This blog has been deliberately silent during the UK election campaign, and now the dust is starting to settle and we have a coalition government for the first time in living memory, it is fascinating to see the responses not only of the wider public but of those Christians who like to make pronouncements about such things. Can ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ ever live and work together in harmony? Many Christians seem to regard this as completely impossible – maybe because the very words themselves echo so closely the battle lines that have marred the churches for so long. For at least the last hundred years – maybe more – ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ have been at each other’s throats about theology and church practice, and their strident disagreements have arguably contributed to the disillusion of many people with the church itself.
We have often been asked which side of this theological debate we are on, but the reality is that we haven’t a clue – and what’s more, we don’t care. The terminology itself is well past its sell-by date, and the notion that life can be so simple as to be categorized like this is naive in the extreme. It might have worked fifty years ago, but no longer. One of the characteristics of post-modernity is that everything is in flux, and the old certainties (and enmities) of the past no longer make sense. The rise of the emerging church is only one manifestation of that, and is a key reason why some people dislike it so much, because it is (on the old paradigm) eclectic and illogical. Viewed from this angle, the coalition of ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ in government looks like a version of the same thing – emerging government, perhaps? Just like the emerging church, it will be loved and hated in equal measure. Those who still prefer the old certainties and tribal identities will be especially cynical. Which should mean that no emergent Christians will be among them, but you never know. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.