Today I want to offer you a glimpse of an Interview with Brian McLaren that appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette. To appreciate what McLaren is doing here, you have to understand the tightrope he’s walking between his proponents and detractors. It’s a very delicate thing. But he threads the needle with such panache (to mix a metaphor), I just thought this portion really bore special mention:
Gazette: Some evangelical leaders say that the emergent church may be too “relative,” and it doesn’t place enough emphasis on the black-and-white tenets of the faith. How would you answer?
McLaren: "The philosophical issues [in determining whether the emergent church movement accepts the existence of absolute, objective truth] are quite complex — more complex than many people realize. For people unaccustomed to those levels of philosophical complexity, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that if some of us don’t use some of the expected code words that they do, that means we’ve crossed over to the dark side. Many of us feel that we need to risk being misunderstood and misjudged in this way by our Christian brothers and sisters because we want to address the questions and concerns of our non-Christian friends and neighbors.
"As for black-and-white tenets of faith, speaking for myself, I gladly affirm the ancient creeds of the church and celebrate the value of Scripture, and although I’m not a very good Christian — meaning that I have many faults and failures — I seek with all my heart to live by the message and example of Christ. I’ve sensed this same commitment in all of the emergent folk I know, but I’m sure there may be a few exceptions — just as there are among any group."
To rephrase, in order to be relevant to the world in which we live, many people feel it’s worth appearing compromised to mainstream Evangelical culture. Is it "compromising" not to use Christianese? Is it compromising to wear the clothes of the culture? Is it compromising to reject the "added things"—the things that distinguish us in appearance and speech that many Evangelicals have elevated to a place of prominence they never deserved?
What a wonderful testimony to Christianity.
Of course, part of what I’m noticing in McLaren’s responses is an ability to appreciate political things, a realm I have consciously stayed out of for most of my life. But the other reason this is so encouraging to me is because it means that even in "the Evangelical Vatican" a significant portion of people obviously find the emergent conversation intriguing. Whether or not they’re also inclined to the emergent sentiment isn’t as clear, but it’s exciting because many times I feel like the clueless guy at the cocktail party. I look around and wonder what I’m doing here. I find myself jumping off that tightrope to spar with the spectators simply to prove I’m not one of the polished, legalistic safety-mongers—or whatever. I stick my foot in my mouth—a lot. Almost intentionally, it seems, at times. So my respect for McLaren and those so skilled on that tightrope is very large.
And speaking of, here are a few more, highlighted in this month’s Celebration of New Christian Fiction over at Jeanne Damoff’s blog. (Nice transition, eh? I’m embarassed.) Thanks, Jeanne! And thanks, Pat Loomis, for getting it going. Any of you with blogs who’d like to join in, send any of us an email. We’re going to make this thing huge.
Walk on, friends.