From Tony Jones in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier:
Good theology begets beautiful Christianity. And so it follows that Bad theology begets ugly Christianity. That may sound supremely arrogant, but hear me out. A lot of us, emergents included, are disheartened by the complexion of Christianity in America. We’re embarrassed by the Jesus junk we see in stores, by the preachers we see on TV, and by the ill-fated marriage of faith and politics. We’re equally saddened by the $75 million evangelical megachurch campus in the suburbs and the shuttered mainline church in the city. While there is much that is good about being Christian in America today, very many of us think there needs to be a profound change in the way that Christianity is practiced and promulgated. All I’m saying is that the current practices that embarrass us are reflective of a deeply held theology. So, while we rethink how we live the faith, we must also reconsider what the faith actually is.
When I read these words I couldn’t help but say “Amen, brother”. One of the major things that sadden me is how much we Christians spend on our church building and institutions compared to what we spend on loving our brothers. When I pass by the even not so megachurches in my area I almost always cringe. It embarrasses me to think of all the money these members are spending on themselves while I see so much need going unmet in the area.
As mentioned above another thing that is doing damage to the church is the ill-fated marriage between faith and politics. When did that happen? Yes, there is much to be celebrated about being a Christian in America but there is also much that needs re-alignment and that is what the emergent movement is all about. Tony Jones and this book were at the leading edge of the emergent movement. Later in the movement Harvey Cox came out with his book entitled The Future of Faith to address the topic of what faith actually is and that is that faith is not a set of beliefs, almost all manmade, but instead is about a way of “being”.
So we must refigure our theology. Too much bad theology has engendered too many unhealthy churches and too many people who don’t quite get the whole “following Christ” way of life. Too much thin theology is responsible for too many Christians who practice the faith in ways that are a mile wide and an inch deep. The hope of emergents, their ministry, their message is, more than anything, a call for a reinvigoration of Christian theology-not in the ivy towers, not even in pulpits and pews, but on the street.
The “mile wide and inch deep” reference stuck me as a perfect description of what Christian faith has become for too many. They say all you have to do to be a Christian is to make an altar call and proclaim as such. That is so far from reality to almost be ridiculous. Theology is nothing more than man’s beliefs about God and far too often it comes down to man’s desires of what they want God to be, where it should be the other way around. To emergents Christianity is meant to be a life changing event; not something that is simply professed and then quickly ignored.