The great emergence of Obama and Warren (but what of LDS)

Join together our nation’s president and our nation’s pastor and you have even some stirring toward a great emergence in the new age.

But what do we do with all the critics?

And what do we do with LDS in the Great Emergence?

In her book, The Great Emergence (BakerBooks, 2008), Phyllis Tickle writes about the critics:

No ship, even a tethered one, can stay safely afloat and in place unless it has some ballast to hold its courses against those of the rocky sea it sits in.  Thus, while ballast is neither an attractive word or an appealing concept, it enjoys the countering advantages of inestimable importance and absolute usefulness.  In the Great Emergence, reacting Christians are the ballast.  However unattractive they may seem to be to other of their fellow Christians and however unattractive nonreacting Christians may seem to be to them, the small, outer percentage is the Great Emergence’s ballast; and its function is as necessary and central to the success of this upheaval as is any other part of it.  If the boat is not to tip and swamp, the ballast that forestalls too hasty a set of movements in a stormy sea must be there.  One of the great dangers of what North America is going through is that some of her Christians, of whatever stripe, may cease to honor and accept the necessary function of all her Christians (138-139).

(Chuckling) For Phyllis, I am one of those outside ballasts.  But here is the problem, I am not even in the same boat.

She also writes about Mormons:

Not included here are two significant bodies–Mormons and Quakers.  Mormonism, which is growing rapidly domestically and globally, is arguably the fourth of the great Abrahamic faiths rather than a subset or variant of Christianity and increasingly is so treated by religionists.  Accordingly, it is omitted here.  The omission of the Quakers is a temporary, narrative convenience rather than an omission as such.  We will touch on their considerable contribution to, and unique place in, the Great Emergence in due time (127).

Hold on to your cruise ship seats.  It is going to be quite a ride in the days ahead.


  1. There was a time when one could, quite rightly, ascribe the title of “America’s Pastor” to Billy Graham (Fulton Sheen was up there, too, as “America’s Bishop”.) By any measure, Rick Warren is nowhere close to being in the same league as these two men, and probably never will be.

    As for the “Emerging Church,” if there is anything happening today within Christianity that is comparable to the events around the Fifth Century, or the Great Schism, or the Reformation/Counter-Reformation, it is happening in the developing world, aka the “Global South” as with the explosive growth of confessional Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism in Africa, not anything whose epicenter is in North America or Europe. Perhaps most significant is “Independent Christianity”, which is, among other things, the latest wave of global Pentecostalism which continues to be the largest growing segment of Christianity on the planet, and which transcends all kinds of confessional barriers. The first segment of a ten-part series concerning this Independent Christianity” is found here.

  2. What? You don’t think the nation’s religious-business entrepeneur ought to be the nation’s pastor? At least he shows more creative business savvy than the well-oiled religious-business grinding of the wheels and cogs in the LDS corridor.

    Phyllis breaks us all down into four quadrants.

    1. Greg, you are in the top left quadrant – liturgical.

    2. I am in the direct opposite in the bottom right quadrant – conservative.

    3. Thinking of Pentecostalism, my wife grew up Pentecostal. Greg, I did a thesis paper in seminary on at least the first three waves. Phyllis would put the ever mushrooming global Pentecostalism down in the bottom left quadrant – renewalists.

    She is pushing for a liberalized emergence of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, and theonomy. And I think that according to Phyllis — Greg, you and I are on the outer fringes of her Great Emergence.

    Yet I, too, don’t think North America is the epicenter of any religious growth, sinking and stinking in the deadness of a number of different quagmires.

    God would wish to speak to us in America. But I don’t think we want to listen. We are too caught up with our own religious self.

  3. “And I think that according to Phyllis — Greg, you and I are on the outer fringes of her Great Emergence.”

    I don’t know anything about Phyllis or her background, but is she discuss what’s going on in “liturgical” circles these days? I refer specifically to the (re)surgence of Eastern Orthodoxy in the United States and the return to Tradition in the RCC? Does she deal with these things at all, or are they entirely off her radar screen?

    “God would wish to speak to us in America. But I don’t think we want to listen. We are too caught up with our own religious self.”

    I cannot recall the exact quote, but one of the prophets, Ezekiel I think, and I’m paraphrasing here, speaks of a people who have been, in effect, over-exposed to the Word of God and therefore, can no longer hear it. I am afraid that there is a good bit of this here in the United States. At the same time, there is hope: what I speak of in the first paragraph above, for example, and, in terms of a tradition that is both, currently, liturgical and renewalist, the ongoing emergence and formation of an Anglican Church in North America, separate and distinct from an Episcopal Church which has become largely apostate.

  4. Actually Rick Warren is the perfect man for the post of “America’s Pastor” He exemplifies all that is shallow about the practice of the church in America.

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