Kindle Notes from "The Great Emergence"

Thanks to "My Buddy" I have the ability to quickly load up all the notes and highlights I have made on the Kindle.

This feature is great.

Here are some of the ideas in the book which I have pulled from "my clippings":

About every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur.

all would do well to remember that, not only are we in the hinge of a five-hundred-year period, but we are also the direct product of one. We need, as well, to gauge our pain against the patterns and gains of each of the previous hinge times through which we have already passed. It is especially important to remember that no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millennial eruptions. Instead, each simply has lost hegemony or pride of place to the new and not-yet-organized form that was birthing.

It is the business of any rummage sale first to remove all of the old treasures that belonged to one's parents so as to get on with the business of keeping house the new way. As a result, there is also a very good reason why much commentary about the Great Emergence today remarks first that it has been both characterized and informed by increasing restraints upon, or outright rejections of, pure capitalism; by traditional or mainline Protestantism's loss of demographic base; by the erosion or popular rejection of the middle class's values and the nuclear family as the requisite foundational unit of social organization; by the shift from cash to information as the base of economic power; and by the demise of the nation-state and the rise of globalization. Well, of course it has been! We are holding a rummage sale, for goodness' sake! Cleaning out the whole place is the first step toward refurbishing it.

The two overarching, but complementary questions of the Great Emergence are: (1) What is human consciousness and/or the humanness of the human? and (2) What is the relation of all religions to one another-or, put another way, how can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions?

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle has been reduced, by now, to an almost commonplace tidbit of everyday conversation: You can measure the speed of something (in Heisenberg's case, a particle) or you can measure its position; but you can not measure them both. That is, the more you know about the speed of a thing, the less you know about its position until finally one has to concede that the act of observing itself changes the thing observed.

The car was a boon that, like a sharp knife, cut two ways, however. It freed Americans to roam at will, thereby loosening them from the physical ties that had bound earlier generations to one place, one piece of land, one township, one schoolhouse, and one community-owned consensual illusion, of which a large component was the community church. The affordable car enabled city dwelling in a way that had not been possible for many Americans in the past. It also provided, very early, the mechanism by which what had been the Sabbath became Sunday instead.

But there was also a genuine attractiveness to Marx's ideas, and we must be quite clear about that. Good people with bright minds and empowered backgrounds, many of them artists and singers and intellectual leaders, earnestly argued, often to their own social and professional detriment, the virtues of a socialist or a communist state. They argued against the chaos of money-based power and the recurrence of the devastation of worldwide depressions like the Great Depression of 1929. They argued, instead, for the advantages of an authority based on a rational determination of what is best for the most people at any given time and for a kind of proto-secular humanism. This approach, they argued, trumped completely some God-infused, biblically defined code or hierarchy that had been designed for premodern societies. Enlightenment and reason, they said, had set humanity free from ignorance and social vulnerability by furnishing us, instead, with scientifically accurate descriptions of what the cosmos really is and how it works.

When one asks an emergent Christian where ultimate authority lies, he or she will sometimes choose to say either "in Scripture" or "in the Community." More often though, he or she will run the two together and respond, "in Scripture and the community."

community." At first blush, this may seem like no more than a thoughtless or futile effort to make two old opposites cohabit in one new theology; but that does not appear to be what is happening here. What is happening is something much closer to what mathematicians and physicists call network theory.

That is, a vital whole-in this case, the Church, capital C-is not really a "thing" or entity so much as it is a network in exactly the same way that the Internet or the World Wide Web or, for that matter, gene regulatory and metabolic networks are not "things" or entities. Like them and from the point of view of an emergent, the Church is a self-organizing system of relations, symmetrical or otherwise, between innumerable member-parts that themselves form subsets of relations within their smaller networks, etc., etc. in interlacing levels of complexity.
The end result of this understanding of dynamic structure is the realization that no one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire "truth" of anything, either as such and/or when independent of the others. Each is only a single working piece of what is evolving and is sustainable so long as the interconnectivity of the whole remains intact. No one of the member parts or their hubs, in other words, has the whole truth as a possession or as its domain. This conceptualization is not just theory. Rather, it has a name: crowd sourcing; and crowd sourcing differs from democracy far more substantially than one might at first suspect. It differs in that it employs total egalitarianism, a respect for worth of the hoi polloi that even pure democracy never had, and a complete indifference to capitalism as a virtue or to individualism as a godly circumstance.'

Emergents, because they are postmodern, believe in paradox; or more correctly, they recognize the ubiquity of paradox and are not afraid of it. Instead, they see in its operative presence the tension where vitality lives. To make that point, an emergent will quite often offer the most simplistic of proof texts: X squared = 4, and that is a fact. Since it is a fact, what is the value of X? Quite clearly, X = 2 ... except, of course, X also quite clearly equals -2. What is one to make of that contradiction, that impossibility, that paradox?