Rachel Held Evans

Plundering Egypt: A Conversation on the Passing of Rachel Held Evans

Just two days after Stan Grenz died, David Dockery began his concluding paragraph warning Baptists, specifically Southern Baptists, that Grenz might lead his readers into orthodox inconsistency.

Unfortunately, his pietism didn’t translate into evangelical coherene or orthodox consistency.

That was fourteen year ago.

Reading some of the responses to the death of Rachel Held Evans reminded me of that incident. In fact, to demonstrate how this works, the same thing happened after the death of Jerry Falwell. No matter your theological convictions you may be sure someone will take advantage of the news of your death to point out all the error of your ways. It makes us feel better about our chosen perspective on the spectrum.

Among we Southern Baptists it appears that orthodoxy is now tied to how one interprets the Scriptures regarding women in ministry – preaching or pastoring. But, one of the oldest creeds of the Christian faith does not make that issue a matter of Christian orthodoxy. What’s more, it now appears that after claiming to be a confessional denomination, Southern Baptists indeed have a Magisterium that weighs theological positions in the balance. Welcome to the new SBC. Entity heads take your bow.

Could we benefit from splitting the hair between Christian Orthodoxy and doctrinalism? I think so. Take this simple test. If Stan Grenz, Jerry Falwell and Rachel Held Evans all would affirm the Nicene Creed, then they would be considered within the bounds of Christan orthodoxy. But, given their doctrinal differences, they would likely not share a home in the same denomination. That is the difference between orthodoxy and doctrinalism.

When Grenz and Evans moved beyond the doctrinalism of Evangelicalism that did not mean they were now unorthodox. What’s more, if Grenz identified as a Pietist with a PhD then, he is echoing what my friend Bill Borror recently described on a podcast. Bill used the imagery of Isreal leaving Egypt for his own move out of Evangelicalism and into a different Christian stream most would consider Mainline. He noted that he felt like he had left Egypt carrying with him some plunder.

Listening to Rachel Held Evans and reading her books reveals much the same. While she left her Baptist, Evangelical roots, she maintained the fervor of an Evangelical even if she found her home in the Episcopalian branch of the Christian tree. Think the late Robert Weber who followed the Canterbury Trail later in his life.

Tommie Marshell joins me on this podcast episode. We talk about her response to Rachel, public responses on social media and in major publications. We work to distinguish between orthodoxy and doctrinalism. Take a listen and leave your thoughts in the comments. Be nice.

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Don’t Scratch the Devil: An Interview with Richard Beck

I am no Rachel Held Evans. My blog/website does not garner near her number of visits. There is no book to my credit. Interviewers do not line up. But, I am like Rachel Held Evans.
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Read Rachel Held Evans Again or, Missing the Millennial Point

Something lies beneath the dustup created by Rachel Held Evans CNN blog post. It is more than what appears to be a patterned response to anything RHE writes. The usual suspects tend to use whatever Rachel writes to prop up their shtick; and that applies to critics and supporters. You know what I mean. It is the sort of reading that is really not reading. Read her post carefully and then a few of the responses. It was as if people were reading differently cached posts on the Interwebs.

I am not a Millennial. The Pew Research Center offers an online quiz to see how Millennial you might be. My responses confirmed what some would have noted my age clearly indicated. Not Millennial.

But, Patty and I have raised two Millennials. Our Youth Pastor is a Millennial. Our Associate Pastor is on the edge of being considered a Millennial, much like Evans. The observations Evans made in her CNN piece may not be scientific. She may not have offered the perspective of someone with sociological street cred. Her observations are not far off.

I always read Scot McKnight. He posted an excerpt from Brett McCracken’s response to Rachel’s post. Here is the bit that caught my eye,

How about the opposite? Millennials: why don’t we take our pastors, parents, and older Christian brothers and sisters out to coffee and listen to them? Perhaps instead of perpetuating our sense of entitlement and Twitter/blog/Instagram-fueled obsession with hearing ourselves speak, we could just shut up for a minute and listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before?

Me thinks Brett both hit and missed. He missed in that what Millennials do not care to hear is how they should buy the coffee. This smacks of inviting women to be the ones to make the advance in a conservative religious world where men dominate. Why not invite the men to tea and ask them about life as a male? Nothing short circuits being heard than telling those desiring to express themselves, or to participate, that they somehow owe those keeping them on the sidelines a bit of coddling.

What McCracken hit on gets at the heart of this issue. It is far better to have a conversation. One of these days Scot will resurrect his stuff on the Art of Conversation, at least I am hoping, and told him so. We have replaced conversation with psychographics.

It all started with Saddleback Sam, who incidentally morphed from the West Coast to Chicago and took the form of Unchurched Harry. No, this is not the place where we vilify Rick Warren or Bill Hybels. Neither is the Devil, nor devil. Warren actually, if my memory serves me well in these advanced years, came up with Saddleback Sam after canvasing the area where he intended to plant what is now Saddleback Church. If psychographic profiles were available then, the church was just hearing about it.

I began work in the Doctor of Ministry program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1991. We were introduced to psychographics. Instruments like VALS, and VALS2, helped segment the population analyzing V-alues, A-ttitudes, and Lifestyles. Combined with demographic studies, churches could benefit from psychographic studies to be better equipped to market themselves to unchurched populations. In other words, intentionally or unintentionally, churches influenced heavily by the Church Growth Movement opted to get into marketing themselves to these segmented groups. And, we found another way to segregate the Church. How many remember Gen-X Churches popping up?

Incidentally it was this issue that caught the attention of those who eventually formed Emergent Village, the loosely organized group once called Emergent/Emerging/emerging.  They, like Evans today, did not think the church needed more marketing, or to learn how to be more cool and hip to reach Generation X. By the way my hip hurts. I digress.

The full on move to market the Gospel may in part be what is behind the recent Gospel-centered movement. But, if we are not careful, Gospel-centered simply becomes the new Ad campaign. Once that is the case, it becomes and empty signifier. It means nothing.

The issue underneath Rachel Held Evans CNN blog post is that we have traded statistics, demographics, psychographics, and the consequent market segment profiles for spending time with real people. Our friend Ed Stetzer staunchly believes these categories are helpful – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennial, etc. Maybe they do have their place. But, these shorthand markers for the years a given generation fits combined with psychographic market data make shorthand of our relationships.

McCracken is correct. And so is Evans. But, we do not need to see if Millennials will sit down with their pastors and church leaders or vice versa, we need real people with real names to take real time to talk. Chat it up about life and faith. Stop casting people into bins to make it easier to apply your shtick or formula. Open up to the hard work of real hospitality that makes room for another person who will surely not be like you, nor think like you, nor process the world as you do.

Take the time to learn their names, their hobbies, and their life experiences. Spend time developing friendships that flow both ways. Stop already with classifications as if everyone fits neatly into such a description.

Incidentally, you may be glad to know that Rachel Held Evans believes the church is good for Millennials. She enumerates the reasons here. I am sure she believes Church is good for all people for the same reasons noted in her new CNN piece.

According to the Pew Research Quiz I fit Generation X. Demographically, I am a tail end Baby Boomer. I know, some of you think I am a tail end all right.

What really brought this whole affair home for me was a lunch date last week with three Millennials, or borderline Millenials – Justin, Trent, and Tim. One fellow pulled out his phone and read Herman Mehta’s response to Evans’ post. I asked if he read the article that stirred the response. He had not. Justin did say Mehta’s article was quite interesting. While Christians decided to take up arms and sides with/against Evans, Mehta said, why not try Atheism?

If that does not get your attention, Christian pastor/leader, you should put down the leadership books that simply rehash marketing for the church and pick up the Gospels, the ones in your copy of the New Testament. Follow Jesus’ pattern of friendship and see what possibilities rise from the death of viewing people as a market niche to be won.

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The Plane of Poor Discipleship or, President Obama May Have More In Common with Christians Who Refuse Him

“My candidate will best your candidate!” We will know the winner of Election 2012 sooner or later according to the pundits. Sooner may mean by midnight tonight. Later could mean by week’s end. Except, I am not interested in playing the game of one-upmanship. Let’s agree not to play that game.

Bill Kinnon offered an insightful piece yesterday, Zero-Sum Games. An outside observer to the fervor generated in Sooner Land or any other major college football program, Kinnon claims what hinders the church from conversation, real honest conversation, is the zero-sum game. He sums it up, “I win! You lose! It’s a zero-sum game.”

Bludgeoning others in order to lay claim to victory in politics and religion seems an assimilation of the spirit of the age – the spirit of sports. Reading comments on Christian blogs where opinions diverge often feels like being on the playground listening to pre-adolescents tout the bravado of my Dad over against the presumed wimpy-ness of your Dad. The subject is really not important. The conversation has moved on to, I’m smart; you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Read More

Weekly Wrap – Maybe You Missed These Posts and the Comments

OU put on their own surge in the second half and is putting Iowa State away to get back in the win column. Last  night I enjoyed the home opener for the OKC Thunder. Despite the chatter about chemistry and Harden’s first two games with the Rockets, the Thunder look ready to defend their Western Conference title while Dwayne Wade thought their game should have been cancelled rather than stand 1-1 after Carmello played well for the Knicks.

On the personal front. Scheduled another lithotripsy to bust up kidney stones in the left kidney. Kidney Stone Event 2012 may be over after two months come November 18. Hoping so. We need another good freeze to knock the weed pollen out. The allergies linger on. I am working through a number of books, print and ebook. Hoping to get some reviews up soon.

Here are this week’s posts you may have missed.

Race Is No Longer an Issue? or, Maybe My SBC Friends Will Rethink Our Progress Read More