I was looking at An Emergent Manifesto of Hope in a bookstore the other day, wondering if it would turn out to be one of those must-read books within the emerging church conversation. I mean, anything billed as a “Manifesto of Hope” must be a good thing. Still, it’s a capital-E Emergent thing, and I do tire of the brand a little… I’d rather be talking about missional themes. Steve Taylor is taking a closer look at the book — he says,
It includes the following quote from Brian McLaren: “So I am hereby giving notice that I’m not interested in arguing with anyone about modernity and postmodernity, but I would very much like to engage in honest conversation about colonialism and postcolonialism.” (143).
Well said Brian. One of 25 chapters, written by 25 different authors. Oh. All American. Yahoo. 25 American voices starting an “honest conversation about colonialism and postcolonialism.”
I continue to have an issue with the Americanization of the emerging church conversation. I mostly ignore it… but for the Americans in the conversation (on this or on missional themes), it’s rather like sleeping with an elephant. They don’t mean to steal all the covers, and they don’t even realize they’re doing it. They just don’t know how their relative size impacts those around them. I love to dialogue with the American folk, and their insights are valuable of course… but there are times when ethnocentricity creeps in, or when they just don’t understand that they are the elephant in the room.
To be fair, there’s a good discussion following Steve’s post, in which Doug Pagitt thoughtfully responds,
Hey Steve, we have worked hard to keep the Emergent convervation [sic] from the US about the US – As you know the other expressions in other countries come under the name Amahoro.
So when we in the US are speaking of the Emergent US we are not supposing to speak for the entire world, and ave worked hard to not do so. This book was a collective effort of the network in the US, that is why the authors are from the US.
And as you know from the book, the entire thing is not about colonialism – that was Brian’s contribution and a good one. So, this is not a book about colonialism, but about hope from a certain network of people – from a former colony.
Doug’s point is appropriate, but I think it’s also an example of the elephant not realizing how it impacts others when they roll over in bed. As I said, they don’t mean to do it, they just don’t realize it. And I’m still interested in reading the book.
I picked up the book last week and have been slowly working my way through it. Some chapters are seriously better than others. I haven’t read all of the offerings yet, but I’m appreciating what I’ve encountered so far.
Even though it is Emergent the whole point of it is to be missional. Most of the chapters explore how the authors are being missional in their own context. Its all intertwined.
I fully agree that there needs to be more voices heard. Many of us have been arguing that the voice of women has been unheard in Emergent and this book is the first to make a step in the direction of valuing that voice. Within the American context, it is a very diverse book. At this point, I’m more inclined to celebrate what it is doing and not invalidate the voices that are present by complaining that they aren’t diverse enough. I’m not going to say that the new monastics or cultural creatives aren’t missional or aren’t worthy to read about just because they are American.
Maybe I’m just burned from grad school. In the Missions department the focus was overseas driven (how to be contextual out there). It was out of bounds to discuss how to be contextual/missional in the variety of cultures in the West. Of course we need both, but I am going to appreciate the good that is in this book even if there could have been more.
Very well said, Julie. There is a real need for conversation about the American situation and the cross-cultural mission that’s needed within your borders, and I do hope that outside criticism will not deter that conversation, even if the criticism comes (unwittingly?) from me! I think we non-Americans can at times be a little over-sensitive to being made to feel that what goes for America goes for the world. This has genuinely been the case at times, and as a result we can at other times see what isn’t there when the elephant rolls over in bed. We might get more blanket if we cuddle up to the elephant, but we’re rather nervous about getting accidentally squashed when he rolls over again. What a metaphor, eh?
Well, Julie was/is much kinder than I. I thought you wrote an excellent description of what it feels like to be a woman … regardless of your nationality. ;-)
I will also say that I tend to stay away from the American voices (which is why I read your blog and others that are Canadian, British and Australian). I also tend to stay away from expressly emerging books and read a broad variety of books (right now I’m reading How Your Church Family Works by Peter Steinke). I think we (all of us) can get too narrowly focused if we only read and/or listen to each other.
For the record, there are bunches of Americans who are aware of and sensitive to nations outside of our borders. We don’t get a lot of press, but that’s really not our fault. We’re busy trying to build bridges and help others but we’ve got a long hill to climb. We’d love a little help from our friends.
Have you ever slept in bed with an elephant??? And lived to tell the tail, no less?
Sorry the metaphor of elephants stealing covers has captivated me. What were we talking about again… ;-)
Sonja, if I can prattle on around here without offending women (which surprises me a little, to tell the truth!), then I’m sure that there are a lot of Americans (certainly most of those with whom I dialogue) who can do the same in a global conversation. Well said.
Oh, and for the record, a snapshot of traffic around here is 47% USA and 27% unresolved countries.
Bill, I’m suddenly hearing Groucho Marx: “On safari in Africa, one morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know!”
And I am seeing Alan Alda’s interpretation of GROUCHO from the old M*A*S*H days.. heh. btw, your concern is one of the reasons I am happy to hear about a different movement. ALLELON, an organization I easily endorse, is about to have a more distinctive Canadian presence. I think that is really important.. context is everything.