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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture

SO YOU WANT A SCRAPPY NON-REVOLUTION?

Friday, November 17, 2006

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I was asked to respond recently to the "lowlights" of the "You Say You Want A Revolution" conference as summarized by Gary Shavey, a pastor in Mark Driscoll's Acts 29 leadership network. The conference was put on by the good folks at "Off The Map" (part of the Emergent Village network - to which you might call Acts 29 the antithesis) and headlined by Brian McLaren, George Barna, and Spencer Burke (from TheOoze.com and author of The Heretics Guide to the Bible).

You can read Gary Shavey's article at Driscoll's The Resurgence site. Here is my response:


I think that Gary Shavey went to the You Say You Want A Revolution conference skeptical and looking to pick a fight - so right off the bat his "summary" is suspect. However, most of his comments were fairly measured, and as he says, "all over the map." I do heartly agree with his "What the...?" about the $2.50 drip coffee - what the crap is that?! What a rip!

Honestly, these days what I am most interested in is helpful contributions to the overall conversation about the church and living in a way that pleases and serves God. I saw the ads for this conference and what the topics were and frankly I immediately pushed the delete button.
It's the same conversation I've heard over and over and over, not really contributing anything. If Shavey's experience is to be trusted, then my sense of the conference was right on. Shavey's summary doesn't really contribute anything either. It went from a "based on what I was looking for, here's what I agree with" to a "I knew it, these heretics are a bunch of freaks who are revolutionizing the "conversation" into a money-making Christianese venture." Not a particularly helpful position.

To be honest, I've grown tired of Jim Wallis and the "Sojourners" line too. I can't remember who it was that said this (it might be my current writer hero David James Duncan), but whoever it was said that anyone who claims to speak for God is missing it and basically more interested in propaganda than the whole truth, that Wallis is making the same mistake that "Evangelicalism" and the "Religious Right" has made, namely speaking for God (e.g. the title of his book God's Politics - or, on the other end of the spectrum, the ever popular "Growing Kids God's Way" by Gary Ezzo). Only Wallis comes at it from the "Religious Left" while trying to position himself as a centrist, something he is only partially successful at doing. Both he and McLaren have a tendency to let the more questionable aspects of liberation theology to serve as the backbone of their 3-second sound byte message (or the "Robin Hood" message as Shavey puts it). If I can wax prophetic, I think that Wallis' position will cause the decline of "Sojourners" influence to next to nothing over the next 5 to 7 years as their base of support grows older.

I have the same problem with the secularists who also criticize the Church and Christianity, like in that book Kingdom Coming. It tries to raise the alarm and serve as an expose of Christianity in exactly the same way that Dobson (and Driscoll and his crew) raises the alarm and exposes the evil secular/pseudo-religious feminist left. But, rather than a helpful contribution toward something better, we get instead the message that women need to support their husband's "ministry" by staying home and that the men had better start acting like men, gird up their loins, enter the fray, and come home to pork their wives whenever they want. These perspectives help to get us nowhere and they do exactly the same thing that the most recent round of political advertisements did - fling shit and piss people off. The language of war and battle can only get us so far. What we need now is to find more helpful language before Christianity gets to the same place that that language and perspective got the world in 1945 (and, for that matter, in 2006).

So, as I survey the land, I once again see that everyone is fighting and clawing away at each other as American Chrisitianity goes to Hell in a Starbucks holiday giftpack. I continue to see the "twilight of the saints" (as I wrote about earlier) and I'm not seeing anyone filling the vacuum that is forming.

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  1. Anonymous Anonymous said:

    A plague on all their houses? Then what should we do? What would a better conversation look like?

    Curious Tim

  1. Blogger Morgans said:

    Caleb,

    Where do we go from here?

    Jared Morgan

  1. Blogger caleb j seeling said:

    Good question! I'm working on that one. Simply put, people like McLaren and Driscoll, Father Richard Rohr and Ted Haggard, all have wonderful things to say. Each of their organizations has much to contribute. Each of their organizations also has a lot of things that keep us from moving ahead. I think that these leaders need to stop attacking each other (not that McLaren or Rohr attacks anyone - they are two of our biggest-hearted and most humble leaders) and build some bridges. We need to synthesize new alliances and partnerships, using the best of each of these networks, to find more helpful language that will revive Western Christianity, promote humility and repentance, resist small-mindedness and ethnocentricity, and do good from a base of solid biblical doctrine and an understanding of the global nature of the Church in the 21st century.

    A good place to start would be to read John Armstrong regularly (www.johnharmstrong.com)and to pick up a copy of David James Duncan's newest book "God Laughs and Plays."

  1. Blogger petra said:

    you sound very...'emergent' in this comment, yes? Haven't read your blog yet b/c I haven't had time to read the other article first. Will do soon. love you!

  1. Blogger petra said:

    Ok so I've read the article as well as a blog post on the Revolution website. It is pretty crazy how the conversations are all over the map. No one agrees with anyone...they are all waiting for everyone else to see that they are right. The blog was about how Jim Somebody spoke at the conference and said that being kind is more important than being right--he even says that we're all so stuck in a "rightness movement" that we need to forget about being right altogether and just be nice. Ironic to be trying to convince people of this.

    Until humility enters the church and people decide that maybe they are not as holy as their brother, there will be no unity or peace. Each person simply cannot have their own ideas for God's Church.

    I don't know. How to unite a broken, scattered people?

  1. Blogger mike said:

    Regarding the Twilight of the Saints I don't spend too much time worrying about the next Dali Lama or who will be the next Dali Parton I figure the Supreme Kahuna has that under control (when Alfred E. Newman dies I don't know who will replace him!) No generation truly understands its own zeitgeist - we might as well leave that for future generations to unravel. However, these battles have raged in the church forever. Apostles vs. gnostics, Augustine vs. Pelagius, Hegel vs. Schleiermacher, Driscoll vs. McLaren. Every theological generation presents Jesus as the perfect representative of their school - Hegel thought Jesus was the perfect idealist, Ritschl, Mancuso, etc., etc. all said their thought best represented the real Jesus. No reason to expect that to change I guess. Sproul said that in the period of 50 years Jesus morphed from a Hegelian idealist to a political revolutionary which is a good trick even for the divine logos. So now if he's Robin Hood why should anybody be surprised I guess.

    I guess all I can do is love God, love my neighbor, be faithful to what I believe God has called me to do and practice 2 Tim 2:24,25 faithfully and consistently.

  1. Blogger caleb j seeling said:

    thanks, mike. and a big WOW to the 2 Tim. passage. who knew the Bible had an answer to this problem?

  1. Blogger petra said:

    haha, Robin Hood! Mike really puts things into perspective, and I too am glad to be reminded of that scripture too. Thanks.

  1. Anonymous Jeff said:

    As much as I love your musings and relate to your frustrations Caleb, I am going to comment on Mike's comment as I think he has hit a homerun or as you say a "big WOW" (if I can't use my battle and war metaphors anymore I suppose I'll resort to sports, which I know little of so watch out).

    Mike's statement, "every theological generation presents Jesus as the perfect representative of their school" is a great reminder. One frustrating thing about Jesus and being either in or in-between, or as I often feel one step behind, theological generations is that we treat him as a mannequin and dress him up with whatever cultural norm or hotbutton is the flavor of the month or, more cynically, whatever sells.

    These debates make my head spin and whenever I feel overwhelmed by them, I usually get a reminder of some sort such as that in the lines of 2 Timothy that you posted. 2:15 especially, "make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed," My hope is that my effort is put into my actions, lifestyle, and relationships demonstrating the attributes in 2:22 and not into the empty and ignorant controversies.

    Thanks Caleb for always stopping my overwhelmed mind in the minutia of life to spend some time taking stock of things that matter more.

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