How To Handle Criticism
Andrew Jones draws attention to an Official Response to Critics of Emergent posted on the emergent-us site. My first impression was in line with Roger N. Overton’s observation, “Now, why would I call this odd? Because over and over I keep hearing how emergent is a conversation, not a movement- it‚Äôs not organized. There is […]
“Now, why would I call this odd? Because over and over I keep hearing how emergent is a conversation, not a movement- it‚Äôs not organized. There is no official Emergent entity, and yet, somehow there‚Äôs now an official response to critics of the emergent church. They‚Äôre free to do what they want; I just find it odd.”
That said, it is good to see a positive affirmation of historic Christianity and a grappling with the term “evangelical.” It is also encouraging how this response tries to speak out of grace and respect. The references may be abstract at times (which has its own dangers if carried on too long), but no-one wants to see public ad hominem attacks like those in the aweful Costello vs Jensen fracas.
However, I have a fear, not just for the “official” emergent camp, but for all of us who are practically interested in pushing forward in new and creative expressions of faith. One of the toughest tests of Christian character is how we respond to those who wish to label and demean our efforts, sometimes for their own gain, whilst having no desire to converse or dialogue with us. Looking back on the more radical things I’ve attempted in Christian ministry, those who have been most vocal in expressing negative views have almost always been totally unwilling to speak personally with me about them. This can have a corrosive effect on the way we converse, since we can either become convoluted trying to defend everything we say or do, or strident. All too often one finds oneself in contexts were asides and in-jokes all refer to an unspoken “us” and “them” mentality.
Making this more personal, the challenge for me (I have no idea if this is the challenge for the emergent folks) is to not be defined by the old debates, no matter how much my detractors would care to draw me back into them. I find myself very much on the global side of the glocalisation divide and that plays a huge role in how the identity/mission/vocation thing works out. It also plays a big role in prioritising the debates that are relevant, or to put it another way, the live issues and the zombie issues.