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Dec 19, 2008


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Those ironies have not been lost on me either. As passionate as I am about justice and equality issues, and as attracted as I am to emerging models, the Sojourners crowd has always seemed like merely a more liberal carbon copy of the Religious Right crowd; both want to co-opt government to impose their Christian beliefs from the top down. Maybe it's the closet Anabaptist in me, but I can't in good conscience reconcile myself with that no matter how hard I try.

Having said that, emergence should work in a Christian group (one could say it has worked just fine for the Quakers) because, by definition, any Christian group should be in the business of cultivating virtue, and only a virtuous populace can exhibit emerging, virtuous, self-governing behavior over the long term. Plato had much to say about this conundrum for the state, and I think Christianity is the only real answer. Too bad most of Christendom abandoned the cultivation of virtue long ago in favor of cultivating compliance and consumption instead.

On other hand one could say that for the very same reason no economy of any state made up largely of non-disciples could ever "emerge" virtuously simply because of the lack of virtue among its people. No amount of regulation - neither the tending-the-soil type, or any more authoritarian alternative - can suppress the fantastic imagination of people hell bent on ferreting every loophole and capitalizing on every unintended consequence of legislation for their own personal gain.

And I'm not just talking about CEO's and Wall Street bankers. I have close friends and family who made hundreds of thousands of dollars on the sale of homes during the peak of the real estate bubble without ever stopping to question why and how such a completely insane and contrived scenario could possibly occur, much less question whether it was right to make and keep such exorbitant profits for themselves. In many cases the people who purchased those homes are now in serious trouble, paying for a giant, "emergent" Ponzi scheme that could only happen because of the basic lack of character of every player in the market from top to bottom.

Not that I would have acted any different given the opportunity. (deep sigh).

Michael W. Kruse

Great thoughts Jason. I keep coming back to the idea that good fruits of emergence the ECers see in the church world have close parallels in the economic world. The same threats of institutional domination that exist in the church world also exist in the economic world.

It seems to me that the challenge with emerging Christians should be a predisposition to libertarianism yet that is not the dominant experience. My suspicion is that significant portions of emergent church is not emergent or postmodern, but rather hyper-modern and hyper-individualistic. That is, government entities should cover my basic needs so I can be free from local community restraints and act however I chose.


That's an interesting point, although hyper-modern, hyper-individualistic doesn't really explain the neo-monastic folks. Still, I think you're right. For better or for worse EC has become shorthand in the popular consciousness for the wholesale rejection of every tradition, EXCEPT the bits and pieces I want to keep.

Michael W. Kruse

My point wouldn't be that hyper-modernism is universal with emergent friends but that it is prevalent enough that I think it tends be the center of gravity.


"It beautifully illustrates that no one is in charge of making pencils (there is no pencil czar) and yet there is always an abundant supply of pencils."

On the economic side, doesn't this say that the upcoming czars may not provide an optimal solution?

On the other hand, while there's no overall "Bureau of Pencil Production", there are islands of hierarchical organization throughout the pencil economy. The factory has a manager, a shipping department, a workforce, &c.; the shipping companies that bring raw materials in and bright shiny pencils out are carefully organized; the stores that sell them are organized, from the Mom [CFO] and Pop [CEO] stores to nationwide Acme Pencil Mart chains.

I have no contact with emergent churches (I'm in PCUSA). From what I gather, they're churches unhappy with the hierarchical style (PCUSA, Catholic, &c) and aim to go their own way - whatever it might be.

I think there's certainly a place for hierarchy and organization. A group of 500 leaders is a mob. On the other hand, a group of 500 with a despotic leader is no better off. (As with Jim Jones.)

Jason has a good point: "... EXCEPT the bits and pieces I want to keep."

I suppose that's why there are Unitarians.

Michael W. Kruse

Mike, firms emerge within markets to meet customer needs and depending on the industry some can become quite large with large market shares. But even the biggest corps. are not monopolies and they have difficulty staying on top more than a decade or two. Look at the Dow Jones Industrial companies from 100 years ago and only one is there today (GE, was Western Electric.) Just go back 25 years and you will see major change. The markets are constantly producing these entities and then ripping them apart as something new emerges in its place. I wouldn't equate emergence with complete decentralization.

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