Tuesday, July 06, 2004

How Am I Defined?

Looking at the Emerging Church, often what I see is that the Emerging Church is both an expression of identity and resistance to an over simplified identity. What is a person? At our essence, are we merely genetic material? Are we the product of our own choices? Can we really choose to be anything we want to be? Can I choose to be an eighteenth century traveling Dutch minstrels who sings German songs in the Italian countryside? (No, primarily because I have a hard time carrying a tune without some accompaniment. The German language thing I could work on. And time travel does not seem to be working out either.) In reality my context does dictate some of my identity and I have choices on how to play the proverbial cards I have been dealt. It seems to me that the Emerging Church have become quite competent at being creative at not being normal. In other words, normally they attempt to not be normal. Demographic segment has become a major issue that those associated with the Emerging Church at the same time emphasis and despise. So there is an emphasis on pointing out the collage that makes up one's life. I think most people could as a matter of form describe themselves in terms of disjointed things thrown together. One writer for the Emerging Church describe herself as "a female Lutheran teaching theology at a Catholic college". And that would be accurate. I could also describe myself in colliding terms. I'm grew up in a rural community which valued working with your hands but I love the study of foreign languages and philosophy. I spend most of my time in meetings and behind a computer. I grew up in a family which ultimately valued the practical, but I love the abstract. In one sense, the emphasis on demographics is actually tipping the hat to modern thought on marketing studies, where marketing specialists define a market segment. What could be more suburban and modern than to classify one's self in these terms. By reacting to a demographic category, the reaction actually agrees with the modern definition that we are our demographic sector. They agree with the assumptions of the category and attempt to somehow transcend it in small victories of apparent category contradiction. But even with the conundrums, the person is really being influenced by the definition of the category. (Note, we must also recognize that many people want to transcend their demographic group but face the prejudice of others that truly holds them back. This is quite different than emphasizing a certain style of worship, or music in worship.)

Sure Jesus was a Galilean, but did he really want to advertise himself as a single, 30 something male of Hebraic Jewish origins with a working class education. Enjoys quite strolls along the beach at sunrise, etc... However, as people made in the image of God, the demographic category need not be the controlling feature of our existence. I'm suggesting that our demographic category should have less, not more emphasis, in the church. The church should be from every nation, tribe and tongue. The church crosses generational lines so that one generation shall praise his works to another.
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