To my liberal friends I am a conservative. To my conservative friends I am a liberal. Thus is the plight of one who finds himself in the proverbial middle. Why the middle? Because often it seems that what is true or real lies between the antithetical extremes.
The middle is hard to maintain. Both sides are always seducing you in their direction in a never ending war for your soul and mind. The middle is also a lonely place. You tend to make more enemies than friends.
Making matters more complicated are when you live in a socially polarizing time. The middle becomes stretched thin as people retreat to the edges. Instead of being viewed as a moderate you tend to be viewed as a traitor.
About 15 years ago I found myself slowly drifting away from my conservative roots as I began to ask questions about certain ideas that seemed contradictory to what I read in scripture and how I experienced my faith. I quickly learned that my questions were looked at as doubts about God and Christianity when in fact they were doubts about the Church in general and Evangelicalism specifically. There is little room in American Evangelicalism for one who questions.
So there existed a period of time where I wandered. I struggled to find an identity and my life’s purpose became much more ambiguous. It was at this point where I discovered the “emerging church” – the real one, not the one evangelicals caricature. Even though the emerging church was in a very real sense a way of doing church, it was different for me. The emerging church was more about ideas. Authors claiming to be a part of this movement were asking all of the same questions I was. I found them to be a bold and courageous people who were tired of the politics and inauthenticity of the church.
Throughout the years the emerging church has taken various forms and their direction has become increasingly unclear. Much of emergent thought was conveyed through their official blog The Emergent Village, of which I had contributed several articles (one of which has been the highest shared article in the last three years with over 23K shares – as of the writing of this article. Update: over 50k as of 2018.)
Emerging Voices and Liberal Fundamentalism
The Emergent Village blog began to reflect the overall emergent movement’s culture which was slowly losing contributors and as a result its quality suffered. This last fall an attempt was made to revise the mission of the blog and was rebranded under “Emerging Voices”. Its mission is to pick up where the Emergent Village left off. As its new contributor lineup was established I ended up becoming one of the monthly writers. As someone who had invested a great deal of myself in Emergence I wanted to see its important ideals revived in hopes that we could re-engage in important cultural conversations that were taking place.
However little did I know what new leadership meant for these important ideals. I quickly learned that Emerging Voices was no longer “emergent”, but had just become another branch of liberalism.
Emergence used to boast about its ability to accept the disenfranchised, express tolerance, and be open to questioning and conversations. However, this is no longer the case. As perhaps the most conservative contributor on the panel I have not felt more disenfranchised than I have in the last six months working with this new leadership – not even by conservative fundamentalists.
Anyone who knows me can testify to my passion both for the pursuit of what is true and my love for Jesus. I ask myself the same hard questions I ask others. I strongly believe that there are important aspects of Christianity that we can learn both from liberals and conservatives. No one group possess the truth in its entirety.
Yesterday I was asked to step down from the writers group of emerging voices. I was cited for not adhering to the ideals of the group. By this what they meant was I did not blindly follow or accept their beliefs. My writing and my questioning was not liberal enough and thus they found it offensive. They censored me in internal conversations, they told me I was not to express my opinion on certain issues; and ultimately I was told that my questions offended them. Leadership was routinely dishonest with me and looked for any small excuse they could find to dismiss me.
Sound familiar? If it sounds very much like Christian fundamentalism, then I agree. Emerging Voices does NOT embody the values of emergent thinking, though it is what they claim. They have a liberal political agenda, which is much more important to them than seeking the truth.
Furthermore, from this point forward I am officially withdrawing myself from the emergent conversation. My goals have always been the same: to be a corrective for the misperceptions of Christianity within this culture and to offer encouragement for believers everywhere. I have never, nor will I ever, position myself as a political figure or be a part of politicizing Christianity, which does not build up, but tears down the gospel.
For those of you who have faithfully followed me on Patheos, you can continue to do so here on my personal blog.