Tag Archives: emergent church

Over at Patheos: Progressive Brands, Sexism & DudeBro Politics: #CloseGamerGate

Link to original post: here

Because this was now being handled in public, I was fortunate to receive the support of hundreds of people on Twitter – as well as attacks from others. I always expect some form of trolling, but I did not expect one of the attackers to be an editor at Salon, Elias Isquith, who questioned what my potential rape meant for “hashtags” and “brands”. “– Sarah Kendzior, On Being A Thing

Encountering the Emergent Church Brand

For a span of 2 years, my final semester of undergrad up until my second year in seminary,I tried and miserably failed to fit myself in the white Calvinist evangelical mold. As a black man in his early twenties, I didn’t fit in anywhere in predominantly white Christian educational settings. Some of my first friends in seminary were a group of white Christians who were well read with Emergent Christian literature: Tony Jones, Doug Paggit, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren will all names that were dropped during our weekly Tuesday night taco dinners.  I would eventually leave the Neo-Calvinist movement on my own terms and started to see some freedom in the Emergent Church movement. Two of the more influential books on my journey were Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed and Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. My Calvinist friends (who had not read these book/authors) were calling me a heretic for even reading these books, and as I look back then seven years ago, I can laugh.

I once preached a sermon on the Emergent church as the future of Christian tradition, and I even taught a Sunday School class on Black theology and Emergence Christianity.  However, I began to experience disaffection with the Emergent Church. All of the topics and controversies that the EC leadership wrote about/spoke about still made Whiteness as the center. Believers from marginated contexts were welcome to the table as long as they tacitly submitted to the ways of the dominant culture. In essence,  Emergence Christianities have become more about personal brands and the platforms of their recognized overwhelmingly White male leaders rather than being about the “future of Christianity.” You see, since we only live in the here and now, all talks of the “future of Christianity” are speculative. Yet, there is much money to be made when small groups of people decide to severe the multiracial Kingdom of God from any notion of the future. The “future” winds up looking very much like the status quo, and defenses (yes, even “progressive ones”) of the status quo are quite profitable.

Liberationist Killjoys And DudeBro Christianity

At Killjoy Prophets, there is a two-fold mission: first, we desire to center the experiences of Women of Color in Christianity, and secondly, we work to end DudeBro Christianity. Now, we often get asked, “what is DudeBro Christianity?” First of all, DudeBro is a descriptor of character traits; it is a politics in which any person of any gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background can embody.  DudeBro Christianity is the passive embodiment of dominant cultural norms that conceal commitments to White supremacist and male supremacist narratives as defaults. The bodies of women and People of Color are made to be objects of contempt. The practice of DudeBro Politics includes someone who insists that all social encounters occur on their terms.  The future of Christianity is their private property (“post-Christendom”); like the plantation oligarchs, People of Color and the bodies of women are to be supervised by DudeBro Christian leaders.

Emergent Christian leaders often make excuses such as, well many PoC and women just do not have a big enough platform to draw a big enough crowd for conferences. In other words, profit is the driving force behind abstract discussions of “the future” rather than the Kingdom of God, which is justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  DudeBro Politics is the anti-Christ, posing as an angelic voice of progressive Enlightenment in order to deny faithful victory over the sins of White Supremacy, rape culture, and economic exploitation. DudeBro politics can play out in non-liberating events such as a White Cisgender queer male informing me that I use too strong of language when describing economic policies as anti-black racism. DudeBro Christianity is when for the sake of inclusion in the United Methodist Church, a White CisHet man uses his privilege to compare the General Conference to date rape. In order to build her brand as a magenta politics leftist, one political theologian dismissed Sarah Kendzior’s claims to being threatened with rape. Jason is right: in order for DudeBro Politics to remain the pre-eminent regime in this kyriarchal, White Supremacist economy, men have to control the bodies of women and PoC.

“but I think it’s pathetic for some [recognized Emergent Church leaders] to stand around and comment on the failings [of Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill Church], while cowardly never admitting your own sh*& (which is strikingly familiar!!) misogyny, mental and emotional abuse all hidden behind a new found liberalism and feminism because the times they are a changin’, jumping on the same sex marriage band wagon because its the hot new ride in town, and you just might get to be relevant again…these people are very cunning and smart and they will use anything (theology, controversy, sensationalism) and anyone to get ahead. it’s a clinical diagnosis and a pathology that looks like this kind of carnage, and they ALWAYS leave bodies in their wake. soliciting white male leaders of the emergent church willing to cover it all up for their crony. wipe out evidence on organizations website. lies and betrayal.”– Julie McMahon, comment, Tony Jones On Mark Driscoll, What Came First, The Thug or The Theology?

On Ending DudeBro Christianity, #GamerGate, & #NotYourShield

Emergence Christianities and their leadership has unfortunately found itself more often than not on imperialist quests for fame and fortune rather than being in solidarity with the least of these. In the process, as Julie McMahon pointed out, brand-creation and marketing leave the bodies of the marginalized in its wake: objectification, emotional, physical and mental abuse, gaslighting, racist microaggressions, and “post-modern” defenses of White Supremacy. Progressive spaces such as Emergence Christianity have made it okay for others to promote themselves at the expense of others (women mostly). For example, the whole #GamerGate #NotYourShield movement is a whole group of gamer dudes violently backlashing against women gamers who have spoken up versus misogyny. Last week, my friend Drew Hart discovered that a #NotYourShield sock puppet had been using a picture of his to advance the racist*, sexist agenda of #NotYourShield / #GamerGate.

#GamerGate is more than a few Internet trolls. They harass their critics, take down their blogsites, spread vicious rumors, and send emails promising gun violence and sexual assaults towards women who dare speak out. It’s time for progressives to find new ways to brand themselves, and this should start by rejecting DudeBro Politics. It means living by the preferential option for the marginalized (women & People of Color), preferring to choose human life and people over profiteering and brand-making.  Such a rejection also means a public rebuke of #GamerGate / #NotYourShield.    #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate #CloseGamerGate

“[…] upon this rock I will build my church; the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”- Matthew 16:18 KJV

Buffy the Vampire Slayer "The Gift"; gif found on Tumblr

Buffy the Vampire Slayer “The Gift”; gif found on Tumblr

* I refer to #GamerGate/ #NotYourShield as racist because of #1, the persistent blackface sock puppeteering that they do, and #2, their reliance on negative stereotypes of Blacks as thuggish, criminal, and culturally “backwards”/homophobic.

after fundamentalism: where do you go from here?

This is a cross post (that has been updated) from Unsettled Christianity

Dear friend,

I have heard about your dilemma. Trust me, I have. You’re sick and tired of hearing about how you can’t criticize your senior pastor, because “Touch not my annointed.” Every Sunday you feel like you want to leave, but you can’t. Once you make the decision to leave, this open letter will be for you. So, here’s a few pieces of (unsolicited) advice for when you make the drastic move.

1. Fundamentalist churches rely on closed cultures. Not only do fundamentalists believe that their religious beliefs are absolutely true, they believe that the surrounding culture is evidence of those beliefs, for better or worse. Cultural hegemony is a part of fundamentalist religions, whether they be Christianity or atheism. The best way to resist the idolization of culture, say the dominant cultural norms in the U.S., for example is to learn to appreciate diversity. Many seekers who desire to leave evangelicalism/fundamentalism will begin to see a whole new world open to them, but unfortunately it will not be from a cross-cultural perspective. My advice would be to seek out friendships not just with persons who look like you, but also persons who you probably despised as a fundamentalist. Take risks, reject the cultural boundaries and the racist stereotypes you heard about from congregants, and not only become friends with Persons of Color. Listen to our concerns, fellowship with us in our communities. Consider perhaps the more nuanced perspective that the problem with fundamentalism was not just about much of the legalism that goes on, but also the promoting of American empire that goes with it.

2. As an aspiring pastor someday, I understand the need for both self-care and pastoral care in people’s lives. So I am not going to take it lightly when I say this: if you feel that you need to take a break from attending institutional church services, then do it. A number of persons who leave fundamentalism is because of the spiritual and sexual abuse found within the culture of fundamentalist churches. If the local churches in your surrounding area are not likely to be safe places for you to seek the LORD, I would suggest going the organic church route. Be sure that you stay in a spiritual community, because we can’t do it alone. No one can. I also realize there will be situations where people will choose the valid alternative of rejecting religion and the idea of a higher power altogether. We need to give persons their own space and converse with them on their own terms.  Either way, if you are an expat of fundamentalism, it’s very important that you find at least one person you believe you can confide in. If this is a case of abuse, I would recommend contacting the local authorities.

3. The thing to remember is that if you are a person searching for an escape out of fundamentalist bondage, is that you are never alone. There are thousands of persons like you with a similar story. That being said, be discerning in who you read after you have “officially” arrived in PostEvangelical Land. When it comes to millenials especially, there is not ONE person who represents or speaks for us. Not. One. A number of postevangelical leaders see themselves as the future of Christianity. Having a blog and a couple of book deals, or speaking at a few conferences does not entitle anyone to having a monopoly on what it means to be an ex-fundamentalist. There are many ways to be in community with others without having to adopt labels like “missional” or “emergent” etc. Evaluate all of your options, but don’t pat yourself on the back for it. Learn. Grow. Move on.

4. There are a number of toxic communities that hate-watch Christianity. Do not be a part of them. Your healing does not need to rely on hating the very person you once were. The key is to accept a nuanced and critical view of yourself in the past, and not to live there. You don’t want to be shamed into hating your former life, and therefore shaming your probable family members/friends who are still caught up in fundamentalist culture.

5. Fifth, I would ask that you give peace a chance. Given the fact that fundamentalism requires a culture of violence, and sometimes even pronounced admiration for warfare, the traditional nonviolent ethics first embraced by the early Church and on through the centuries is a valid alternative to fundamentalism’s violence, epistemological, or other.

6. Lastly, go to a library. Google. Research. Study the early church. Learn Hebrew or Greek. Know that your story of leaving fundamentalism is more than about you. It’s about recognizing that Christianity is a centuries old tradition that was birthed out of Judaism. The story of Christ and his work is much larger than we can ever express or imagine. God is bigger than our idols.

Amen.

original post: here

blogging while Christian, factions, & thoughts on the #Divergent trilogy

Image from the Divergent Wikia

One of my favorite things about this new trend of Young Adult dystopian fiction is that the authors give a lot of attention in great detail to those at the margins (though they are not the protagonists unfortunately). In the case of The Hunger Games trilogy, it was the Avox, and in the case of the Divergent trilogy (so far I am working on Insurgent), it is the Factionless.  Maybe I ought to do a series comparing the Factionless and Avox when I finish the Divergent Trilogy, and the roles that the marginalized play in moving stories forward.  Yet for me, I didn’t get into Divergent right away.  The first time I read it, I dropped it after the first 8 chapters.  After some time, I picked it up again, and instead of looking for something completely like the Hunger Games, I found well, every good writing!

Divergent takes place in a divided, post-apocalyptic Chicago.  The people are divided up into five factions: Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor.  As their namesake suggests, each faction is dedicated to the virtues they are named after: intelligence, self-sacrifice, bravery, kindness, and truth-telling.  As a fan, I personally prefer Erudite, and I seem to have always have seen myself as a mad scientist in that light at times.

Other times, I feel like Dauntless, the wildly courageous soldiers who have a mission to protect the walls of the city.

And sometimes that Dauntless side causes others to refer to me as being a member of Candor, someone who speaks truth to power occassionally. I have accepted the fact that I may not be just one, that I may be Divergent. I think being Divergent, especially when it comes to theology, gets me in trouble with others a lot of the time. Using myself as an example, I know that I enjoy doing Liberation, Patristic, and Open, and Peace theologies. For me, they are all interconnected, while for others, they are irreconcileable.  Maybe because some see Christianity as something like the world in Divergent, where on your 18th birthday, or perhaps after you have graduated college or seminary, you get to pick which faction you want to belong to the rest of your life. Some may choose Mainline Protestantism, others Conservative evangelicalism, and still others, Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

Once you choose your faction,(ideally) you learn the history, practices and habits of that faction.  Unlike the world of Divergent, you can leave and choose a new faction if you want. Online in the world of blogging, Christian writers have set themselves up in factions to reflect this reality.  There are factions that are more like Amity.  And you see them on Facebook or blogging, and they just want everyone to get along, to be nice, and break bread together.  If you disagree with them over something they wrote, they’ll passively-aggressively write back, “I’m praying for you, sister,” or end their comments with “Blessings” because genuine disagreement is a threat to their hegemonic I mean really friendly Christian spaces!

There are those Erudite theologians online, whose writing is INCOMPREHENSIBLE!  And you’re like, what in the world are they talking about half of the time? Why is this even important? It’s not like the average layperson will care? AMIRITE????

 

Honestly, I am still working through the Divergent Trilogy, and the implications it has theologically.  I am excited to finish and share more of my thoughts on the novels.