Congratulations on conducting perhaps the most successful marketing campaign the American church has ever seen. Maybe it’s not the most original tactic, this repackaging of the same old structural inequalities, but it clearly works for you. You decry the megachurches, the prosperity gospel, the Republican takeover of Christian doctrine and offer followers a smaller, humbler alternative.
But for all your talk of community and shalom, I want to know: whose community is it? And is it really shalom if harmony depends on the dismissal of dissent? Because from my perspective, the community you offer isn’t structurally any different from the mainstream church and its myriad flaws. Your community remains fundamentally conservative. It remains dominated by straight white men. There are no prominent queer Emergents, no prominent women, no prominent people of color.
And here’s the remarkable bit: you still believe you’re different. You really believe you’ve got the concept of social justice nailed. You’ve graciously chosen to acknowledge the church’s failures on immigration, poverty, and sometimes even GLBT equality, and somehow, you seem to believe this is enough. You believe this is what shalom looks like. And gentlemen, I’m not at all sorry to inform you that is simply not the case.
It is not shalom to dismiss people of color when they tell you that you have been racially insensitive.
It is not shalom to dismiss your critics as ‘mean‘ when all they’ve done is offer a dissenting perspective.
It is not shalom to behave in a hypocritical manner, then have online meltdowns when that hypocrisy is satirized.
Let me ask you seriously: has it occurred to you even once to ask yourself, or someone else, why that satire exists? Have you wondered why so many people seem to appreciate that satire? Because there are two options here. Either those people are cartoon villains, or they have valid criticisms. And if those people have valid criticisms, do you think that maybe, just maybe, they’re resorted to satire because you have steadfastly refused to acknowledge them?
Maybe I’m crazy. I’ve certainly heard that I’m mean.
But I spent over two decades of my life engulfed by the American church, it has educated me and abused me and on rare occasions it’s reminded me why it’s good to be alive. Even now, prodigal that I am, I know that I owe much of who I am to the church. She’s a whore and she is my mother, and I know her like I know myself. And I am telling you, Emergents, you’ve done her no favors. You say you’re radical?
You don’t understand the first thing about that word.
It’s radical to listen. It’s radical to react with humility when someone with experiences that aren’t yours corrects you about them. It’s radical to step back and allow suppressed voices to speak. It’s radical to admit when you’re wrong and it’s radical to put the interests of the world’s marginalized ahead of yourself, or even your best friends.
You, white men who lead the church, have had your milennia in the sun. And you’re threatened by a parody account on Twitter? I’d be amused if it weren’t all so depressingly banal. Your involvement in the Emergent movement doesn’t remove the social privilege you enjoy. From one white person to another: unpacking privilege is an ongoing process and being an anti-racist ally requires more from you than your good intentions. If you want an inclusive church, you will have to sacrifice your position of privilege. You will have to step back. Some of you might even have to step down. And that, Emergents, is what real reconciliation looks like. That’s shalom. That is how you build community.
A former sympathizer