In a recent presentation given at our School campus, Dr. Dan Lockwood of Multnomah University listed several challenges to Christian Education in America; these included: Relativism, Scientism and loss of influence. Each of these are poignant but one specifically adresses this particular Emergent Value. Late in the 1980s something dreadful happened, the world changed and Christianity quickly lost its influence and the Church was baptized into an ethos of hostility.
The moral collapse of several major Christian leaders along with the dwindling potency of the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and Promise Keepers contributed to this phenomena. The words of comedian Rodney Dangerfield seem apropos; “we just can’t get no respect.”
This has made classical mission and evangelism models obsolete. Stuart Murray in his book “Post Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strangle Land” ((Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2004) P. 83-88.) presents the heart of the problem; our Christian nation was maintained by ensuring a close relationship of power between the Church and the government.
Think of how this has changed; although there is great controversy regarding its factuality, our current President, Barrak Obama, is not a conventional Christian and at the time of this writing, the greatest Christian political hero, Glen Beck, is a mormon. The world has changed.
Murray goes on to state that there are several destructive issues related to the previous relationship between the Church and government including mis-justice; marginalization of women and the poor, warfare, and an inappropriate adulation of the rich and powerful.
The emerging church seeks a post-Christendom approach to being church and mission. They choose to utilize humility and respect in presenting their message. They also desire to move the Church from the center of attention to the margins relinquishing their privileged status in our society, for a more collegiate voice, one among many; they also have less of a desire for control. Seeking a realization of what theologians describe as a Incarnational and Redemptive theology, they desire to be reaching from among, rather than rescue from above.
This is also rooted in Christian History. Until the fourth-century (Constantine) Christians didn’t consider involvement in politics. That continued as late as the nineteenth–century with Luther’s ideas on Pietism, where Christians questioned their involvement, specifically their need to be involved in politics. The New Testament is strangely quiet about politic. The only mention advises Christians to obey the laws of the land to pray for its leaders, and as James Smith states in his book, “The Myth of a Christian Nation” we learn to avoid being judges of non-Christians (I Cor 5:12-13, I Pet 4:17, cf. Mt. 7:1-5).
For the Emergents, they question two profound points; which Kingdom do they invest in, this one or God’s coming Kingdom and what is true power, Political or Spiritual?
We cannot say that their beliefs are without merit nor un–Christian. In summary, I find that this value is closer related to the posture of the early church than they are given credit.