I was recently interviewed by a master’s student at a local university who is doing research on the emerging church movement. When he e-mailed me a note of thanks, I simply asked this: “Where are you theologically?” Here’s his answer. His story is a special feature o f the emerging movement, though he’s not so sure he’s emerging. I have masked some of his identity, though he did not say I had to. This story is published with his permission.
Good question… hard to answer. I grew up in a small rural “community” church … with Holiness and Arminian tendencies (but didn’t know that then… it was short on theological education) with definite hints of fundamentalism (but I learned my Bible!); I went to Wheaton in the late 1990s, so that broadened me but also resulted in some faith crises of various sorts. I spent most of college at Lyle Dorsett’s new wave Anglican church in Wheaton and its parent church in Glen Ellyn, very much Robert Webberian ancient-future types of places…
I’ve always had my bouts with doubt/agnosticism, but I am still hanging my hat in the Christian fold broadly… Apostles’ Creed stuff is about as specific as I can get, although I am – for better and worse – Protestant by heritage and not attracted enough to convert to Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy soon. I read Tomlinson’s The Post Evangelical in 2002 during a time of deep searching (while working at a Buddhist restaurant …) when I had dropped out of church participation (not taking communion, etc.), and it all resonated with me and was helpful.
The emerging stuff by that name is more recent on my radar (since Jan 06), and overall, I am very sympathetic to what they are saying since I am very “pomo” about truth and Bible stuff (like I don’t believe it is inerrant, infallible, etc.). I’ve also more recently been exposed to liberation theology (which I generally like), and as a sociologist, I am deeply interested in the church’s encounter with the poor. Actually, I am moving to DC next year and I may end up in Ph.D. policy work and/or as a sociologist concerned with poverty & inequality stuff (although I remain interested in the role of faith in all of this and hope to keep that edge as well).
Theologically, I can still find myself everywhere from a veiled universalism to a pretty orthodox faith… very schizophrenic, and I tend to play devil’s advocate with most people I meet. Depending on the issue, you might see my heretical side or my fundy side… it’s all a garbled mess sometimes. I do often find myself more akin to non-believers, but I also know somehow that Christianity is my home.
Church-wise, I’ve been everywhere from the aforementioned Anglican to Baptist (… [name] Baptist) to super-crazy charismatic. I am also very familiar with Willow Creek, including their various efforts in Chicago proper… I know many of those guys involved. I eventually landed at a really small Church of Christ in [Chicago]. Funny fit for me in that the C of C is historically rather sectarian and conservative (no instruments in worship even still), but they are surprisingly progressive in other ways and have an interesting history I have been able to learn. I started going there for a girl, and it was hard to leave after my community was established, even though the girl is ancient history.
I think this story might resonate with many of you, and it might especially strike chords with those of us who minister to or teach college students or 20somethings. This young man is not alone; in fact, he’s surrounded by a cloud of similar witnesses. The question we must ask oursevles is this: Do we listen long enough, love deeply enough, and think with them enough to be the presence of Jesus in such lives?