Friday, September 24, 2004

emergent is the kabbalah of the church???

i was reading in the 'trends' section of group magazine (sept/oct issue) yesterday and on page 19 noticed a picture of madonna, er... esther?? and noted an article on the sweeping interest among youth in the newest spiritual trend of kabbalah. what i didn't expect was that this wasn't an article on kabbalah at all, but a poorly worded swipe at the emergent church.

i quote:

the quasi-jewish practice of kabbalah is a perfect case study of what's changing in the religious landscape. kabbalah is not a religion in itself, but an approach to practicing judaism that essentially transforms it into a me-first strategy to gain more 'joy and fulfillment.' and that's happening more and more in the christian world as well.

celebrities including madonna have made kabbalah a hot spiritual fad - practictioners wear a red-string bracelet that's supposedly imbued with the protection of the hebrew matriarch rachel and promises to guard the wearer from the 'evil eye.'

that's right, it's goofy. but not so goofy that it doesn't hit on teenagers' embedded craving for 'spiritual' practices that promise self-centered personal 'riches.' at san diego's kabbalah centre, rabbi yosef shvili is offering a two-week course for teenagers that promised to help them 'get what you want and control your future.'

meanwhile, back at the church, a lot of what's bubbling up in the emergent church movement has a similar DNA.

in alan wolfe's new book the transformation of american religion, he writes: 'more americans than ever proclaim themselves born again in christ, but the lord to whom they turn rarely gets angry and frequently strenghtens self-esteem."

commenting on his book in an interview with michael cromartie of the ethics and public policy center, wolfe says, 'there is a phrase in the book i like - salvation inflation, which i compare to grade inflation. i define grade inflation by the fact that over the 30 years i've been teaching, every year i assign less and less, and every year the grades get higher and higher... to some degree, we've seen that with salvation as well. people confess fewer and fewer sins and are rewarded with more and more.'

critics point to the emergent church's penchant for removing the 'hard symbols' of the faith (such as the cross) and substituting hip t-shirt slogans such as 'jesus is my homeboy' for 'hard truths' such as 'for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (matthew 7:14 NASB). conservative theologian michael novak says, 'in boiling it down, trying to make it relevant, you leave out the hard edges and the complicated points. you make the faith less than it is.'

stephanie martin is a contributing editor for group and writes weekly breaking news discussion starters for group's online resource she's a freelance writer and editor in colorado.

okay, i don't even know where to start with this. the writer here could have done with an editor herself. first of all how many who even use the term emergent would ever be caught dead in a t-shirt like that. how did that get laid at 'our' (and i include myself in this) doorstep? and, excuse me, but many of us are the people of the crosses, images and symbols.

i find her leaps in logic completely abstract and unfounded. i am not familiar with the authors/theologians she has sited, and don't know if she is using their words to support her position or if these are their opinions also. either way this irresponsible kind of journalism is cheap and fear-mongering. likening emergent to a self-satisfying belief system is erroneous and incompetent.

it's so similar to the straw men construction and defeat that is flying through the evangelical world right now. i for one am really disappointed that this made it past edit and am really disappointed in group for allowing this shoddy type of writing and cheap shots.

our youth are growing up in a world that must deal with post-modern thought whether the church likes it or not. we cannot protect them, build the walls higher and keep them from confronting the places where their faith and their world intersect. i for one embrace the idea that youth pastors/workers would be more capable to prepare these students, instead of mocking and pandering to the basest fears of the church power structures.

more than anything i think this is a swipe at youth specialties and emergent. i fear that there are probably more 'well placed' shots throughout the magazine. i hope not, but i'm probably not going to continue reading it. there are two roads diverging in the church, but more particularly in youth ministry. many soon will be forced to make a stand for or against. fear mongering will make it so. liam and i have talked of this at length.

we are prepared, but know it will still hurt when it comes. two roads diverged in a wood, we will take the one less travelled, i know that will make all the difference.

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