Everything is changing…

So I add one word to this post and it *($%s up the formatting on the whole thing.

argh.

Hi everybody,Greetings in the new year!  Beth and I are back from our whirlwind tour of northern California and Michigan.  Too much traveling, but it was great to see our families and friends.   

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I’ve had an aversion to the “What did you get for Christmas?” question for a really long time, but I can say that one of the great things I received this year was a copy of Brian Mclaren’s Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope .

This book took me all of 8 days to chew through. I think that’s a record.

Here’s the skinny:

1) The world (including Christianity) is locked into a (framing) system that’s killing itself.

2) We need to re-think how Jesus’ life and message addresses everything we know about the world, its major problems, and how we figure into them. It all needs to change.

Get it. Read it. Give it to someone else.

Here’s a thought on why:

I’ve been a fan of reading theology for quite a while now and have been recently excited by writers like Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne. I’m a verified nerd when it comes to listening to sermon podcasts and theology lectures – not to mention my uber-enthusiasm for the postmodern philosophy/theology conversation I was recently introduced to through Emergent Village and the writing of John D. Caputo (a review of After the Death of God is on its way).  So in reading Everything Must Change, it was clear to see how Mclaren is putting a more popular face to a theology of deconstruction (via Caputo or Gianni Vattimo). This is theology based on a philosophy (deconstruction – via Derrida) that recognizes our human limits in language systems – that says we should always question the definitive language that has been accepted as “truth” in the past and recognize the fallible nature of our own interpretations. This puts the Christian in an automatically humble and meek position where one is constantly praying for God’s grace and mercy in our lives as we participate in Jesus’ redemption of all things. It keeps us reliant on God and less able to be over-confidant jerks about our religion. It may even keep us from going to war in the name God (or oil) again.

I guess everything would have to change for that to happen.

Some other people have reviewed this also – and are better spoken than I am.

Nicholas Fielder rightly says, “This book is more than a book about religion. It is a call to make things right in the world, but it convicts the religious. If we think that what Jesus had to say was important, than we must see his words in light of changing social machines, we must understand that he wanted a kingdom of justice to rule on the earth, and me must understand that we are peaceful warriors in charge of bringing a kingdom of peace, but also a kingdom of justice. Africa, AIDS, Darfur, Child Prostitution, Hunger, Intolerance, Racism, Social Justice. . . these are problems that should be front in center in every Christian institution. Are they?”

Well, they’re starting to be.

If I was skeptical about Mclaren and the emerging movement before, I can only say that the emerging conversation is one of the most interesting and exciting conversations I’ve come across in a long time – not in part because it’s a conversation of healing and redemption.

Sure, sure, I said that about Rob Bell – well, he’s avoiding labels, and rightly so, but they’re definitely talking to each other, and me.  My question is, how does this work in my context? I don’t know, but so far it’s looking pretty sweet. My Jesus year is kickin ass (mine).

PAX

-W

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4 Comments

Filed under Faith

4 responses to “Everything is changing…

  1. Hey Wayne, hope all is well! I check in from time to time, and really wish we could talk face to face, rather than via electrons. But alas… I had to go and do something foolish like move to fly-over country!

    News here is that we’re adjusting and Hallie’s pregnant! You’ll be happy to know she conceived while back in the City during Thanksgiving (sorry I didn’t look you up 😦 ) and she’ll birth, Lord willing, here in the Fort. The perfect transition baby, no?!

    And hey, one little thing about your post: (You can probably guess I’m no fan of McLaren [and yes, I’ve read him, heard him, met him in NYC, etc., so I think I can speak from at least an informed, if not right, position].) how do you reconcile your first point with Matthew 16:18? Can Christianity, or the Church, really kill it/herself? Or do you simply mean some parts of her can shoot herself in the foot and loose ground (America), while the other parts of her make unbelievable progress towards 2 Peter 3:13 (China, southern hemisphere, etc.)?

    Can you flesh out either what McLaren or you means by that?

    Miss you…

  2. oh man, I miss those challenging discussions. I’m glad to hear that you’re doing well – and congratulations again!

    I appreciate your skepticism of Mclaren. I think someone/thing that seriously questions orthodoxy should be seriously put to the test. That’s kind of the point with the whole philosophy of deconstruction – continual breaking down and tearing apart to understand the essential part.

    Regarding Mat 16:18, the reference is to Hades and it’s inability to stand against the church. With regard to Jesus and the context of him teaching His disciples, this was a specific place in Caesarea Philippi that had repeated historical significance in pagan religions. It’s not hard to see that if Jesus is teaching His disciples, a hugely potent visual (He certainly liked His visual aids) would be to walk them over to Caesarea Philippi, point to the place of ritual child sacrifice (called, “the gates of Hades”) and say that cannot stand against the kingdom of God. Indeed it hasn’t.

    Does that mean that Christians don’t have the ability to work against or *^&# up Jesus’ work in the reconciliation of “all things” today? I have to work against myself doing it all the time. It requires a paradigm shift in me at a really personal (and uncomfortable) level.

    One of the reasons I became a vegetarian this year (birthday to birthday) was to do a project that would consistently remind me to be more aware of what I was doing and how it affected/effected my surroundings – not least of all, my wife (who has been a vegetarian for 14 odd years). It’s really helping me understand the changes I have to make in my own perception and thinking in order to actually begin working with Jesus in building the kingdom of God and participating in His reconciliation of all things.

    This is why I like Mclaren’s book. He gets something that I have been working on getting myself. We need to change the way we think and perceive our roles here on the planet – I see evidence of that in what you are doing in Ft. Wayne (city with the greatest name I can think of) and I see Mclaren trying to articulate it for a wider audience.

    I think it also goes into an idea of what the “unbelievable progress” actually is. Is it salvation prayers of belief (obviously a good thing) or social justice (another good thing)? One of Mclaren’s examples in the book is a conversation with a person in Rwanda, I believe. He talks about how participants in the genocide were often church-goers, people who prayed and believed in Jesus (same as us) but weren’t taught anything but the gospel that would save their souls – rather than the gospel that would also save them from killing hundreds of thousands and would save them from corrupt government and from being bound to a history of violence. That’s a bigger/broader gospel and a point Mclaren makes about where our priorities are in spreading it.

    I’m sure you probably checked your friend Challies review of the book. On one hand he does a really great summary, but on the other, he doesn’t seem to get the reason why Mclaren is questioning traditional orthodoxy. It has to do with postmodern philosophy. I’ll post links in another comment to some helpful conversations that explain it.

    please keep checking in.

    -W

  3. Here’s a link to a conference podcast series that was lead by John D. Caputo and Richard Kearney (two of the world’s leading continental philosophers) and moderated by Tony Jones.

    http://www.emergentvillage.com/podcast/2007-theological-philosophical-conversation-session-1-part-1

    It’s a solid introduction to the postmodern philosophy and its relationship to theology, covering philosophical history from Plato through Augustine, Kirkegaard and on through Derrida and contemporary thinkers.

    If you want further references for this particular discussion, I can post them also.

    -W

  4. Sexo

    I get totally confused when people speak of ‘the Jesus year’. He had a year every year before that as well. Yes, there has to be a change on how we view the world. Some of it is happening so fast, but… Middle America seems to have lost touch… I feel it around me, around us… It still takes a lot to get a New Yorker to look up and catch a hawk. Yet we are getting there… My optimism is not shot… And my power comes from thought…

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