Here are some comments I made in an email conversation the other day to someone who discribes himself as an interested observer of the Emerging Church. This was all off the cuff but is fairly representative of my thoughts on the taxonomy issues:
To tell you the truth I see the ‘emerging church’ label as more of a conversation starter than a last word. I’m yet to hear a definition everyone agrees on. At times it means little more than, hey we’re trying to follow Christ in ways that don’t fit the conventional definitions. But all that does is tell people what EC isn’t, not what EC is. It’s an apophatic ecclesiology in a way.
See, why I say this is that most of what I do is outside the church too, at least in terms of how church is conventionally understood. I have a loose network of mission-minded companions who I share the journey with as well as a loose relationship to a more conventional, if somewhat informal, church. We don’t worship together often at all but they’re a lifeline in terms of companionship and support. Most of all I see us somewhat in the mode of William Carey’s to the west, mission-minded Christians incarnating into the new globalised subcultures so that the people within them might know the love of Christ in their own terms. Being a companion on a quest doesn’t require us to live in each others pockets, it just requires us to share a commitment to a cause and one another. Think ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ with how the companions scattered and came together at different stages in the quest.
Sure, some ECer’s get really into close knit alternate worship services, but to be honest I don’t think they are not always the most missional experiments around as I see them attracting burnt out Christans a lot more than non-Christians. So don’t think that just because you’re not connected with an alt. worship group that you can’t be involved. Not all of us are either! Then again, not all would call themselves ECers either. Some would prefer to be called church exiles, some just missional Christians. We don’t care.
Oh, I should just add that I'm off to Black Stump tomorrow, so if any of you are going and are interested in catching up at any stage please leave an email tonight and we can swap mobile numbers.
For the uninitiated, Black Stump is Christian art and music festival held south of Sydney every October long weekend. For the Brits I imagine it's a bit like your Greenbelt festival.
The theme for Black Stump 2006 is "iGod: portable faith in a portable culture."
I see Darren Wright of Planet Telex is running an elective and hanging out in Sacred Space so I expect I'll be dropping in there at some stage. Hmmm, lets' see if I can remember the camera for a spot of video blogging!
My pocket digital camera has short span video capability so if I can master the medium this could open up some interesting possibilities. Video blogging is an idea I have been toying with a little but even more interesting is the possibility of publishing footage from alternate spirituality festivals and community events.
A couple of years back I took some footage of pagan drummers at the winter magic festival and I am thinking it may also be interesting to film some interfaith conversations or a tarot gospel presentation.
I am not expecting short segments will allow for great depth but I take to heart Hugh Mackey’s comments in ‘Why Don’t People Listen’ that a new message in combination with a new experience is more powerful than a new message alone. I would like to give people a more multi-media taste of what we get ourselves into.
As a test though, this is just some footage of my younger son, Aaron.
"The Pope should mind his words. So should some of his Muslim critics." writes Waleed Aly in this opinion piece from the Melbourne Age.
Thought this was worth noting as I would like to promote the comments of more moderate Muslims on this blog as a small step towards moving beyond polemics. Waleed Aly is an Islamic Council of Victoria director. Hat tip to Rebecca for the heads up.
(Note: this program was not written by Don Carson as some would have you believe but by a Discordian Pope, that is, an alternate spirituality type person on a journey to deconstruct the false dichotomies between seriousness and humour)
O how truth is stranger than fiction. I just had to relay this astronomical news from Leslie at Karmic Knowledge:
The dwarf planet formerly known as Xena received its official name today: Eris.
Eris is the Goddess of Discord, after whom an entire alternative religion has been named. If you’ve ever attended a Discordian Ritual, you will understand why I am holding my head between my hands. Eris love to make trouble. Whenever she appears, chaos and confusion ensue.
It was Eris who, with her golden apple, set into motion the events that would lead to the Trojan War. Lasting 10 years, the war’s most famous symbol, the Trojan Horse, has become a metaphor for deception and trickery.
Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, the man who discovered the dwarf planet, said the name was “too perfect to resist.” Perhaps Mr. Brown has a copy of the Principia Discordia hidden in one of his desk drawers.
Whatever his motive, by choosing a name that reflects the current state of world affairs, Mr. Brown has helped to shape the future of astrological interpretation.
O Lordy, the Discordians are gonna have a field day. And here I was thinking Xena the Princes Warrior was a troublesome enough name for a (dwarf) planet.
I thought this was a joke at first - I mean, hell, anything associated with Discordians usually is - but I tracked the source back and it turns out this is official, with the International Astronomical Union having given Eris the nod on 13 September 2006.
Makes me wonder if we should have just stuck with Xena, but of course then the companion moon would have had to have been named Gabrielle instead of Dysnomia and we would have had the fundies up in arms about a lesbian relationship being inscribed in the heavens.
For reconciliation to ever occur between Muslims and Christians, surely one of the tasks set before us is to understand Jesus through Muslim eyes as this article attempts:
In the year 630 A.D, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) achieved one of his most cherished goals: the occupation of Mecca and the subsequent cleansing of the city from idol worship: it was at once a political and a religious victory of immense symbolic importance. Mecca had been declared the center of the new faith; its conquest was therefore the fulfillment of a divine promise.
Entering the Ka'ba, the square structure which housed the city's idols, Muhammad (pbuh) ordered all its icons cleansed or destroyed. One of the icons in what must have been a very mixed gallery of divinities was a Virgin and child. Approaching the Christian icon, Muhammad (pbuh) covered it with his cloak and ordered all the others washed away except that one.
Fact or fiction? The question is immaterial. The report I cited is at least 1200 years old and therefore belongs to some of the earliest strata of Muslim historical writing.
What this episode illustrates is the fact that between Islam and the figure of Jesus Christ there exists a literary tradition spanning a millennium and a half of a continuous historical relationship -- a preoccupation with Jesus that may well be unique among the world's great non-Christian religions.
So, Islam respects Jesus more than many Christians realise! But who is the 'Jesus' we meet within Muslim tradition?
Approximately one third of the Quranic text is made up of narratives of earlier prophets, most of them Biblical. Among these prophetic figures, Jesus stands out as the most puzzling. The Qur'an rewrites the story of Jesus more radically than that of any other prophet, and in doing so it reinvents him. The intention is clearly to distance him from the opinions about him current among Christians. The result is surprising to a Christian reader or listener. The Jesus of the Qur'an, more than any equivalent prophetic figure, is placed inside a theological argument rather than inside a narrative. He is very unlike his Gospel image. There is no Incarnation, no Ministry and no Passion. His divinity is strenuously denied either by him or by God directly. Equally denied is his crucifixion. A Christian may well ask, what can possibly be left of his significance if all these essential attributes of his image are gone?
But the author doesn't leave it there. He goes on to recount in what ways Jesus is significant to Muslims, concluding with this comment:
So: I think it can safely be shown that Islamic culture presents us with what in quantity and quality are the richest images of Jesus in any non-Christian culture. No other world religion known to me has devoted so much loving attention to both the Jesus of history and to the Christ of eternity. This tradition is one that we need to highlight in these dangerous, narrow-minded days. The moral of the story seems quite clear: that one religion will often act as the hinterland of another, will lean upon another to complement its own witness. There can be no more salient example of this interdependence than the case of Islam and Jesus Christ. And for the Christian in particular, a love of Jesus may also mean, I think, an interest in how and why he was loved and cherished by another religion.
We may not agree with everything about the Muslim portrayals of Jesus, or even the above author's differentiation between the Jesus of history and Christ of eternity, but surely we should taken an interest in Muslim responses to Jesus and try to come to grips with them.