18 Reasons Why I Am Not Emerg(___)

1.  I am, frankly, sick and tired of having white cis men’s concerns centered in theological and church culture.  In the emerg(___) movement, this center has moved from old white cis men to young recovering evangelical white cis men with doting fertile wives.  This is not an improvement if you care about, say, women.  Or people of color.  Or sex workers.  Or people with disabilities.  Or trans people.  Or disabled trans women who are sex workers and people of color.

2.  I already have a church run by straight white cis guys.  I don’t need another one, especially another one that pretends like its leadership and hierarchy is more starfish than spider (incidentally, did you know that starfish are cannibals?  I feel like that metaphor gets more and more apt for the emerg(___) movement once you dig more deeply into it: i.e., a major benefit of a neurological system is that you can often recognize when you are devouring your own.  Maybe your organization doesn’t want to be a starfish after all?)  At least The Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations admits they are country clubs, at least sometimes.   Young white guys who are emerg(___) pretend like they are doing SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW except it’s really just a continuation of the same damn discourse – priority to male voices, male books, male issues (for example, the desire to talk really seriously about war and peace and money and holy fucking shit man check out my iPad but would you please shut up about rape culture now you’re making us uncomfortable plus everyone knows rape isn’t a peace issue it’s a women’s thing).

3.  I can’t handle all this colonialist language about “discovering” things that, um, already exist and already have meaning and have already been read.  OMG no one ever thought to read Moltmann before ME!1!ELEVENTYONE!!1!!!!!  Also, like, did you know, that, like, the earliest Christians, were, like, oppressed?  Um, yeah, so, I know there are like other monasteries about abbeys, but I feel totally comfortable calling whatever I’m doing in my daily life monasticism simply by virtue of the fact that I’m not a yuppie.  No disrespect, monks in that 1000 year old Carthusian monastery.  You understand, right?  Also, did you know that there are people in the inner city are, like, poor?  And living there is different than living in a brand new eco-condo?

4.  Emerg(___) blog rolls are full of other “sensitive” straight white cis guys.  Favorite books on Facebook are written by men.  Favorite music listed on Facebook made by men.  Note to emergers: please start reading Traci West, Gloria Anzaldua, Davina Lopez, Serene Jones, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, and Marie Fortune right now.  Don’t come out of your rooms until you are done.

5.  White people with dreadlocks = massive cultural competency fail.

6.  There’s an obsessive with white-acceptable (read: quiet, from Europe) spiritual practices.  See: all those props given to Celtic practices and Taize, to Franciscans and to Dominicans, to Mennonites. There’s a particular emerg(___) obsession with eugenically perfect Aryan communities stemming from the Anabaptist tradition because then emergers  get to talk about oppression and feel vaguely oppressed themselves without ever having to talk about race or gender or class or ability or gender identity.  Notice a lack of investigation of spiritual practices associated with poor people and people of color (ahem, Pentecostalism).

7. Notice: an immediate hushing if someone gets too loud.  Please, we’re trying to pray in here, like with dudes stroking their guitars, and your lady banshee anger is harshing my mellow.  Bitch.

8.  I keep hearing them call mixed-gender groups “you guys.”  Thanks, ladies.

9.  “See also: Hipster” -the Spanish Wikipedia entry on the emerging church.  This essentially tells you everything you need to know about emerg(___) politics.  Or the lack thereof.  (h/t Jason Stewart Sierra’s Facebook page for the citation)

10.  Significant emotional investment in “oneness” and “unity” and other things they learned from outdated patriotic middle-school textbooks.  Your oneness is colonizing me.  Stop it already.

11.  Intense repetitive stress on “forgiveness” and “reconciliation” without the “getting mad” or “accountability” or “repentance” piece.

12.  Mumbo-jumbo about pacifism, coming out of the loud mouths of physically threatening white cis dudes who are convinced that the only way to demonstrate your “with-it”-ness to The Cause is to protest and to go to jail, with zero examination of how jail is different for people who are trans, and/or women, and/or queer, and/or people of color (try getting a fucking job as a person of color with jail time on your record).  On the other hand, sensitive “progressive” white dudes with jail time on their resumes are given national media attention and fawning applause from hippies.

13. They, despite being all “new politics/share the wealth” or whatever don’t actually share things like book deals with people of color or women living with them in intentional communities.  In a media-drenched society, getting press is currency – but one they don’t share.  Blog hits are currency, folks – maybe you’d like to link to someone who is toiling away in the struggle – what’s that?  No?  You’d like to link to your other white cis guy friend?  What a surprise.  And here I was, thinking white middle-class cis existential angst had been thoroughly exhausted as subject matter.  How pleased I am to have been proved wrong.

14.  Basically, a complete erasure of conversation about privilege.  Because they’re doing something “new” – therefore they are so utterly superior to the rest of us poor drones toiling away in the institutional church that they are magically immune from the racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism and classism to which the rest of us are subject.

15.  There’s a lot of idolizing of privileged men who gave up their privilege to be down with the poor: Stringfellow, Paul Moore, St. Francis, Oscar Romero, you can name the rest.  If you want to redefine sainthood, start with poor people organizing for poor people. Start with people working tirelessly in their own communities.  Start with the young sex workers in Harlem that Paul Tillich liked to go prey on, and not Paul Tillich himself.

16.  Some emergent intentional communities are being founded in foreclosed houses in “bad” parts of town.  Dudes: you are gentrifying, not saving.  You want to build up the kingdom?  Give that family their house back with your book deal advance money. Otherwise, you are not a hero.  You are not “down.”

17.  The question must be asked: “Why must ‘radical’ social/religious movements begin with white folks moving in to low-income non-white neighborhoods?”  (See above difficulty with the practice of gentrification.)  This practice is not new – the Catholic Workers have been doing it for a long time, and it’s taken them a long time to figure out how to be accountable to their neighbors.  Also, hello?  Inner cities are not the only impoverished places in the world.  There are countless hurting people in the suburbs of deindustrialized cities, and millions of rural poor of all races, whose daily struggles for survival are made even more invisible by the emergent fixation on “relocation” to urban areas. Rural poor people also deserve media.  They also deserve solidarity.  Fascinating, though…there aren’t that many hip indie coffee shops in rural eastern Washington or Appalachia where one can while away the day lost in theological reverie.  Funny how the emergents aren’t moving there. (h/t to aaronheartsjesus for this thinking)

18.  If you can pretend you’re not a church/denomination, you don’t have to be accountable for the ways that systematic sin like a cancer invades your thoughts.  Thus, a lot of “there is no emergent church!” talk – this allows for a minimum of accountability.  If “emergent” means everything, then it means nothing, and no one is around when accountability time comes.  Accountability matters.  Ask anyone who’s been raped.

And OK, OK.  I know there are some people who are laboring mightily and beautifully in emerg-ish communities who don’t fit this criteria at all.  People like Eliacin Rosario-Cruz and Karen Ward.  And I don’t want to commit the double sin of erasing their lives and experiences within emerg(___) culture. However, I am talking large scales.  I am talking who gets speaking gigs, who gets book deals, who shows up on CNN, who gets to claim to be the face of this new thing and who gets to be taken seriously when they do make such a claim.  I mean, the Diocese of Olympia could send Karen and I to a conference and we could say, “Well, yes, we are the diocese” and people would feel all warm and fuzzy about that except that the fact remains that women have a major glass ceiling in the diocese in that we can get hired to be anything except rectors (if you’re not familiar with Episcopal Church polity, a rector is by far the most powerful position in a parish).  Not to mention the fact that the diocese didn’t ordain a black priest until a couple years ago.  Not ever.  Holy fucking shit.  And this is what I’m talking about.  POWER.  STRUCTURE.  The motherfucking big picture.

2 responses to “18 Reasons Why I Am Not Emerg(___)

  1. Jeff Kursonis

    I’m all the above and I appreciate the loving ass-kicking. I will be re-reading this for a long time.

    I’ve just now in June discovered this blog and the whole EC dialog following the Sojourner’s article on the whiteness of EC and then Tony Jones comments and all the dialog following that, which lead me to this blog (because I met Onleilove once in 2008 and we have a lot of mutual friends, but I left NYC shortly after that and so never got to meet others I might have otherwise).

    I’m sad not a lot of others from that whole dialog linked over here and got a chance to read this, but I hope that will change. If I was in an institution with a budget, I’d try to hire you or fund something you want to do. But I’m not, so instead I’ll follow you.


  2. lovejustice88

    Hey Jeff

    Thank you for the encouragement! Please continue to contribute to the dialogue and let your friends know about us. Be Blessed!