Seraphim Sez: Play Nice Y’All (Yeah, It’s an Em Church Post)

Seraphim, as usual, reminds me to play nice. And if anyone has the street cred to ask this (not that he should need it), it’s Seraphim.

I suppose my dilemma is twofold: [A] If we cannot be critical (and I’m not saying Seraphim is saying we can’t) of the em church, then there can be no open dialogue between those of us in Orthodoxy (or the Roman Catholic Church) and the em church. Furthermore, they are certainly critical, if not of us, at least of those things that are integral to our beliefs; such as the absolute and nonnegotiable belief in the full humanity and full deity of Jesus, the Sacraments, the perpetual virginity of our Most Holy Lady, and so on. But mostly, if all we can do is lob niceties each other’s way, then both of us are being fake and hypocritical. True relationship demands truth, and truth obligates us to be critical where that is warranted. But . . .

If one is critical, then one is perceived to be and often called judgmental, or thought to not be playing nice, or elevating truth over love, or what have you.

So, the first horn of the dilemma is that if one cannot be critical there’s no real anything going on: no relating, no truth, no love.

Other horn:

[B] But if one is going to be critical, one ought be accurate and truthful. So when we read or otherwise conversate with em churchers and we see instance after example of near-denial of the central tenets of the faith AND yet we are supposed to give acknowledgement that this is what the Holy Spirit is doing–and we are critical of that . . . then we are told that this is not characteristic of the entire em church movement, that the em church movement is much more diverse than that, and so on. It’s rather like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

So, in sum: We can’t be critical because that’s not nice. But we also can’t be critical because our criticisms don’t apply to the entire em church movement.

Nice gig if you can get it, I suppose.

I just find this sort of thing unworkable. For em churchers to (as it appears to me) hide behind a “that’s not true of the whole movement” disclaimer is, I think, disingenuous. For what we see of the movement is precisely the things we criticize. If the em church is truthfully not generally like that, then a vocal minority is stealing the press and creating false images, and there ought be some vocalizations out there to the extent, “This is only a minority of the em church phenomenon.” On the other hand, if the the things we criticize the em church for are, in fact, generally true, then our criticisms ought be acknowledged to hold true for the em church in general. It remains then for those who are the exceptions to say, “We’re not like that,” in which case one wonders whether they ought label themselves as “emergent.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the search, for pity’s sake. I know about the search. I’ve lived the search. By all means, genuinely, really, wholeheartedly strike out going you know not wither and search. But don’t institutionalize the search . . . for Christ’s sake. Get rid of the conferences, the books, the marketings, the media and tech budget, the labels, the jargon, the no-caps. Just search. Search the hell out of it. And if you’re reaching out to those who are searching, then don’t sell them into a slavery of labels, marketing and external identities, built on copycatting the secular pop culture. Let them leave postmodernism, progressivism, activism and all other isms that are standing in for the only true and worthy object of their search.

For Christ’s sake.