Is AGMergent Toking the Jesus Bong?

12 05 2008

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I was outed.



In a recent post, Steve Knight introduces his readers to John Crowder, a clearly pentecostal/charismatic preacher who is apparently tagging himself as “postmodern,” if not wholesale emergent. Steve is tempted to label him an “emergent pentecostal,” but hesitates to do so and points out in a footnote that I may disagree with such an alignment.

Well, I do indeed; which provides a very interesting platform for me to paint a more nuanced picture of what I believe the budding relationship between the charismatic movement and the emergent conversation might actually be.

So here I am, at 11:17 p.m. PST, getting outed by Steve Knight and John Crowder as neither a cessationist (I believe in the continuation of the charismatic gifts, including speaking in tongues and prophecy) nor an unthinking, emotionally-fixated Holy Spirit junkie (I also believe that the entire counsel of Hebrew-Christian scripture has more to emphasize than those charismatic gifts alone, and that we Pentecostals would do well to balance our gifts-of-the-Spirit-diet with some of the fruit of the Spirit… particularly self-control).

My own theopraxis regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, to boil it down, is pretty straightforward:

don’t fake pentecost (tremendously tempting in the thick of charismatic circles), don’t push pentecost (fellow Christ followers who disagree with my particular approach aren’t more or less devout, but differently devout), and – most importantly – don’t ignore pentecost (yielding to the active presence of the Holy Spirit requires a lot of trust, and could very well end up looking and sounding strange). To put the last practice in positive language, I personally place a high value on being responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and available to whatever the Spirit wants to do at any given moment. It seems to be the modus operandi of the early church throughout Acts, and can still characterize the body of Christ today. Can we trust the Spirit of God enough to go out on a limb, like Paul in his missionary journeys, like Philip with an Ethiopian Eunuch, like Jesus in the wilderness, like a room full of frightened disciples bursting out into the light of the feast of Pentecost to boldly speak languages they didn’t know? I have to admit, John Crowder seems like a total and complete kook to me, and I’m really tempted to throw tomatoes and lampoon him. And while I continue to think his lowest common denominator theatrics are a disservice to the message of pentecostal heritage, I also realize that cynicism is far easier than spirit sensitivity. If God wanted me to toke on the Jesus bong (which I sincerely doubt would be the case), would I trust him enough to take a hit?

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8 responses

12 05 2008
Mak

have you heard of Rob McAlpine? he put out a great book recently called post charismatic? addressing a lot of what you posted here. I like your approach to pentecost. (I’m a “born and raised” pentecostal btw)

12 05 2008
johnohara

Not yet, Mak; but I’ll be looking Rob up. Thanks…

13 05 2008
Geoff

Just came across your blog for the first time. I’ve served in two Churches here in Canada (PAOC) and after my last church (not an easy one at all!) I took a job truck driving for a couple of years.

I quit that last fall and started working on a dream of mine. Liquid Community is the result of asking many questions that emerging/emergent are asking too. I still drive a truck to support myself (scored a sweet regular day run!) and am working at my blog/ministry as more of a hobby. Love it!

Also love you blog (first impressions count right!) and I’ve added you to my reader. Enjoy the journey!

14 05 2008
jeffsdeepthoughts

First off, I’d like to say that your approach to pentacostalicism seems fair, even handed, even enticing.
As for Mr. Crowder:
A criticism that seems like it’s missing from all this is the simple fact that drugs are bad.
I know how chronically uncool it is to say it that blandly.
But the thing is, We emergents often get criticized for “selling out” to elements of culture which are much less clearly destructive than drugs… It seems to me that this gentleman is (presumably unwittingly) glorifying drug use. I understand that he might suggest that it’s all God and he’s out of the loop around how God represents Himself. This would be hard for me to swallow, too. I get that God uses counter-cultural imagery and surprising metaphors to express himself. But there’s a marked difference between the tenor of Jesus identifying faith with a mustard seed and talking about a God-bong.

15 05 2008
Cynthia

Very balanced perspective. I like it. I haven’t found that community of balance yet though. Personally, I can live with don’t fake, don’t push and don’t ignore. It would be nice to have the fellow believers alongside.

15 05 2008
Dave S

Why would assessing this guy from the scriptures and concluding that he is to be avoided a cynical thing to do? Why would you rightly assess this guy as presenting something other than the Spirit of Christ and then at the end say that in order to avoid cynicism you want to be open to taking a hit from the Jesus bong?

27 05 2008
Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction? « zoecarnate

[…] 6:15) While I’m not ready to say “Pass the Jehovah-juana” yet (I’m not the only one), Dunn & Crowder’s outré style doesn’t inherently short circuit my spirituality or […]

27 05 2008
zoecarnate

Excellent reflections. I have a similarly charitable take, here.

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