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Friday, November 03, 2006
Uniquely She (Or why Brian Mclaren could almost pass for a girl)
Woman. The word that describes our inmost nature, and holds within it the key to unlocking the unique gifts I believe we're called to bring to the Emerging conversation.


Unless you're a spambot, if you're reading this post, once-upon-a-time you emerged from a woman's womb. You were probably squirmy and red, or white, covered in vernix. And you cried. You cried for the lost country, and for the warmth of mother's breast -- a source of nurturing and safety which your intincts told you existed, even before you found the nipple. Yes, you emerged from a a woman's womb.

If you are a woman, you may, like me, sense that in a profound way our wombs are not only the home of our physical fertility, or the bodily wisdom to bring forth new human beings; Wombs are the seat of nurturing, intuitive creativity, the root place of our passion, our stories, our unique pension for bringing forth that which was, up until the present moment quite hidden within. "Emerging" is a very feminine word.

Emerging, as a faith-orientation is quite feminine in nature, being rooted in the wisdom of stories, rather than the metallic sound of corporate doctrine. Emerging draws on postmodernism, which in its highest and best form surpasses argumentation and discovers that Truth Is. Truth like sand uncountable by the grain, made known by the sea and by the feeling of soft flour slipping through open fingers; an encounter with mystery, longing, resonance; Truth of the womb, not of the head; Finding the life of God beating in a butterflies wings; redeeming grace in the true story that God broke into our world and found us each by name, not as a stranger or a Bully, but as a brother. A brother whose love takes away the sins of the world.

Emerging honors the ministry of the Holy Spirit through relationships and genuine vulnerability; through the leveling of the pulpit into a circle of community defined by service and love. Emerging discovers God in the journey more than in illusions of arrival; it is collaborative, rather than confrontational. Emerging is, by very nature femnine. In theory.

Reality paints a picture of a lot of fantastic, God-loving, sincere men plowing ahead and making the predominant modality of Emerging conversation...well, very modern, ironically enough. And very male. The exception that comes to mind is Brian Mclaren's A New Kind of Christian trilogy which takes the form of a story. And I richly commend Brian for being in touch with his feminine side, in the spirit of Jesus and Paul, both of whom compared themselves to mothers. Various blooks, including Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger make some attempt to be postmodern by allowing interviewees to use their own words to describe their responses to questions about their experiences or churches and Mark Nikirk has posted on the Ooze about the power of story over fact. Yet in general, in western Christianity, including Emerging, there is a lack of the sort of soulful metaphor and voice and depth that goes beyond informational to transformational. I believe that is the sort of story that women are especially gifted to offer freely.

Mostly in Emerging forums I've observed a floodstorm of minds racing their neurons across the blogosphere, trying to define various categories of Emerging, or critiquing a position paper on the potential compatibilities or incompatibilities of postmodern philosophy with the historic Christian faith, or valiantly trying to synchronize the old and new testament narratives into a cohesive story and Christian worldview that can be packaged and labeled, "Emerging." And the methodology of attempting these feats employed is predominantly that of engaging in abstract, academic discussions that involve picking all the kernals off a corn and then trying to reassemble them on a manmade cob and calling it "Emerging Corn." In other words, taking stuff apart, sometimes debating a point (apparently) almost for sport, then trying to reassemble the same pieces into something that more closely resembles a box than a story.

Yet Jesus came mostly with stories. And Emerging is supposed to be about telling The Story, and telling the truth of our own stories in such a way that God radiates through; Truth is recognized not so much with the head as with the womb. Or if you prefer, the gut, the soul, the heart of hearts where truth stops yapping and starts singing.

Now it's no secret that human beings seem unable to survive without any categories at all, and so this flurry of analytical activity is very essential and potentially quite healthy. It carries the possibility of becoming genuinely fruitful, especially when feminine energy and approaches to communicating truth remind all of us that we do not theologize alone; God's own womb can be the home where developing ideas gestate, churn and emerge. And the feminine attunement can also help remind theologians why they theologize, helping all of us who tend to live in our heads that our wrestling with ideas really reflects our lifelong search and ache to apprehend more and more the Mystery of God.

Yes, all this hashing out of philosophy and theology toward the refining of understandings can be an integral part of emerging more self-aware and able to tell our story with clarity and beauty. But without a more direct feminine influence, I'm reading a big red danger sign that says, "Beware, Reductionism Ahead," despite the fact that Emerging defines itself partially by rejecting reductionism. I believe the tendency to sequester truth into categories will prove too strong for the Emergent conversation so long as there are a shortage of wombs profoundly shaping and nuancing the expression and articulation of Emerging faith, reminding us to fertilize our stories and allow them to flourish -- regardless of whether our bloom fits neatly into a category described by someone else's book.

The womb is vital to creating an Emerging conversation that is able to sustain and bring life not only to complicated, beautiful ideas, but to complicated beautiful people -- human beings desperate to sing God's poetry over Creation, awaking the dry bones to receive hearts of living flesh etched in grace.

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