I misspelled his name in the comments at fide-o, and because that (along with calling him "Spencer" and not "Michael" or "Mr. Spencer") is apparently rude, he has taken offense. So: Sorry for the typo, iMonk.
The really crazy thing about iMonk's anger is that what I said in that post was that his self-loathing disqualifies him from being a credible critic of the Christian church -- and, apparently, he wasn't angry about that. Well, wait: let's put the whole thing in the blog here so no one misses the set-up:
Michael Spencer said...So, in the spirit of Mr. Spencer's concern for my chiropractic health and his own sense of well being – and at the risk of having the iMonk blog *again* removed from the internet and Mr. Spenser going into some kind of counseling program -- let me keep it short and sweet.
>1. Emergent- someone who rejects the established culture...
I realize that by speaking I have identified myself with the evil
that is emergent, but be that as it may...
Are you saying that Christianity is about supporting the
"established" culture, and that the oppostion to the emergent church
should be similar to the condemnation of the counter culture by the
mainstream culture gatekeepers in the 1950's?
I mean, the "hippies," were a cultural movement that had hundreds of
manifestations, from Woodstock to the Jesus Movement. They were
wrong in their "answers," but their opposition to racism, etc was
certainly preferable to the establishment's acceptance of some of
those culturally accepted sins.
I'm a bit confused. I might agree that a kind of shallow stylistic
fixation typifies some quarters of the emergent movement (and every
movement, including Macarthur Calvinism, etc.) But it seems to me
that the emergent critque of evangelicalism- right or wrong- goes a
bit deeper than beads and pony tails.
Perhaps you just don't understand the whole EC conversation. May I
suggest that you sit in a comfortable position in your inner prayer
sancturary and increase your contemplative prayer mantra to 40
minutes per day instead of the perscribed 20? You also should
incorporate some good yoga moves.
When everyone joins together in contemplative prayer, a higher plain
of understanding is gained, crime in your area drops 15%, and the
chances of Hillary Clinton in the white house in 2008 increases
see you at the pubs ~
Spenser: your view of Emergent is biased by your jaundiced view of
the contemporary church. I complain about some of the trends in
Evangelidom, but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your
own) disqualifies you from being a reasonable commentator.
Scott: I am glad that I am not the only one who was thinking what
you here wrote. Nice job.
Michael Spencer said...
You misspelled my name, and calling me by my last name is considered
rude. You'll forgive me for pointing this out.
Let me invite you to go to your blog and write whatever you want
about me. I'm eager to hear you out.
>but your hatred of Christian life (starting with your own)
What are you talking about?
email@example.com if you have the spine.
"if I have the spine"?
And it's not even Christmas yet ...
Three good examples of Michael Spencer's self-loathing as a Christian:
The first thing I want to say to Denise, Noel and Clay is how much I regret the day I walked forward and said I believed God was “calling” me to be a preacher. There was no one to guide me, and no one to talk to me. There was no one to help me reconsider. No one told me the first thing about preparation, education, money or the life of a minister. I had no models- just a few heroes- and no one to help me see the real-world substance of my choice. I walked that aisle with good intentions, zeal, a love for God, a desire to be useful and a bunch of other things. Still, I was 15. I was a child making a decision that would consume his whole life.
It was, I’m convinced, the great mistake of my life.
I regret it so much today that my bones hurt to think about it. Why wasn’t there someone, somewhere who could have talked to me about my life? Why wasn’t there someone in my family, or at my school or at my church, who could have told me that I could be an english teacher and a preacher? Why didn’t someone tell me what it meant to be the pastor of a church? There were so many options, but I never knew them. I simply plunged ahead.
So what in the world was going on? Why did our churches and seminaries have covenants and rules that said drinking was wrong, and that drinkers were under the threat of church/institutional discipline? Why did we bind the conscience on the issue of teetotalism, without a verse of scripture that required it? Why was alcohol use of any kind,- not just abuse, but moderate, responsible use- held up as a sign of bad character? Why was it such a big deal among leaders? When so many of them drank?
Why were we all involved in this lie?
I came to understand a bit more of the dynamics of the churches I had been a part of as they choose leaders. Divorce and drinking were always the two big issues with leadership. No one cared about anything else. The big questions were, “Has he ever been divorced?” and “Does he drink?” Now I realize that the second could not be taken for granted at all, even among those who answered correctly. There was enough duplicity on the issue of drinking to make fools of everyone. So it became the policy that we acted like everyone was dry as the Dust Bowl, nodding at the official position of the church, amening the crusaders, while the truth simply sat there, on ice.
It was like a bunch of GM execs who had Toyotas at home in the garage. It was like owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken eating their meals at Chick-fil-A. It was like nodding when the evangelist preached on the evils of drink while you had a bottle of wine and a six-pack in the basement fridge. It was exactly like that.
This all worked for me, and when I had been out of seminary two years, I found myself at a church that would pay for the degree and give me the time and opportunity to complete it. So, in 1986, as the associate minister for youth at a large, county seat Baptist church, I decided to enroll in the Doctor of Ministry program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
[Insert here a very long story of bad choices, more bad choices, leaving my associate’s job and taking a pastorate close to Louisville, bad luck, poor decisions and outrageous shoddy treatment from people who said they would support me. You don’t want to read it, and I don’t want to write it.]
The bottom line: I did very well. I finished everything in the program….except for doing a final research project and writing my paper. Why? My faculty supervisor went on an unannounced sabbatical. My field supervisor was 3 hours away. My church leaders were tired of their pastors being students and they didn’t care about me being “Dr. Spencer.” Suddenly, finishing the degree was going to be a fight- a fight I wasn’t ready for.
I faltered. My deadlines passed and I dropped the program without my degree.
I am not a quitter. I’ve never failed or dropped a class in my entire 19+ year educational journey. Actually, my life would be considerably better in many ways if I were an occasional quitter, but I’m not that sort of person. I stay and work until I’m done. I show up when no one else cares to be there. But I dropped out of Southern’s D. Min program, with 37 hours of classwork finished, just a few weeks from completion, and with no degree.
I hated myself for quitting, and by 1991, I had asked Southern if I could reenroll in the D. Min program. Technically, they should have asked me to redo all the requirements. Insstead, they were gracious, and said I could simply retake the research class, do the project and graduate.
I took the class, but by now my pastorate had driven me into a mental and emotional state that was paralyzing. My marriage was a disaster, and I was in no shape to complete the degree. I finished the research class and just went home, the entire dream of my doctoral program defeated ever since.
I just typed that this “was” devastating for me, but I corrected it. This failure to earn the degree is devastating for me today. As I get older, I feel the pain of that failure more and more. I feel the losses of opportunity. I look at my peers who earned the D.Min degree, most of whom do not read or write seriously, or love academics of any kind, and I am profoundly disappointed in myself. It hurts and it burns, and though sometimes I don’t think much about it, at other times it is a haunting daily regret.
Let's keep something in mind as we read Mr. Spencer's work here: this is not about proving he's not a Christian. Really: I have no idea if he's a Christian or not. What these examples prove is that he regrets almost every decision he has ever made in being in a ministry role in the church, he resents the treatment he received in the midst of making decisions he admits were bad (either based on the results or based on some standard), and in that he has a predisposition against the church as it exists today.
So when he comes out and endorses Emergent, or anything else related to the church, we have to frame his views with the frame he has built. These links don't require any commentary.
However, in light of these links, I'd like to call on the readers of this blog to do something: please pray for Michael Spencer. Pray for his ministry. Pray for his family. Pray for his motives. Pray for his broken emotional state. Pray that he will see Christ's church the way Christ sees it.