A Quick Note on the Emergent Church Movement
I actually have a chapter in the book called "Why the Emergent Movement Won't Work," and while I haven't finalized it, while I was reading the comments on Boing Boing, I realized that people were busy saying the same things they always say ("You can't pigeonhole evangelicals! They're a diverse group, some of whom believe several liberal things!") and ignoring a few points that I want to make now.
The fact is, evangelicalism will always be a conservative movement for at least two reasons:
First, it's a form of Christianity that is so intense in its devotion and focus that it is always going to be essentially sectarian. Evangelicalism begins, for most people, with the conviction that conventional Christianity--as practiced by "liberal" or "mainstream" churches--is lacking in spiritual substance. Evangelicals are the real Christians in a world of compromised Christianity such as you'd find at the World Council of Churches or in your local Episcopal congregation. Evangelicals are the ones who made daily Bible reading and weekly Bible studies a central part of modern devotion (since presumably Wesley's followers have long since lost their way). In its very musical practices (soft rock instead of hymns) it functions as a kind of protest movement against mainstream Christianity.
Second, this sectarianism is fueled by devotion to the literal reading of the Bible. What distinguishes Emergent Movement types is that they emphasize different parts of the Bible than most evangelicals do (more on the poor, less on the hell), but they're still ultimately trapped by their dependence on the Bible.
If you read Brian Mclaren, for example, the most radical things he says (and the things that have gotten him in the most trouble) include, "We should stop preaching about hell" and "we should agree to complete silence on the subject of homosexuality for at least ten years." He doesn't actually dare to say, "The Bible is wrong on both topics, and taking both doctrines biblically and seriously is bad for us." Much less does he suggest we should repudiate the Bible on these points. His only solution is to stop talking about the unpleasant things the Bible teaches.
Similarly, in Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has a really nice moment where he describes being in college and setting up a kind of reverse-confessional booth, where people would come in and sit down and the Christians sponsoring the booth would apologize for being arrogant, and pushy, and for supporting ugly things, etc. And they did this with no agenda, not "I'm sorry--and now, having said that, will you come to this Bible study?" but really just an "I'm sorry." It's a great section. But again, he never actually says, "We were factually wrong." He says, rather, that Christians didn't tell the story with enough sensitivity. Homosexuals are still evil, and everyone except us is probably going to hell still, but it was rude of us to point this out. Let's go help out at a soup kitchen!
As long as evangelicals are evangelicals (i.e., Biblical literalists with sectarian leanings), they'll be a danger to decency and human respect. And this, in short, is why the emergent movement won't work: If your beliefs are poisonous, it's more important that you change your beliefs than that you tell us you feel bad about how you expressed them.
Having said that, I am pleased to note that the Mars Hill and Rob Bell podcasts are consistently the most popular ones in the "Religion" section of iTunes, so you could definitely make a case that this form of Christianity is actually growing as quickly as its adherents claim. I still have my doubts about it being anything but kind of a fringe--any trip to a Christian bookstore will reassure you that hell and sin and Republican anti-evolutionism are all quite popular still--but if more people were like Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren, evangelicalism would, indeed, be less of a challenge in our culture than it is. But since their followers would, by definition, be carrying dangerous passive beliefs (hell, sectarianism, homophobia, etc.) along with the "good" Biblical ones they'd be acting out for a change (care for the poor and oppressed), my book actually becomes more useful, not less. Because it's all about the unintended consequences that emerge when good intentions ("I want to be morally upright!") get hooked to a bad moral compass (the literal, naively read Bible). Emergent people carry the virus even farther below the surface, and that can't be good in the long term.