Is Emergence a Clique?


One of the biggest criticisms conservative evangelicals have of emergence Christianity is that for all it’s proclaimed tolerance, they don’t feel welcome. Now, it can be said with no little bit of credibility that, while they are welcome, a lot of what they say is not. But, their criticisms have some merit, too. Because, sometimes, emergent circles feel like a private club made up of a bunch seminary students. It reminds me of the cliques present in high school. And, as someone who has never been in “the clique”, I don’t care for it.

Practically all my life, I’ve felt like an outsider looking in. I will say that part of that is my fault because I’m not exactly what you’d call social. To be perfectly honest, the very idea of being in a room full of strangers makes my skin crawl. I am introvert, but with some effort, I can work past that. The problem then becomes one of social awkwardness. I either talk too much or say the wrong thing. Saying the wrong thing is not good.

I’ve said the wrong thing a couple of times in this group and no one’s ever blasted me, called me to task or anything like that. While that might sound like a good thing, it’s not. In my experience, what’s happened is that my opinion has been “validated” with phrases like “Wow, that’s really something to think about”, “Thanks for sharing” or something equally non-committal. And, that’s pretty much it. It feels like I’m a precocious child who’s patted on the head and sent to their room after daring to participate in the conversation of the adults. Personally, I’d rather you tell me to shut up and let the educated folks handle things; that’s at least an honest expression of what you’re thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying my voice isn’t being heard, I’m saying I feel ignored when I talk about uncomfortable subjects. I’ve written two posts that talk about specific issues I have with the emergent community, “A Big Blow Off” and “From a White Man” and both of them were well received. But, since each was published, it’s like they (and the subjects they address) have drifted off to wherever uncomfortable subjects go to die.

I realize this all may seem an overly harsh critique. I realize it may sound like it’s coming from someone who feels intimidated and more than a little inferior because of their education level. All that may be true, I don’t know. What I do know is there’s a distinct air of superiority in the emergent conversation and it’s not just directed toward fundamentalists and evangelicals; people like me feel it, too. The message being sent in this case is those without the the proper educational background need not apply.

I love this community/movement/conversation/whatever the hell you call it and I love the people involved. Hell, that’s why I’m bringing all this up again. I believe the emergent and progressive movements are an excellent way to ensure the continued existence of a pretty good way to live, i. e. Christianity. But, that’s not going to happen as long as it feels closed off to anyone not in “the clique”.