Chris was over at my house a few weeks ago for dinner, and as obligatory small chat goes, I asked him what he had been up to these days. I had heard of PiE, and so when he asked me what I knew of the organization, I mustered up my thoughts on the organization that had marinated in cynicism the longest. He liked them so much, I was invited to give my formal critique of the organization from a fairly ignorant perspective right on this very blog. Behold PiE-ers’, this is what you look like on the outside! (Or am I on the inside? Since you are the ones claiming you are exiled…)
Note: I will gladly refer to this movement with the word ‘we’ considering that the only process to be a part of this ‘movement’ is the liking of a Facebook page, the writing of a blog, and a general background in a post-secondary institution.
The sentence that I summed up to Chris that night was something like this:
“PiE is a space for disenfranchised young adults to justify a pretentious view on the future of the Church, without having to critically engage in messy communities/ inter-generational awkwardness, or commitment of time outside of what they feel they can contribute easily.”
By questioning things we won’t bring up in church, we feel they have reached a level of discourse that one cannot reach in a church context. Setting this internet forum up as a much greater institution than one that happens physically in person, in real time. This is a fairly non-committed way to feel that you can stay connected and engaged in your roots, without dealing with any of the hard stuff. We see all of these topics and questions regularly on a day-to-day in a liberal arts lecture, and I am going to make a guessing bet that 90% of the people interacting with this network come from the same general line of family, church background, and education levels. Low-risk, people, low-risk.
Besides writing nice blog posts, what is it that we even do? Wait, it’s on the website:
“We are enablers, facilitators, social networkers, pray-ers, and witnesses”
Holy list of ‘Real, Radical Christianity’ buzzwords, Batman! I’ll bet we are! Shane Claiborne would be proud.
When was the last time any one of us spent an hour in prayer, or even twenty minutes a day? What defines a pray-er?!? How do we witness when the only people we interact with are other disenfranchised young Anabaptist’s? If we truly are in exile, than why is our office set up in an Academic institution that safely allows Christian belief systems to be toted, among a group of other left wing folks?
Who made you Pastors? Where is your ordination? Yourself? God? Both of these are uncomfortably unaccountable to any repercussions your guidance might bring on.
Is my argument ignorant? Certainly!
Do I have well-researched, justification for my points? Absolutely not!
But that is the beauty of the internet forum! If you don’t like what I say, you can disengage, and if I really feel this way about the organization, then I can ‘unlike’ and never visit this blog again! There are no other repercussions from me leaving this community. Do we not see some red flags here?
Rather than complain about the church, lets critically engage them, be part of them (as I see many of us still are) and grit our teeth when we say things others don’t like and stick it out! Real change can only happen in real time, and over a long time. Relationships will break, and mend stronger, and our views will have to be challenged by those we really grow to care about, to a point that we can’t write them off as being ignorant, uneducated, or wrong. That is scary community. That is the church I want to be part of.
Let’s wake up and engage the world where we are at, not in a safe well educated bubble that thinks itself cultured by offering different collective voices. If you do want to live this radical gospel, than get off your computer, stop being ‘spiritual’ and realize that Jesus isn’t here to make us comfortable and warm.
I want to thank Chris for the free space to share my special snowflake thoughts with a light commitment to their repercussions.
Graham has been critical and judgmental since kindergarten, and is glad to have a chance to use these skills on the internet. He spends lots of time as the Youth Pastor at Elevation Church in Uptown Waterloo, and is finishing an undergrad at UW.
I think I will rebuke some of what you are saying, Graham.
I think that your main points here are that PiE is a justification to disengage from an established community, which is important, and that a diverse community that depends on its members is serviced by a conventional church, not a diaspora of “similar outcasts” on the internet.
I think that many established communities are very challenging to critically engage with. Aging congregations steeped in church specific tradition that is reluctant to change. I am not old, and this world is very different from when those traditions were formed. Criticism of those traditions, engaging in discussion in the way I see value, or calling for any change might seem like it is asking for ostracization. Singing a different type of song can seem like a revolution, depending on the congregation. (buttons/snaps/loops/bonnets are all reason for a split.)
My point here is that often it is not that outcasts are unwilling to critically engage with communities and give more time than is convenient, it is that those communities are not open to critically engage with radical ideas, what christianity, and mennonite churches, were created around. Radical ideas are how we can break from the safe church bubble and “engage with the world where we are at”.
Internet communities require as much commitment as any other: as much or as little as you are willing to put in. I can attend a church once, ten times, a hundred times and leave, never to return after someone challenges me, can I not?
I usually get more flak here than to my face. So, I’m sorry for taking the time to critically engage on the internet.
Graham has a point. I am former pastor in our congregation at 15 George Street in Waterloo As a congregation we struggle with our impending death! If some people see themselves as “pastors in exile” I, for one wish they would “come in” and help us struggle with what it really means to be People of God in this time and place. Jesus is there to make us all uncomfortable and at least, together in our discomfort we might make some amazing discoveries!! But if we all remain “out in the cold” what or who can help us? Wally Regier