Monday, March 12, 2012

Networking with Emerging Christianity

Glenn Zuber
The DC Emerging Christianity Meetup lets Christians ask questions and try out practices in a context bigger than their own churches.  I met yesterday  with coordinator Glenn Zuber to explore some parallels with my DC Integral Emergence Meetup. Our shared interests in practice groups, Brian McLaren, and a more integrated life sparked fresh ideas for both of us.

After only a year, Glenn has almost 400 members in his Meetup. He sponsors a creative array of activities--from book discussions, to labyrinth walks, to lectio divina, and even parties for Spirit, Art & Wine. His biggest turnouts feature his friend Brian McLaren, pioneer of the Emerging Christianity movement. (See my review of one such event at "Tough Questions, Humble Men.")

Bringing together Art, Science, and Social Justice
Can we bring them back together?
With background in both evangelical and mainline churches, Glenn has been an assistant minister and a teacher of religion, history, and philosophy (currently at Trinity and previously at Fordham, Manhattan College, Indiana University-Bloomington, and Emmanuel School of Religion in Tennessee). He's looking for ways to integrate art, science, and social justice in the way Christians live and worship. He has tried opening a soup kitchen, but not yet found enough volunteers with sufficient commitment. His wife Jennifer heads a non-profit that provides PR assistance to faith leaders who talk about justice issues in the public realm.

I gave Glenn a five-minute introduction to Ken Wilber's Integral Theory, He was especially interested in the perspective on truth, beauty, and goodness: that they were fused in Medieval times: art wasn't beautiful and science wasn't true unless the church said they were good. After the enlightenment, T B and G were burst apart and fragmented; Art could be about ugly things, and science could challenge notions of good. So now our job is to re-integrate them--voluntarily and at a higher level of awareness.

Spiritual Practices to the Rescue
Both of us believe that regular spiritual practices pave the way for this re-integration. I'm eager to try out Glenn's lectio divina group and to share ideas from my Integral Life Practices group. And some of the people in my Meetup who have left their Christianity behind may find Glenn's group a safe place to reconsider it. I'm also eager to explore the work of a postmodern Christian philosopher Glenn put me on to: Peter Rollins, who says:
If someone believes everything I believe I still have to ask “why?” I need to work out how the beliefs function for that person. Do they act as a security blanket preventing them from encountering the world, or do they function as a means of more fully entering into the world they inhabit?

The Work in Networking
Managing the Meetup has taken a lot of hard work and conflict management, Glenn says. In fact he is thinking of writing a book on the possibilities and challenges of Meetups.

UP Next: I'll report my experience of Glenn's Lectio Divina

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