When I was young, probably my single favorite movie was 1981′s The Great Muppet Caper. It still holds a very special place in my heart. My favorite scene is the part when the Muppets are planning their scheme to break into the Mallory Gallery and stop the theives from stealing the Baseball Diamond. At one point, all the Muppets are talking at once, advancing their own theories, discussing, bantering, clamoring for attention – the noise gets to a level where Kermit the Frog yells “QUIET!”
Everyone stops talking except Janice (the lead guitar player of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem), who is caught mid-sentence. “…So I said, ‘Look, mother! It’s my life, oo-kaay? So if I want to live on the beach and walk around naked…’ [She realizes everyone else is staring at her] Oh.”
I finished reading Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives Monday night. It was a really enjoyable read, overall. I’ve always liked the “point/counterpoint”-style books, where I get to peek into the minds of various people, and see how people with different worldviews approach a problem. I like the atmosphere of mutual respect, admiration, and “agree-to-disagree” that authors generally provide for one another.
Such was definitely the case with this book. The authors, ranging from “conservative” to “liberal”, mainline to evangelical, and a host of other cultural and spiritual differences (although more than one stated his/her dislike for such labels), found common ground in discussing missional, incarnational theology in a postmodern world, and freely expressed their concerns without chasing rabbit-trails, resorting to ad hominem attacks, mischaracterizations, or bad faith arguments.
This goes for all the authors, that is, except Mark Driscoll. John Burke, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward seem to be having a really productive exchange – challenging each other, presenting new perspectives, discussing ways of “being” in the world, the role of Christianity and Christians, how to relate to unbelievers and people of different faiths, etc. – and then Mark would come in, guns blazing, blasting someone for not espousing his version of orthodoxy. Mark has always been a big fan of “man’s man” metaphors – I imagine he pictures himself as William Wallace in Braveheart: “I’m going to pick a fight.”
At first, this made me really mad (see, for example, my earlier post) – I wanted to yell at Mark for being unfair, for using logical fallacies, for nitpicking abstract theological “issues” (penal substitutionary atonement, eternal literal hell, plenary biblical infallibility) and ignoring the real substance of the other authors’ statements about collaborative theology, the importance of community, incarnational ministry, and the realities of living in a post-Christian, pluralistic society. After continuing to read it, though, I stopped being mad/offended. I realized the dynamic of what was going on in this discussion: Mark Driscoll was simply not having the same conversation that everyone else was. He wasn’t absorbing what the others were saying in order to respond thoughtfully; he was in full battle mode, looking for errors to expose. It stopped being a tragedy, and turned into a farce. Any admission by him of missional living, or of the centrality of praxis in the life of a church/Christian, was absolutely tangential to “theology” in the abstract. He made it abundantly clear that that was his topic, and he wasn’t going to be sidetracked by what anyone else was saying.
As the book went on, I took him less and less seriously. He was so far afield from the conversation everyone else was having, he may as well have been saying “…So I said, ‘Look, mother! It’s my life, oo-kaay? So if I want to live on the beach and walk around naked…’ ”
Mark Driscoll as Janice the Muppet.