The generous folks at Baker Publishing Group sent me a pre-release copy of Phyllis Tickle’s forthcoming book Emergence Christianity several weeks ago, so I’ve been able to digest this wide-ranging survey of Emergent Christianity’s influences and history with some time and attention.
In her previous book, Tickle looked at the major theological, cultural, and ecclesial threads that tie the nascent Emergence church movement together. Now with her Emergence Christianity, she goes even wider and much deeper as she surveys more of the influences and impulses that coalesce and motivate the church that is emerging. And she does it in her hallmark way, combining a breezy, conversational writing style with real academic rigor and precision. Plus, she uses plenty of commas and colloquialisms, with fancy words stirred in like so many chocolate chips. Behold the wonder:
Emergence Christians approach their faith, logically enough, as Emergence citizens. …and like their fellow citizens, they by and large are dialogical in their pursuit of understanding; hospitable to a fault; decolonized in their worldview, be it political or missional; antiauthoritarian in more than just their declericalization; enamored of paradox; demanding of authenticity as a prerequisite to any engagement of any sort; and, almost as a logical extension of authenticity, even more demanding that there be absolute transparency in whoever or whatever is. Unlike their fellow citizens of a more secular bent, however, Emergence Christians are both spiritual and religious.” (167)
Which might be a bit of bad news for those of us who want to feel like we’re so very special and unique (read the now-dated books Tribes and Bobos in Paradise to further disabuse yourself of this notion of innovative particularity). And it is perhaps worse news for those who want to demonize Emergence Christians, for these oppositional folks must see themselves in their imagined opponents. As Tickle has been contending for years, Emergence is happening all around us, and not just in religion.
Indeed, Tickle contends that this new stream of Christian belief and practice is marked by people with a kind of double or triple citizenship, and then suggests many fascinating lenses through which to see this polyvalence:
- members of culture, of church, and of a particular expression of church
- part of political/cultural Christendom, and a part of God’s Kingdom on earth
- participants in a civil polity, people of faith, and people of a particular religion
- citizens of a nation-state, of a great cultural Emergence, and of Emergence Christianity
She writes as both an insider and outsider– though 70-plus years old, she clearly resonates with this Emergence, yet she is a lifelong and avowed member of the Episcopal church who has publicly promised that her funeral will have all of the “smells and bells and smoke” of high-church tradition. So she knows the paradox from which she writes, even as she shows a wonderful way forward, one foot in (at least) two worlds. She concludes her great book with an outstanding annotated bibliography, demonstrating her wide research and also providing a path of insight for readers. And with a nod to the Emergence integration of arts, she even includes a 32-page photo essay.
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In their own show of Emergence hospitality, Baker also sent me an extra copy to give away. To enter the drawing, leave a comment on this thread and one of my lovely assistants will (hopefully) pull your name out of my ironic hipster hat. The drawing will take place on the official release date of the book, September 12, and you need not be present to win.