I’m often unsure what to say when people ask me what church I attend. Truth is, I’ve not been attending any church regularly for around 5 years now – since the time I left for my further studies abroad. Reason is because I’ve been searching.
I started moving away from conservative evangelicalism as I became more interested in social justice issues 5 years ago. During this time, I began to lose a lot of the certainty I had before about various Christian issues. That is, epistemologically, I gradually embraced a more moderate or soft form of Postmodernism (or Critical Realism). Conservative evangelicalism, which most of us (and virtually all Singaporean Christians) are born into upon becoming Christians, started to lose its grips on me.
As mentioned elsewhere, the movement or tradition of Christianity I’d identify most with is the Emerging Church movement. I can’t say I agree with everything in this movement, but I certainly identify with a lot in it. That’s the kind of Christianity I’m talking about when I talk about a Christianity that is progressive. That’s the kind of Christianity that I’m very sure Bono of U2 would identify with. And, needless to say, that’s the kind of Christianity I believe is closest to what the Bible advocates. The fact that I can’t find such a Christianity here in Singapore is the reason why I find it hard to settle down and serve in a church – as I think should be the ideal scenario for every Christian. I’d rather not be regularly attending any one particular church though still seeking God on my own, than to attend a church for the sake of attending (and for the sake of being in a community of believers, which I acknowledge is very important) and get discouraged by the kind of mediocre, compromised and self-absorbed Christianity I see being taught and practiced in most Churches nowadays.
However, I do hope to attend and serve in a church faithfully one day. Though, that would take time. For the moment, thinking Christians may wish read this excellent and balanced article about the Emerging Church movement in Christianity Today magazine. The author Scot McKnight, who blogs at Jesus Creed, lists five unique aspects of this movement:
1) Prophetic / provocative: “The emerging movement is consciously and deliberately provocative. Emerging Christians believe the church needs to change…”
2) Postmodernism: “While there are good as well as naughty consequences of opting for a postmodern stance (and not all in the emerging movement are as careful as they should be), evangelical Christians can rightfully embrace certain elements of postmodernity.”
3) Praxis-orientated: “At its core, the emerging movement is an attempt to fashion a new ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). Its distinctive emphases can be seen in its worship, its concern with orthopraxy, and its missional orientation.”
4) Post-evangelical: “The emerging movement is a protest against much of evangelicalism as currently practiced… This stream flows from the conviction that the church must always be reforming itself.”
5) Political: “I also lean left in politics. I tell my friends that I have voted Democrat for years for all the wrong reasons. I don’t think the Democratic Party is worth a hoot, but its historic commitment to the poor and to centralizing government for social justice is what I think government should do. I don’t support abortion—in fact, I think it is immoral. I believe in civil rights, but I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s design. And, like many in the emerging movement, I think the Religious Right doesn’t see what it is doing. Sometimes, however, when I look at emerging politics, I see Walter Rauschenbusch, the architect of the social gospel. Without trying to deny the spiritual gospel, he led his followers into the social gospel. The results were devastating for mainline Christianity’s ability to summon sinners to personal conversion. The results were also devastating for evangelical Christianity, which has itself struggled to maintain a proper balance.”