The Al-Qaeda/Emergent Church Connection – Seriously?
I could go on and on, with stuttering sarcasm, pretending articles like Frank Pastore’s “Why Al-Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church” are just really clever satire, fit for the pages of The Onion or Lark News. But that wouldn’t be true. The truth is Pastore is a popular Christian radio announcer in Los Angeles, winner of the National Religious Broadcasters “Talk Show of the Year” award in 2006. So this is no joke.
But who would believe this stuff? It’s half-baffling to think that anyone would, because it’s so over-the-top. But I was reminded recently when a sincere co-worker shared at staff devotions about “the evils of postmodernism” and read excerpts from The Truth War by John MacArthur. We had a good discussion about it later, and he told me that he’s actually reading MacArthur’s book and D.A. Carson’s Conversing with the Emerging Church because he’s interested in learning more about the emerging church. He plans to pass along this information to his pastor so that his church can be better prepared to face the threat of the emerging church. (gulp)
What is this perceived “threat” anyway? Pastore accuses emerging missional Christians (and sympathizers) of committing the sin of relativism (mostly) and other heresies as well. But I think the real threat is articulated in his comments about the growing number of “churchless”/”post-church” Christians in the U.S. (a trend touted by George Barna’s Revolution book and other sources). Pastore writes, “If those in the emergent ‘we’re-a-missional-not-an-institutional’ church had their way, American church buildings would be just like European church buildings—empty.”
The irony is that most American church buildings already sit empty 90% of the time, and emerging missional Christians are actually some of the leading voices talking about and advocating ways to open up these spaces to make a greater contribution in their communities—with the goal of making a deeper impact in people’s lives. (Just listen to Reggie McNeal for a minute to get a dozen or so ideas for how you can do this at your church!)
But Pastore’s most volatile and inflammatory statement (and the crux of his whole article) is this: “The emergent church is an ally in the war against radical Islam—al Qaeda’s ally. Not in the sense they are supplying bullets and bombs to Osama, of course, but in the sense they are weakening our conviction to fight.”
Did you catch that? Conviction to fight. Sounds to me like Pastore is advocating an imperialistic form of Christianity that would take control (of this country and the world, if it could) by force. Does this sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing he’s afraid of in radical Islam. He wants to “fight fire with fire,” I suppose, and he’s afraid of the emerging church because we’re taking a third way out of that whole mess (and there’s a lot of us on this train outta Dodge). But that’s the sad and incredible irony in Pastore’s whole disturbing diatribe: Emerging Christians are actually the ones who might-could engage in productive dialogue with emerging Muslims and get them to the table with emerging Jews to discuss a way forward, toward possibly creating a lasting peace*.
I’m sorry, but I don’t believe the “Bible-believing patriots,” as Pastore calls them (a.k.a. “conservative, evangelical Christians” in his equation), are ever going to be able to bring about peace by the sword. As Derek Webb sings: “Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication. It’s like telling someone murder is wrong, and then showing them by way of execution” (“My Enemies Are Men Like Me,” from the Mockingbird album).
*By “peace,” I’m not talking about some ecumenical utopia. The peace we are all seeking is shalom, the kingdom of God, and that’s what we’re seeking to be “on about” in the emerging missional church. But we’re not “on a crusade,” and we’re sorry that we can’t agree to join yours. I pray that Pastore (and MacArthur and all those that read/listen to them) will be able to understand that—because it’s the truth.
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” —Zechariah 4:6
UPDATE: If you’re tempted to dismiss my critique of Pastore’s article (which I would totally understand), please read these comments from Reformed blogger Justin Taylor and Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen. Thank you, Justin and Ted, for speaking up!