Introduction

Aengus Anderson: So Neil, you’re back. We exclud­ed you from the inter­sti­tial while you were in your hour of des­per­ate sick­ness. And now Micah’s gone. And here we are again.

Neil Prendergast: Yeah, that’s right. Well, I did get a chance to lis­ten to the inter­sti­tial, which by the way I have to say I love the name inter­sti­tial. I think it’s great.

Anderson: It makes us feel real­ly intel­lec­tu­al, which is impor­tant. Because we’re always talk­ing to smart peo­ple and then doubt­ing our own abil­i­ties. So we’re like, If we use a word like inter­sti­tial’ we’ll seem a lot smarter than we are.”

Prendergast: There’s noth­ing like a big word. But actu­al­ly, I real­ly actu­al­ly enjoyed what you and Micah talked about. In par­tic­u­lar how to make con­nec­tions out to some big­ger things that haven’t been there. You guys talked about some I think inter­est­ing things.

Anderson: And we were talk­ing about the invis­i­ble con­nec­tions. And I got an email from a lis­ten­er this very morn­ing that said, How about reli­gion? You guys didn’t talk about reli­gion much and it hasn’t been a big theme in the project.” And I thought that’s a per­fect segue into who we’re talk­ing about today, which is Phyllis A. Tickle. She was the found­ing edi­tor of the reli­gion depart­ment Publisher’s Weekly. She did that back in ’91. But she’s also writ­ten and is con­tin­u­ing to write an enor­mous num­ber of books, includ­ing sev­er­al about Emergence Christianity. But she’s writ­ten a lot of oth­er things about— She’s writ­ten prayer man­u­als and jour­nal arti­cles.

But we’re real­ly going to be talk­ing about Emergence Christianity today. Which is a sub­ject that I didn’t even know exist­ed until last November when I was in the midst of work­ing on this project and was at din­ner with an old friend, and was ask­ing her, What are some themes you think I should address?”

And she said, Well, have you thought about emer­gence reli­gions or emer­gent faiths.

And I said, You’re going to have to just point me to some­one and I’ll start to learn.”

So she point­ed me to Phyllis, and luck­i­ly I was able to con­tact her and not long after that drove to Memphis and inter­viewed her there. So that’s a lit­tle of the back­ground, and we’ll get into a lot more of what emer­gence is here.

Prendergast: Yeah, and I think one thing prob­a­bly to note up front is that I think like you Aengus, a lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly haven’t of emer­gence. And there’s also a lot of new terms that are used in the con­ver­sa­tion. And so we’ll sort of do our best job in the out­ro to define a lot of this stuff and sort of move into more of our sort of conversation-y style after we kind of digest some of these new­er terms. So you’ll have to bear with us a bit.

Anderson: Yeah, and as we launch into this, the front end of this con­ver­sa­tion lays out a lot of stuff, and then Phyllis and I have more of a back and forth that picks up lat­er in the episode. It’s a pat­tern you’ve prob­a­bly heard before but there’s a lot more to lay out in this. And this was anoth­er one of these very long con­ver­sa­tions. This was over two hours. There were lots of com­po­nents that sort of built on top of each oth­er and I’ve had to edit a lot of it out for clar­i­ty and just for time. So as always, just be aware that when you lis­ten to an episode this is a very pol­ished, edit­ed prod­uct.


Phyllis Tickle: The Emergence—it’s been called The Great Emergence, and I think that’s the most unfor­tu­nate term we could ever give to any­thing. I mean, what does that mean? But about every 500 years, that part of the world that was sub­ject­ed to Latinized Christianity or that was sus­cep­ti­ble to the Latin lan­guage, if you will, are col­o­nized or colo­nial­ized by those who were so recep­tive. Goes through some kind of giant whoop­ie or change or reformation—you can give it all kinds of fun­ny names. We have a bish­op in the Episcopal Church who says it’s just a giant rum­mage sale, get used to it. You know, every 500 years we have one.

And his­to­ri­ans get real­ly ner­vous about pat­terns. That’s chang­ing a bit now. And the truth of it is there’s not much way to avoid the 500-year cycle. You almost have to work too hard to unsay it, it’s so obvi­ous­ly there in every way. And if you say every 500 years we go through one, then you imme­di­ate­ly say we’re in the 21st cen­tu­ry and baby are we going through one.

And you go back 500 years, it was the 16th cen­tu­ry, in the Reformation, right? Which clear­ly was a bit of a brouha­ha or a rum­mage sale or what­ev­er.

And if you go back 500 years from that you hit the 11th cen­tu­ry. And what you had at that point of course is The Great Schism, when East and West fell apart and every­body was chew­ing everybody’s cousins up to death.

And 500 before that it’s the 6th cen­tu­ry and it gives you the great decline and fall of Rome.

And 500 before that gives you the 1st cen­tu­ry and the chang­ing of the era, in which every­thing is so dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed that we even shift how we date things.

And if you go back 500 years from the 1st cen­tu­ry, you hit the Babylonian Captivity. The end of First Temple Judaism and the begin­ning of Second Temple.

So they would argue that it’s a Judeo-Christian phe­nom­e­non we’re talk­ing about. And in that part of the world that is sub­ject to Judeo-Christianization, a good imam— And I’ve had three or four of them—in a very nice way, I don’t mean aggressively—stand up in a pub­lic gath­er­ing and say, You can’t call it Judeo-Christian. It’s a phe­nom­e­non of the Abrahamic faiths.” And and they will argue, again fair­ly per­sua­sive­ly, that what we’re going through right now in the Islamic world, in Arab Spring, now in it’s what? sec­ond or third year depend­ing on how you count it, is very anal­o­gous to what hap­pened to Christianity in the ear­ly 16th cen­tu­ry. And that they are in ref­or­ma­tion and they are speak­ing in those terms, that they’re just 500 years after.

All of which says that we do some­thing every 500 years. That doesn’t mean that we have to keep doing it for 500 years. We’re not talk­ing about his­toric deter­min­ism, which is what makes his­to­ri­ans real­ly ner­vous. We’re not talk­ing about his­toric deter­min­ism.

We’re also say­ing that it’s a fool who doesn’t look when the pat­terns are there. And at least inter­pret his own times—he doesn’t have to project future. This is not about reli­gion. This is about some­thing that hap­pens in the cul­ture in which every dadgum thing shifts. Everything. Politics, eco­nom­ics, soci­ol­o­gy, aes­thet­ics, phi­los­o­phy, every­thing shifts, includ­ing reli­gion.

And most peo­ple know enough about the Reformation from high school if noth­ing else. So that when you say to them, Remember in high school when they told you about the Reformation? And they said it was the birth of indi­vid­u­al­ism? It’s the begin­ning of the sec­ond Renaissance. It’s the begin­ning of the nation-state. It’s the com­ing of cap­i­tal­ism. It’s the rise of the mid­dle class. And oh by the way, it gave us Protestantism. Yaddidy yad­didy yad­didy.”

Which is maybe a sec­u­lar way of look­ing at it, but it’s a much more accu­rate way. That is to say that reli­gion is con­tex­tu­al­ized. I don’t care whose reli­gion it is, it’s con­tex­tu­al­ized. And when the con­text shifts, it shifts, too. But rarely does it shift out­side a con­text. And one of these 500-year things, what­ev­er they are, are a shift in every sin­gle thing, in every way. And in 1900 the aver­age Caucasian male lived to be 47 years old. We have five times more words in the English lan­guage right now than William Shakespeare had when he wrote the plays. Two thirds of the human genome is owned and patent­ed by com­mer­cial firms, not by us—that ought to to scare some­body to death, you know. Information dou­bles in less than every ten months now. Almost 80% of us live at least forty miles away from where we were born. Which means that there’s a total sev­er­ance with the geodomes­tic sit­u­a­tion. The con­ser­va­to­ry effect of the vil­lage is gone.

So it’s got its humor. But it’s also got its seri­ous side, which is that every sin­gle thing changes. We live in a glo­cal­ized world. The nation-state is no longer the pow­er­ful image. The indi­vid­ual no longer counts. There’s no longer such a thing as hierarchy—there can’t be hier­ar­chy because none of us is bright enough to tell the rest of us what to do. We’ve moved to a com­mu­nal way of doing busi­ness. We are deeply dis­trust­ful of those things that are not capa­ble of being felt phys­i­cal­ly to some extent. There’s thing after thing after thing. Those are huge changes. Huge changes.

Certainly if you look at the futurist—and you do. If you look at Nick Bostrom at Oxford. If you look at Ray Kurzweil, right? I mean, the Singularity, tran­shu­man­ism. These are seri­ous peo­ple. They’re not idiots. They’re asso­ci­at­ed with major insti­tu­tions of learn­ing. And as we move toward tran­shu­man­ism, the nature of the human ani­mal is going to change.

I said that every time we go through one of these whoop­ies, the same ques­tion is where now is our author­i­ty?” and then there two or three con­comi­tant ones. One of the huge ones for The Great Emergence is we don’t know what a human being is for the first time. Are we just con­scious­ness? You know, are we a bunch of neu­rons with chem­i­cals flow­ing over us? And if we are more than that, where is that? Where is Imago Dei? We just absolute­ly don’t know who and what we are. It’s just the whole thing is up for grabs.

And it’s both unset­tling to many peo­ple— It excites me to death but I’m almost 80 and I’m going to get out of Dodge before it mat­ters, so I can afford to be fas­ci­nat­ed and excit­ed. If I were 25 and rear­ing my first child, I might not be so excit­ed. And there’s a zil­lion things that have made the Emergence. But a big part of the bur­den of it is we just don’t know who we are. So yes, large­ly due to tech­nol­o­gy, tech­no­log­i­cal, as was the Reformation. On the oth­er hand, the tech­nol­o­gy was born out of a cer­tain social dis­con­tent or push for­ward.

Aengus Anderson: Based on some of those things. Causality. We talked about the big cycle. And the changes. And there’s a sense peo­ple are col­lec­tive­ly mak­ing those changes. But there’s also a big­ger sense of like… I mean, you say it’s not his­tor­i­cal­ly deter­min­ist but I think it’s hard to get into any­thing cycli­cal with­out mak­ing it sound like this is some­thing that…[crosstalk]…maybe it’s in our code, um…

Tickle: That’s right. You tip your hat at the aca­d­e­mics and go right on doing it.

Anderson: Right. And so I’m won­der­ing, if we’re talk­ing about emer­gence, is emer­gence some­thing… Is it com­ing from us?

Tickle: Oh boy! Do you real­ly want to hear that? Now I will give you a religionist’s answer, okay?

Anderson: Okay.

Tickle: And to give you a whole answer, let me go back to Charles Darwin, and 1859 when he began to pub­lish evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry. Almost every­body in the sci­ences, so far as we know, con­curred. There were a num­ber of sci­en­tists who said, That’s inter­est­ing but it doesn’t explain every­thing.” The most promi­nent of them was a man named Lewes, argu­ing that evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry could not explain human con­scious­ness. He said we have known since Aristotle that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What we have to acknowl­edge is that every once in a while, and cer­tain­ly in the case of human con­scious­ness, the whole is greater than any very care­ful analy­sis of the parts could have ever pre­dict­ed.

And he pos­tu­lat­ed that at some point, some­times, there is some­thing that comes in laterally—it does not come from the bot­tom up or the top down—comes in to the organ­ism and changes it in such a way that it then the affects the envi­ron­ment. And that con­scious­ness was such a phe­nom­e­non. What Lewes called this was emer­gence,” and the dis­ci­pline of it emer­gence theory—looking for what it was that comes in lat­er­al­ly and make some­thing emerge that could not pos­si­bly have been pre­dict­ed. Why would a flock of birds— This was the great one from about 1903 or 1904 I think. Why a flock of birds when it’s migrat­ing will have a leader and then apro­pos of noth­ing, from around in back here’ll come a new one and take over the lead, and in a lit­tle while here’ll come anoth­er one from the oth­er side and take over the lead. It’s emer­gence the­o­ry, because they’re mov­ing as a flock, not an enti­ty, and some­thing emerges and it goes on.

Then you begin to get the real­iza­tion that Lewes was right. That there is some­thing out there that they didn’t have a name for until Norbert Wiener at Harvard came along in the 40s. And he said infor­ma­tion the­o­ry.” He’s the first to name it.

When you get to Norbert Wiener, you’re aware that there are three com­po­nents to the uni­verse. And prob­a­bly this is it, it prob­a­bly real­ly is it. There is mass, no ques­tion about it. There’s energy—obviously, any fool knows that. There’s also infor­ma­tion. And the three deter­mine what is. And all that is is com­posed of the three of them.

The most fasci­na— The. most. fas­ci­nat­ing thing to me right now, doing what I do, is that for the first time ever, I think, cer­tain­ly for the first time in 4,000 years that we know of, we have the rap­proche­ment of phys­i­cal sci­ence and phi­los­o­phy and the­ol­o­gy. All of them com­ing togeth­er around the fact that infor­ma­tion is indeed there. And the physi­cists, par­tic­u­lar­ly, but the philosophers—I’m generalizing—are turn­ing and say­ing to the the­olo­gians, You had it right in the first place, didn’t you?” And they quote, [recites the fol­low­ing quote in Greek]. In the begin­ning was the Word, and the Word was God.”

Which is fas­ci­nat­ing. If it makes you hap­pi­er to call it ho Lógos,” the Word, great. If you want to call it infor­ma­tion,” great. So the the Great Emergence obvi­ous­ly got named orig­i­nal­ly by a sci­en­tist, by a soci­ol­o­gist and biol­o­gist, who said that what­ev­er is hap­pen­ing this time is anal­o­gous. It it real­ly is some­thing com­ing in from the side. It’s not com­ing top-down, it’s not com­ing bottom-up. And the soci­ety that’s result­ing from it fol­lows that mod­el.

Anderson: Well, I’m won­der­ing about the role of agency. Because once you point to emer­gence, how does that not encour­age peo­ple to check out, right? Because well, you know, it’s going to hap­pen, right. I mean, you can get into this sort of like…when you get the big cycles, you get the sense that well, I’m this lit­tle part and I’m mov­ing through the sam­sara wheel or what­ev­er it is. And that’s that, you know. And the best thing you can do is acqui­esce. And maybe that’s right, and maybe that’s fine. But at that point does con­ver­sa­tion even mat­ter, right? Something I’ve been try­ing to get at here in terms of this, like, is there any agency? Because if there’s no agency it almost feels pur­pose­less to ask about the sta­tus quo, right. If there is agency then the sta­tus quo mat­ters, because then we are in some way capa­ble of respond­ing to it.

Tickle: Okay, tell me what you mean by agency. I’m not putting you on, but I mean if it—

Anderson: Yeah, no. I’m think about um…personal free will.

Tickle: Yeah, okay. Leadership or some­body mar­shalling the troops—

Anderson: Yeah, not that kind of agent.

Tickle: —is not going to hap­pen. That would be anti­thet­i­cal, almost, to emer­gence in any way. However, hav­ing said that yes, there is agency and it’s called Facebook, or it’s called Google, or it’s called Twitter, or it’s any of those things in which the con­ver­sa­tion, the meld­ing of ideas, it is the thing that’s dri­ving it. If there’s an agency in all of this, it’s the abil­i­ty to have instant exchange about the things that don’t make sense, the minute they begin to not make sense.

In addi­tion… And now you have to be Christian or a reli­gion­ist. There are men and women who have become very clear spokesper­sons of what’s wrong with the sta­tus quo and what the hope is beyond it, and what emer­gence has to say about it. Now, you can call them lead­ers as long as you don’t think they’re out there being paid to take a posi­tion and lead the band. They’re not. Clergy and lead­ers are no longer priv­i­leged in emer­gence. But there are folk out there who are artic­u­lat­ing what’s wrong with what is, and where it looks like the future’s going.

Now, from the point of view of a prac­tic­ing or devout Christian, I would say that is indeed the lead­er­ship the Holy Spirit. I think Harvey Cox would say that’s what I’m try­ing to tell you, is this one is dif­fer­ent from any oth­er except 2,000 years ago because we now have a direct agency com­ing in (your word) and telling us what to do. But our agency isn’t going to be in human flesh. Or it’s going to be human flesh that is inspired by this thing.

Now, sci­en­tists might say that’s infor­ma­tion. A philoso­pher might say that’s ho Lógos and let’s don’t try to— But there’s your agency as long as we both know what we’re talk­ing about when we use that word.

Anderson: Right. And I’m inter­est­ed more in the Christian community’s… And so in that set­ting, then, what is the sta­tus quo that peo­ple are push­ing off against?

Tickle: The sta­tus quo that peo­ple are push­ing off against is Protestant in erran­cy. It is Biblical in erran­cy. It is the notion of hier­ar­chy. The sphere of oper­a­tion has moved from out there to here, from lat­er to right now. Spirituality has shift­ed. It used to be the spir­i­tu­al­i­ty for the indi­vid­ual. It used to be a thing where I retreat­ed into myself. Now there’s an under­stand­ing that spir­i­tu­al­i­ty is a thing out. It is a thing join­ing the spir­it that is all over the world. It’s that kind of thing. It is the assump­tion that we can per­ceive and under­stand com­plete­ly, every­thing—

Anderson: So there’s a cer­tain hubris, yeah.

Tickle: That there’s a huge hubris, as a mat­ter fact. Not a cer­tain, a huge hubris. One of the parts that draws me if you will, per­suades me, is the pas­sion for the scrip­ture with the under­stand­ing that it’s actu­al instead of fac­tu­al. Whereas the Protestant has con­tend­ed and built a world­view on the fac­tu­al­i­ty of the scrip­ture.

Anderson: What does that mean?

Tickle: Which is to say their the­olo­gians will look you dead in the face and say, To under­stand the amount of human arro­gance inher­ent in being able to think you can reduce God almighty to an out­lin­able a posi­tion…” [laughs] And if you put it that way, it’s fun­ny, right? I mean, excuse me? You’re right!

Or they will say, You know, Jesus Christ would have failed sys­tem­at­ic the­ol­o­gy in any sem­i­nary going.” To which my response is and Saint Paul sure would’ve, He was a con­tex­tu­al the­olo­gian.” But there is an arro­gance in think­ing you can out­line God. What they mean by actu­al” is that it’s absolute­ly the truth. In every way, it speaks truth. And it’s our lim­i­ta­tions that make it appear not to. I need to make it log­i­cal. And so where we don’t under­stand we fol­low in spir­it and with trep­i­da­tion, real­iz­ing our own lim­i­ta­tions prayer­ful­ly. And it’s that approach to the scrip­ture that gives them real pas­sion for the scrip­ture. But most Protestants wouldn’t rec­og­nize it. Because by the same token, same-sex mar­riages absolute­ly ought to happen—what ever is your prob­lem? You know, gen­der inclu­siv­i­ty, absolute­ly. Yeah.

I mean, it’s a fool, for instance, who says that the Bible doesn’t admit of slav­ery. It does. Excuse me? Jesus tells a cou­ple of sto­ries in which slaves play a part and he nev­er one time says that’s a no-no. But comes a time when it doesn’t make any sense, so we get rid of it, right? And an emer­gence would say that’s Micah 6:8 the­ol­o­gy. And they’re big on Micah 6:8. What does the lord thy God require of thee?” That they love, [have] mer­cy, act just­ly, and walk humbly with your God. And it trumps every­thing else that we’ll say.

But there’s a huge ten­sion between Emergence Christians and Protestants. Especially the evan­gel­i­cal divi­sion of Protestantism. Which is where we’re get­ting a lot of our abra­sion right now.

Anderson: So what hap­pens if the sta­tus quo doesn’t change?

Tickle: If emer­gence were going to cease to be sud­den­ly, it was just going to stop dead in its tracks where it is, and there are about a third of Americans, we now know, who are prac­tic­ing a vari­ant of emer­gence wor­ship— Doesn’t have to be Christian. Can be Jewish, can be Wiccan. And that’s a lot of us who’re doing it. But if that were to real­ly stop dead, this thing would crum­ble. This thing that has been can­not sup­port the weight of what we now know and can do.

Anderson: Hm. I mean, that sounds like with­out this

Tickle: That’s right.

Anderson: Like, with­out Emergence Christianity, or Emergence- any kind of the­ol­o­gy, you have an enor­mous exis­ten­tial cri­sis?

Tickle: Yeah! Among oth­er things. I mean—

Anderson: And that that leads to oth­er prob­lems.

Tickle: Yeah. It fil­ters out then into every­thing. I mean, go back to the Reformation, because again it’s com­fort­able. If some­how we had not been able to devel­op, if you will, a Christianity that was not Pope-down like this, enforced by the state, enforced by kings, would we ever have had nation-states? We wouldn’t’ve.

On the oth­er hand, nation-states looked as if they were going to come, they just couldn’t be sup­port­ed by the old par­a­digm. And so we would have had a dis­as­ter. Nothing in inher­it­ed church, noth­ing in inher­it­ed reli­gion, is going to be able to sup­port infor­ma­tion the­o­ry. It’s not going to be able to sup­port the Internet. It’s not going to be able to sup­port glo­cal­iza­tion. It’s not going to be…it can’t.

But hav­ing said that, let me also say that one of the first things you say, to audi­ences any­way, is that every time we go through one of these things, what­ev­er holds hege­mo­ny, what­ev­er holds pride of place, doesn’t cease to exist. It’ll con­tin­ue. It just has to recon­fig­ure to fit the new par­a­digm.

I mean, Roman Catholicism didn’t cease to exist, right? If Protestantism hadn’t been unan­chored, or untrou­bled, by Roman Catholicism, God knows where it would’ve gone. They would’ve ship­wrecked us. In the same way, emer­gence can’t afford to not have Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and to some extent ortho­doxy and Anglicanism hold­ing onto its tail.

So the ten­sion and the bal­ance, unhap­py as it may be, is still appar­ent­ly nec­es­sary to keep the thing from wreck­ing. And at some point this thing’s got to find some sort of cor­pus, if you will, or… Maybe not cor­pus. Has to find some sort of cohe­sion or com­mon­al­i­ty.

Anderson: And that’s kind of what I was won­der­ing, because—

Tickle: I think that’s where you were going, yeah.

Anderson: Yeah. Well I mean, I was try­ing to get a sense of where are we push­ing off, and then a sense of where are we going to. Most exam­ples of things that we can say this is an onto­log­i­cal thing,” right. There’s stuff, there are parameters…you’ve got a sense of solid­i­ty to it, like—

Tickle: Sorry!

Anderson: —this is the church, this is the hier­ar­chy… And this is like, Oh, there’s this giant con­ver­sa­tion hap­pen­ing on the Internet and there’s a new moral order emerg­ing out of it,” you know. That’s like, hard to grab onto.

Tickle: That right, it’s like mer­cury on a counter. And I’ve used that metaphor many times. It’s like chas­ing a bead mer­cury on a chem­istry lab counter. You ain’t going to grab it. Nonetheless, it’s there and infus­ing the con­ver— And yeah, okay. Protestantism is a term we under­stand, right? We can sit here and say, We know what Protestantism is.” But we also rec­og­nize it as a rubric? or an umbrel­la or some­thing?, under which you can get Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists and Lutherans yad­didy yad­didy yad­didy yad­didy. And we know that those are dis­tinct things, even though they share this umbrel­la.

Emergence Christianity is to the Conversation as Protestantism is to that con­ver­sa­tion. I could sit here and I could make you a list of I don’t know, ten or twelve major char­ac­ter­is­tics that inform Emergence Christians that all of them are going to have to some greater or less­er degree. But I can also sit here and make you—again, accord­ing to whom you quote—six to twelve dif­fer­ent and dis­tinct divi­sions with­in Emergence Christianity. They’re not denominations—don’t call them that. God help you if you do, you’ll be [spished?]. Within each of those, you have some­thing close to a struc­ture. God for­bid you should say so, but I mean there’s a cen­ter, if you will.

Anderson: Yeah, I was curi­ous about that. Because it seems like the gran­u­lar­i­ty is a lot fin­er here—

Tickle: That’s right, but it’s—

Anderson: —between that and like, Protestant denom­i­na­tions.

Tickle: Right.

Anderson: Because this way it can almost break down to the indi­vid­ual. You could say well, they belong to this sort of group that thinks in a com­mon way, but because it’s not cod­i­fied…

Tickle: Yeah. And it’s nev­er going to cod­i­fy.

Anderson: And if it doesn’t cod­i­fy, then how is it not total­ly indi­vid­ual again?

Tickle: Yeah, well, it’s nev­er going to cod­i­fy. But it’s going to be hell to get— See, we’re back to the spir­it. It’s going to be held togeth­er by the com­mon exer­cise of prayer. Which is not easy to get at, I mean, it’s a neb­u­lous thing.

Anderson: What does that actu­al­ly look like? Where are the actu­al changes in day-to-day life? Like, what does it mean social­ly? How do peo­ple live dif­fer­ent­ly?

Tickle: How peo­ple live dif­fer­ent­ly. I think it’s going to be— First of all you’re not going to see the huge church­es. Secondly, you’re going to see a much greater empha­sis on merg­ing, if you will, of aes­thet­ics with reli­gion.

Anderson: What do you mean by aes­thet­ics there?

Tickle: Painting. Much more inter­est in dance. Certainly the merg­ing of the expres­sion of reli­gious fer­vor and wor­ship in a place that is aes­thet­i­cal­ly there. Incarnational, much more incar­na­tion­al. Give me music I can dance to, don’t give me per­for­mance music I have to sit down and lis­ten to. Allow me to give expres­sion to my faith with my body in the mid­dle of a gath­er­ing, be it with song if I just break into song. Or if I move around. Or if I go over and paint a pic­ture.

Jesus Christ didn’t live in a gat­ed com­mu­ni­ty and he doesn’t much want us to, either. So you’re going to get the removal of the ghet­to by just sheer infil­tra­tion. But you’re going to see the erad­i­ca­tion of the—or the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, if you will, or the merg­ing of the ghet­to and the lev­el­ing of class.

I think what you may also see—and this does not please me and I don’t think it’s a fault of emer­gence. I think what we may be see­ing is the erad­i­ca­tion of the so-called mid­dle class that the Reformation gave us, and the return to the intel­li­gentsia and low­er class and serf all liv­ing togeth­er in per­haps harmony—I don’t know—and the emer­gence of an upper class based on almost ruth­less eco­nom­ics, not on blood. I don’t know. I think that’s one of the— When you talk about the dan­gers— And I don’t see any­thing in emer­gence that’s going to put a break on that.

Anderson: That’s kind of what I was won­der­ing. Because when you were talk­ing about—

Tickle: It’s not going to.

Anderson: You know, if there’s a new or a stronger or a dif­fer­ent moral empha­sis on help­ing peo­ple, that has enor­mous eco­nom­ic impli­ca­tions, right. Because that’s com­ing from— That’s like a moral imper­a­tive that is dif­fer­ent than the imper­a­tive that moti­vates you in the eco­nom­ic sys­tem.

Tickle: But I will help you with what I have. Don’t ask me to fool with all these orga­ni­za­tions and these eleemosy­nary things and all that junk. I have two loaves of bread, it’s all I’ve got, I’ll give you one. That’s emer­gence. But I’m not going to go out there and fill out 200 pages of paper­work to get GE’s foun­da­tion to give us a bak­ery. Which is a whole dif­fer­ent thing. It’s a whole dif­fer­ent way, an expe­ri­en­tial, if you will, giv­ing. And I don’t know if it’s good or bad, I just know it’s there.

Anderson: So if you have some doubt over your own abil­i­ty to access or under­stand truth ful­ly, but you know you have to make a prag­mat­ic dif­fer­ence; you’re try­ing to improve or redeem the world, isn’t kind of the vehi­cle of that pol­i­tics and isn’t mak­ing choic­es—

Tickle: Not if you’re doing it to your next-door neigh­bor.

Anderson: Okay. But you still have to have a sense of enough cer­tain­ty to act, right?

Tickle: Absolute cer­tain­ty the spir­it is with us con­stant­ly and we are in com­mu­nion through prayer. These here are deeply prayer­ful, deeply devout— These folk are devout in a way… Oh God, this is…

Okay, I might as well say it. The aver­age Emergence Christian is going to be pas­sion­ate­ly devout in a way that the aver­age Protestant no longer is. Which is to say that there’s going to be dai­ly engage­ment not only indi­vid­u­al­ly but communally—two or three, maybe—with the spir­it and with what we’re being told. And how to do it. And you do it because you’re led in prayer to do it.

Anderson: How is that dif­fer­ent than any oth­er the­o­log­i­cal tra­di­tion, which pre­sum­ably… I mean, they would say, We have the same access. This is divine­ly inspired—”

Tickle: That’s right. How long have you employed it? How recent­ly have you employed it? Where was the pas­sion? But what real­ly hap­pens I think every 500 years, when you get right down to it, is the pas­sion dries. It becomes insti­tu­tion­al­ized. It you know, becomes for­mal­ized, for­mu­la­ic, what­ev­er you want to call it. And it just los­es itself umpumpump, and becomes human­ized, prob­a­bly.

And then we go through one of these things where we sud­den­ly real­ize we’ve lost it. And then we find it. And we’re so over­joyed. And we enjoy it and prac­tice it. I think that might be a sim­plis­tic thing, but it looks to me like… There was noth­ing wrong, if you will, about the Judaism into which Jesus was born, right? Other than it had what? stul­ti­fied. Right? I mean…

Anderson: That’s a very dif­fer­ent sort of cycle to think of it on, as pas­sion ver­sus some­thing ossi­fi­ca­tion.

Tickle: Yeah. I think it’s pas­sion. I think it’s ossi­fi­ca­tion. I do. I mean, I think that’s what…you know.

Anderson: So if let’s say we’re talk­ing in that case and the old Judaism wasn’t worse, is this not a pro­gres­sive thing going some­where? Is it just change?

Tickle: Oh, don’t go to pro­gres­sivism.

Anderson: I think we have to, though, because you can’t talk about these big cycli­cal his­toric changes, right, with­out address­ing that.

Tickle: No. I’m not per­suad­ed that every­thing is get­ting bet­ter but I just think it’s going round and round. And you know, when I sim­plis­ti­cal­ly say pas­sion then solid­i­fi­ca­tion and then pas­sion again, I also have to admit that tech­nol­o­gy has come in—every sin­gle time, it’s been a tech­no­log­i­cal thing, right, as well. I mean, even 2,000 years ago we got com­mon coinage, we got for the first time real easy nav­i­ga­tion and all of those things. So tech­nol­o­gy hap­pens. Maybe it’s that tech­nol­o­gy rat­tles us so that we real­ize our stul­ti­fied belief sys­tem can no longer keep up with the tech­nol­o­gy, and we go off on a dif­fer­ent pas­sion­ate [crosstalk] pur­suit of a dif­fer­ent spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. I mean, you know.

Anderson: That’s inter­est­ing. Probably the place I want to go from there, then, would be con­ver­sa­tion, with oth­er peo­ple. We’ve talked a lot about emer­gence. We’ve talked about the idea of this 500-year cycle. This project is of course talk­ing to a lot of oth­er peo­ple with a lot of dif­fer­ent back­grounds, right.

Tickle: Of course, of course.

Anderson: So, many of whom would patent­ly dis­agree with every­thing we’ve talked about.

Tickle: Of course, of course.

Anderson: And yet here we are all liv­ing togeth­er, and the ques­tion we all have is well, how do we have a bet­ter future? And some peo­ple I’ve talked to have talked about, Well, we’re real­ly on the brink for these envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic and var­i­ous things.” Other peo­ple have said, Well, we are on a ramp to a bet­ter world.” So I’m curi­ous how our con­ver­sa­tion about emer­gence con­nects to oth­er con­ver­sa­tions. Especially ones about val­ue, which is kin­da the low­est lev­el that I’ve been talk­ing about on this project, is kind of the irra­tional assump­tion of what’s good. In this it seems like there’s a very…there’s an emerg­ing idea of what’s good. There are a lot of oth­er peo­ple that have oth­er ideas. Does con­ver­sa­tion with them mat­ter?

Tickle: Do I say any­thing to you when I say Gabe Lyons and Q? No. I can tell. He said well, you should be ask­ing that ques­tion to the Q. It meets every year, and it’s the com­ing togeth­er of futur­ists and emer­gence. And they talk about that very thing. And it’s fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to bring all those dis­ci­plines togeth­er. And Gabe has been the one who has sort of led the band, think­ing that that con­ver­sa­tion had to hap­pen.

Now, how­ev­er, the ques­tion you’re basi­cal­ly asking—from my point of view deal­ing with emer­gence. The ques­tion you’re basi­cal­ly ask­ing is where now is our author­i­ty?” Which hap­pens every. sin­gle. time. we go through one of these. What we lose is author­i­ty. What we lost 500 years ago was the Pope, the mag­is­teri­um, and the curia. And what we lost a thou­sand years ago was concilia—you know, what­ev­er. What we’ve lost this time is obvi­ous­ly a cer­tain moral code and a cod­i­fi­ca­tion of val­ues and all that kind of thing—Constantinian Christianity. We’ve lost it.

The truth of it is right now nobody knows an answer to your ques­tion. Whether we’re speak­ing reli­gious­ly, whether we’re speak­ing polit­i­cal­ly, whether we’re speak­ing soci­o­log­i­cal­ly. Nobody knows where the author­i­ty is. It’s free-floating like an anx­i­ety. Which is prob­a­bly why you’re chas­ing the answer to some extent, too. It’s the dis­cov­ery that you’ve got an unan­swer­able ques­tion.

Anderson: Yeah! And as I think look­ing his­tor­i­cal­ly I mean, has it ever real­ly been answered, you know? Societies may answer it with­in them­selves, right?

Tickle: A soci­ety— Again, by pat­tern, a soci­ety will come up with a set of answers it will agree to. Don’t have to like it. But we will accept the fact. That’s the code. How now shall we live?” is a much bet­ter way to put it. And we will arrive, some­time by the end of this cen­tu­ry I sus­pect, in an answer to that ques­tion how now shall we live?” And we’ll do it for a cou­ple of hun­dred years. And then we won’t like it any­more and we’ll begin to tear it down. If we do the same thing that we’ve always done. But there is no answer to your ques­tion right now.

Anderson: Oh, yeah.

Tickle: And I would argue to the death with any­body who gave you an answer. I don’t care whether it’s the entre­pre­neur or an econ­o­mist or some­thing. Bull!

Now, I do think I laughed a minute ago about pro­gres­sivism, just got to be like his­tor­i­cal deter­min­ism. You just didn’t go there. If you were a self-respecting aca­d­e­m­ic, you didn’t go there say­ing we’re get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter, or that we’re mov­ing for­ward to some high­er think.

Anderson: Right. I think it is very com­mon like, out­side of acad­e­mia.

Tickle: That’s right.

Anderson: Really com­mon.

Tickle: To believe that we are going so— And let’s be hon­est. I think we’re far­ther along than 2,000 years ago, right? I mean, I would much rather be alive right now than in the year of our Lord 850 or 1430 or some­thing, you know. I mean, dying of all that stuff and liv­ing to be 47, good heav­ens. I don’t know about that. And I think we obvi­ous­ly are going far­ther in some ways.

And I absolute­ly agree with Ray Kurzweil. I nev­er thought I’d say that, but I tru­ly agree with Ray Kurzweil that we I think are about to make a major lurch for­ward. I mean, peo­ple laugh about him, but I’m sure he doesn’t care one way or the oth­er. Just like I’m pret­ty sure he doesn’t care whether I agree with or not. And nonethe­less, I think we’re prob­a­bly about to make a lurch for­ward. I think we’re about to change, prob­a­bly, a good deal of what it is to be human. I think that’s where it’s going to go. And I think that prob­a­bly is progress,” if by progress you mean a more com­plete life. A more pro­duc­tive life. A more effec­tu­al life. A more joy­ful life. For the indi­vid­ual as well as for his or her tribe. I think it’s def­i­nite­ly going to hap­pen.

But how now should we live? Who’s call­ing the shots? What is ulti­mate­ly good? What’s going to be called the sum­mum bon­um? Um, we don’t know, I don’t think. And I sus­pect by 2030 (and that’s Kurzweil’s date) we may have recon­fig­ured the human con­di­tion enough, we may move to near enough to tran­shu­man­ism or to arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence, so that the def­i­n­i­tion of good would not be one that you and I would nec­es­sar­i­ly rec­og­nize. In terms not of ulti­mate good, which is a God thing for me, but in terms of how that ulti­mate­ly good is applied in phys­i­cal liv­ing. And that’s way out there. And I’ve nev­er said that before and I’m not sure I should be say­ing it now.

But, I think… I would lay a good deal… Well, I guess I have laid a good deal of mon­ey on it because all I’ve got is my rep­u­ta­tion, right? And if I’m too far out there that suf­fers. But I think that’s where it’s going.

Anderson: Does that leave you opti­mistic or pes­simistic?

Tickle: Of course, of course it’s opti­mistic. Or, my opti­mism— Again, you’re talk­ing to a prac­tic­ing Christian. And my opti­mism… I guess opti­mism is not a thing I nor­mal­ly think of myself as hav­ing or not hav­ing. I believe that God is redeem­ing. And that is what’s hap­pen­ing. And as long as we stay tuned and con­tin­ue to do what we’re being told and prayer­ful­ly seek it, and seek it in com­mu­ni­ty— See, now I’m talk­ing like emer­gence. Seek it in com­mu­ni­ty and dis­cern in com­mu­ni­ty with each oth­er, then and I think we’re doing what we’re sup­pose to be doing. And that ulti­mate­ly that will result in the redemp­tion of cre­ation. Which I sup­pose is a form of opti­mism, but it’s cer­tain­ly tem­pered by a reli­gious over­lay. It’s not opti­mism in the sense that we’ll be bet­ter humans. It’s opti­mism in the sense that cre­ation will be final­ly redeemed.


Neil Prendergast: Okay so I think one thing we ought to do here, Aengus, is actu­al­ly maybe offer a lit­tle bit of what we thought the out­line of the dis­cus­sion that you two had would be. Just to kind of cre­ate a lit­tle com­mon­al­i­ty here.

Aengus Anderson: At this point I think we all have a bet­ter sense of what these emer­gence things are. But they’re still pret­ty neb­u­lous. I mean, that’s some­thing that Phyllis talks about specif­i­cal­ly. But we can cer­tain­ly point at what it’s push­ing against, right. I mean, what makes it so per­fect for this project is that we spend all of our time talk­ing about these enor­mous changes, and we’re play­ing with this hypoth­e­sis about, is this sort of a unique his­tor­i­cal moment. And of course, you know how many caveats that comes with—we won’t get into that. But like, that is what’s moti­vat­ing, I think, Phyllis’ curios­i­ty and it seems like the emer­gence move­ment more gen­er­al­ly. The sense that everything’s chang­ing, why isn’t Christianity? The main thrust of North American Christianity is going in the oppo­site direc­tion as all of these oth­er social changes. Something’s got­ta give.

Prendergast: Right, yeah. I think that the ter­mi­nol­o­gy seems to be so dif­fer­ent to me between this Emergence Christianity and the Evangelical Christianity, where in the lat­ter you have terms like tra­di­tion” come up very fre­quent­ly. And she’s not real­ly talk­ing about tra­di­tion with Emergence Christianity. She’s using his­to­ry, and I think in a far dif­fer­ent way, than the way maybe Evangelicals would use some moments in his­to­ry as mod­els for the future should be. She doesn’t real­ly seem to be long­ing after a par­tic­u­lar past.

Anderson: Right. And what’s inter­est­ing is—I mean, you just men­tioned her use of his­to­ry and we both stud­ied his­to­ry. You’re like, a legit­i­mate his­to­ri­an. I’m a real­ly third-rate guy with a Master’s degree. But I think for both of us the role of his­to­ry in this is fas­ci­nat­ing, right. She’s get­ting into cycli­cal his­to­ry, which she doesn’t see as being deter­min­ist… And I want to get into the pro­gres­sive ques­tion lat­er, but let’s just start with talk­ing about cycli­cal his­to­ry. That was some­thing I had a lot of trou­ble with.

Prendergast: Let’s just start with the fact that you’re the first per­son to call me a legit­i­mate his­to­ri­an.

Anderson: And prob­a­bly the last. What are friends for?

Prendergast: Yeah. So her use of his­to­ry, right, and what she’s doing with it. And what I found to be real­ly inter­est­ing is that you know, we—everybody has a sense of his­to­ry. And you don’t need to be a his­to­ri­an to have a sense of his­to­ry. What I liked about it is that she has a sense that things can change. I real­ly liked, actu­al­ly, the thing that she men­tioned about slav­ery. It was that yeah, you know it’s in the Bible and yeah, there’s his­tor­i­cal evi­dence of slav­ery, but guess what. It doesn’t work any­more. And so there’s no rea­son to sort of go back and try to repeat that. You can actu­al­ly have big change and that’s okay.

Anderson: But that seemed like a the­o­log­i­cal thing to me rather than a his­tor­i­cal one. That seemed like inter­pret­ing the Bible con­tex­tu­al­ly, where­as her use of his­to­ry seems much more… I going to say it’s…pretty struc­tured. I mean, she’s talk­ing about 500-year cycles and these kind of lead-ins to them of a peri­od of time, and then a decay at the end of it.

And there’s no way to get into it with­out talk­ing about Thomas Kuhn and the struc­ture of sci­en­tif­ic rev­o­lu­tions and him lay­ing down the whole idea of the par­a­digm shift, which I feel like is real­ly what we’re deal­ing with here. It’s this par­a­digm shift in Abrahamic faiths. I think she’s pret­ty good about delin­eat­ing it there. She’s not try­ing to apply this to India or China or Southeast Asia. But it feels too struc­tured for me.

Prendergast: Yeah. I think that… [inaudi­ble] the same as you on this, but for me I think that part of this notion that maybe there’s a lit­tle bit too much struc­ture there comes from… There’s all these sort of cul­tur­al bor­ders, right, between Europeans and the rest of the world, in par­tic­u­lar through colo­nial­ism. And in a 500-cycle, some­body might view one moment as a peak and some­body else might view that very same moment has a val­ley. And I think that’s kind of the prob­lem with the struc­ture here.

Anderson: I mean, I think she’s pret­ty good at that say­ing these aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly peaks and val­leys. I like that she— This is our con­nec­tion to is his­to­ry pro­gres­sive?” here. Not pro­gres­sive in the polit­i­cal sense but in the sense that it’s going some­where. And she def­i­nite­ly says, No, it’s not, and this isn’t deter­min­is­tic,” and I like that. But it’s some­thing about the notion of these time peri­ods where I feel like there’s so much lead-in and so much lead-out that it feels like the cat­e­gories are so wide and flex­i­ble that any­thing can be put into them.

Prendergast: Right. It seems to explain maybe so much that I won­der if real­ly the 500-year cycle is is actu­al­ly there. If say the Age of Revolutions, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution… What are they? Are they out­comes of 1500? Or are they pre­dat­ing 2000? And if that’s all they do and then they mat­ter so much, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I’m real­ly buy­ing the 500-year stuff.

Anderson: I don’t real­ly under­stand that either, and it seems… It’s real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to talk about the idea of cycles, because clear­ly there are these big changes, right? And yet I don’t even know if that his­tor­i­cal stuff mat­ters for her argu­ment about emer­gence.

Prendergast: Well, I think she did such a nice job of indi­cat­ing all the ways in which the world is chang­ing in big ways, you know. And yeah, I think we can kind of put our his­tor­i­cal quib­bles aside. Clearly what she’s doing here is point­ing to some mas­sive changes. I mean, she talks with human genome and how not only do we know so much of it, so much of it is patent­ed. Migration away from places where you grew up is so com­mon now. Life expectan­cy is so much longer. I mean, she points at some stuff that’s chang­ing the world.

Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that’s for me, you don’t need any of the 500-year cycle, you just did that stuff in front of us now and you can say, Okay, com­pare that to the rest of his­to­ry and look at the dif­fer­ent rates of change. Look at the scales.” And it feels like you’ve got a pret­ty sol­id argu­ment that there are big social changes afoot.

And I real­ly like how she sit­u­ates reli­gion with­in this broad­er social con­text of things that change, and causal­i­ty is obvi­ous­ly real­ly dif­fi­cult to get into and we should talk more about emer­gence in a moment. But the idea that there may be enough evi­dence now where we’re con­fronting sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions. And it feels like, I mean again, Emergence Christianity is the reac­tion to that.

For me that explains the either need for a new type of faith to deal with that? Or the pres­sure to cre­ate a new type of faith? Or the exis­ten­tial cri­sis peo­ple would have that would leave them search­ing for one.

Prendergast: Yeah, or just the nat­ur­al incli­na­tion that you know, if you’re sort of a reli­gious per­son that you’d view these changes as being relat­ed to reli­gion, you know.

Anderson: Yeah.

Prendergast: Yeah.

Anderson: Absolutely. And I think that kind of leads us into what she sees as the biggest ques­tion that we face now, which is where is the author­i­ty.

Prendergast: Right, I thought that was real inter­est­ing, you know. I was lis­ten­ing to that and I actu­al­ly wrote down the quote you know, Nobody knows where author­i­ty is.” And I thought gosh, real­ly? Is that true? And I real­ized you know, I was lis­ten­ing to her and I wasn’t lis­ten­ing close enough. And when I heard author­i­ty” I think I was think­ing pow­er. And to me pow­er is so con­cen­trat­ed in the world today. I would argue that it’s con­cen­trat­ed pri­mar­i­ly with cor­po­ra­tions.

And I thought well you know what? That’s dif­fer­ent than author­i­ty, though, after I kin­da thought about it a lit­tle bit longer. And I think when she was say­ing that nobody knows where the author­i­ty is, I think she was actu­al­ly talk­ing about some­thing regard­ing author­i­ty to lead peo­ple toward mean­ing, per­haps. Not quite the same thing as pow­er. But I think that leads her actu­al­ly in the place she thinks We should be going, towards more of a face-to-face notion of author­i­ty. Was that your read?

Anderson: Break that down a lit­tle bit more. So, why do we need it face-to-face?

Prendergast: Well, she uses this exam­ple of the bread. And I guess any good Christian’s going to use an exam­ple of bread.

Anderson: We nev­er know, is it cia­bat­ta? Is it like seven-grain?

n Right. And this notion that what we sort of ought to be doing is face-to-face at a local lev­el, it seemed to be she was say­ing. You know, share that bread.” And she seemed to be not real­ly want­i­ng to chal­lenge sort of larg­er struc­tures of pow­er and author­i­ty, but real­ly just sort of say­ing, Look, the way to kind of maybe go for­ward is to think of the pow­er you have to change the lives of the peo­ple who are right around you.” And I think that that’s what she’s get­ting with the shar­ing of the bread exam­ple. Which is I think a very sort of [brack­et­ed?] way of defin­ing where author­i­ty can be.

Anderson: You know, she men­tions at a point like, talk­ing about Emergence Christianity in a very clin­i­cal and dis­tant way. And in oth­er moments it’s very clear that she believes much of it and agrees with a lot of it? And so, when she’s talk­ing about the exam­ple of how does Emergence Christianity deal with the author­i­ty ques­tion… You know, I mean she men­tions like that we may see this class strat­i­fi­ca­tion. And she sees that emer­gence may not push back against that. It just may not be inter­est­ed in that ques­tion. It may not have the tools to do that. I don’t know if she agrees with that out­come, though.

Prendergast: Right. And that’s actu­al­ly I think a big dif­fer­ence between Tickle’s descrip­tion of Emergence Christianity and some of the ideas we’ve seen sort of else­where in the Conversation. And when I think about class, know, I often think about Douglas Rushkoff in this project.

Anderson: Oh okay, inter­est­ing.

Prendergast: Yeah, because he was very active with Occupy and also some­body who’s very inter­est­ing in hav­ing Americans ques­tion the sort of strong role that cor­po­ra­tions have in main­tain­ing sort of a class-based struc­ture in the United States. And that strikes me as just very dif­fer­ent than the con­cerns brought forth in the cur­rent inter­view.

Anderson: Yeah. I mean, I was thinking—actually I was… When I think class now, I real­ly think of Chuck Collins

Prendergast: Oh, absolute­ly.

Anderson: —talk­ing about the need for the upper class­es to pay back into the thing for greater social har­mo­ny. I won­der, actu­al­ly, you know— If we were to look at today’s episode through the lens of Chuck Collins, would he said that like, if emer­gence was a real­ly wide­spread par­a­digm, and if Phyllis is right that it’s not con­cerned with large-scale wealth redis­tri­b­u­tion, can it last? Because for Collins it seems like you actu­al­ly need to have a lot of wealth spread around to have a sta­ble soci­ety at all. Like, this isn’t a the­is­tic ques­tion, this is just like a human nature and struc­ture of soci­ety ques­tion, you know. The more of an income dis­par­i­ty you have, the more like­ly you are to fall apart.

Prendergast: Right. So if I could get back to bread again, it’s almost as if—

Anderson: Let’s go back to bread!

Prendergast: Yeah. You know, you need bread and cir­cus­es, right? And the bread—

Anderson: Oh, you’re going— Now we’re get­ting into his­tor­i­cal stuff again like Rome.

Prendergast: Well, what I meant by that was sim­ply you know, that the bread and cir­cus­es, right, is a gift from one class to anoth­er.

Anderson: Mm hm.

Prendergast: And not between two indi­vid­u­als in a soci­ety that sort of doesn’t think of class.

Anderson: Do you think that the kind of peer-to-peer mod­el of just giv­ing what­ev­er you have and not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the things that seem like more cor­rupt, filthy social struc­tures, can you ever real­ly scale that kind of peer-to-peer health mod­el? Or do you always need peo­ple who are going to like, go up the lad­der and fight on your behalf?

Prendergast: I mean, I just think that the answer is so clear to me. I mean, I think you absolute­ly have to have peo­ple who ques­tion the struc­ture of pow­er, who I guess climb up that lad­der to do a bit of fight­ing. Simply because that hier­ar­chy is already in place, right. There are peo­ple who are sim­ply better-positioned to do that fight because they have a vision but also because they have resources to fight the fight with. And peo­ple who I think very often need to ben­e­fit from a restruc­tur­ing of pow­er are peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have the resources to do the fight.

Anderson: You know, we could almost think about emer­gence as a pen­du­lum swing, at the moment. Where it feels like maybe part of it is push­ing off against the idea that too much of our ener­gies have gone cen­tral­ized and more of them need to be local, more of them need to be peer-to-peer. And maybe the ques­tion is, when is it time for that pen­du­lum to swing back?

Prendergast: Oh, right. Yeah. Interesting.

Anderson: Well that’s a lot of talk and spec­u­la­tion. And this is a real­ly inter­est­ing episode because we’ve made a cou­ple con­nec­tions here, and yet it’s chart­ing a lot of new ground, you know. It’s kind of our first big, sol­id con­ver­sa­tion about reli­gion. I mean, we spent most of this con­clu­sion talk­ing about Christianity.

Prendergast: And real­ly what we tried to do with it, I think to be hon­est about our lit­tle out­ro here, is try to map it onto a bunch of sec­u­lar con­cerns that we have.

Anderson: Yeah. You know, when I first record­ed this I thought, Oh man, I wish there were more con­nec­tions I’d been able to make in the con­ver­sa­tion.” But it’s sort of like unleash­ing an entire new vocab­u­lary. This is in a way kind of a first episode. And I see this as one that we’re going to refer back to more as we talk about reli­gion more on the project. And fin­gers crossed, this project goes on long enough for us to have more of those con­ver­sa­tions.

Prendergast: Well, I think it’s a great turn for the Conversation. And I think it’s just going to real­ly prove to be fruit­ful.

Anderson: That was such a polite aca­d­e­m­ic way to end things. I knew I could count on you.

Prendergast: Hey, I’m a legit­i­mate his­to­ri­an.

Anderson: That was Phyllis Tickle, record­ed in Lucy, Tennessee on December 3rd, 2012.

Micah Saul: And you are of course lis­ten­ing to The Conversation. Find us on the web at find​the​con​ver​sa​tion​.com.

Neil Prendergast: You can fol­low us on Twitter at @aengusanderson.

Saul: I’m Micah Saul.

Prendergast: I’m Neil Prendergast.

Anderson: And I’m Aengus Anderson. Thanks for lis­ten­ing.

Further Reference

This interview at the Conversation web site, with project notes, comments, and taxonomic organization specific to The Conversation.


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