1 – A Paradigm Profile and Cultural GPS
of the Christian Wing(s) of the #MeToo Movement
1 – A Paradigm Profile and Cultural GPS of the Christian Wing(s) of the #MeToo Movement. This two-part article is the most technical in the series, but foundational to all else in analyzing this movement’s paradigm, problems, and possibilities.
Part 1A applies aspects of paradigm profiling, subcultural emergence, and social transformation tracking to the punk rock subculture and “emerging ministry movement.” This gives us a robust historical example as a framework to consider what brings people together into movements, and how things tend to change over time in it.
Part 1B applies these frameworks to give an initial profile for the Christian version of the #MeToo movement. I base this description primarily on my own personal experiences, online interactions, and other sources. It includes my initial analysis of key elements of common ground that unify this movement. I also identify issues where there are considerable doctrinal differences that may have the power to fragment the movement if participants choose strict conformity over stepped collaboration.
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Introduction: Paradigm Profiling,
Cultural GPS, and Transformation Trajectories
The Christian layers of the #MeToo movement create an informal collective of individuals, organizations, and networks who care about ending sexual abuse, harassment, and violence. Despite doctrinal distinctives, these survivor communities share enough of the same values, beliefs, and goals to communicate with each other, support one another’s work, and sometimes collaborate directly in varying combinations on campaigns and projects. The fact that this is a social movement with informal involvement leads us to some key questions:
- What commonalities draw people into this collective together?
- What differences in beliefs could split them apart?
- Does everyone have to do everything in order to be considered a part of this movement?
- What could/should people do when there are clashes over activism methodologies?
Paradigm profiling gives us tools and techniques to answer such questions. They provide us with a “cultural GPS” snapshot that records what IS in this movement as a social subculture, though not directly what SHOULD be there. That is the cultural creative task for those in the movement to forge together. That involves considering various possibilities for future directions, deciding what is preferable to pursue, and then following through on that pathway of transformation. However, paradigm analysis can provide significant kinds of information that equip movement members for the tasks of trajectory.
The how-to details to use paradigm profiling tools take up an entire Field Guide in the training series I’m developing. So, in this section, I’ll only overview the process of using certain tools, and show how I applied them in a parallel situation with the “emerging ministry” movement.
For over 40 years, I have been working on methods for identifying “paradigms,” their outworkings, and how paradigm shifts take place and what they can/cannot lead to. This has taken me into studies of:
- How people process information in different ways.
- How any given approach tends to directly and uniquely affect the values and beliefs that drive our personal world.
- How we apply strategies and infrastructures to organize ourselves, whether for social or spiritual activities, businesses, or government.
- How those deeper layers lead us to embody or endorse particular kinds of cultures, and what modes we prefer for collaboration (or colonization or isolation).
In the model I’ve developed, those four layers form a paradigm system, with layers #1 and #2 being the deepest and most abstract and invisible – but with very visible consequences! Layers #3 and #4 are the results of how an individual or group processes information and the values and beliefs that arise from that. To discern what’s driving the system, we have to start with what is seen and work our way backward to approximating what’s in those bottom two layers – as those are rarely put into writing.
Knowing this information becomes important, because collaboration among individuals and sub-groups within a movement only seems to be sustainable when there is enough overlap at these lowest levels to serve as glue to hold the partnership together. Once a person or group sees that their own paradigm doesn’t align enough with the rest of the movement, they are likely to split off into their own stream. Or maybe they will keep up some of the same activities as before, but will do them in isolation instead of cooperation with other people.
In short, paradigm profiling helps us explain why a particular subculture forms, understand who is drawn to it and why, describe how it functions, and hypothesize what commonalities lead it to sustainability or what differences may cause it to fragment into pieces.
When I sat down to analyze the ministry sources and potential for sustainability of the Christian #MeToo movement, it occurred to me that this looked a lot like what happened with the “emerging ministry” movement went through. Since its history embodies paradigm and subculture profiling, I’ll start with some key elements for tracking the life cycle of a subculture, then share a condensed history of the emerging ministry movement, and end with some wrap-up and suggestions for further reading.
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The Big Picture: Subcultures and Social Movements
This section is a moderately long read. But do yourself a favor – don’t skip it or skim it. It is always difficult to discern what is going on when you are in the middle of a whirlpool of change. So a parallel movement from relatively recent history sets us up to better observe, analyze, and interpret the times in which we find ourselves.
What you’ll find here is an extended example over several generations that embodies many of the same external influences and internal dynamics that show up in the #MeToo movement and its Christian versions. It helps us develop better questions to understand our own times, and discern what we should do. To my thinking, that makes it extremely valuable to us.
Subcultural Life Cycle of the Punk Rock Paradigm
Overview: Roots and Residual Influences. In the mid-1990s, I invested myself in a lot of independent study on alternative subcultures, such as punks, hippies, Goths, eco-spirituals, and neo-romantics. That was where I learned to discern the overall life cycle of subcultures and social movements. Here’s the overview of how that process unfolded with the punk subculture in England. This is relevant because some of the core values in punk rock showed up 20 years later in the American emerging ministry movement.
Needs as Seeds. The economic situation in England was dire for teens and young adults in the 1970s. The country’s unemployment was around 20%, and the future was bleak. About the most many young adults done with school could look forward to was no job, being on the dole (welfare), and living at their parents’ flat. Not exactly the kind of formation milieu for happy hippies who’d want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony …
Emergence of Paradigm Shift. This desperate situation led to a type of nihilism – but in the face of hopelessness, young people engaged in a DIY do-it-yourself creative counterculture. They depended on themselves for entertainment and communication to express their anger and angst. Being more on the anti-authority and pro-anarchist side of things, they often clashed with establishment figures. And, on the whole, they never did get along with hippies; their worldviews were created to clash.
Development and Differentiation. The overall style was dark and harsh – full of spikes made of metal or hair, razor blades, garbage-bag clothing, tattoos. It reflected the larger society’s devaluation of this generation. But these fashion statements also put out signals for insiders to find one another. Groups, gangs, clubs ensued. Garage bands went punk – all you needed was a guitar and three chords. Women were more on par with men as cultural creatives. And because of the DIY nature of the music, there were probably more women in punk rock than in any other music genre of that era. They composited their own art, a sort of darker-humor, snarly version of Dada.
Sub-groups formed under the larger punk subculture umbrella, usually with some notable differences or add-ons in values. For instance Straight Edge punks generally didn’t drink, smoke, or take drugs; many weren’t promiscuous; and some were vegetarian or vegan. But they still fit in with the philosophy of punk in most ways. Various forms of punk migrated globally, adapting to local culture. Punk had especially strong culture contingents in the UK, North America, Germany, and Japan.
Dilution. From my own studies of what typically happens to subcultures over time, one pattern I saw was that the core values around which a subculture precipitated ended up in a far weaker form in the mainstream culture about 15 to 20 years later. This came out of at least two reasons: (1) Advance of generations. The next younger generation or two took punk values as a given in their formative years. So, it was part of culture of their formation more than something they chose to enter into as a young adult. (2) The mainstream adopted the style and fashion of a subculture, but without as much of its substance.
Fusions and Resurgences. Subcultures often morph or resurface, because many of the underlying needs continue that originally generated a subculture that met them. Or, individual preferences or social circumstances rekindle interest in a “vintage value set.” For instance, the punk DNA has not gone away. Versions of the deviance and DIY attitudes in punk found their way into cyberpunk, fused there into a hacker mentality with a futuristic technological style. Also, a 30-something friend of mine is lead singer in an all-women classic-style punk band.
And, 20 years later, lo-and-behold! A less-anarchistic version of punk’s DIY values and cultural creative mindset found its way into what became known as the “emerging ministry” movement.
Subcultural Life Cycle of the Emerging Ministry Movement
Beginnings of the Emerging Ministry Movement. The hints of something new being needed started in the early 1990s. Younger and middle-age church leaders were noticing how times were changing, and conventional methods weren’t working like they used to. By the mid-1990s, a group of mostly GenXers (born between 1965 and 1982) were connecting to explore news ways to approach ministry processes and organizational forms that better fit with the holistic, relational-systems paradigm of postmodernity.
Those who pioneered the spread of this new paradigm knew intuitively that the surrounding culture had changed – and that the then younger generation of Xers had this new approach as its native paradigm and culture. Gradually, informal networks grew as people with similar questions and interests found each other, many through a few key books in the early- to mid-1990s, and later through online blogs and virtual networks.
From to Decentralized/Informal to Connected/Formal. In 1996, Leadership Network hosted the first-ever event for what became the Young Leaders Network. It was primarily for church and ministry leaders age 40 and under. As this network formalized, executives at Leadership Network identified about a dozen men (yes, all males) who seemed to be point men for the movement – meaning they were the most charismatic, most active, most recognized by the rest of the movement as “thought leaders.”
Leadership Network arranged for this “group of 10” leaders (and their wives) to get together to share ideas and get more relationally connected. Those 10 men tended to become the same ones interviewed for news articles; same ones invited as keynote speakers on this “postmodern paradigm”; same ones whose perspectives became the published “orthodox” views on what to do and how, in the midst of emerging cultural changes. This meant men and women who were faithful and innovative in their on-the-ground ministries were pretty much excluded from formal recognition, and there was no way to break into this inner circle.
Spin-Offs and Sub-Groups. However, by the early 2000 decade, it was becoming clear that these 10 were not all on the same page. They had come together with common interests in doing things differently from their Silent Generation and Boomer elders. But opposition to methodologies of the past did not mean full unity for moving into the future on a shared postmodern-friendly paradigm.
Eventually, some of the 10 began to split off from the “emerging ministry pool” and into their own theological and methodological stream. Mark Driscoll went Neo-Calvinist with his hierarchical, mega-church/multi-campus Mars Hill Church. Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt were part of forming the flat-structured, theologically deconstructive Emergent network, which eventually morphed into a more progressive theology network. Several leaders stayed within the movement but developed a more distinctive theology, such as did Andrew Jones with missional and alternative culture ministries, and Chris Seay and Dan Kimball with a more emerging evangelical approach.
Residual Influences of the Emerging Ministry Movement. Just as the emerging ministry movement inherited cultural DNA from punk rock, there are residual ministry traces of the emerging movement in the wider Church today. For instance, we could say that a bit of the radical response to culture shows up in social entrepreneurship which is a next-generation form of community development and church planting. While those specific elements have some relevance to the Christian versions of #MeToo, it is the historical, social processes as a whole that gives us much to work with. And that we will take up in Part 1B, in which I lay out my understanding of its current governing principles and paradigm.
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For Additional Reading and Research
On the importance of developing questions. Two Reposts: Pursuing Questions That Lead to the Answer[er] & Finding a Culture’s Quest/ion.
On cracking the code of paradigm systems. Paradigm Profiling in The Missional Zone Part 1 – Missional SynchroBlog Post. This post was part of the “Missional SynchroBlog” in 2008 on “What is missional?” It gives an extensive introduction to how to profile a paradigm, and shares an earlier draft of my seven-layer model of paradigm analysis. It also includes numerous techniques for interpreting the results, and a case study in the Tessera Learning Trail as a representative of a holistic paradigm and missional methodological model.
On subculture emergence, and sources on punk rock. Barometer Subcultures for Studying Three Street-Level Postmodernist Edges. This post introduces the idea that subcultures give us clues about what the mainstream culture might eventually look like – an important tool of foresight, if we want to prepare for the future.
Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex (Compilation of Posts). A question that’s arisen lately on spiritual abuse survivor blogs has to do with how to dissect the “Christian Industrial Complex,” and analyze how and why it affects us. This blog page introduces three major frameworks I use for analyzing social movements and toxic systems, and builds toward describing what this phenomenon of a Christian Industrial Complex is, how it works, and how it can inflict damage. It also suggests a list of indicators for identifying layers of enmeshed involvement among celebrity leaders, Christian business industries, and followers/consumers in such probable toxic systems as this. It ends with some initial analysis and interpretation of toxicity issues in two streams that came out of the “emerging ministry movement” – the more conservative New Calvinism of Mars Hill Church/Resurgence and the progressive Emergent Movement of Emergent Village.
Just for fun. Today, At Last, I Became a “Screenager” as Futuristguy Blog Turns 13! My long-time friend Andrew Jones, who ministers to those from alternative cultures and marginalized people groups, was a key promoter of my getting into blogging. This post includes a piece he wrote for my 13th blogaversary that gives you his assessment of the kinds of work that I do that are relevant to this cultural geography series.