Peace, like war, needs to be waged.
It’s stating the obvious to say that emergents and fundamentalists see the world differently. In this age of blogs and the conversational web, spats around theological issues are a daily occurrence. Many emergent leaders have had to take a tremendous amount of criticism for their association with new thinking and their deviation from traditional approaches to understanding the gospel. And to be fair, some traditionalists have felt deeply betrayed by the emergent approach.
When we speak of fundamentalism, we should bear in mind that like emergence, it manifests in a wide variety of sectors. It is helpful to see the patterns at play – the overview across these – whether it be Islamic Militancy, Scientific Materialist Dogma, the Leninist party line, even a simple bureaucratic lack of imagination and insistence on fixed rules.
But here I want to address the issue of Christian (and predominantly Modern) Fundamentalism, for this is the shade which affects me most directly. Moreover I consider myself qualified to critique it as I have been a fundamentalist myself; I am still recovering.
I have in recent months encountered the ire of a pro-Modern backlash. Many judgments have been issued, much misunderstanding experienced, and many a personal slanging match has ensued. While I feel a kinship with Salman Rushdie, fortunately for me these “fundy fatwas” have all been online and virtual.
For example, I have been portrayed as an imbecile, taken as a hateful, divisive and provocative New Ager, and most recently, been roundly dismissed as a false teacher and wolf in sheeps clothing, allied with Satan. I’m not moaning, just stating what adventurous thought can led to when it is read by those who do not know how to read.
Now many a balanced brother and sensible sister have questioned the value of face-offs with these detractors, especially where those concerned are suffering from what Brian McLaren has described as “excessive overconfidence”. While restraint or even silence seems to be one biblical response to slander, malice, and willful misunderstanding, there is a time to stand and fight, to give an answer for the hope that is within, and above all to demonstrate a better way to those intend on disagreement, whose modus operandi is to emphasize difference rather than encouraging similarity.
There are several things to consider when engaging in these faith wars. No war is ever won without a thorough understanding of the issues at stake, and how the opponent thinks. If we are to have any success in effecting transformation amongst a population of fellow believers who view us with deep suspicion, fear, and cast us in the role of “the other”, we have to identify our actual differences, rather than missing an opportunity by misdiagnosing the problem, or concentrating on surface dissimilarities.
In future posts I might address some of these issues. But as an introduction, I would like to consider this exploration a part of the great Restoration of All Things by God spoken of in Colossians 1:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Our “enemies” are often our neighbors, and the starting point in waging this Peace, should be at and near home.