I am going to be returning in the next couple of days to the elements of this "church for freaks" idea that I've been playing around with. But in a brief free moment that I've got right now, I thought it might be useful to think a bit more about what I mean by the term.
In a sense, what I'm trying to get at is the very old idea that the church is the community of and for the outsiders. If Jesus came to preach to the poor, the homeless, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the colonized, then he came, most profoundly, to preach the kingdom of God to the outsiders of the world. He didn't show up in the center of Rome to proclaim a kingdom to supplant Rome, he came to the margins, to preach a kingdom coming to be within the existing kingdoms of the world. And Jesus' kingdom would supplant and subvert those earthly kingdoms.
But of course, this presents a bit of a problem, one that I try to get at jokingly when I refer to the Emergent Church as "Christianity for hipsters." Hipsters are, in a sense, outsiders, but they wear their outsider status as a sort of fashion statement. A hipster is a freak for whom freakishness is a style choice. Christianity though, embraces the outsider as a vocation.
And for someone like me, a relatively affluent, straight, white male in the United States, that is a difficult vocation to embody. In that sense almost everything about me is emphatically anti-Christian. What I might experience as freakishness, as monstrousness with regard to the larger social context in which I dwell, is ultimately a question of what identity I choose to put on. And it is easy enough for me to change identificational coats.
And that, I think, is one thing that must by definition separate what I'm talking about from those who are genuinely attempting to do Christianity from the margins. What I mean is: Those who do not marginalize themselves, but rather are marginalized by society are the real heart of the gospel proclamation. Folks like me may desire solidarity with them, and may work in cooperation with them, but we always have the choice to opt out, and that is a problem for any Christian who wants to stand vocationally for the outsiders, but who is him or herself in one way or another inescapably on the inside.