Sunday, October 21, 2007

Emergent: The Other White Church?

So as I looked around at the crowd gathered for the Emergence 2007 conference I noticed a profound proliferation of Caucasian faces. It really hit me that, with a few greatly-valued exceptions, the Emergent conversation seems to be a phenomenon of white, middle and upper-class Americans and Europeans. Such an obvious fact made me wonder what exactly was going on here.

Perhaps we should ask the larger question, is Postmodernism - to which Emergent is responding - a demographically isolated event? I've read in the literature that Postmodernism spans cultures, but I've seen very few examples of that multi-cultural experience inside Emergent. I see few African, Latino, or Asian examples of postmodern cultural change, but my expertise is limited to the media I've had available either print or video. This definitely will require more investigation to come up with satisfying answers.

Many have lamented the segregation of the American evangelical church. Most commentators seem to cast their dispersions in the direction of persistent, latent racism that hasn't been addressed in the church. There may be some truth to this. I know that my own upbringing has left me with deep suspicions of others that seem to be rooted at a subconscious level, ignoring the deep friendships I've had with many people of other races.

I wonder, however, if the issue of persistent segregation is more due to xenophobia rather than racism, per se. I find myself equally uncomfortable around unknown people who are different than me regardless of whether that difference is race, economic class, or education level. This is not the final word in my relationship with such people, as my reason and beliefs kick in and allow me to push through to really get to know the individuals I meet, but if I am honest I must admit that the initial xenophobia is more often than not my initial reaction.

If we are left with a church culture segregated by such xenophobia, then the very real possibility exists that the entire postmodernity-fueled convulsion that is the Emergent conversation may not be meaningful at all in churches native to these other cultures. This is something we will definitely need to explore as we move forward.


scott m said...

Yeah, I noticed the same thing. At the same time, though, I also noticed that there was a whole lot more diversity in the look and feel of those present than I typically see in, say, a Southern Baptist context. (I sometimes find it intimidating that so many people could look so very, very much the same.)

In cultures outside the western European and American contexts, the forces of cultural postmodernism tend to be experienced under the general label of postcolonialism. If you're looking around for info, that may help.

Or not ...

Frank Quick said...

2007... 20007!!! Dang Nate! Get to writing already!