We are tribal and commodifying creatures.  We want to own our patch of land–literally, intellectually, or religiously–and mark it with fences (or mark it with our scent).  We want to put our name on the deed and label it ours.

But, if we give something a name, and label it, we begin to condense it down into a particular box with certain definitive rules, structure, and credos.  We have a very hard time of living in the mystery of something being, evolving, and growing with no period at the end of the sentence.  I have been known for writing run-on sentences.  I always feel like I want to add one more adjective before the final “.” on the page.

When it comes to the word “emerging” in terms of faith in Christianity and in general I see it is an action verb–ever moving, ever evolving, and never becoming static and rusty.  I am impassioned and inspired by the faith dialogues going on between some of my favorite theologians like Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle, and Brian McLaren.  And, from what I heard in the latest recordings of the 2010 “Emerging Christianity” Conference, it is their greatest hope that the word will be inspiration for evolution not a definitive destination.

The same could be said for all faith and life–if we name it and define it and sit back to admire it, assuming it is “done”, we are always stuck at that stage of growth or development, personally, professionally, communally, societally, globally.

Nietschze (the irony does not escape me) said it best when he wrote (paraphrasing) that we create names for things, for everything since the origin of language.  We say “this is a bear” and then we create the definition for what a bear is.  When language is stripped down to its naked form it is nothing but puffs of smoke, a way for us to wrap our brains around what exists.  Then we create the walls to trap what we love, and, like a lightening bug in a jar we suffocate it, and the light goes out.

Or like Lenny in of mice and men, we love the kitty so much we squeeze all the life out of it.

I love the word “emerging” it stands for everything in our language that expresses fluidity, movability, and evolution.  Strictly defined it means, “something coming into view.”  Emerging as an action verb is like chasing the horizon, it’s just in our view, a sliver of light in the sky.  We are moving towards it, just close enough to see the light in front of us, orange brilliance against the horizon.  The mystery of what can be and what the radiance so near is what keeps us running towards that horizon.

This is what I see emerging as, in our society, culture, globe, and in faith.  We can see the beauty, emerging, and in seeking the bright, warm light, beautiful things emerge in us.  A Christianity (and societal philosophy) that can continue to be ever changing,  and ever evolving.

In this way we can avoid snuffing out the bright beauty, trying to capture it in a bottle too small and suffocating for the light to breathe.

**The following sub-sections in the emerging column discuss the elements that are emerging in me and those that I see emerging in many people looking to get back to the root (radical nature) of their Christian faith & for others to conceptualize (in other faiths) what the genuine root of the Christian tradition might look like–because it is often not what people experience.  They are not rules or destinations.  They are not ways to create new faith containers and throw away the old.  They are only ways that I am trying to find a better me, a better vessel for my faith action and contemplation, and ways to help me continue to evolve in my life.**


Richard Rohr wrote a poem called “AND” that I, with great gratitude, used as a reading in my wedding ceremony. A wedding ceremony that I would describe an evolving and emerging expression of radical (=of the root) love and ritual.  The poem embodies, to me, the essence of what I aspire to apply in my life, work, and faith.  It is something exemplified in the practice of eastern faith traditions (not always, but more often than western traditions) and something us westerners really have to work at.

I struggle every day to live my life in the “and” state of being.


And teaches us to say yes
And allows us to be both-and
And keeps us from either-or
And teaches us to be patient and long suffering
And is willing to wait for insight and integration
And keeps us from dualistic thinking
And does not divide the field of the moment
And helps us to live in the always imperfect now
And keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
And demands that our contemplation become action
And insists that our action is also contemplative
And heals our racism, our sexism, heterosexism, and our classism
And keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
And allows us to critique both sides of things
And allows us to enjoy both sides of things
And is far beyond any one nation or political party
And helps us face and accept our own dark side
And allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
And is the mystery of paradox in all things
And is the way of mercy
And makes daily, practical love possible
And does not trust love if it is not also justice
And does not trust justice if it is not also love
And is far beyond my religion versus your religion
And allows us to be both distinct and yet united
And is the very Mystery of Trinity


The new can always seem like a rejection of the old.  But if the essence of emerging is “something coming into view” it does not mean that that “something” never existed before the present moment, only that it is “coming into view”.  That implies that it was always there, we just couldn’t see it before.  It was obscured from view until now.

Evolution means “the process of working out or developing”.  It is growth and change of what was into something more, well, evolved.

Science says everything in nature evolves.  Animals and humans and even micro-organisms evolve and the catalyst of one evolution creates a ripple effect in the natural world, requiring evolution of all the rest of nature to catch up.

We are in a time in humanity of flux and change.  We have to adapt and evolve, emerge from what was to see that “something” that just now is coming into view.  I believe that faith individually and collectively (as systems) have to evolve over time to survive and thrive.  What is emerging in our world today is a new generation of Christianity that is looking to break down walls between everything around itself and evolve.

Evolution is not intended to destroy the old, what was, everything we are today is built on what came before it.  None is right and none is wrong, just different, changed by what has come into our view.  I do not see the emerging Christian faith as a revolution against what came before it but a way to help grow and build on the foundation of what was and help it to become more than it has been.  It can stretch the container so that it can fit the new information, so that we can all run forward reaching towards the horizon.  More spacious than ever before and so expansive that it embraces everyone and everything in it’s scope.

Emerging Christianity is an evolution, pulling us out of some of the cringe-worthy history that we sit upon today, taking all of the good lessons learned, wonderful practices and rituals, tradition and heritage, and build something that whether inside the container or out (Christian or another faith background) we can all enjoy and embrace in some way.