I came across a post on on the Emergent Village blog that really resonated with me. This was a piece by Dave Brown, who speaks really well about his background in the Charismatic movement. His ambivalence towards this background is very familiar- a combination of cringe and affection that I have spoken about before- here for example.
He talks about a new emergent kind of Charismatic movement, typified by the tripped out whacky stuff that surrounds John Crowder- Check this out!
Or just totally baffling?
My reaction is no surprise to me. Mostly I just recoil. But I have been in environments like this- usually hiding behind a guitar, but enough to feel a slight yearning for the uninhibited emotional and spiritual outpouring that such encounters provide- even the slightly more buttoned-down British version of them.
And talking of the British version, Dave makes mention in his article of Sloshfest- and other festivals in Wales, associated with familiar names (to us here in Aoradh anyway) like Godfrey Birtill. (We invited him to Dunoon once, and it was a bit of a road accident- but that is another story!)
Check out this site too- by the ‘Drunk Monk’.
What of all this then? Those of us who have escaped environments like these have common stories- of the oppression and madness that comes when you overheat and over sell ecstatic experience, leading to all sorts of leadership excesses and psychological damage. But we will also remember the freedom, then joy, the sense of release and belonging. Lots of good, mixed in with some really bad. I am happy to leave most of it behind…
But fringe movements like this are emerging at the same time as our own. People are forging a new frontier of faith, because the old one is whithering- and as Dave points out in his article our direction has been too often into the intellect- we have congratulated and celebrated deconstruction and theological debate. And we have eschewed emotion, and joy, and outward celebration.
And to be honest, I have simply never liked ambient chilled out music. I like music that engages, rather than simply providing a blank wallpaper.
I liked what Dave had to say here-
None of us on the fringes want to be held down by spiritual tyranny. That’s why we’ve voluntarily exiled ourselves to the desert of edge-pushing spirituality. And that was one of the things that attracted people like my parents to the Charismatic movement. They wanted more than establishment-friendly religion. And while Charismania has frequently (and often rightly) been criticized as all emotion and no substance, I think it’s unwise to adhere to the opposite extreme of all head and no heart. More specifically, I think we all could handle a little more emotion in our spiritual regimen. It’s okay to cry or laugh in church. It’s okay to express our passion with boisterous antics…or weepy, knees-on-floor reverence.
It’s okay to come out from behind the mask of objective distance. Because sometimes life sucks and we need to share the burden with somebody. And sometimes God has worked a miracle and we need to shout it from the rooftops. Sometimes we’re pissed off and it does more harm to hold it in. And sometimes we’ve experienced a hit of holy joy and freedom that we can’t explain, and we should share these things because that’s what community is for.
I don’t want this precious movement of the emerging church to end up as just another dry, debate-filled clique that gradually becomes the empire it set out to avoid. But I have enormous hope that that will never be the case. Because we are all part of a bigger story that will continue to evolve. Even as we sometimes try to distance ourselves from the label, we on the fringes are still an integral part of the larger Christian movement that’s been rolling on for millennia, and it always will be bigger than any one empire that tries to lay claim to it.
Amen brother (as I used to say)