Thursday, November 20, 2003

Lines of convergence: global-urban-postmodern

During seminary, as i began to think through the emerging church, i worked through questions of the postmodern, to urban concerns, ending with global ponderings. But through that process i've seen that the order of priority for me, and I propose for the emerging church conversation, should move from the Global, to the Urban, and then only to the Postmodern.

Why Global? all sorts of reasons. 1) while we have reached the end of modernity, we will never move beyond it while only looking throughwestern ideas (even pomo critiques); because if we truly believe all this stuff about the "marginal" and the critique of power, and the importance of "multiculturalism" then we have to listen to those marginal/multicultural voices-Latin America, Africa, Asia- within the church and outside it; ecomonics-politics-culture have gone global, but isn't the only truly global body the Church? and if we really believe the West is the new mission field, then shouldn't we listen to those who know more about missions than we do. And lastly, not eveyone is talking about pomo, and for the emerging church to be more than an anglo-middle class concern it must figure out how to be part of the entire emerging global church.

So we should be asking "What it means to be a global Christian?" How can our theology be enriched by global Christian perpectives? What are global practices and trends that we in the West are connected with/responsible for and how should we then relate with/on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world (this is an economic issues and a justice/righteousness issue). How can we have relationships within african/latin american/asia christians that will effect two-way enrichment, understanding and accountability? And what about racism next door?

Why urban? 1) Because the globe is going urban. 2) and the evangelical church abandoned urban centers for suburban/rural ones (while feeling marginalized in culture they physically marginalized themselves by where they lived. Why do all evangelical roads lead to Colorado Springs instead of NY?) and mainline churches have lost much of their voice in urban cities. And urban centers are a small taste of the global, concentrating questions of multiculturalsim/pluralism/racism.

So we shouldbe asking "What does it mean to be an urban Church, an urban Christian?" How can/does the urban and suburban related- and how might it in the Church? What are the economic issues, esp. for the poor/underpriveleged? and how is race of factor in poverty and how is the Church perpectuating or solving sturctural racism and the oppression of the poor? What is 'gentrification' and is it good or bad? How does technology play a role in all this, and what about the media? We must ask serious questions of class, race, and gender, if we are move beyond where the modern church got stuck. (for more on this see the brief "Post-Community").

Why postmodern? isn't it obvious? But really the question is "how should the church relate to postmodernity?" as stephen long says, "The postmodern only helps us rightly understand the modern, not move beyond it." For long, only the church moves beyond postmodernity. But philosophically and culturally things are changing in the West, and since this is my context, and the context of what goes on in the emerging church conversation, naturally we must do our best to understand it as a process of de-modernizing the Church in the West. But from a global perspective this is de-westernizing the Church of west, just as Africa is de-westernizing the African church from the Western Missions movement (which brought the gospel, but a gospel fused to western ideals).

After moving beyond a rationalistic faith, reducing everything to impersonal propositions and a privatized faith, we start looking alternative expressions of faith. So we find "Celtic" Christianity, with its emphasis on nature, body and spirit, its prayers, etc,...or we go all the way back to the "Fathers" b/c their cultural situation is much like our own and therefore we have a lot to learn from them. This is a type historical approach still only traces through "western" faith. Instead of going through history to find conversation partners, we should go global. African and Asian Christians never became disconnected with nature, or had a dualistic notion of man, and therefore are just as valuable to us as the "celts", even more because we can actually dialogue with them. The third world Church has lived in a condition similar to the Father for a long time and are therefore much farther along then us in "living" it. Let's talk with them about it. It is great to over come our historical amnesia, but we also overcome our miopic vision.

So, even though our immediate context is "postmodern" we must continually broaden our horizens toward the the urban and the global church if this conversation is going to be more than navel gazing.

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