We now know from cultural studies and historical experience that groups define themselves and even hold themselves together largely negatively—by who they are not, what they are against, and what they do not do. We need a problem or an enemy to gather our energies. We usually define ourselves through various “purity codes” to separate ourselves from the “impure” and the presumably unworthy. Simple worship (“what we are for,” or in support of, and what we love) is much harder to sustain. Thus most reformations and revolutions need someone else to be wrong much more than they need any discovery of a higher level of consciousness themselves. This is an absolutely core problem.
Thus Jesus never affirmed opposition or contrariness, because he knew that it was merely a same-level or lower-level response to the problem (even when empowered by some new and good ideas). The new group was infected by the same hubris and oppositional energy, and would soon engender the same kind of “reformation.” Thus the endless progressive-conservative pendulum continues to swing and yet we do not move forward spiritually.
“Emerging Christianity” is trying not to make this mistake, and hopes to be an inclusive notion of religion that is not against this or that. Evil and sin do need to be named and exposed (not directly fought!), however, and this is the prophetic role of religion. Without prophecy, religion cannot critique itself and ends up being largely self-serving. Jesus’ starting point was never sin, but human suffering. This deeper and increasingly obvious teaching of Jesus is strongly re-emerging in our time, and this time from many different disciplines of wisdom and study.