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Emerging Fundamentalism

>What conservative fundamentalists and emerging fundamentalists have in common

>emerging and conservative fundamentalists?

Conservatives certainly seem to have a good time kicking the emerging church around. Likewise, emerging Christians have plenty of criticism for conservatives. As different as these two groups are, I have noticed some similarities between conservative fundamentalists and emerging fundamentalists. Here are two similarities.

1. Exclusion/inclusion
Both groups draw a tight circle around who represents true Christianity. If you’re in the circle, everything is cool. If you’re not, watch out! What’s ironic about the exclusive circle the emerging fundamentalists draw is their disgust with conservative circle-drawing! Not only that but criticism of conservative circle-drawing actually seems to be one of the distinctives of the emerging circle. Emerging fundies decry the intolerance of conservatives yet they themselves are intolerant of conservatives. I’ve seen this many times but one particular example stands out to me. Some emerging Christians actually left an emerging message board when too many conservatives (which was about 6 or 8 out of dozens of members) participated in the discussions there. They actually deserve credit for the name of this blog because the “conservative reformed mafia” is the phrase they used to deride us.

2. Doctrinal superiority
Both groups claim to have a superior understanding of Christianity. Again, this is something that emerging fundamentalists are very critical of conservative fundamentalists for but emerging fundies demonstrate a very similar belief. Emerging fundies believe that their approach to theology and practice is superior to the evangelicals’ (which is part of the reason they left evangelicalism in the first place). This may seem counter-intuitive due to the emerging desire to de-emphasize or re-imagine doctrine. Emerging fundies desire to de-emphasize doctrine is partly a reaction to what they perceive to be the conservative fundies’ doctrinal superiority and the divisions that are sometimes caused by doctrinal disputes. Emerging fundies clearly believe that their approach to doctrine is superior. They critique conservative fundy superiority while offering their superior approach.

Both fundamentalists
Emerging fundamentalists see themselves as reformers of American Christianity. But why should Christians trade a conservative fundamentalism for an emerging one? Emerging fundamentalists are very critical of conservative intolerance and arrogance but apparently fail to see their own. This hypocrisy becomes especially evident when emerging fundies take the opportunity to criticize conservative ones.

Reform from within or without?
If emerging fundies have truly left evangelicalism and no longer associate themselves with evangelicalism, I wonder why so many are preoccupied with critiquing evangelicalism. Oftentimes this is when they reveal their own intolerance and superior attitude. If emerging fundies have left us evangelicals behind in order to move on to greener pastures (which I have no problem with, more power to you), why not focus on making a positive case for emerging Christianity/reforming-American-Christianity-as-a-whole and leave the clean-up of evangelicalism to us evangelicals? I know that’s not terribly realistic. If one wants to reform American Christianity, negative aspects of evangelicalism and fundamentalism are bound to be addressed. I’m not calling for emerging fundamentalists to cease discussing aspects of evangelicalism. I’m just pointing out that emerging fundies often reveal themselves to be engaged in many of the same practices that they are criticizing (ie., intolerance and superiority) when they do this. The point of reference is different but the behavior is the same.

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Discussion

21 thoughts on “>What conservative fundamentalists and emerging fundamentalists have in common

  1. >I had in mind not irenics but dialectic as the opposite of eristic/polemic. I think that irenic has to do with courtesy, while dialectic has to do with the aims and ends of philosophical talk. Also, I’m curious as to how you’re using polemic in your comment. In what ways were my comments polemic?

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 31, 2007, 11:28 am
  2. >Jeff,Here here! Well stated Jeff, and timely stated at that!Nathan, thanks for your input regarding the issue of polemic. Polemics sometimes gets a bad rap methinks. Unfortunately, too many, in my opinion, have mischaracterized the true and valuable nature of polemics and have replaced it with Irenics. Granted, there is a proper place and time and context for each of these. But, it is refreshing to read your comments which, as polemic as they are, are constructed with grace and beauty!Blessings

    Posted by hylander | October 31, 2007, 2:40 am
  3. >Is it possible for people to speak out against some of the views of Doug Pagitt’s and others without it being taken as a personal attack?Yes. I imagine so.(Oops. Was that supposed to be a rhetorical question? 😉 )

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 22, 2007, 1:35 pm
  4. >I have finally lived the past 6 years in a church, prominently emergent, that is made up of at least three equal parts: those who consider themselves to the right, those who are left, and those who are either unaware of the dialectic, or find it so unhelpful and debilitating so as to seek a third way.Just to be pedantic for a moment (I do so love to be pedantic), if there are only two “sides,” and if the conversation does not tend towards some kind of novelty informed by the assertion and negation, then the confrontation is an eristic, not a dialectic.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 22, 2007, 1:34 pm
  5. >What these emerging fundies are communicating is “those people ought not be here.” They recognize that conservatives, evangelicals, & cons. fundies are the “other” and have invaded their home turf. They want the conservatives to leave but since they won’t, the emerging fundies will leave rather than be around them. They may characterize their departure as being run off but I wonder how so many other emerging Christians have managed to stay and maintain good relations with the conservatives. What is it about those who have stayed that has allowed them to accept the presence of those whom they disagree with on perhaps a great many things? It seems that these emerging Christians practice a different form of tolerance than the emerging fundamentalists do.First, I see what you’re saying, and that’s what I meant when I said that some people benefit from the separation. As I noted before, those ECers who have ascended to minor rock star status have a bit of reputation to maintain now, and you’re right that they do make stupid claims about their relationship with evangelicalism. Now that you’re distinguishing between groups of ECers, I see your point more clearly.Second, I still wonder whether the “here” for rock star emergents is similar enough to the “here” for rock star evangelicals for the comparison to be helpful. But I covered that in an earlier comment. This observation is not a defense of conservatives fundamentalists against emerging ones. I am not a fundamentalist (even if someone is a fundamentalist I guess they don’t readily admit it) and I am not emerging. There’s no good reason to deny that one is a fundamentalist if one in fact is. Historically considered, Fundamentalism was one of the early acts of resistance against the overreaching ideologies of the high-modern German university.On that note, Nate, you mentioned that emerging Christians are a subset of evangelicals one. Depending on how we clarify that, I would agree. However, emerging fundamentalists have declared their separation from all things evangelical. Therefore I consider them to be other than evangelical rather than another flavor of evangelical. What is an “evangelical” would make for a good blog series.With your last point I agree, and I’d be glad to contribute to such a series. With regards to your first point, are there actual texts in which the rock star emergents have denounced evangelicalism, or do you mean something more like “they might as well have renounced evangelicalism because X”? If the latter, what is X?

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 22, 2007, 1:30 pm
  6. >”I am saying that because your piece seems overwhelmingly one sided, even though the title seems to suggest balance and objectivity.”It is one-sided. I took the faults of the conservative fundamentalists for granted for this post. It was intended to focus on emerging fundamentalists – 1. to highlight the fact that there are emerging fundamentalists too and 2. they act just like the fundamentlatists they criticize in some ways. I didn’t think I needed to make the case that conservative fundamentalists act in the ways I mentioned but, like I said, took it for granted. Thanks, David.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | October 22, 2007, 11:37 am
  7. >Jeff,Sorry that I sounded a bit strident in the previous comment, which was not my intention.I know that the typical pot-kettle rhetoric was not your intent.

    Posted by David Cho | October 22, 2007, 6:16 am
  8. >Jeff, I am curious.The title suggests that this is about what they have in common, but yet all of your main points are about the hypocrisy of the emerging side.The emerging fundies accuse of the conservative fundies of X, Y and Z, but they themselves do X, Y, and Z. You make a few good points there, and I agree that the emerging side should reflect on them. It is a lot like how we spend most of our lives not to be like our parents, but yet we end up being just like them.Are there any infractions that the conservative fundies accuse the emerging side of, but yet they are just as guilty, if not more? I am saying that because your piece seems overwhelmingly one sided, even though the title seems to suggest balance and objectivity. It seems to echo the typical pot-kettle retorts echoing through the TR blogospere.I would like to see the members of the TR addressing the criticisms without putting their critics on trial.

    Posted by David Cho | October 22, 2007, 6:04 am
  9. >Is it possible for people to speak out against some of the views of Doug Pagitt’s and others without it being taken as a personal attack?

    Posted by J.Wizzle | October 21, 2007, 7:14 pm
  10. >May I humbly offer that I have lived 25 years of my christian experience in churches that were not only politically and theologically conservative, but, regarding membership, were almost completely and uniformly so. Conformists, not diverse. So I have lived a large chunk of my life with people who see the other side of this polarized spectrum as “the other side”, “them”, and “the enemy to God’s Truth”. I have finally lived the past 6 years in a church, prominently emergent, that is made up of at least three equal parts: those who consider themselves to the right, those who are left, and those who are either unaware of the dialectic, or find it so unhelpful and debilitating so as to seek a third way. All of these participants in our faith community have agreed to treat each other with mutual respect and focus on loving each other and serving the vision of Jesus, despite or “in light of” these differences. And it is so invigorating that I pity anyone who hangs with their monochromatic “sameness cliques”. You honestly don’t know what you’re missing.My pastor, prominent emergent leader that he is, has posted some thoughts about “us and them”:2007 has turned into the year of deep critique.A number of us have been suggesting for years that at some point the people who are not so pleased with the suggestions of theological and methodological changes people within Emergent are suggesting would start to express their opinions and start causing trouble. And that when it happened the accusations would become personal and relentless.The critiques are at times well made, but most often seem shallow. Some chose to marginalize emergent as nothing much to worry about, while others claim that it is the epitome of what is wrong with the church (losing truth and the Gospel, that sort of thing).I have tried to make contact with a number of these people to create a friendship so we can disagree agreeably and in friendship, but to no avail. But if I saw them as dangerous I am not sure I would be so interested in being friends with them either. But then again, that is not true. I do see these “neo-circumcisers” (my term) as dangerous and that is precisely why I want to be friends with them. It seems to me that we are better served when those we are afraid of can become friends, the only other option is we view them as an enemy, and since I am suppose to love my enemy anyway, I might as well get a friend out of it.I suggest these Battle Positions: A Smile A Wink A Prayer A friendly Email Offers of hospitality Invitation to FriendshipsWell, there you go. If you have only lived in one paradigm I can understand your inaccuracies, mystification, and misrepresentations. You simply don’t know, or worse, gather your observations from the internet only.My I again humbly offer, I have lived in both places.

    Posted by other | October 21, 2007, 6:22 pm
  11. >”First, I wonder whether the name-callers would consider their departure a species of active exclusion or a passive being-chased-off. I don’t think one has to jump to moral judgments to analyze that bit of logic.”What these emerging fundies are communicating is “those people ought not be here.” They recognize that conservatives, evangelicals, & cons. fundies are the “other” and have invaded their home turf. They want the conservatives to leave but since they won’t, the emerging fundies will leave rather than be around them. They may characterize their departure as being run off but I wonder how so many other emerging Christians have managed to stay and maintain good relations with the conservatives. What is it about those who have stayed that has allowed them to accept the presence of those whom they disagree with on perhaps a great many things? It seems that these emerging Christians practice a different form of tolerance than the emerging fundamentalists do. The emerging fundamentalists decry conservative fundamentalist’s exclusionary ways and lack of tolerance while they act the same way toward cons. fundies. I simply wish to point this out because it is ironic. It is hypocritical. This observation is not a defense of conservatives fundamentalists against emerging ones. I am not a fundamentalist (even if someone is a fundamentalist I guess they don’t readily admit it) and I am not emerging. I think both groups should exhibit more charity toward another and be fair in their interactions with one another. Stopping the hypocrisy I have mentioned would be one way for emerging fundamentalists to do this. I am sure I’ll other posts that are critical of conservative fundamentalists. I will rarely comment on emerging issues because I think it is more profitable to work for reform within my own tradition rather than others.On that note, Nate, you mentioned that emerging Christians are a subset of evangelicals one. Depending on how we clarify that, I would agree. However, emerging fundamentalists have declared their separation from all things evangelical. Therefore I consider them to be other than evangelical rather than another flavor of evangelical. What is an “evangelical” would make for a good blog series.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | October 21, 2007, 4:05 pm
  12. >My suspicion (which I hope baseless) is that folks who have more of a stake in maintaining some level of animosity/tension between “conservatives” and “emergents” use such categories intentionally to maintain the mutual disgust. I too hope the suspicion is unfounded, but I understand and unfortunately agree with your analysis.the numbness and apathy that comes from too much hyper-charged polemic, Ironic for such discussion of the “other” first lead me away form my conservative/fundamentalist brothers only to discover the same vile taste on the greener pasture side of the fence.

    Posted by Richard | October 20, 2007, 10:22 pm
  13. >Do the inherent difficulties of on-line discussion limit, if not prevent, productive movement? (Is your statement inclusive or referring only to internet communication?)I don’t think they necessarily do. I’ve been posting recently on a very conservative discussion forum, and in some of the conversations, we’ve managed some real dialectic conversations about various segments of twenty-first-century Christian demographics. My suspicion (which I hope baseless) is that folks who have more of a stake in maintaining some level of animosity/tension between “conservatives” and “emergents” use such categories intentionally to maintain the mutual disgust. I hope that’s not the case, but the recent AM-radio rhetoric that says, “Their definition of compromise is our surrender” has crept, I think, into some inter-Christian-demographic talk. (I don’t have links at the moment, but I have run into it both on blogs and in discussion fora.)Yes, “too-broad categories” usually causes me to be silent. (Not type)Unfortunately, I think that what my little brother calls “the Fox News effect,” the numbness and apathy that comes from too much hyper-charged polemic, happens online too. (BTW, I think neither that Fox News invented it nor that Fox News is the only one guilty of it. It’s just Ryan’s term.)

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 20, 2007, 7:59 pm
  14. >I think that it has in many circles. Do the inherent difficulties of on-line discussion limit, if not prevent, productive movement? (Is your statement inclusive or referring only to internet communication?) But I do wonder whether the continued use of too-broad categories prevents some of that from happening to some extent.Yes, “too-broad categories” usually causes me to be silent. (Not type)

    Posted by Richard | October 20, 2007, 7:42 pm
  15. >I think that it has in many circles. But I do wonder whether the continued use of too-broad categories prevents some of that from happening to some extent.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 20, 2007, 6:23 pm
  16. >I do wonder whether, with some more attention to such categories, one could make dialectic moves beyond the impasse rather than lobbing eristic missiles indefinitely.So what is preventing this from beginning?(BTW, Nate, you always challenge and improve my vocabulary)

    Posted by Richard | October 20, 2007, 5:59 pm
  17. >I realize that I’m about to do some rhetorical/philosophical analysis on a polemical piece (a move that both invites and deserves eye-rolling), but I thought one apparent contradiction deserved some more consideration:Both groups draw a tight circle around who represents true Christianity. If you’re in the circle, everything is cool. If you’re not, watch out! What’s ironic about the exclusive circle the emerging fundamentalists draw is their disgust with conservative circle-drawing! Not only that but criticism of conservative circle-drawing actually seems to be one of the distinctives of the emerging circle. Emerging fundies decry the intolerance of conservatives yet they themselves are intolerant of conservatives. I’ve seen this many times but one particular example stands out to me. Some emerging Christians actually left an emerging message board when too many conservatives (which was about 6 or 8 out of dozens of members) participated in the discussions there.First, I wonder whether the name-callers would consider their departure a species of active exclusion or a passive being-chased-off. I don’t think one has to jump to moral judgments to analyze that bit of logic. Second, I think (contrary to polemic conventions) that although both “emerging exclusion” and “fundamentalist exclusion” might fit into a very broad genus called “exclusion,” I wonder whether the category is too broad to be helpful for much other than polemic. When I’ve given some thought to the name-callers in particular and to their patterns of rhetoric, although they seem to be forming a new community, their aim in doing so often seems to be the reformation of those communities who (according to their accounts) drove them out. So I wonder whether partisans of both “camps” are actually members of the same “household” and whether one might more fruitfully cast their “exclusion” as an attempt at correction.The reason I question the terminology of “exclusion” is that the actual, formal move called alternatively excommunication, banning, and breaking of fellowship seems to deal with a different “us” than does the “emerging exclusion” you noted. in the latter, the “us” to which you point seems to be a subset within the larger category called “evangelicals.” But in formal bans, the movement seems to be from inside to outside the group called “Christian.” I know you framed it as “exclusion from true Christianity,” but again, I think that categorically, to call someone from still-Christian error to a truer worship and to call someone from anti-Christian philosophy into Christianity simpliciter are two different kinds of calls.The one is akin to snobbery, and that’s never a virtue, but the other calls into question or even denies the interlocutor’s status with God. I think that’s a significant enough difference to rethink the univocal category.Now I recognize that in the heat of digitized discussion forum battle, the rhetoric can outrun the categories, but I do think that on a categorical level there’s more difference than the massively broad category “exclusion” would indicate.I think the same goes for “toleration,” but I talked about that back in my “Subjective, Objective, True” series. (Go read it, people!)Also, I noted the boldfaced bit at the end of the post, and I acknowledge again that the piece is polemical, but I do wonder whether, with some more attention to such categories, one could make dialectic moves beyond the impasse rather than lobbing eristic missiles indefinitely.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | October 20, 2007, 3:33 pm
  18. >Who doesn’t draw “an exclusive circle” around their own? Even if not overt; it is still there. This is not just an emergent/conservative issue. For me it’s been true of all areas since Jr. High.As for “Doctrinal Superiority” the paragraph smacks a little of personal offense – for comment.But why should Christians trade a conservative fundamentalism for an emerging one? Excellent point, more so if taken out of the emergent/conservative conversation and applied to the whole of Christianity.I wonder why so many are preoccupied with critiquing evangelicalism. I don’t know, but for me hearing and being able to discover that my own experience and decades of inward questioning was not totally unique has been healthy. I do strongly agree that at some point one must move on.

    Posted by Richard | October 20, 2007, 3:29 pm
  19. >Jeff,I am now beginning to get settled and have had more time to enjoy the site. So as I was perusing through the different articles I noticed one thing. The great majority of the issues that are being tossed about in the American arena seem to be handled a little differently here, at least in the Northeastern part of England (very rural). First of all, the multiplicity of doctrinal stripes is not as prevelant here. There are certainly different theological viewpoints but the overall fuss is not present, which leads to my second point. When there is a difference in viewpoint, it is handled in a much more gracious way. Very little line drawing takes place and there seems to be a greater level of tolerance (a word evangelicals are terrified of). I must say it is refreshing to be in this different environment. As American evangelicals, we tend to think we have a corner on the Christian market per se. But this is far from the truth. Looking at two sides, and interacting with people from many different angles, it appears the American church is in a bad state of affairs. It’s almost as if we like to bicker and fight and raise issues to separate with one another over. I guess what I’m saying is it mimics the attitude of the Pharisees, a great interest in theological ideas, views, and doctinal positions, and VERY LITTLE interest in caring for other people, like the poor, the socially marginalized, the crippled and mentally ill. Where are these people in our churches? There also seems to be very little emphasis on praying for and loving our enemies and those who despitefully use us and persecute us (as if we experience any of that!).Please don’t take me wrong, I love America and being an American, I just think the church in America has gone terribly off track in many ways. Oops! I think I just went off on a rant. Sorry!

    Posted by me | October 20, 2007, 9:29 am
  20. >Hence the continued exchange of pot-kettle volleys from both sides.

    Posted by David Cho | October 20, 2007, 2:25 am
  21. >Good post, Jeff. I fave def. seen what you are talking about first-hand.

    Posted by J.Wizzle | October 19, 2007, 9:04 pm

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