I recently attended the Emergence Christianity 21 (EC21) national event in Denver. These events represent one edge or style of Christian innovation. It’s been well documented by the great scholar and writer, Dr. Phyllis Tickle. (She also sits on my board of directors). The events are led by some very creative thinkers and speakers such as Rev. Nadia Boltz-Weber, Dr. Tony Jones, and Rev. Doug Pagitt.
So what’s with the f-bombs? I kid you not the f-bomb was used from the central stage by more than one speaker…I suppose to communicate relevance.
Now, I need to be honest and make two confessions: First I use the f-bomb in my personal and private life. But I was smart enough to know not to use it around my kids when they were growing up (except one very bad day we had) and I don’t use it around my grand kids.
Secondly, as a public speaker for more than 30 years I’ve gotten myself in all kinds of trouble for poor judgement. I didn’t need the f-bomb to do that. I once gave a youth talk that ended up so badly that not one, but two bishops had to send letters of apology to their synods. Now that’s blundering.
But I didn’t use the f-bomb, and I was certainly “trying” to do the right thing. At EC21 the speakers intentionally and frequently used it, commented on using it, and nearly celebrated using it. I don’t see how this communicates relevancy so much as it is pandering to the audience.
My 29 year old daughter, who lives in Denver, told me it’s no big deal. It’s a generational thing. At that point I said, “OMG-I’ve become the church lady! Now isn’t that ‘speeecail’”.
Or have I? The apostle Paul had a real problem with the Corintheans. They were living a bad example in a town known for being a bad example. They were not “speecial”. Paul finally told these less than stellar examples of Christian living, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up.” In other words, “you can use the f-bomb with your audiences, but how does that build up the body of Christ? How is that an example to the world that Christians are trying to live and do something different?”
The culture is coarse enough without help from Christians. Can’t we offer an alternative of civil behavior in public settings?
Christians have a message to share about the love of God, and in our own imperfect ways we strive first for the kingdom of God. I think the Emergence folks are onto many good things. F-bombing isn’t one of them. In fact, this kind of behavior can become a real stumbling block for the good things they do want to accomplish.
But then, maybe my daughter is right and this is a generational thing. Maybe I have become the “church lady”. What do you think? When are we relevant and when are we just pandering to the crowd?