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2006-10-04 3:11 PM
studio 60, emergent
I hear that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is dropping off a bit in viewers, which makes me sad, because I think it's engaging and smart. And in contrast to those who think it's too self-important ("it's a TV show about a TV show, get over itself"), I would say that the tension between art and commerce, entertainment and social commentary, first amendment freedom and the tastes of certain subsets of the culture, is incredibly important stuff indeed.
I also wonder whether preachers might simultaneously enjoy and cringe at the show because it's about the stresses and strains of putting together a 90-minute show every single week. Matt, the head writer, has a digital clock in his office that displays the amount of time until the next show--days, hours, minutes, seconds. The clock appears in the background, always and relentlessly counting down. Resonate with anyone out there?
I hope it makes it.
Many of my beloved RevGals have been thinking about and reacting to the Emergent conversation in the church. Real Live Preacher chimed in recently on this article in the Christian Century, on Jacob's Well in Kansas City. Can I say that I'm going to be in K-city tomorrow through Saturday for study leave with the staff and I would really love to check out this church? But I digress.
I have read a few books written by folks in the Emergent conversation: McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, Pagitt's Church Reimagined to name just two.
Here are a few things I get out of the emergent conversation:
So, taking a look at those points above--most of the gifted and creative pastors I know in the mainline would agree with most of these points! So what is the issue?
One issue is that it's seen as a fad. I think as mainline churches decline we search for a fix. Consequently, people are looking at the *trappings* of Emergent rather than what Emergent seems to be about at its core: spiritual practices over head-trips, contextual worship rather than one-size-fits-all, equipping and empowering of the laity rather than a minister who's paid to do the stuff for the congregation. It's not about tattoos and grunge music, but in our desire for some comprehension of this movement, we go to those trappings first.
But the other issue is that the conversation really is dominated by former evangelicals who are tired of the strident strait-jacket theology. And in that sense I'm not sure the mainline will ever get on board. For better or worse.
As I told the Writing Revs this morning, there's an analogy in the feminist movement. Back in the 70s or whenever, the feminist movement was dominated by white middle/upper middle class women, but in their desire to include women of color they in effect said, "Come on over and be feminists with us." To which many women of color responded, "Heck no, you don't speak for us, you're still operating from a position of white privilege, no thanks." And they had their own conversation and advocacy, certainly with some overlap, but they really are two different streams of thought.
I think of Emergent the same way. What they're after and what so many smart mainline pastors are after is the same thing: transformation, authenticity, a "closer walk with Christ"--but I'm not sure the two streams will ever quite get on the same page. There are Emergent/mainline dialogues going on, which is good, but if it's "Come and be Emergent with us" I think it won't work. Each stream has its own norms, vocabulary, and ways of getting things done.
There's more to say, but I have to go pick up the divine miss m!
Edited later to add:
One other concern I have about the Emergent conversation: There is a caution in scripture that we are not to be a stumbling block to others' life of faith. I fear that the popularity and ubiquity of Emergent leads extremely faithful and gifted pastors to feel really down on themselves or their congregations because they don't fit the mold. I don't know if that's a function of the movement itself, or of the religious press's coverage of it, or of much of the mainline's knee-jerk reaction to membership decline ("our church is shrinking!!! we need contemporary worship or all is lost! we need an emergent pastor, whatever that means!!"), but it's there.
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