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Sprouted bagels, knit caps & communities called Seven

Emergent Gathering reflections 2
Go here for part 1: How I lost at Pac-Man and defeated big Bible hill

Photo taken by Daley Hake

One of the problems I have with a few of Emergent’s critics is that they’re STRONGLY entrenched on the outside of the conversation. They write opinions based on what they’ve heard someone say and that someone bases what he’s said on rumors…very rarely have I seen fair critique by someone who has engaged in the conversation personally. I find this intellectually dishonest and disrespectful.

There are some things you will hear critics say about Emergent that I found to be solidly false.

… all we do is deconstruct - in the conversations I participated in there was more positive forward motion than there was deconstruction

… we attack and create an us vs. them atmosphere against traditionalists - aside from people sharing their stories and experiences, there was an overall attitude of cooperation and collaboration. In fact, most people I talked to are currently engaged in an established evangelical or mainline church.

… all of our conversations revolve around feelings and philosophy and ideas that are relativistic - there was a lot of practical talk going on, a lot of wrestling with Biblical teachings wanting to know the truths being communicated.

… all we care about is tickling ears, making people happy, that we’re seeker friendly - this is the MOST absurd critique I hear. I have never met people so unabashedly passionate about their faith.

That’s just a handful of contradictions I personally witnessed at the Gathering. Are there people unhappy with their experiences in conservative evangelicalism or the mainline? yes. And they’re not afraid to tell their stories. But the purpose of the sharing of the experiences is redemptive. The idea is not to crush the traditional church, the idea is to share our experiences with the purpose of moving forward. I will share more about this in my post about hope.

Now, there are some “charicatures” that have a basis in a bit of truth.

I had to chuckle at how stereotypical we all were when we met at the Aspen room for our first informational session. It was about 3pm on Tuesday. We arrived at the designated location and people were decorating the room with flowers placed in reused water bottles (tops cut off), there were retro paper trees taped to the walls and candles on the radiator as well as recyle bins around the room. We were waiting for several people to arrive from the airport and I got to work helping arrange flowers with Shelley Pagitt (I had never met her so I didn’t know it was her until someone mentioned it later - From the short time I spent with her I can say that I like Shelley for the record)

We got started with a song from Ryan and Holly Sharpe of The Cobalt Season (LOVE their music by the way, get their albums if you haven’t already) and a poem (I’m not sure who wrote/read it - might have been Mark Scandrette) and the first thing I noticed was that 80 percent of the room was populated with young, “hip”, “funky”, well dressed, tattooed, pierced (I have never seen so many women with nose piercings in one room in my life, usually I’m the edgy one, here I felt normal hehe), knit cap topped poster children for post modernity. There was a whole tribe of people wearing knit caps - me among them. Most of them were from Scandrette’s community in San Francisco called Seven.

Which brings me to my next chuckle - we really DO have issues with funky names don’t we? Personally, I think it’s cool. But I can see how it can be a target of jokes. Oh well, we could be teased for worse things.

And finally - the food. If the hippie vibe wasn’t enough, all you had to do was step into the room with the food and notice the almond butter, gluten free granola, sprouted bagels, quinoa salad and organic fruit. I personally thought it was AWESOME but again, the whole hippie jab hit way too close to home. hehe.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how CRAZY CREATIVE 98% of everyone is. I felt like I was at a graphic design conference some times. I met 10 of them just in the conversations I was a part of. And then there were the musicians, photographers (be sure to check out Daley’s pics from the gathering - this guy is a kick ass photographer), story tellers, illustrators, sculptures, painters, actors…and we all look the part too (back to the funky hip knit cap people). And the men - well, lets just say that Driscoll would have had an absolute field day. Again, I personally find it gloriously refreshing.

So there you have it. I will deny many of the big issues critics have with emergent but if they believe our relationship with Jesus and rightness of being called orthodox hinges on healthy food, recycle bins, creativity, knit caps and communities called seven…then I guess we’re guilty as charged.

**I need to point out that I’m participating in the stereotyping a bit for the purpose of making sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously and also give you an overall picture of what some of the Gathering was like. But please know that Emergent is made up of all types of people and they were all represented at the Gathering. We’re not all young, hip, artistic hippies (I’m not even close to being hip so there you go) and if you blog around a bit you’ll see that.**

[tags]emergent gathering[/tags]

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  1. Tia Lynn — October 14, 2007 #

    The Emergent gathering sounds super fun. I have a soft spot in my heart for hippies, so stereotypes be damned! :)

  2. Mak — October 14, 2007 #

    it was super fun. and to be honest, I think “hippie” is an outdated word but it gets the point across as well as anything I suppose. our town is a bit “hippie-ish”, I love it.

    stereotypes be damned - amen.

  3. Paul — October 15, 2007 #

    dammit one knitted cap away from being cool, i mean emerging ;)

  4. Mak — October 15, 2007 #

    well, you have a wife who knits, so there you go ;)

  5. Mike Clawson — October 15, 2007 #

    Hey Mak, my totally un-hip, un-artistic Midwestern self definitely noticed the stererotypes you mentioned. I don’t think I’ve ever been around so many creative people in one place before.

    But of course, so what? People here in the suburbs give Julie and I a hard time about being too intellectual, but that’s just who we are. It’s not like we’re putting on some kind of front or something. I figure it’s the same way with being artistic and “hip”. If that’s just who you are then it would be inauthentic to act otherwise. People who accuse emergents of being too “hip” maybe assume that we are doing it inauthentically, as if we think you have to be “hip” to be postmodern or emerging and we’re therefore all just posing, acting this way to fit in. But I didn’t get that sense at all. Everyone I met was just being themselves. It’d be unfair and condescending to ask them to do otherwise so that all us un-hip people can feel more comfortable. :)

  6. Mak — October 15, 2007 #

    I absolutely agree. There certainly was no pretension or a false front just to please culture - it just happens to be I think, that emergent is a safe environment for certain people who don’t find a lot of empowering environments in the church elsewhere…which is why you might see a higher percentage of artists and thinkers at the gathering than you would at a typical evangelical conference.

  7. Jonathan Brink — October 15, 2007 #

    The artists were always the ones critiquing the establishment, so it sounds about right.

  8. Mak — October 15, 2007 #

    isn’t that the truth.

    I will talk more about this in my post about a conversation I was in about art but I really believe art is a prophetic gift.

  9. Mike Stavlund — October 15, 2007 #

    Great posts, Makeesha!

    As the chooser of the bagels, I’ve been sweating a bit, worried that you’d pan my choice of carbs. Though I did kinda figure you for a sprouted grain type…

    And don’t sell your knit-cap-wearing self short– in the artist discussion I sat in on, you were contributing some great stuff that is still coursing through my brain.

    Great to meet you!

  10. Mak — October 15, 2007 #

    Thanks Mike, it was great meeting you too. I really love conversations like the one we had. I’m sure I talked too much but it was such a stimulating discussion.

    Good choice on the bagels - they were so yummy, esp. dipped in the peanut butter and then dipped in the granola…mmm…. I need to find some the next time I get off to Whole Foods. I think it was really great thinking on your part to get healthy food, I always end up feeling really icky after conferences because of the high sugar, heavily processed snacks they always have so it was very refreshing…and my kids weren’t bouncing off the walls which was good too ;)

  11. Paul — October 16, 2007 #

    Debs is cool, but heh that’s just knitters :)

  12. Maria — October 17, 2007 #

    Great blog! Also, great taste in books!

  13. Mak — October 17, 2007 #

    thanks Maria, and thanks for dropping by

  14. Pingback - Time to emerge? « What’s your point caller? — October 19, 2007 #

    [...] Time to emerge? A bit more on emerging church from Tim Keller (and Mike’s comments on his blog about the talk) and Makeesha. [...]

  15. Pingback - Swinging from the Vine · art, incarnation and artifact — October 25, 2007 #

    [...] Part 1 How I lost at Pac-Man and defeated big Bible hill Part 2 Sprouted bagels, knit caps and communities called Seven Part 3 Tony Jones is a real person…I think Part 4 Emergent incarnates hope and dangerous dreams [...]

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