This post concerns a “conversation” that has been happening within the church for a while called variously emerging church, missional church, emergent and maybe some others. I have been involved in it for a number of years and therefore feel passionate about these issues. If this seems too esoteric and tangential to a theology of food please feel free to skip this post.

Third, I bet you’re not disappointed with Shane Claiborne. That’s because, to this point, Shane has made the very noble decision to live a chaste life, and he has committed his whole self to an irresistible revolution. Meanwhile, most of the founders of emergent are raising children and paying mortgages and coaching YMCA t-ball. Martin Luther King didn’t coach t-ball; neither did Ghandi. Start a revolution if you want, but that’s not a price that I’m willing to pay.

The above is part of Tony Jones’ response to a growing chorus of voices saying they are disappointed with Emergent Village. Just to be clear this is about the organization, not the amorphous movement some call “emerging church” which cannot be attributed to Tony (or anyone else really). Tony has many good and important points to make in response to his critics. In fact, I agree with pretty much everything else he says. However, this paragraph made my jaw hit the floor.

After reading through the comments, it seems that the main issue people have with this comparison to Shane and his book is that it makes them feel guilty and not everyone is called to his radical lifestyle. I have previously taken on this issue in my post Relocation and Reorientation. I don’t think Shane or others in the new monastic movement would claim that all faithful Christians must follow their example. However, I will reiterate that the witness of those living out radical lifestyles (families too by the way) in following Christ both 1) criticizes the complacency and cultural accommodation of the rest of the church and 2) invites us into new ways of being the church in the world.

Far from creating a singular model, these radicals both inspire and challenge us where we are to live out our faith in more radical and subversive ways. Some commenters pointed out that they shouldn’t feel guilty for their lifestyles. I agree that what we do where we are at matters more than what someone says we should be doing.

However, my missions professor was fond of pointing out that “when everything is missions, nothing is missions.” The call to follow Jesus is a radical one and it should question our consumptive lifestyles and the way we allow the culture to organize our lives (including mortgages and T-ball). You can follow Jesus anywhere, but following Jesus means something particular. It does not condone our lifestyles or our culture. It calls us to a new way of being and living that is an alternative vision for the world. This includes a better balance between family and ministry, but it does not mean less radical.

If mortgages and T-ball are really what’s holding us back from embodying the kingdom, then those things need to be sacrificed. We must be willing to pay that price at least.

Too try and tie it back into the purpose of this blog, many young people and families are willing to trade their suburban lives for the farm life. Some have said that we will need 50 million new farmers to create a local/regional food system in North America. We will need people to buy that food and do other things. So, not everyone will become farmers, but many many more must if we are to move forward. The same could be said of the church. Many more will need to live out radical lives like Shane and others to bring the church into balance.

What can the rest of us do where we are to support those with such a call? What can we do to incorporate more radical practices into our lives where we’re at?

3 comments on “Start a revolution if you want…

  1. Good words, brother. I think for me, for now, my call to a radical life is to think differently and to challenge others to think about the world differently than those around us. I think I am supposed to be asking hard and uncomfortable questions that require a shift in perspective and an ever-widening idea of what the Kingdom is and who is a part of it. That’s what I am working through as far as “incorporating radical practices into my life where I’m at”…of course, there are other things that I do personally as well, but as far as finding ways to help others join the journey, this is it for now.


  2. zoecarnate

    Is it possible that coaching T-ball is an act of revolution? I don’t want to merely baptize suburbia, but spending time on the development of children strikes me as a very Kingdom-of-God action.

    Mortgages are optional. 🙂


  3. i think orienting our lives around raising children can be revolutionary. that doesn’t make T-ball revolutionary. I have a lot of hesitations about organized sports in general, but particularly for kids starting at such an early age. It’s not the focus on children I’m criticizing, it’s the way we allow culture to define how we do that. To me T-ball is the quintessential example of how we do that.


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