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are you a stereotype?

photo by alexkon

The attempt to codify “emergents” is getting almost laughable. The whole “they are…”, “they think…”, “they don’t believe…” started out being not a big deal - just ignorance right? Then it got offensive, then just plain annoying and now it’s just funny. I can see all those trying to peg us down running around frantically like the little red hen - the sky is falling the sky is falling! The emergents are coming and they’re all universalist left wing latte drinking hippies!!!! HURRY! SAVE YOUR CHILDREN! YOURSELVES! Grab your suit and tie, your “I heart Bush” bumper sticker, your KJV Bible with the dispensationalist study notes, your homeschool curriculum, hop in your SUV and run for the largest Reformed mega church you can find and bunker down to wait for the rapture.


Ok so anyway, I thought I’d respond to this particular stereotype as presented by friend of emergent Scot McKnight…because if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. ;) HT Tony Jones

“a latte-drinking, backpack-lugging, Birkenstock-wearing group of 21st-century, left-wing, hippie wannabes. Put directly, they are Democrats.”

1. latte-drinking : guilty. 16 oz. skinny peppermint mocha, extra shot, half the flavors or a mexican mocha, skinny, half the flavors extra shot. But I also like tea (another stereotype I’ve heard). But then again, every conservative, homeshooling, ultra conservative, evangelical soccer mom I know drinks lattes so I’m not sure that’s really evident of anything.

2. backpack-lugging : I thought this was particularly funny. I carry a backpack when I travel, otherwise I carry a tote bag ladened with my children’s things and my recent knitting project - if I’m lucky, I get to just have my purse sans kids things.

3. Birkenstocks-wearing : I didn’t even know anyone still wore these but apparently they do. I don’t. But I do try to wear ecologically conscientious shoes made by companies like Simple. My wool clogs are my new favorites. But I also wear Keens or my Deisel sneakers.

4. 21st century : I don’t know what that means. aren’t we all living in the 21st century?

5. left-wing : no

6. hippie wannabe : I’m not sure what that means either. Environmentally aware? yes. long hair with flowers and bell bottoms? no. Trying to be holistically healthy? yes. raw food diet? no. And I don’t smoke pot or take drugs that alter my consciousness. But I am rather fond of sex…but only with my husband.

7. Democrats : I’m a registered democrat so I can vote in the primary but I would consider myself more of left leaning moderate independent hehe.

Edited to add: Just for the record in case you missed it, this is very tongue in cheek. There’s nothing wrong with those who choose to homeschool, wear suits and ties, read the KJV or are dispensationalists - - well, there might be something wrong with you if you’re a dispensationalist ;) KIDDING KIDDING! I mean, come on people, if there were a typified emerging Christian I would likely fit in very very well, I can’t take myself too seriously.


  1. Cynthia — November 25, 2007 #

    wow. I hate stereotyping. But isn’t it just returning the favor to lump
    conservatives, homeschoolers, evangelicals, suv drivers, KJV readers, Bush supporters together like that?

    I don’t know. Maybe I am just feeling ultra sensitive here today but I really don’t get lumping the homeschoolers in there. I know, I hang on the fringe but the homeschoolers I know just don’t fit that stereotype.

    Maybe the problem comes when we slap those labels on each other. Let’s quit putting each other on the defensive. I don’t want to have to say, “just because I am “emerging” doesn’t mean ….” and “just because I am “homeschooling” doesn’t mean …” Let’s widen the circle and realize that we are all too incredibly unique to be punched into any particular box.

    Definitely, let’s not hurl the stereotypes back in their faces.

  2. Mak — November 25, 2007 #

    I’m sorry I hurt your feelings with the homeschooling comment but sweetie, the whole thing was tongue in cheek :) I wasn’t remotely offended with any of those stereotypes, that was the whole point. I don’t take myself very seriously, in fact, I have conceded many stereotypes as having a very reliable source.

    I stereotyped in response on purpose, to prove the point - and, again, it was all tongue in cheek. I’m not hurling anything.

  3. Mak — November 25, 2007 #

    oh and for the record - the homeschoolers around here, statistically ARE very conservative evangelicals, typically republicans and typically shelterers, so it’s not that far-fetched. And even though I have feelings about homeschooling, I fully recognize that it has its place for certain people in certain situations. We very well may be put in a situation where we join their ranks some day.

    …But thank God that day is not today - cuz I don’t wanna get my hair in a blonde bob and start wearing cardigans - - sorry, I couldn’t help myself. You know I dig you Cynthia and respect your choice to homeschool. You have to understand, sending kids to public school is NOT a popular choice if you’re a Christian parent in my town - in fact, it’s almost heretical.

    THUS the point of my joking piece here :)

  4. sonja — November 25, 2007 #


    Okay … let’s see how I measure up.

    I don’t drink lattes … hate to cut my coffee with anything but a little cream.

    I carry backpacks, because … whoa … they’re good for my back! These days I need to think about those things because I’m gettin’ kinda creaky in my old age. Totes hurt. My kids are old enough now to carry their own crap.

    I wear Birkenstocks and have for years. Also … because they’re good for my feet; which are double-wides. I can’t get most normal shoes in my width. Plus, Birkies just feel good. They look cool with fleece socks in the winter. And I’ve worn them almost my whole life. So … whatever. I also wear Keens or clogs or sneakers depending on what I’m doing or where I’m going. I have a pair for Timberlands for winter hiking … does that count?

    I homeschool in the most half-assed way possible and still get away with it. Who knows if this is working. The only thing I know for sure is my kids know how to think for themselves. They are learning how to question authority and that is the most important lesson for them to learn.

    I live in the 21st century and school in the 21st century and I’m a died in the wool liberal … always have been. There’s nothing wrong with that … certainly nothing wrong with being a Christian and being a political liberal. What’s wrong is that somewhere along the line somebody decided that there were political lines drawn in the Bible … and there are not.

    Here’s the thing … I don’t necessarily think that any of the above makes me “emerging.” I prefer to think of myself as independent. I’m not emerging from anything … I’m following the fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day … and that’s just about as ancient as they come. I’m busy following God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and I don’t have time for the nomenclature that everybody else is busily tossing around. Who bloody cares?

    Someone else said it far better than I ever could … “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

  5. Erin — November 25, 2007 #

    Hehe - Don’t you know if we all are part of the same “movement” (whatever that means) we are all exactly the same, right?

    I would change the Backpack-Toting to Laptop-Toting, and I think you’d cast a wider net.

    Bu…I own 7 pairs of Birks….CUTE Birks. That HAS to make me bona-fide emerging, doesn’t it?

    Oh, and what Sonja said.

  6. dave — November 25, 2007 #

    a latte-drinking, backpack-lugging, Birkenstock-wearing group of 21st-century, left-wing, hippie wannabes. Put directly, they are Democrats.”

    No latter, no backpack, yes birkenstock, yes 21st century (wtf?), yes left-wing, kinda’ hippie wannabe. no on the democrat. kind of. registered dem, vote green! :)

  7. Julie Clawson — November 25, 2007 #

    latte-drinking - check. with almond flavor, skim.
    backpack-lugging - sometimes. these days its usually the canvas tote diaper bag/kid junk/purse thingy instead
    Birkenstock-wearing- double check. I only wear birks. One pair lasts me two years. Why? They use mostly sustainable practices in getting their materials and they are committed to treating their employees (at ever stage) well. Plus wearing only one pair of shoes helps me avoid the consumeristic shoe greed most women are forced into and helps me realize that I don’t need more than one pair of shoes (although I still cling to a few pairs I had in college). And I hate closed toe shoes.
    21st century - um, sure whatever that means
    left-wing - kinda.
    hippie-wannabe - check. I grew up in Austin, Tx. That town never left the 60’s. I’ve hand embroidered jeans with poetry and flowers. I’ve worn the “save the dolphins” pendants. My car in covered in bumper stickers about peace and organic food. I wear hemp and organic fibers. I use reusable sanitary products. I also drive an SUV and live in the burbs. go figure.
    Democrats - actually I’m registered as a Republican so I could vote in the primary, but I voted Green in the last election. I guess I’m worse than democratic…

    So are people actually afraid of these things???

  8. Mak — November 25, 2007 #

    Sonja - you’re so funny, thanks for playing along.

    Erin - exactly on the laptop toting switch

    Dave- welcome to the movement!

    now, here’s something interesting, I identify more with Green as well - - interesting…maybe they need to change the stereotype to Greenies

    Julie - I think the fear comes with change. We’re sort of redefining what it means to be a “good Christian” and that’s scary to some people who have always identified themselves as “good Christian” with a set check list. Christian and NOT literal 6 day creationist?! what ummm…errr…does not compute, does not compute…..

  9. Anna — November 25, 2007 #

    I appreciate the willingness to give and take here. :-)

    The funny thing is, this morning my dad came out dressed for church wearing JEANS. As you may stereotypically imagine (we’re conservative, pretty much Reformed Baptists), this is a rarity. I said, “You’re wearing jeans to church?!?” I’ve done it, but I’ve never seen him do it. He said, “I’m just working on my emergent look.” It was so funny.

  10. Mak — November 25, 2007 #


  11. Lori — November 25, 2007 #

    Well, I like mocha’s, but prefer coffee w/ cream and sugar. Don’t carry a backpack, unless it’s my kids. Have never owned Birkenstocks, but have friends who never wore anything else. 21st century, not sure what that means. Left winger, no. Hippie wannabe, well I want to live on a commune, does that make me a wannabe? Democrat, no, middle of the line maybe, although I hate politcs. I homeschooled my older kids, but they are now in public school, started my youngest in public, but now homeschool him. I think I’m just all screwed up, what kind of stereotype do I fit in???;-) I really do hate stereotypes….

  12. Mak — November 25, 2007 #

    Lori - hehe..well, stereotypes DO come from somewhere and I don’t have a problem with it I guess as long as we don’t use it as a way to sift out who’s in and who’s out or as a way to judge.

  13. Paul Walker — November 26, 2007 #

    They didn’t mention the penchant for fairly-traded goods :)

    I’ve never even heard of ‘birkensocks’. ** rushes off to google them **

  14. maria — November 27, 2007 #

    what’s wrong with being on the political left as an emergent? is it a stereotype or is the left just more aligned with values like caring about people, helping people and giving to others? why are these values “leftist” and even if they are “leftist” why is that bad? why is caring about people “leftist” and at the same time “bad” . I don’t see a lot of compassion coming from the US republicans at the moment, nor have i during in the last 7 years. This certainly is not to say the democrats are any better.

    even so there is a long history of (politically) “progressive” people using their faith as an impetus for change- and what happens when a Christian response turns out to be a stand that is normally associated with the political left?

    I see a few people angry about misrepresentations of right-wing evangelicals, but no one really taking offense to the stereotype about emergents. Merging progressive people and faith= a great potential for social change, a more humane and truly compassionate (not bush’s version of “compassionate”) society.

    I am wary about critiques accusing people of being too “leftwing”. I am just too cynical about politics i guess. The right wing has controlled our interpretations and hampered our imaginations about what it is to experience faith and belief–the US christian right has had a monopoly on what it means to be “Christian” at least the last 6 years. Finally people have been waking up and reclaiming their own brains along with the validity of different kinds of spiritual experience.

    Personally I don’t mind if emergents are associated with the left. Variety is great, but I appreciate the emergent movement in part as a refuge and space away from the jingoism that most evangelical churches spouted during in the immediate years after 9/11. If that makes me a leftist, and thus contributing to the stereotype, so be it.

    And I like almond lattees too. 16 ounce double almond lattes. Yikes.

    Sorry for the tone, but you are right: these categories can drive a person nuts. As Rodney King once said obliviously “why can’t we all just get along?”

  15. maria — November 27, 2007 #

    sorry about the ending and quoting King there- probably inappropriate. I just mean that the problem of stereotyping, and the issue of making faith issues political issues (and visa versa) is inevitable. as douglas porpora said, political issues are always moral questions.

  16. Mak — November 27, 2007 #

    Maria - I think that is a very true statement - that Emergent has become a bit of a refuge, not only for democrats or other more left leaning Christians who are otherwise ostracized by most evangelicalism (and shame on them for it) but also for artists who have been relegated to the fringe and often attacked for their works, and for free thinkers and those who ask too many questions. So yes, there is a lot of truth to some of these statements but not because Emergent is trying to BE any one thing but because it’s a safe space - - that speaks more against the places people are escaping FROM than it does speak against Emergent IMO.

  17. Kelly — November 28, 2007 #

    As a newcomer to this whole ‘emerging’ scene and a Canadian as well, these stereotypes are really pretty funny, but baffling at the same time.

    Isn’t the thing with emerging church about finding a new way to connect with God and each other apart from the traditional way we’ve done church for so long?
    I drink sugar-free hazelnut lattes, but I’m in BC which is just north of Seattle, so coffee is a much a religion here as anything else. Has nothing to do with church.
    Besides being downright cold, birkenstocks? Really? I have fashion sense. Same goes for backpacks.
    We don’t have the political/religious argument up here in the same way you do, or maybe I just choose to ignore it. Maybe they have it further east, but around here, mostly people argue about whether to legalize marajuana.
    I home school one child due to physical and mental health issues, but homeschooling here, again, not so much about church, but about educational issues. We’re pretty big on individualism and choices here.
    Anyway, I thought it was interesting to find these stereotypes around an issue that is very real here as well, but expresses itself so differently.

  18. Mak — November 28, 2007 #

    Kelly - yes, a lot of this really IS a distinctly American thing and we’d be good to remember that. I talk to lots of Australians, Canadians and people from all over Europe who are completely flummoxed about the hoodah regarding Emergent, emerging, whatever. They get especially baffled when the issue of politics comes up. It makes me long to be something other than an American sometimes to be honest.

  19. Angela — November 30, 2007 #

    Hee hee

    I thought this one was great! I wasn’t the least bit offended about the homeschooling thing. :) I remember looking at other homeschool moms in my church (before we had kids) and thinking- “I will NEVER where a jumper as an adult. OR always be in long flowered skirts!!” And…I don’t and I’m not. I’m also not very meek and mild mannered. hmmm.

    Ok so here’s mine:

    1. latte drinking- well, I do a pumpkin spice capp. with extra pumpkin when in season and a caramel macchiatto the rest of the year. But yes, I drink fancy coffee when I have the money.

    2. backpack-lugging: check! We actually started using a backpack as a diaper bag when we had child #2. It has served us well and we have 3 children now. It hold diapers, extra clothes, etc. and usually my wallet and keys because I’m not carrying a bacpack, a 2 year old, and a purse around at the same time.

    3. Nope!- Walmart specials for me. :)

    4. ditto

    5. no

    6. Um, bell bottoms- NO!, pot- no, sex- with my husband, nature lover- yes, free spirit- sometimes, long hair- it’s growing back, flowers in it- sure if I could find some, heehee

    7. I look at the candidates and decided who to vote for based on how I feel they best line up with my world view. I would vote for either side if I thought they best represented what I believe to be good for our country.

    So while I wouldn’t be classified as emergant I won’t be:
    Grabbing my head covering and long skirt, my “I heart Bush” bumper sticker (although I support him) , your KJV Bible with the dispensationalist study notes (NIV), or hopping in my SUV (cuz we don’t have one) and run for the largest Reformed mega church you can find (no) and bunker down to wait for the rapture. (goodness gracious no)

    Thanks for the laugh. Good post

  20. michael — January 1, 2008 #

    I’m gonna take this from the opposite side–what emergents might think of evangelicals but will start with going from the list for emergents! Firstly, let me be celar to those who might come upon this later I think most would easily classify me as your run of the mill evengelical right wing Christian and I’m fine with that. Whtever I am is what I am. I don’t really care how that gets classified. But, as commentaters have said here, it’s not that easy to segment believers–there’s such a huge swath of cultures and types within the genuine church. At the same time, is it fun to make tongue in cheek lists? Sure! As long as we understand that is all it is.

    1. latte-drinking : As you said, Mak, I think most of the American church would fit in this. jsut look at Vineyard and our big Assembly of God church.

    2. backpack-lugging : Same as above–both sides. At least here in Colorado. With that also comes being a hunter and the like. Personally I loathe guns, hunting, camping and pretty much anythign with going out in to the wilderness but most of my church friends seem to enjoy this sort of thing and yes, most would be conservatives. Well, most don’t hun to but don’t loathe it to the appsion i do! (I guessI so too many fox hunts when a kid!)

    3. Birkenstocks-wearing: they’re fine but in the winter? for one, they are way too expensive. In the summer I wear cheap Tiva like sandles but if I could wear anything I’d love to wear my brown suede tie up shoes all year round. And yeah, I too liek to hang out at coffe shops and love art (real art, that is, not Bob Ross/Kinkade style stuff), jazz and all that beatnik type stuff.

    4. 21st century : I don’t know what that means. aren’t we all living in the 21st century?–Ditto.

    5. left-wing : I’m pretty right wing as one might expect of an evangelical born again (even a Thatcherite of sorts, or neo con as one might say here), but then again, my wife and co- workers also say I have this latent communist side! I do have a problem with unfettered wealth, –seems way too wasteful (I believe in a salary cap and the rich shgoudl pay more taxes) and I believe in some gun control (hate guns), and definitely for universal health care but am also all for fighting the terrorists overseas and keeping the battle there (in Iraq and such) rather than it coming back here…as easily. I am also for banning all hunting for sport and animals for most research; having smoke free enviroments like they have in California and Boulder and for banning the use of cell phones in cars!

    6. hippie wannabe : i would say in my twenties I was more so, but was never into the whole drug aspect.

    …I don’t know why homeschooling is tied so much to evangelicals as mentioned above as I know many extreme “hippie” liberals who homeschool and know many more right wing evangelicals who not only have have kids in the public school but volunteer a lot of their time for its success too, if not being teachers themselves! This year we have two kids in regular public schools (not charter even) and one homeschooled. The year before we had all 3 homeschooled but the year before that all threewere in public charter school for one semester and then the next semester one of the kids came home. It depedns on what works best for that child and our family. It is a huge sacrifice and financially, we might as be be considered pseudo hippie. We do recylce too, consume only new things like food and some cheap clothing but only own about about 5 CDS and two videos, one very old stereo and an old given cheap TV…(rarely wathing it, in line with the “Kill your TV” hipie mindest), oh, and one car!

    7. Democrats. No. I’m a Republican as one might expect, true. why? Because I see it as naive to really trust government to do anything that efficiently or well, and to put our trust in it. Yes, I see that goverment can help too but in limited capacity. I’m glad for federal mandated vacations, and such for example. Primarily I see goverment’s foremost job being to protect its citizenry from attack. All charity generally works best when done as collected citizenry such as Alpha pregnancy type centres, the many church funded food cupboards and shelters, and the like. Look at goverment’s aid– like the handing out of FEMa katrian help–waht a disaster. Yet, I do have sympathy with what some condier Democrat domain–like universal health care, anti NAFTA, and the like. I am very environmetally aware yet am also highly skeptical of the the very conveneient P.C., money-making, and bullying of the whole “go green/fair trade” business.

    So, there you go. It’s not so easy to label us conservative evangelicals either and I would say many of my fellow Christians have much of the same sentiment.

  21. michael — January 1, 2008 #

    My wife has just put in that the main problem is money grubbing of all sorts, types and varieties. One of the main points for her (also a very conservative evangelical, yet independent thinker) is the importance of fairness and logic. One funny irony is her thinking is she supports athelete’s rights to make massive amounts of money (whereas I dont’) because she sees that most are risking life and limb for our entertainment! (Then again, other than the Olympics I so rarely watch sports and couldn’t care less! Matter of a fact I have a problem with the whole jock mentaility but that is another story! )

    P.S. Sorry for the typos–wish I could type as quick and well as you!

  22. Mak — January 2, 2008 #

    my brother thinks he’s all about fairness and logic too - until I point out all the inconsistencies in his beliefs hehe…I think “fairness and logic” is a fine standard as long as there’s humility that sees how illogical you really are.

    anyway…thanks for chiming in michael - your comment further proved my point. why spend so much time and meanness (the original list and other caricatures were not meant tongue in cheek) trying to codify something when people are so diverse and not prone to allowing such codification? ya know?

  23. michael — January 4, 2008 #

    “as long as there’s humility that sees how illogical you really are.”

    Sorry, Mak not sure I can figure out all that! LOL.

    …Yeah, I know!


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