John Bloom's picture
05.30.2008 | Comments(24)

Please Poke My Eye Out with a Stick

All the hotel rooms in Princeton are booked up for the big Envision ‘08 conference next week, right? DARN! I guess we can’t go. Shoot, how did we forget to register? How often do you have in one place every Emergent Church guy with fuzz under his lower lip and a Jossey-Bass book contract generating pop-up ads on his website, plus the holy hipsters of the Ivy League tossing off witty exegetical bon mots? What? It didn’t fill up? You’re kidding me! They’re offering lower and lower prices as the event approaches? Unbelievable! What happened to the enormous uprising against the Religious Right? Later this month, the Sojourners-sponsored Pentecost 2008 is similarly anemic in pre-registration. What’s going on here? Last year we had every Democratic candidate and a couple of Republicans begging Jim Wallis for a microphone at that convocation. Envision ‘08 shouldn’t be tanking two months after Jeremiah Wright, one month after John Hagee, and one week after Rod Parsley! Maybe it was the Omen-inspired brochure featuring what appears to be three Peruvian sheepherders in Raccoon Lodge hats contemplating suicide. Maybe it was the early rumors that Bono would be showing up, rumors that fizzled just as the weather forecasters predicted balmy skies that weekend at the Jersey Shore. Attendees will have to settle instead for Doug “I Don’t Believe in Christianity Anymore” Pagitt, who, incidentally, will be joining Tony Jones, still hoping that his voice will change before his hairline fully recedes, on an RV evangelism tour this summer that promises to set new standards in the sweepstakes of affected attempts to be cool and relevant. Bowie Snodgrass, of the “Transmissioning” community in New York City, will also be in Princeton, bearing tales of her recent wedding in India, no doubt releasing all kinds of New Age evangelical energy into the ozone. (Inspired by a visit to the site where St. Thomas landed in India in 52 AD, she recently preached on “not knowing the way.”) EV08Also parachuting in from the Apple will be Lisa Sharon Harper, currently ending poverty as head of New York Faith & Justice, and she’ll be explaining how we have to keep religion and politics separate, the way she does on her Faithful Democrats blog. Whoops! Lisa actually wrote a book called Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat but must have started shortening the title by two words for rhetorical purposes. Notably absent from the lineup, though, is Marc Driscoll, who was too busy preaching on masturbation and, besides, Marc thinks Doug Pagitt is a jerk now. Marc has moved beyond Emergent, he’s Post-Emergent, if not Divergent (and certainly Masturbergent). I’m really sorry we didn’t get that hotel room. Gosh, I guess we could go down there and bask in non-Christian Christianity, but, you know, there’s that New Jersey Transit train fare. And I think the trains might be all booked up.

It’s Not a Library, IT’S A THINK TANK!

Bush Library

A few dead-enders in the Methodist Church are still trying to stop the building of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and I feel like I’d be doing less than my journalistic duty if I didn’t point out the arguments of the Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, who’s leading the opposition, and who besieged me with information the last time I wrote about this. Weaver says the problem with the project is not the library but the think tank that goes with the library. That think tank would promote the policies of the Bush administration, and many of those policies are unChristian and, more to the point, unMethodist. He’s particularly exercised about the torture issue. But since Webber has only raised $10,000 at this point to fight a decision that the church and the university say is irreversible, it would probably be a better use of resources to focus on making sure the think tank is intellectually honest and hires genuine scholars. Hint: Don’t give Doug Wead a job.

He Just Keeps Coming Back


An army of private security guards descended on Woodstock, New York, last week when Trinley Thaye Dorje, the 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa, visited the Tibetan Buddhist monastery there. (The official name of the place is the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Center, best known for being used as the set in the Martin Scorsese movie Kundun.) The Karmapa was born in 1110 and then reborn for the 16th time in 1983, so why does he need security? You have to assume that, if assassinated, he’d pop right back up in a heartbeat. The Karmapa became a Buddhist rock star in 1999 when, at the age of 14, he slipped out of the Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet in the middle of the night, donned civilian garb and took a few attendants with him as he traveled for seven days by car, foot, horseback, helicopter, train and taxi, crossing the Himalayas to seek asylum in India, where it was possible to formally receive the “transmissions” that go with his position as leader of the Kagyu, or Black Hat, sect. Ever since then the Chinese authorities have regarded him as one more Tibetan troublemaker to deal with. The Karmapa seems blissed out in his pictures, but his biggest problem these days is a Fake Karmapa who’s been gathering devotees in Europe. It’s hard to fake being 898 years old, though. Nobody likes a lame lama..

Which C-word Do You Mean?

Southpark Scientology

A 15-year-old boy in London is being hauled into court for calling Scientology a cult. Police on the scene during a demonstration at the $45.4 million Scientology Center on Queen Victoria Street first gave the kid a warning about his placard, which read, “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.” He was told that the word “cult” was not allowed under section five of the Public Order Act, which forbids words on signs that are “threatening, abusive or insulting.” When he refused to stand down, the sign was seized and he was issued a summons for criminal prosecution. Since the Church of Scientology has been known to grease the palms of City of London police, the protesters were outraged for more than one reason and have continued to bash the authorities on various Internet sites. This controversy, by the way, should not be confused with the other controversy in which another Christian publicly used a four-letter word beginning in “c” and ending in “t.”


Droslovinia | 11:42 am on 5/30/2008

That's the problem with all those "positive thinking" preachers out there. When a Christian is unable to say "can't" in public, you know it's gone too far.

While I'm really into emerging Christianity and all, and have been for over 20 years, I have to admit that your snarky comments about their "conference" were pretty good. Just when did we go from "minister" to "jet-setter," anyway?

Here's a thought for them - when you hold a conference, make sure that it meets the needs of emergent people, most of whom do not have a full-time church or denominational gig where they can get paid expenses and given time off to go to conferences like these.

JoshH | 12:32 pm on 5/30/2008

I will agree with D on the point about these conferences be so damn hard to afford to get to...and to be at. They're out of reach for bohemian writer types like us (hell, I haven't even been able to afford a Door subscription for years).

And they got it wrong about Fonda, she was actually talking about someone an ex-girlfriend introduced me to. She said his name was Mike Hunt.

Uncle Kenny | 01:30 pm on 5/30/2008


I hope the irony is not lost on you that you write for a publication called the Wittenberg Door. Uhhm. . .wasn't Luther being "emergent" when he wrote those 95 Theses and nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517?

Many claim the weakness of this movement is that while their leaders are creative, energetic, youthful, authentic, highly relational, that they can drift easily and become somewhat cynical, disorganized, sometimes reckless, and immature. As a result, the emerging church believes it is necessary to deconstruct Christian dogma that has become increasingly irrelevant to the prevailing culture. If that doesn't sound like Luther, I don't know what does.

So what is the point in your publication taking shots at them?

--Uncle Kenny

Anonymous | 11:54 am on 5/31/2008

There is the global emerging church and then there's commercialized Emergent church with self appointed speakers, books, etc. - the former is way cool - the later deserves to get slammed to high heaven.

thepriesthood | 11:12 pm on 6/12/2008

dear anonymous,

you would not be using the phrase "global emerging church" had it not been for the community that is Emergent to put it in your vocab. institutionalization is inescapable, so stop decrying the inevitable.

SRebbe | 04:55 pm on 6/01/2008

the problem comes when the new clergy becomes the clergy and the followers take the place of the passive laity and sits and listens and becomes, well, passive.

this is not the mission of the Church. use your muscles, people. if we are all the body, we all can be teaching this stuff and going out, not just "special speakers" who have "life experiences" who wrote books and who are on stage.

whoislikegod | 07:51 am on 6/04/2008

Luther wasn't "emergent". Luther was restoring the Church Catholic. I don't see how Luther can be seen as deconstructing dogma. He was bringing it back into style, much to Rome's chagrin.

budda | 02:33 pm on 6/04/2008

At first restoring the church was the general idea, but once it got going Luther wasn't interested in reconciling with Rome unless they came over to his way of seeing things. Which, of course he knew they wouldn't.

I see a lot of parallels to luther and the emergent church. Luther took full advantage of his new found grace, and explored the 'all things are permissible" verses in Romans. If Rob Bell throws some Anabaptist, like Mennonites and Amish in jail, that would just about do it.

that calvinist doug | 02:16 pm on 5/30/2008

I am 41-years-old. Not very, very old, not too young. But the thing is this: no one is young and fresh forever. McLaren is now an old fart. Campolo is ancient. Rob Bell is probably around my age. The point is, you can only wave the "I'm young and hip" banner for so long, and then your turn is over. In the same blog, we get a piece about Jane Fonda...I don't remember the late 60's or early 70's, but I do know Jane is not now what she was then, physically or socially.

If the "emerging" church wants to consider their path the continuation of Luther's, Calvin's, etc. (insofar as they are "reforming" tired old religion) then they better realize that youth fleets and artsy language is out of style and forgotten in a decade. Get some meat on those theological bones or be consigned to the dust heap of church history.

mountainguy | 05:41 pm on 5/30/2008

41? As a Jethro Tull's song says: "Too old to rock'n roll, too young to die".

I'm 25, so I guess I can still be a "rocker"

wammel-faddle | 04:10 pm on 5/31/2008

strange, how would John Bloom know how Pentecost 08 registration is going? ....since I'm going and happen to know for a fact that the event exceeded its capacity and had to add 50 spots. could it be that he doesn't know what he's talking about...? satire is good, and good satire is funny, but lies (or, benefit of the doubt, speaking in ignorance) make baby Jesus cry.

Anonymous | 04:35 pm on 5/31/2008

Just checked the website and as of 5;24pm this evening, they are still pushing the $99.00 Salvation Special. Even if it does sell out (and at 1,000 people that isn't that large a crowd compared to other Xn gatherings), the event still comes across as a sellout.

Fiddle Faddle | 05:42 pm on 5/31/2008

If anything is inaccurate, it's the EV '08 website that's still begging people to attend. Smacks of desperation to me. Setting aside the registration issue, how many &^%%$# conventions do we need? Think about how much carbon is going to be expended in transportation costs just so people can gather in a room and listen to a bunch of hot air coming from a bunch of hipster wannabes. And do we really need ANOTHER declaration, manifesto, petition that we all know is just going to be yet another vehicle to get circulated around so select souls can try and get themselves even more media time.

My guess is conference crud like this is what makes baby Jesus cry.

SRebbe | 04:56 pm on 6/01/2008

I'm sure they'll let you write off your carbon credits.

Anonymous | 08:35 am on 6/01/2008

maybe the price of gas is part of the problem with low registration rates at these conferences. to be fair, it should be compared with conferences in all circles.

Robert Winkler Burke | 10:23 am on 6/02/2008

Note: The Envision "About" page features a picture of eight fingers with fingernails looking rather, well, unhealthy.

As one fingernail diagnostics internet page says: No moons:
Underactive thyroid; genetics.

SRebbe | 12:15 pm on 6/03/2008

crap.... I don't have many moons on my fingernails, just the thumbnails.... and they tested me for hypothyroidism which runs in my family! dammit, I'm suing for a bad moon not rising.

Eun | 11:44 am on 6/04/2008

I could oblige you on your poking your eye out with the stick..
but I'll have to remove the log in there first.
ok sorry bad joke.

ny guy | 09:38 pm on 6/05/2008

slow week and a half at the door huh?

budda | 10:02 pm on 6/08/2008

You got that right.

Anonymous | 12:44 am on 6/10/2008

so boring and so easy to make fun of people. give it a rest.

Anonymous | 08:30 pm on 6/10/2008

I'm not a regular reader of your blog, so maybe I'm just not "hip" enough to think you're funny, but this post comes across as downright mean-spirited. Since when has it been "Christian" to slam people and make fun of them? I'm sorry, but find something better to do with your time.

traveling sam | 12:55 pm on 6/11/2008

Calvinist Doug,

Good post up there. Of course I've got 20 years on you (I'm 61 har har har), so I probably just know more about old farts (mostly my own) than anything else ... but what concerns me about at least some of the emerging farts is just how thin they are. Come another 9/11, but this one enduring weeks or months ... or some severe and prolonged weather crisis, food crisis, thermal inversion, health crisis of your own, etc., you name it, ... and that "theology" is gonna deflate awfully fast, or so it seems to me.

What I experience in my own congregation feels virtually like pride in not knowing anything about the faith. Be a computer major and study inconceivable intricacies of the cyber world ... be a physics major and fully immerse in the inconceivable paradoxes of the quantum world, super-strings, a universe where everywhere is the center ... fine 'n dandy. But dig into whatever possessed the ancients to come up with Incarnation? Trinity? Dual Nature?

Dang, I foresee another visit from the Flatulence Fairy momentarily ...

Rebbeca | 06:21 am on 6/07/2010

There is always debate on the religious dogma. As per the catholic rule abortion is not allowed for birth control because it is considered crime while it is considered normal by non religious people. Anyway I insist on settling any kinds of row by common consensus.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.