Current trends in faith intrigue me because I'm a blogger and I'm a blogger because I'm innately curious. Trends interest me but they do not capture me, and I think this distinction is important. I have had times where I have been momentarily distracted by ideas and methodologies, shoes and styles, but at the end of all things, I think we can agree these momentary pleasures are best if they pass away. And good riddance, too. I am, however, still interested in faith trends. I'm lured by them because I love the culture of heaven and I think it ought to affect the culture of earth, and what are trends if not culture's response to heaven's delay?
One such trend that has gotten less airplay in recent years is the Emergent Church Movement (ECM) (some of you are rolling your eyes here, having already moved on past that old thing and fancying some new thing these days), but I'm still paying attention to it because the effects and the sustainability of it are just now beginning to show their true colors. You only thought the effects of it were things like Love Wins and the rise of feminism, but they were only catalysts. The true effects are where are all those people now?
Phyllis Tickle is a leading voice in the emergent movement, a Christian-mystic, a contributor to USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, PBS, and NPR. I've often been drawn to Tickle's voice because there's a sense of reverence, the Holy, I've found lacking in much of evangelicalism these days. She's gentle and lulling, and of course she is—if there's anything the ECM is known for, it is half of the whole of love—the gentle passive half void of the justice of God.
The Death of Feminism?
In the recent Emergence Christianity Conference, Tickle spoke. (And I'm getting to the point about all this and why it matters.)
The audio for the conference is not available, but the blogs of attendees are in plenty. One such attendee-blogger wrote of how disappointed she was by Tickle's talk. This leading lady of the movement who has brought a voice to equality in the church, primarily in gender roles, spoke of the downfall of modern faith being the lack of women at home, bringing up babies and such:
"Phyllis described the freedoms working outside the home in WW2 and the ability to control our cycles the Pill brought women and argued that such things led to the destruction of the nuclear family and therefore the foundation of the civil religion of Christendom. While it is a narrow assessment of causality, I can agree with the descriptive observation that such things changed our culture. But then she jumped from these changes as that which brought an end to Christendom to describing how such changes led to the destruction of the ways the faith is passed on to new generations which thereby resulted in a biblically illiterate society. As she described it, when mom is not at home weaving the stories of scripture and the church calendar into her day to day activities in front of her children, they do not receive the basics of the faith. One cannot apparently have a sacred family meal over Papa John’s pizza picked up on the way home from work the same way that one can if one is baking bread, doing family crafts, and eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Phyllis ended the session by encouraging us to discover ways to be back in the kitchen with our children and finding crafty ways to import the rhythms of the church year to them. Essentially to focus on the family and all that. That is the great emergence. The end."*
Because the audio isn't available (and I wish it was so I could not only give you a fuller picture, but give myself a fuller one too), I don't know if any of this was a direct quote from Tickle. However, I know the general thrust of her argument sent the bloggers into a tizzy, so I would guess this paragraph is fairly close to the original.
Here is my purpose in sharing this quote. It is not to raise the flag of complementarity, or to espouse the incorrect view that Biblical-Womanhood is home/baby-making and nothing else. My purpose is not to say the Feminist Movement got it completely wrong or dinner around the table is the answer to all the world's problems. My purpose is to highlight trends in the Church are trends; they are as temporal as the dew on the morning grass and the oak leaves on the tree in my back yard. They are not only passing away, but they are also not important enough for us to get waylaid by as they pass.
There are moments to confront with truth, to stand firm when the waves threaten to knock down what we hold most dear. Riding trains and beating drums of passing movements, though, is not as helpful as simply adoring Christ and preaching the simplicity of the gospel in every area of our lives.
"Truth and error will get sorted out in the long run, and probably much quicker if we just let it rip rather than try to manage the whole process. Somehow the managers of the process are frequently found to be an essential part of the problem, and it turns out they tend to manage the discussions in such a way that that interesting fact never comes out" (pg. 191).
Movements will pass away. Error will be seen. History might repeat itself, but it will always do so with a little more hindsight and a little more abandon. Things might not get better and we may feel the negative effects of feminism for a long, long time. But truth works itself to the light with the help of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God.
What Lasts Longest
What we see in that snippet of a commentary on Tickle's talk is an acknowledgement that what a movement once espoused as best, was perhaps not best. And I think, in some ways, we all see a bit of ourselves in that. Ways we once thought were ultimate now pale in comparison to the bigger, more full picture of God's grandness we have.
Stay your eyes on Christ in these days, meditate on the truths of the Gospel, on the sufficiency of His word and the delight of the Father toward you. Do all of this with the help of the Holy Spirit and be not distracted by the morning dew.
It is passing away.