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…

A letter to Presbymergent.

I have been uncomfortable with a few things.  I love the emerging idea of a new vision of “the church”.  It is full of hope and an amazing energy that inspires me.  It is exciting and I pray speading like a wild fire.

There is just one thing.  I believe that the Presbymergent movement is not going far enough.  I am motivated to be a part of this community to love mercy, walk humbly with God, and to act justly.  I see the possibilities of the Presbymergent movement to be agents of mercy, humility, and justice in this world in profound ways.

We seek to embrace the cultural influence that pillows the church.   To use Carol’s laguage, we seek to understand the tribal languages that gather around the margins and in the sanctuaries of secular culture.  We desire a new way to be church, to be the children of God.  We demand a new paridigm to witness to the transforming love of Christ.

I am thankful for this movment, it has shown me that I am not alone in my hopes, dreams, and call to ministry.  There are others that have felt that tugging of their hearts.  We have answered the Lord saying, “Here I am?!?”  We do not shed our brokeness, our preconcived notioins, our condition.  God calls us in the context we find oursleves.

Why do you call me?  I am not the minister type.  I do not look, act, or think like a minister.

Presbymergent has given me the foothold I needed in the gathered community.  It has blessed me with a place to be myself.  They are my tribe.

It may be due to my inability to read everyones blog on a daily basis.  It may be my ignorance.  It may be my idealistic heart and my unrealistic expectations that we can be a called people faithful to our call and exist in this world.

I wonder if we are going far enough to embrace just actions, the love of mercy, and the humble walking with God.  What do we want from the denomination?  What common thread binds us together.  Christ!  I get it.  The Emerging Church Movement is a posture and not a formula or model for others to follow to become emergent.  ECM is not a band aid to cover the wounds of the church.  The ECM is ambiguous and real.  It is a gesture towards a better way.  It gestures towards a simple faith with dynamic actions of love in service to this world.

I want to see Presbymergent to love mercy and call for the end of the death penalty.  I want to see us demand fair and just immigration policies.  I want to see us fight the injustice of the producer/consumer mentality of this culture that binds us to the world.   I want us to take a stand against the injustice of excluding  all that are called to serve the church (Homosexuality is NOT an Abomination!).   I want to see  responsible actions that consider the other.  I want us to be agents of transformation of the  church in all that we do.  We call ourselves “Loyal Radicals”   when will we be truly radical?   When do we sacrifice for what we  believe in?

We are leaders in the church.  Folks are looking to us to be imaginative, prophetic, and vulnerable.  We are being called out.

I pray we get the courage to be the people of God that we are called to be.  I really want to say, “I want to fuck shit up for Jesus.  I want to challenge the status quo.  I want to rebel against the “good old boys”.  I want to bring the discrimination out of the shadows.  I want to never be the same.  I want to be a living sacrifice.  I want all this and I want to be a Presbyterian minister.  Is there room for me at the table?”