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group of white men around the age of 30 challenge “everything”

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 29, 2008

(what follows is a work of satire…a work of satire that also works as a bit of self-deprecation)

A group of white men around the age of 30 launched a new network yesterday that sets out to challenge “everything.”

Jarrod Lewis, one of the coordinators for the network believes that people are looking for “something different.” Says Lewis: “A few years ago, I started looking around and noticed that there are a lot of Churches, but not a lot of people actually living in the way of Jesus…I mean REALLY living the stuff, you know?”

And so, Lewis began blogging on his site “Breaking Lewis” about the need for radical change. Armed with Apple laptop, he would go to his local Starbucks, order a machiato macchiato and proceed to challenge the status quo. Over coming months, his readership grew into the hundreds, and be began to connect with folks who shared his concerns–and hopes–for the church.

As the group began to conspire, they realized the need to have some face to face time if they were REALLY going to spark ecclesial revolution. Last month, in a secret meeting near Seattle, Lewis met with 20 other men near the age of 30. Sipping their expensive coffee, wearing their snappy hats, and sporting slightly unusual facial hair, they began to scheme a revolution.

The first thing they did was to name their new movement and come up with a cool website. The new movement, called “The Revelation 21 Cohort” (www.rev21cohort.com) will continue to mostly be an online network…though the idea of a conference is being kicked around.

These young men, though all around the age of 30 and white, are diverse in other ways. “We value diversity. In fact, we’re theologically diverse. We’re all from different denominational backgrounds within evangelicalism,” says Lewis, who is a pastor of “Aquatic Community” in San Francisco.

Aaron Johnston, pastor of the Journey Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, believes that even greater diversity lays ahead: “We’ve made it a point to say that we’re open to women and people of color. In fact, there is a Latino guy who is interested in joining us, I think.”

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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Viewing 29 Comments

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    "Sipping their expensive coffee, wearing their snappy hats, and sporting slightly unusual facial hair, they began to scheme a revolution."

    hahahahaha, this was really nice. BTW, what will hapen with the latino guy?
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    it's spelled macchiato.

    also that was a really funny post
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    Doh!
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    I'm a brown latino guy, is there room for another one of us or have the token quota been fulfilled already?
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    Eliacin: I think Mark may be talking about us already . . . you're brown, my last name is Lewis, and we're both suspiciously close to Seattle. You wear snappy hats, I sport slightly unusual facial hair, and we both drink expensive coffee.

    I think we're supposed to scoff and be offended. I'll get back to you when I stop laughing.
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    The in-text link to the revolutionary-white-guys-in-their-30's website is incredible.

    It's nice to see so many white guys talking in theory about radical community over the internet. It at least warrants some kind of commemorative documentation, maybe a t-shirt with a raised fist on it, or a snazzy travel mug made from recycled plastic?
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    To all those out there who are as delighted as I am to be so poked at in this great article, I'll have you know that out here in the People's Republic of Southeast Portland we can get $1 cups of fair-trade organic coffee at plenty of spots. I swilled two just this morning while reading some Newbigin.

    The coffee-shop revolutionary's selflessly-caffeinated burden just got even cheaper! (and all the bargain-hunting Mennonites said,' Amen')
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    (in a deadpan voice)

    Well, Jesus was in his early 30s when he kicked this thing off, right? We're in good company, aren't we?
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    Uh...yeah. And he certainly had the facial hair thing going. I suppose a crown of thorns could count as a sort of funky hat (though, not one I'd want to wear). I guess the only thing left would be whether or not he's white. And since he looks white in most of his portraits, I assume that he's in.

    viva la revolution!
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    All kidding aside (and I did write this to be funny, so I don't want to kill the fun here), the issues of race and gender and affluence and privilege are serious. All too often, the issues are swept aside as an item to deal with "later" after we secure ourselves using the leverage of race, gender, affluence, and privilege. I'm sure some readers will no doubt rebut that these aren't that big of an issue, but one only needs to look around to notice that there is something wrong. When the loudest public spokespeople for those in the margins are those with privilege (and I know I fit into the category of privilege), something is off. When someone like Shane Claiborne (who is a veritable industry unto himself) is seen as the voice of the voiceless, and an American Mother Theresa, we have to wonder why our imagination is so limited. There are too many profoundly prophetic, beautiful, eloquent people in the "margins" who can speak without having an affluent privileged white person do the speaking for them.

    And yes, I realize the irony in these words.
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    Regretably I'm only a women and happen to be white, educated, and upper-middle class, so I barely count as being on the margins.

    As I'm sure you know, there are a lot of reasons why white, male, upper-middle class guys are rallying around this issue and getting attention, and a lot of reasons why people "on the margins" aren't (what should this be characterised as? My friend and I sometimes try to one up each other on imagining someone marginal... maybe a black, muslim, handicapped, transexual female... female to male would be more marginal right?)

    Anyway, after that aside... it really is difficult to deal with this issue because we are created in some ways, in the image of the culture we live in. So even though I am a female with fairly egalitarian beliefs (and a feminist oriented education), I tend to enjoy listening to educated white males a little more than females. In fact the head of my anthropology department (which specialized in women's studies) was a bisexual, married (to a women) white male. He was in charge of a department made up almost entirely of females (I think there was one other male). A bit ironic? Yes, but he was also the best teacher I had, and seemed to deserve his position... (or did I just think he deserved his position because I have been socialized to believe that the masculine perspective he has been socialized to have is more valuable than a feminine perspective? It's really impossible to tell... All I know is that all my favourite authors happen to be white males, even though I really admire a lot of female's works. )

    My point is, that it is a long hard work to break out of what we have learned, and thus to start listening to and become comfortable with being represented by females or other "marginal" people. We have to simultaneously question what we value, and feel comfortable in a role we haven't be socialized to be in. The problem with this is that we are who we are socialized to be. In some ways we can be critical of it, but in others it really is who we are. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't affected by social interaction. It would take generations upon generations of self-critical people to even begin to address this issue... but then how would we really? There really is a black, hispanic, male, female, straight, gay (etc etc) identity (even though there are always individuals who don't fit that identity entirely) and everyone uses what they relate to as they learn how to exist and interact with others, it would be hard to value all equally and in exactly the same way. I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive for that, or that we shouldn't accept others as they are (certainly no one fits their role exactly... especially myself!) but we have to be aware of what we are up against...

    so, maybe it is strange that Shane Claiborne is somehow the voice for the voiceless, but for some reason it is really hard not to listen to someone like Shane and I don't know that I can remake myself entirely (in such a way that I would be more excited to listen to someone else more "marginal"), so I'm still not really sure how to deal with this issue... so far I'm just working on understanding it.
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    good satire always points to a bit of truth, so thanks for admitting that things are strangely homogeneous in the "revolution." just to add to the mix, i'm a person of color (of the asian-american variety), and when i get on my soapbox to challenge "everything," i'm sometimes labeled as acting "white."

    oh irony of ironies.
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    Josh Kaufman-Horner 1 month ago
    Mark, if I wasn't already a fan of yours I would be now. Thanks.
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    Aw shucks. ;)
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    Now that's good satire!
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    you could have spelt 'Jarrod' different Mark :)

    hey Matt, Jesus was in his 30s but he wasn't white! :) When I lived in Nashville for a while, I had a mate who was African-American who liked to joke “you’re not white, you’re Australian!” Does that count as diversity? Should I play the Jewish mum, Irish Catholic dad card? That way I have the stories of oppression when it suits and can just be white when it doesn’t. ;) Think I need to read more James Allison.
    You guys don’t really meet in Starbucks do you? Aren’t you concerned about activist cred (oh, yeah... and justice too.) :)

    I don’t think Shane’s a voice for the voiceless Mark, and I think he’d agree that they have their own voice. But I do think God has chosen him to be a voice for white, middle to upper class evangelicals who long to be more faithful to Jesus. And I think that’s a wonderful thing.
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    Jarrod, while I admit I do not know your family history of oppression, at different points in history some of the groups you mentioned, jewish and irish among many others, have been able to play the "white card" and benefit from white privilege while not the same with people of color. So while I do not what to dismiss the oppression suffered by many other brothers and sisters, things are different when the oppressed taste a bit of power use it to oppress based on a new social construct, be it by choice or not.

    While I agree with you and I know Mark agree "minorities" have their own voice, in our context that voice in many instances get muffled by those who want to speak on behalf of. In our context the voice of the "minorities" fall into deaf ears of a society that only listen to those in the higher stratums of power. The discourse for diversity is very popular but there is minimal genuine interest to hear what people of color have to say.
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    Jesus wasn't white? What? ;)

    **worldview collapse**
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    Why?
    Why are there not more latinos, blacks, women, etc engaged in this discussion?
    My first back-of-the-napkin guesses:
    1. They see how white guys got where they are, by manipulating power mechanisms, and are simply focussed on employing that same mechanism to become equally enfranchised. They are more realistic (than I am) about the plausibility of dismantling those franchises, and are concentrating their efforts where they believe they will get the most immediate return.
    2. They can't stand our self-righteous, holier-than-thou, white-man's-burden, smug postulating.
    3. They are out busting their butts just to survive.
    4. They can't stand our self-righteous, holier-than-thou, white-man's-burden, smug postulating.
    5. They are in jail for victimless crimes.
    6. They can't stand our self-righteous, holier-than-thou, white-man's-burden, smug postulating.
    7. They don't like coffee, facial hair, or dirty hats.
    8. They can't stand our self-righteous, holier-than-thou, white-man's-burden, smug postulating.
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    Hilarious. I vote for number 3. and may I suggest, "heard all this "self-righteous...smug postulating" about a zillion times before? " yet..still...needs to be said until it doesn't need to be said.
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    opening disclaimer - I'm female and handicapped - does that put me on the margins?

    on one level i loved this piece. I laughed, I saw the truth in it...

    not to undermine the satire - but what is the solution? should white guys in their 30's stop being who they are? Are their passions, likes, and ideas invalid because of who they are? how can those things be affirmed and pushed to the edges at the same time? and how can this happen without just pissing everyone off?
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    That is the $64,000 question. I suspect that being honest about the state of things is a good first step. I don't think that, as a 32 white man, that I should just stifle my gifts. But I can try to leverage them in such a way that it helps bring someone from the edges into the center.

    I can work collaboratively with others. I can defer to those with wisdom, rather than simply to those with a larger platform. Personally, I've been thinking that I should make my book project collaborative--to be willing to risk some commercial success to share my platform with gifted people who aren't educated white men. It makes little sense for me to write about Jesus and his anti-imperial ways without including voices that are actually receiving the short end of the imperial stick.

    I can publicly honor and affirm the living saints in our world, rather than simply honoring and affirming those who publish books or are awesome speakers. I understand that things like "conferences" need the headliners to do well. But I'd rather have a conference featuring an obscure (among Anglos) Latino activist come and talk about what it means to "welcome the stranger" than to have yet another speaking vehicle for the name brand speakers. Sure, that conference won't have a draw...but we have to seriously wonder if the need to have conferences with big draws is part of the problem. We need to be the change God wants in the world.
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    Hi Julie,

    I'm glad you are commenting here. I do not know you, but I know of you, mostly as one of the strong voices behind the emerging women movement.

    Your point is well taken there should be space for everyone to speak and share their ideas and passions. But that is assuming that the platform is level and equal for all. So all it takes is for people to have good ideas and be passionate and they will be heard. Well, it is not that easy in our society that listen to the white, the male and the heterosexual.

    While I agree, there are many white 30somethings guys with lots of good ideas and passions, so are many women and men of color whom lack the platform to be listen. So it is not that they don't have the voice, it is that the system is deaf to their voices. So there got to be a challenge the MO of the system. One way to for white males to speak less and listen more.To stop speaking on behalf of the"other" and actually listen to the "other." Another way is following as Mark states here, is to make honest partnership and collaboration with voices of color. Not just the current token sprinkling of color we see commonly.
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    Two of the main things that people latched onto with this piece were gender and race, but to me the 30-something qualifier (age), can be just as damaging. When we refuse input from the young, old, and the entire spectrum of age we are missing valuable perspectives and worthwhile dialogue.
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    holy cow.

    Thank you gentlemen and ladies. I feel somewhat vindicated by this post and numerous comments...
    in that as a minority too often I point out these things only to get blank stares. People think it's attaching an agenda to the gospel or some kind of reverse-racism scapegoating. When in fact so often "emerging" dialogue is gentrified religious snobbery that fails to recognize the "browning" of N. America. What drives me nuts is when people refuse to recognize that "gentrification" happens in society, it happens in the church as well.

    I have hope when I read this because I see a willingness to understand and not dismiss. A certain willingness to go to the "colored" folk. Thank you for coming over to my table.
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    And you're always welcome at mine, Wayne. :)
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    That is one of my favorite verses, Rev. 21. And Rick Astley never gets old, I watch the whole thing anytime I get RickRoll'd, that bartender can dance.
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    Mark this is great!!!!! I love the diversity bit :)
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    Seeing as that Sunday seems like a day of the week when races typically don't intermingle a thought.

    Perhaps the stream of Christianity that whites inhabit is going through a change. Perhaps blacks too will or are going through a change. But this might not be a race thing as much as it is the types of churches whites typically attend. God is calling those churches into a period of change and we are responding.

    One reads the gospels and though many women have done great things men have done considerably more. Does God call us more? Do we demand more? Do we push women aside? (I'm not trying to assume anything of those things nor wish to discuss them, just trying to say that men seem to do this stuff more often.)

    The very young have no means to change anything and therefore cannot. The older sit in the positions of power and seem content with how they entered the church. But around 25 a lot of people want something new. And at 30 they just kinda get fed up.

    There are reasons.

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