Sunday, September 12, 2010
How to Annoy an Emergent
This post is from a previous blogging incarnation. By this time, probably only a handful of people even remember what "Emergent" or "the Conversation" was, and I present this only for the amusement of that small handful of folks.
1. Call him an Emergent. One of the things that has consistently amazed me since I started looking into this subject has been how often people will reject being labeled an Emergent. He may hang around Emergent blogs (often actually labeled--this is a shocker--"Emergent"); the books referenced in his sidebar may include all the hot names in the Emergent Conversation, including Brian McLaren's latest thriller, I'm Not Certain What My Book Says; he may go to Emergent meetings; he may attempt to explain to others what the Emergent Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie is; he may spend a good deal of time defending, quite vigorously, Emergent. And yet, weirdly, after having done all this, in one of the most consistent phenomena of the Emergent Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie, he will very likely turn around and tell you that not only is he not sure if he's an Emergent, he's not even sure what Emergent is!
Calling him an Emergent will probably annoy him plenty. If you really want to see him go off, dwell on whether he can know for sure that he's not an Emergent if he's not sure what Emergent is--and ask why he's bothering to tell you.
2. Refuse to admit that he might be right. While they will often tell each other (and you), "You're just wrong," when Emergents hear it from someone outside the Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie, it seems to drive them fairly well 'round the bend. When he tries to rebut, remind him that, if he's consistent, his inherent human fallibility renders it impossible to know for certain that you're wrong, or even for him to know for sure what you said.
3. Use a little sarcasm. His sarcasm will be just fine, godly, and totally in line with Scriptural precedent, mind you, but yours--whether aimed at him as a person (He can't be certain, of course. That would be bad.) or used to drive home a point--will positively annoy the dickens out of him. Of course, since many of the subjects you mention when talking about the Emergent Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie are so silly that even your straightforward commentary will sound like sarcasm, you may have to lay it on pretty thick, just so people can tell the difference.
4. Point out, again, that according to his own favored thinkers in the Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie, being certain that he's right would be arrogant. And, again, that if he's wrong, a lot of the people he's been open-mindedly encouraging in the Conversation/Church/Movement/Thingie will be spending eternity in a superheated condition. But it would be arrogant of him to say that he's certain he's not wrong about their eternal destiny, wouldn't it? Remind him of this when he says you're "out of line" for noting, with sadness, that someone is lost.
5. Refuse to take your questions about, or criticisms of, their public statements to a private forum. This seems to drive Emergents berserk. You see, they're supposed to be able to unleash all sorts of vitriole on Evangelicals and the Religious Right--whom they understand perfectly well, mind you--in public, but you are not supposed to respond publicly to their publicly-aired opinions, because, you, you poor, benighted fool, you, you don't understand what they actually have to say at all. They want you to make your criticisms privately or hear them out over coffee so they can use small words to explain it all to you, and they consider your refusal to do so a gross violation of Matthew 18 procedures.
If their position sounds a whole lot like "heads I win, tails you lose," I'd say you've got the flavor of it.
If it sounds like I'm deliberately using sarcasm to point out and highlight inconsistencies, go to the head of the class. If you think it's aimed at you as a person, your skin isn't as thick as you thought it was. If you can't tell, go to the head of the Emergent class. Have a cup of coffee. Enjoy the Conversation. You might be part of it. But you'll probably never be certain. That would be bad. Bad Emergent. No donut.