Wednesday, June 11, 2008

don't label me

so this is a first for me: i have something to say about "emergent." for those of you who don't know what this is, then you can just skip right over this post; my feelings won't be hurt. :) heck, i barely know what it is. or maybe i have no idea what it is. maybe that's why i'm writing this post.

it all started when i saw a post a couple days ago on the emerging women blog titled "Hillary's Speech." for some reason i can't link directly to the post, so if you want to check it out you'll have to scroll down to Monday, June 10. when i read the initial post, i didn't comment, mostly because i don't think most of my thoughts are very coherent about politics. i didn't like hillary's speech; i thought it was a lame excuse for a "concession" speech, if you can even call it that. but whatever: i am a fairly new reader to this particular blog so i didn't want to comment before i got to "know" the women there a little more.

first, i want to say that as a newcomer to this blog, i have been a little disappointed with the conversations there. a friend pointed me there and said that maybe i would eventually want to post some of my blog entries on the site to share with others. so far, i have felt like (apart from one or two entries i have read) i would be out of place there. i don't feel like what is shared there for the most part seems very "emerging"; it seems to deal more with politics and book reviews, and i have been surprised by the "churchy" language that flows there.

if you go to the site, you can read all 21 comments on the post under examination here. it all starts off with a very rude comment by a woman named "marilyn." i mean, REALLY rude. it was so rude, so offensive, that i just had to comment. probably my first mistake. :) for those of you who know me personally, you know i can be a bit feisty. that might even be an understatement. but again, whatever, i decided to comment to this woman. you can read how it proceeded from there.

really, though, the conversations (arguments) that have taken place (are still taking place, it seems) on this blog posting aren't why i'm posting today. it got me thinking: part of this woman's (marilyn's) problem seems to be her extreme impudence, her presuppositions about who is part of this blog community and her arrogance in thinking that she understands who "emergent" women are.

and THIS got me thinking even more about what the heck "emergent" even is. my husband has been involved in the "emergent" conversation for roughly 10 years, long before it was "cool." it was painful, even, for him at first, because essentially beginning this conversation, putting a name to his ideas and thoughts and internal struggles were what led us on the journey we are still on: we left our "traditional" church, as amazing as it was, as amazing as the youth were with whom we worked, and we set out to try to join in the journey of changing the way "normal" church looks. trying to have a different approach, trying to truly and authentically embrace the community aspect of Jesus' life. trying to embrace Jesus in a way we had never really experienced in a "traditional" church.

so at first i don't remember this conversation having a name, a label. i remember not understanding what my husband was talking about when he would try to explain to me this new way of thinking. i remember being skeptical, scared even. wondering if the people he was talking to were even christians. after all, this was SO foreign from what i had grown up hearing and knowing.

perhaps because i have an open mind, perhaps because the person i knew who was having this conversation was my spouse, whom i trust completely, i was willing to go down the path, listen to the people like doug and chris and brian (before they were famous) who were also talking about these things. and i LOVED what i heard. i listened to people talk about actually LOVING one another instead of just offering to "pray" for them in times of trouble. i heard about actually CARING for the poor, the widows, instead of just trying to evangelize them. before brian was famous, i listened to him read a string of emails (that he eventually turned into a book) about a conversation he was willing to have with a young woman who wasn't a believer. instead of just telling her right away that she was wrong, trying to give her 4 spiritual laws, trying to draw her a diagram, he engaged with her, LISTENED to her, loved her, and wouldn't you know, she embraced that picture of Jesus.

so my struggle with "emergent" then, is this: marilyn, the angry woman over at the emerging women blog, finally owned up to the fact that she comes on the blog to stir things up, to point out how everyone there is a bully. she also admitted that she doesn't like "emergent" people, that she has seen "lots" of people who live a missional lifestyle really screw themselves and those around them up permanently. she also accused those of us who were commenting that we only "claim" to be christians. (you can see already why i was so pissed, right?!)

what i don't like, and why i'm writing this post that is really out of character for me, is people who think they know me just because of some arbitrary label that has been put on me. so i wonder: was it really a wise thing for "the emergent guys" to put a label to this undercurrent happening in churches right now? has it maybe done more damage than good? i have no idea what all is being said, but my husband and others tell me that lots and lots and LOTS of nasty things are being said on the Web, in churches, in small groups, on blogs--all of it about people who associate themselves with "emergent." well, i'm part of that group, i guess, and i want to ask: if we are all christians, why are we wasting time arguing about this stuff? isn't one of the biggest points of "emergent" trying to get OUT of that whole back-biting, fist-fighting, gun-slinging melee that goes on in traditional churches over everything from how to serve communion to how to arrange the chairs to which songs are appropriate for the worship experience to lots of other things i have no idea what they mean.

maybe i'm too simple minded, but i was drawn to this conversation, this new way of thinking about church, because to me it represented what Jesus was all about in a much better way than my past church experience. with this new way of thinking about church, i could really understand how to "be the church," by having people in our home for dinner, by caring for those in need expecting nothing in return, by not having to dress and look a certain way, by allowing our children to actually be a part of the worship experience instead of shuffling them off to some overblown kid class where they have bouncy houses (yes, we attended a church in town that actually had one of these, if you can believe it).

i feel like i could go on and on. i think this is my personality: when i let something out, it just doesn't stop. (you can imagine how my husband just LOVES that when we have a disagreement about something!)

the photo i posted at the top represents how most of the time, we really can't see the whole picture. in fact, we usually can't see MOST of the picture. we can't see most of the people we know either; aren't we all so good at disguises, at hiding those ugly parts of us? another reason i love the "emergent" conversation--feeling like i can be myself.

so to these people like marilyn, who are apparently rising up by the thousands to come against people like me who embrace this new authentic way of approaching the teachings of Jesus, i say this: don't label me. you don't know me. if you want to make the effort to get to know me, then we can have a discussion about the issues you take with me and my friends. till then, try to see the whole picture first.


Amelia Plum said...

I've been away so I haven't had a chance to comment on your posts in a while. I agree with you completely about Hillary's lack of concession speech. I'm just wondering if she feels she has to portray herself in such a tough manner for her presidential bid in 2012, because you know she'll be back. She's got very warped views of what it means to be a woman in power, like not apologizing if you make a mistake but I could go on and on about her. Uh, you got into quite the hornet's nest with Marilyn. I agree with most of what you commented on the emerging women blog. I think Marilyn is a person that just like to push peoples buttons but then feel victimized when people call her on what she's doing. The older I get the more I feel like life is an extended version of high school.

Pixie said...

Things do seem to slip into place after knowing both the preconceptions of Emergent and the personal emotional state out of which she was writing.

Dialog between differing ideologies is a very admirable and difficult thing to obtain. When it happens it is one of the most beautiful things imaginable. When it doesn't it is so ugly and hurtful. In my experience, good dialog has little to do with the ideology held and much more to do with the person her/himself. It is even more difficult when you try to talk with someone not knowing either their ideology or their past experience (or finding out it is different than you thought!).

I am so sorry that you experienced this. Praying future paths encounter more of the beautiful.

karin said...

Last night I typed a lengthy comment, but it got erased thanks to my spotty kitchen internet connection!! I'm back today and my comment will be short and sweet with a toddler at my feet trying to grab the mouse.

I admire your courage to be so bold and honest. I'm scared to death of those women after reading just two posts. After reading all of the comments (so far) I think it's obvious that Marilyn came on with fists swinging looking for a fight. Maybe she has some underlying fear and anger issues and blog-menting gives her the forum to get it all out. Whatever the answer I'm glad other women responded to her accusations and statements and didn't back away.

Still scares me to even think about commenting on that site, which is sad because I think there could be some good discussion if everyone agreed to disagree and refrained from personal attacks.

karin said...

By the way...are you OK after all that?

minnowspeaks said...

Hey! I thought I might come here since you said you would not be back to the conversation on the Energing Women's blog. You are to be commended for your stance regarding the Iraq War. I do not really know what I thought but I probably supported my government like a good little American should (call it upbringing). My politics have changed considerably in the last couple years, in part due to books by Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne. I am cautious with regard to Senator Obama because of his voting record. He is one of if not the most liberal politicians in the senate. 94 + % of the time he has voted with the democrats and another 2 % of the time he has voted against both the dems and the republicans when they voted together. He has missed 40 + % of the votes in the senate and has not written any significant piece of legislation. These things concern me. I like what I hear him say but what he has done in important to me as well. Anyway, I appreciated most of your comments on the Emerging Women's blog. Marilyn was obviously harsh and offended several different people. None of us seemed as interested in listening to others or trying to see the issue from a different point of view as we were in justifying our having picked up an offense. After a few days break maybe you can go back to that post and read all the comments that were not Marilyn's. How do they come across? Are they labeling others? (I certainly did my fair share of labeling "most" Americans). Maybe doing something like that will help us "walk in another person's shoes. Just a thought. Keep commenting and I hope you aren't scared away from the Emerging Women's blog forever.