I’m Punker than you: An emerging perspective on church.

I have been thinking about what it means to be emerging/emergent/Presbymergent in light of the circumstances I wrestle with embracing the postmodern moniker. It does place me outside of the “traditional” church paradigm. It sounds exotic and cool. It is a way for me to carve out a niche for my ministry.

I am wondering if my call will change if I do not embrace the moniker of postmodern. Is not the use of language to label or define anything modern in of itself? What does it mean to be a postmodern? I have been reading Levinas and his gesture towards God. That guy would look at postmoderns and laugh.

Does calling oneself postmodern skirt the responsibility we have to the current systemic injustice that invades the very nature of our modern culture. We cannot be postmodern if we subscribe or even exist in the reality. Where do we escape modernism and move into postmodernism?

Why does it matter? I am reminded of a time just after high school when I heard on pop radio a song by The Offspring. I was pissed. I had spent the last four of five years living the punk rock life style. I witnessed the pop music, the hip-hop, and the reggae revolution of my peers. We were the misfits.

We listened to urban ballads of NOFX, Bad Religion, Down By Law, Pennywise, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, 7 Seconds, and Operation Ivy. We dressed the part. We affiliated with our kind. We did not let anyone trespass into our clique. We mocked anyone that tried to enter. We threw all the parties and dared anyone to come and when they did we ridiculed them.

We were jerks. We were punks. When I heard that Offspring song being played inside that brand new Bronco just outside of the party I was threatened. There was someone I perceived to be better than me. They were popular with the ladies. They were what I wanted to be. When they did not let us in we made our own club. A club that let us in and accepted us as we where. Now they are entering our world and crashing our parties.

I get the same feeling about the Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent movement as I did when Offspring happened. Many folks are entering the conversation. It is growing by leaps and bounds. There are pieces all over the place on the emerging topics. If you slap the label on your back you can run in NASCAR. Postmodernism is hot. It is all the buzz in many youth circles. The Boomers are trying to understand it and grasp its amazing power.

Boomers fear this movement as well. What is funny is as much as the pioneers wished they had legitimacy they angrily or begrudgingly separate themselves into factions and seek to claim the greatest and purest lineage to the origins of “emergent.” It is almost a ecclesial/theological pissing contest. Does it really matter who you know or who your blog is linked to or even who you worship?

I despised those folks that came to the party that night blaring Offspring because they invaded my identity. I perceived that they infringed on my territory. Therefore I labeled them not punk enough. We coined a catch phrase that is still used today, “I am punker than you.” We probably did not create the term rather it found life in our community. Many beautiful rites, practices, and language have found new life in the Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent movement. The Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent movement is not the sole source of new life and relevant or organic actions in the church. To claim so is to cry out “I am punker than you.”

In Christ no one is punker than anyone. Jesus is the ultimate punker! He fucked shit up by dying on the cross. In this he messed up the systemic injustice of “us” and “them”. He called us to a higher righteousness. He called us to forgo charity and walk in obligation to one another. No one is more punk.

The sad thing is no one was ever punk enough. We missed the point. Punk in an attitude and not a faction/fashion. Emerging is an attitude/posture not a faction/fashion. The harder the fight for inclusion the harder the fight is to highlight and exclude. It is a power positioning. Is anyone emerging enough?

What I did not know was that I was witnessing the third wave (generation) of punk. What was a very real and exciting movement I was genuinely a part of was based upon those that perceived me. Those bands did not happen out of thin air. They covered songs that influenced them. Those bands I was into, the scene I was in to emulated and barrowed from the past.

The Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent movement barrows, redefines norms, and evolves as well. The movement is not static. It cries in the face of the movement to hold on to ways of yore just because it is where we began. I cried out, “I am punker than you!” I am afraid of losing my relevancy. I then sought to exclude others by making it complex and intimidating to be a part of the punk clique I was part of.

Where is the call to reach into the margins with life giving actions.? The call to less consumption? Where is the call to cease the death penalty? Where is the dialogue with other religions? If we were truly emerging and seeking to model the KOG in a missional posture we would be far more willing to be “loyal radicals” that f-ck sh-t up for the KOG in our efforts of service, acceptance, and love. The same stuff that plagued the beauty that is and was punk, clouds the emerging movement of Christianity. I heard this said this week, “We are good at giving from the fat of your lives. When will we give of the meat?”

There is no room for exclusion in the Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent movement. I see it as a move towards radical inclusion and the defending of those marginalized by the very system we enjoy from the climate controlled boxes we live and drive in. If we bicker or worry about our place in the Emergent/Emerging/Presbymergent machine are we not missing the point? It is about a greater good that points to Christ and all that was done in death and resurrection.


“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

No one is punk enough to judge others good enough, relevant enough, or enough to be a part of any part of the Kingdom. We fail when we seek to put our standards upon Gods charge to heed the Son. Punks felt intimidated by the influx of folks to their ideas. They were being displaced. They fought back and fractured, they are no longer relevant and perhaps just a historical relic. Punk died, but the posture did not. It emerges from its smoky dank hall to again rebel against the machine…

14 thoughts on “I’m Punker than you: An emerging perspective on church.

  1. Timothy says:

    I find it ironic that the emerging church can at the same time embrace Jesus liberating “us” from the us/them paradigm while at the same time embracing so many other labels.

  2. Timothy says:

    At the same time that I saw a turning away from “us/them” all the same dichotomies still existed. Emerging…..vs traditional, modern vs postmoderns, boomers and the new energy. At the same time that the movements is trying to reach out and be more inclusive, it perpetuates the same us/them mentality. It is just as disunifying as anything else. Whats worse though, as the emerging church is commoditized, which your own analysis suggests by the reaction of the larger church, it is even more “us” and “them”.

  3. Timothy says:

    One other thing, as I drove by an emerging church here in Oklahoma today, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling that this is a fad. Then I read your blog about the punk movement and it just reinforced that feeling. The emerging folks have an important contribution to make to the larger church and it would be a great tragedy for it to be short lived.

  4. I hope that you are right about inclusion. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I am included, nor are many of my friends. Women? LGBTQ’s? People over 60? I would rather be a part of your vision than some that I have heard behind closed doors.

    I have been doing a lot of studying on the Jesus movement of the late 60’s through the early 80’s and I find many exciting and depressing similarities between the emergent movement and that earlier movement. The differences are also quite interesting. We will have to talk about them when you make it up this way.

    I remembered when in Jr. High I etched Black Flags symbol into the door frame of Culler Jr. High in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was such a poser. I liked the symbol more than the band itself.

  5. Dani says:

    I’m more interested in how the Emerging movement will reach people outside the church rather than just convert more mainstreamers. What do you think?

  6. All great comments.

    @Tim, I do think the ECM has much to offer the church at large. I am also sure that Luther had no idea that he would be used to inspire an entirely new way of being church. The ECM I hope will not create a new church. Rather it is my hope to see the ECM inspire the existing church to move in new and exciting ways that speak to the Gen X and Y cultures. Then a new movement after that to do the same as they critique what we are doing today.

    I loved BF. I too tried to be badass as I drew the logo all over the place. I so wanted to be Rollins. I still heart the old badass. There are many similarities of the ECM and the Jesus movement of the 60’s and 80’2. Many of the boomers that came to Christ in that era also are influential to the ECM. I so want to hang out with you and Carol! That would be punk rock!.

    @Dani,It is sad that some elements in the ECM are trying to sway others in the fold to follow them rather than taking the risk and dying to self as they go out into the world. The ECM is no more guilty of this than other denominational and non-denominational forces.

    I would say that in you are not inspired to go beyond yourself and die to self and world in service to others you have not heard the message that roots the frustration and passion that grew the ECM. The ECM to me is the pearl or treasure you find that is worth all you have. This pearl or treasure are witnessed in culture and context of these days.

    Thank you all for your comments.

  7. How old are you Ryan? I think you’re a bit younger that me, The Offspring went mainstream when I was in my 20’s. Oh… the memories of being young and in Austin right before the Alternative scene became mainstream. I got to see so many bands before they got famous. And party with them too 😉 I still believe I got in just before the end of that era of great music. Now, I’m 35, in the burbs, but I did marry a guitar player & he’s still in a band so it’s all good. In fact, many of my friends look like you- which is prob. why Neal pointed you out.

    Anyway, to the emergent thing, EMC is still a mystery to me, but I feel like my responsibility to God is to serve and reach out to people. Not to save souls or condemn. I don’t believe Jesus ever said that was our place. Which is why Emergent appeals to me, because y’all have that discussion more than my church here does, but I really don’t think it’s new. Just like you said about the bands you listened to having influences, so does EMC. My parents are hippies, and they think they (the Boomers) invented this kind of philosophy. I just think it’s a good way of looking at it. Maybe because I am a bit older, and traveled in the more fringe- friendly circles, it doesn’t seem all that unorthodox. I like that the EMC seems to take on more social responsibility than mainline churches. Even if it is mostly discussion. However, while it is good to go out and serve and work for God, we need to remember that God doesn’t need us as much as we need him.

  8. You have 2 years on me Dannah. I bet Austin was as fun to come of age in as Los Angeles was. I remember going to a particular Bad Religion and Fear show just to bang heads with people other than my friends. It was so rebellious. My brother always cries, Punk since 82!”

    I go get similar energy from the ECM as I did when I was a wee young punk. It is a wonderful place to be. It is better to do than to talk sometimes. Talking [planing] is wise and needed as well. It is my take that we need visionaries and action folks as well as critical naggers to bring forth the KoG.

Leave a Reply to grant Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s