[ background for those who need it. i have been really challenged and encouraged in my quest to reconcile the faith i seem to have been given with historical christianity by a network of friendships across the country which are typically connected to an organization called "emergent". recently as this network has begun to influence christian thought, it has begun to receive criticism for various gatekeepers and inspectors in the wider christian community ]
there's a famous quote of gertrude stein about oakland, on returning as an adult to her a town where she spent part of her childhood, she concluded "there is no there there".
many people seem eager to level this criticism against the collection of creatives and theologians and warriors and poets gathered under a banner with "emergent" written on it. the there isn't really something new. the there isn't really something needed. the there isn't really something true. the there isn't really what it claims to be.
what all the critics miss is that there isn't supposed to be a there there. the whole point of emergent is to not create a "there", but to try and encourage the types of relationships which can help us each, in our own personal there, be the people of jesus. we find it useful to come together and walk while talking, to eat and laugh, to yell and bluster, to sit and pray.
maybe we haven't been good at fostering these relationships. for example, i think the emergent/ys conventions, which were an honest attempt to be more welcoming, to open the friendship up to more people, ended up working against emergent in some ways because it seemed to insist there be a "there" around which a convention could happen.
maybe this is heaven -- heaven is not where everything is perfect. heaven is when your critics see you clearly and criticize for the right things.