Disappointed with Emergent?
So Nick Fiedler’s recent post, The Great Disappointment (A post about Emergent), has been on my mind. In it, he honestly and candidly expresses his disappointment with emergent for having fizzled out. He’s tired of it and disappointed with the reimagining direction it is taking. He writes -
My friends and I believed that there was a massive tide of change coming. We believed that everything was going to change. We found more and more people reading books by McLaren or others and we thought the interactions with these books would change the world. We knew that there would be this new kind of Christian. We believed that Christianity was on the cusp of evolution.
We didn’t want Emergent to become the new club, but we wanted it to organize so that through gatherings, cohorts, and online social networks it could create it’s own grouping and lovingly force some voices out into the open. That happened a little. But it seems that recently we have lost hope in the Emergent movement. It took it’s hits from the conservatives and instead of coming out stronger for it, it sort of fizzled.
There’s a lot I want to say in response to the post, but it’s hard to know what’s best to say. Others have responded in the comments as well as on blogs (Mike, Jonathan, Makeesha 1 and 2, Drew, Carol, Jonny). And some say that as one of the 24 who met to re-envision Emergent, I shouldn’t be allowed a voice in this conversation anyway. Whatever.
Upfront, I have to admit that I agree with Nick. At least in the disappointed with Emergent thing. Emergent seems like this thing that could be so much more – it holds so much potential – but it just has yet to be realized. Sure it’s done great things, and has helped save the faith of numerous people. It’s started conversations and brought a new language to Christianity in America. It has helped a significant portion of American Christians start to wonder if following Jesus just maybe be about more than getting their butts into heaven when they die. That said, it could have been so much more. It could have been the support and the connection that people were desperate for. It could have provided resources (ideas, advice, friendship) for those struggling to piece together a more honest sort of faith. And I hope that it still will someday be that, but it has a ways to go. So yes, I can agree, there is disappointment.
But Nick for all your talk about not wanting to be the new club, that’s just what you seem to be promoting. It is actually a bit offensive to hear the “no newbies wanted” sort of attitude. Since when did Emergent become a members only club? Sure some of us were still piddling around on The Ooze and reading John Eldredge back when the tech geeks were being the “great bloggers.” When they stopped blogging because it became “too cool and trendy” that doesn’t symbolize the end of the movement. There are a lot of great new bloggers out there, who alas may only have been out there for a few years, but are nevertheless sharing some amazing thoughts. Sure, the Emergent that was is no more. The boys club smoking cigars in Glorietta wasn’t sustainable. Publishing deals, structure, and branding didn’t kill that vibe – this conversation becoming the revolution you guys wanted it to be did. Other people had the same awakening experience as you and joined in. It sure didn’t help that at that point the perceived leaders (the early adapters) jumped ship because this thing was now popular/trendy/helpful to others. I’m sorry, but if you guys wanted this to be a members only club then perhaps you shouldn’t have gone public with it to begin with.
So those of us who are part of this thing called emergent – who are passionate about this call to live in the kingdom of God and thrive on this conversation are wondering what do do. We already experienced the droves of deserters who left because emergent doesn’t 1. hate women like they hate women, 2. hate gays like they hate gays, or 3. believe in a certain type of hatred of God towards Jesus on the cross (or all of the above). Then there are all you guys who paved the way for this conversation to even exist saying that you are disappointed that new people joined and spoiled your fun. We are looking for guidance and then read comments like Josh’s on your blog “maybe it’s selfish on my part, but i just don’t feel like helping anybody else along.” It hurts to be rejected like that. To those of us who still appreciate the conversation and who see the good it is still doing to those who are just now joining in, it’s a slap in the face to be told that we are dead or fizzled out. I am the first to admit that emergent needs a lot of help right now, but different isn’t dead, just different.
Sigh. So this post became a bit harsh and defensive. I thought I was going to write on the need for leadership and structure to help transition the revolution from words to action, but then this other stuff emerged. But I guess speaking from actual experience might be more helpful here than giving my two cents on what the future should hold. So I just want to say – Nick, I understand your disappointment, but please understand how it comes across to others.