my opinion – is has not as yet taken off in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the same way. There is a different ‘conversations’ going on there (as you know).
Dan: How are others “seeing” the “Emergent conversation?” Is it on a level playing field with the contributions that others (specifically the marginalized) are making, or is it seen as somehow superior? Does it sit “around the table” or does it take its place in the middle of the table?
It is tough to say how it shares power. a) It is so young b) it is not one thing and c) it is decentralized … so I don’t know if it ‘comes to the table’ in the same way that groups have in the past. It is a fringe approach so I am hopeful that it comes with humility BUT it is based primarily in post-christendom contexts so I am always nervous about the leftover mentalities.
I am hopeful on this point! There does seem to be a VERY different way of approaching the Bible, of viewing the church, of behaving in Christ, and of participating in community. I , as a white person, am very very hopeful that this is actualy a move toward a different way of thinking and being. God knows we need it.
I would really look forward to your (or anyone else’s) response!