Isn’t there something inherently contradictory about listing ‘transforming secular space’ as a core practice of a postmodern Christian communities?
In their book ‘Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures’, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger identify ‘transforming secular’ space as one of the three core practices of Emerging Churches along with a further six derivitive practices.
But I just back up a bit everytime I hear this.
As I mentioned in my previous post on third places, one of the core features of post-modernity is a breakdown of the dichotomy between sacred and secular. This breakdown is not something that Emerging Churches are introducing to the culture, it is something that defines the culture before they have even entered it. Something that they should be finding is already there.
To put it bluntly, there is no such thing as virginal secular space within post-modernity. To the extent the context is purely secular it is not post-modern. To the extent that it is post-modern it is not purely secular. We may find secularlized SACRED spaces and sacrilized SECULAR spaces but either way we should be discovering that the dichotomy has already been undermined. If we are not finding it already there, and are under the impression that it is we who are doing the deconstruction, I tend to think that says more about a lack of discernment than anything too profound about our efforts.
For me this is nowhere more obvious that the Emerging Church appropriation of tools like the Enneagram (as if it were a purely secular tool) and the prevailing apathy towards new religious movements (as if NRMs don’t have any relavance to the surge in irreligious spirituality). One who recognised that secular spaces have already been transformed by alternate spiritualities would also recognize that there is a significant overlap between the occult tools and psychological tools in the post-modern milieu and that new religious movements and irreligious spiritualities are mutually feeding and reinforcing one another in late capitalist consumer society. The transformation has already happened and people have moved on. We are playing catch up here folks.
The challenge facing us is not the spiritual transformation of secular spaces, it is the Christian material-spiritual transformation of post-Christian sacred-secular spaces.