|Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
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Acclaimed author and emergent church leader, Brian McLaren states, "More and more Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who have recently dropped out of church, Christianity is a failed religion. Why? Because it has specialised in dealing with 'spiritual needs' to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has focused on 'me' and 'my eternal destiny,' but it has failed to address the dominant sociological and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, poverty, and dysfunction." McLaren asks, "Shouldn't a message purporting to be the best news in the world be doing better than this?" What he sets forth in this provocative, unsettling work is a "form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral, balanced, that offers good news for both the living and the dying, that speaks of God's grace at work both in this life and the life to come, both to individuals and to societies and the planet as a whole."
- Emerging Church & the alternative framing story of hope
Brian McLaren may be the most widely known proponent for the Emerging Church in the twenty-first century. The first book I read by McLaren is A New Kind of Christian, which I felt articulated my own frustration with modern expressions of church and Christianity. McLaren has become a prolific writer articulating the journey out of the modern trappings of the Western Church. McLaren is an associate in the Emergent Village, a group of Emerging Church leaders. Famed for his radical and sometimes threateningly abrasive tone as he describes modern Western Christianity, McLaren is often reviled by critics of the Emerging Church and Emergent Movement. Retired from the pastorate in Maryland, McLaren recently completed the "EMC" (Everything Must Change) Tour. He now travels, speaks, writes, and learns especially from friends in Latin America and Africa, how to change our "inner ecology" (294) and therefore help create a community freed from the dominant framing story through the viral message of Jesus.
This book is framed with McLaren's two important questions: What are the biggest problems in the world today? and What do the life and teachings of Jesus have to say about these global problems? (45) McLaren seeks the answers to those questions with his underlying thesis that we are beholden to a destructive framing story and that in the gospel of Jesus Christ, "a message purporting to be the best news in the world should be doing better than this." (34) The biggest problems in the world, as McLaren puts forth, are as a result of a "Suicide Machine," an invisible killer, feeding off of and destroying all life and corrupting the Earth's ecosystem. The Earth is a complex ecosystem in which human society is a participant. In as much as our societal machine, including prosperity, equity, and security, is not cooperatively and creatively informed by the good news of the kingdom of God, humankind will accept the curriculum and teaching of an alternative framing story, one which blinds our eyes to the increasing demands and abuse our societal "machine" places on the Earth's ecosystem.
This book shows how Christians have accepted a "gospel about Jesus", but we have failed to accept the "better news", the "gospel of Jesus", which is the message of the Kingdom of God. (83) McLaren only touches the problematic implications and interpretations of Protestant Reformation orthodoxy, such as Predestination. It is difficult for those who live consistently with that theological framework to not ask, "Why, if the Titanic is destined to sink, should we rearrange the deck chairs"? (153) The Bible, McLaren asserts, is not simply a book about how the "Elect" go to heaven and therefore will abandon the Earth, but a "story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global destruction." (94)
This book begins with our two questions, considers the "frame" of the conventional gospel story, and reintroduces us to Jesus. The first chapters introduce us to an alternative voice, a health care worker from South Africa, who pointed out the "nonsense" of the conventional gospel, how pastors are preoccupied with divine healing, being born again, and tithing. (27) McLaren relates how this kind of "dissatisfaction" with the current circumstance, coupled with a "shared imagination and hope, combine to form an emerging consensus that is spreading across the Global South," the new Majority Church, and emerging Christian leaders are realizing that "if their message isn't good news for the poor...it isn't the same message that Jesus proclaimed." (30) By including the voices of the Global South, McLaren broadens the emerging church discussion, showing the "two sided coin," the "postmodern" side, which is a perspective from the West, and "postcolonial" side, which is the perspective of those formerly dominated by the West. (44) The "way out" of the West's ugly, excessively confident, dominating, and exploitative narrative and the non-West's formerly colonized and oppressed people, is face-to-face meeting, dialogue, and community formation around the kingdom message of Jesus.
McLaren points out that the necessary change in our world is not "cosmetic" or merely a matter of being "relevant to culture." (32) Rather, like the South African health care worker, the necessary change is seen in the contrast between thoughtful young educated people, who are asking the difficult questions about larger societal and systemic injustices, and the typical adherents to the Christian religion, whose ultimate concern is most typically for only private and spiritual matters. The call, that "everything must change," is rooted in the dichotomy between spiritual and natural concerns. Just as Jesus warned his disciples to "beware the leaven," the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, McLaren warns us of the dangers of "Foundationalism" and "destructive framing stories," combined with the lethal injection of "excessive confidence" in Christian religion most notable since the Enlightenment. (44)
The global problems plaguing the world have been reduced to lists by international agencies like the United Nations (Millennial Goals) and well-meaning Evangelical leaders (i.e. Rick Warren's 5-Point PEACE plan), which still imply on the part of the list-makers a confidence that such global issues can be broken down and solved according to the same Modern Western Framing Story that created the problems. Quoting Einstein, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it", McLaren points out some bigger questions. How do we affect global change? How do we get free from the dominant system? McLaren writes of "liberating our imaginations from captivity;" (254) to whom are we captive? ourselves?, some conspiratorial group?, or is it spiritual forces in heavenly places, as Paul reveals? Who are our teachers? What questions might we ask today, which will affect the greatest transformative change and bring the greatest liberty from captivity for our society, and the world? If the idealist Boomer generation Jesus People became complicit to the dominant system, diseased with an ideology that created independent evangelical churches, what will this generation do? Or will the Emerging Church, those communities emerging from Western Christianity and out of the Western, Southern, and Eastern parts of the globe, be flexible enough in this generation to affect a radical reconciliation effort?
Clearly, we need help and we must ask difficult questions to "discern and articulate the alternative narrative of Jesus." (122) For example, why was Jesus tempted in the wilderness? (139) McLaren points out how even Jesus needed to stand against the "Suicide Machine" of the Roman Empire. We must beware of our teachers, and not just their ideas or systems they establish, but the teachers and "system" enforcers. We must ask where we place our faith and how our framing story of conquest causes us to be "driven" (137), the dehumanizing "Theo-capitalism" drive to go faster and faster, producing more and more. (192) Why do we listen to Jesus explanation of the value of our lives in comparison to a sparrow, which therefore has some value, and yet accept a dualist view of the value of an "immaterial" human soul? (138) Does our understanding of the gospel somehow lead to "derangement" (removed from our natural place in the world) and "decomposition" (divorced from what had previously been joined)? Is our spiritual aim the "disembodiment of soul" (standing outside ourselves), and a kind of spiritual ecstasy, like "a drug-induced euphoria or a hypnotically induced trance...(which therefore leaves us) liberated from all duty as embodied, environmented creatures"? (142)
The second half of this book penetrates deeper, examining and re-framing the systems of Security, Prosperity, and Equity. Chris Hedges, war zone journalist with intimate knowledge of the extent of the Security system and our nation's military investments, points out another kind of derangement saying that nations at war "fall into a collective `autism'...and do not listen to those outside the inner circle." (174) McLaren outlines in graphic detail the ugliness of the Security, Prosperity, and Equity systems in the "Suicide Machine" as if he were recruiting members to join a modern insurgency to overthrow, well...everything. Before you join, or toss aside this crazy notion, consider a few more questions we should be ready to answer: Do I believe that war is "simply a continuation of political intercourse"? (167) While he appears very much like he is presenting an argument for Ideological Pacificism, he steps away from that polarizing position to call for "a new dialogue" (176) replacing our craving for security with a passion for justice through "vibrant, reconciled communities". (182)
McLaren calls for a "New Global Love Economy" in the image of "God's sacred ecosystem." (128-131) He calls us to join the "Divine Peace Insurgency" to rebuild our societal system "as a beloved community." (151) He presents an economic plan of the kingdom of God with sustainable development and fruitfulness as the goal, not consumption. (207-9) Rather than completely abandon organized religion, he calls for "Organizing Religion" to strengthen families and communities through "celebrating virtue and training people to practice it." (264) Rather than call for political involvement, which tends to quickly polarize even the least partisan leaders, he calls for a radical believing, "believing the alternative and transforming framing story." (270) Rather than change the political system (not to mention the business, military, and even religious systems), which tends to attract those who change with the political wind, he repeats what Jim Wallis recommends: "Change the wind." This book is a call to activism with resurrection faith. This "insurgency" will not be defeated, but will "move quietly, at the margins, where all revolutions begin." (272) This is the Emerging Church, the maturing upward spiral of God's people with vision (276), those who are disbelieving a "covert curriculum, a curriculum that must be unlearned." (284) This Emerging Church is creating new lesson plans with a common script and a common faith to move mountains of oppressive systems by faith.
The vision McLaren presents in Everything Must Change is a radical restructuring of society. Jesus was constantly teaching, but only lecturing part of the time. He modeled life, crossed cultural barriers, confronted systems of thinking, and fully surrendered his rights to get his message across. This, it seems to me, is a time to re-examine all my models of ministry. One of the greatest implications of this book to my ministry is a shift in my thinking toward radical community as a transformative witness. In the past I have given myself to integrated, holistic, transformative mission "projects," but I have not formed communities, which share vision for sustainable development, reconciliation, and transformation. I'm turning away from the mission approach of transforming individuals to a radical shift of transforming communities.
The implication of this book for the global Church and for my ministry is an invitation to change personally and corporately, to partner with Christians from the West and the global South and East. I may live consistently within my foundational presuppositions, however because those presuppositions of God's nature and activity are different, I can reach very different conclusions unless I consider how much I am serving and supporting a system that is not the kingdom of God. Humankind spars for territory and resources in a closed environment producing a lot of heat, but little benefit for our global neighbors. McLaren is calling for a new ecosystem that nourishes, blesses, and sustains God's kind of life. For those trapped in the destructive ecosystem of liberalism and conservatism, there is a way out. However, it appears that way is frightfully simple, "BELIEVE." Our faith will carry us into a new environment, out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son. Like Paul the apostle, who ruthlessly examined all his presumptions as a Pharisee, about God, right and wrong, and the Messiah, we need to ruthlessly examine those bonds that tie us to the "Suicide Machine". Something needs to change and I believe it begins with me.
- Another Voice
It would be helpful in addition to books from this genre to have someone write a book about what the church is doing RIGHT. Granted, we all need to continue to learn, grow and be called up short when we forget our purpose- and be reminded of what was close to Christ's heart. However, there are places where the gospel is bringing about transformation to individuals and communities in a way that I think would make Jesus smile. Having returned from a recent trip to India I served with a local ministry that was caring for the poor, the orphans, providing education, bringing about social change, transforming lives and leading people into the kingdom. How about some celebrations along the way?...more info
- Great Book
This book has been adopted at our church as book club for all of our members. It has really made me think about my faith in a different light. ...more info
- Biblical interpretation based on McLaren's agenda
The over all message of the book is true: the world is broken, but the gospel has immediate implications for this world, implications which the Church must help promote. Christians should be generous, self-sacrificing, ect.
The main problem I had with the book however, a problem that constantly distracted me from the main and positive message, is the way that McLaren falsely interprets the Bible through his agenda. It's as if McLaren decided to write a book on the topic of social justice and then searched the Bible for passages that he could interpret in such a way that they would support his claim; he allows his agenda to shape his reading of the Bible, rather than the other way around. For example, Cain and Able become a metaphor of class warfare between agriculture and shepherding, the prophesy of the New Jerusalem and a new heaven become a hopeful metaphorical picture of an ideal world that could occur through social aid (he states that this is the purpose of all "prophesy"), and Jesus' teachings become teachings that subvert the political and social evils of the world. In short, he artificially forces political and social applications on passages that are not really there. There are many other examples of this all throughout the book.
He is also fairly divisive. Rather than say, "whatever your eschatological or political beliefs, we are commanded to be generous, to show mercy, and pursue justice," he speaks of how dispensationalists and those who interpret the Bible more literally are foolish. Now, they may not be correct, but his critical attitude only makes enemies and makes the Christians whom he is "correcting" less likely to listen to his overall message of the need of service and generosity.
He also doesn't really give solutions to the problem. He spends many chapters developing the need for the government to not be involved in wars and to take the wealth from the rich and give it to the poor, but then he qualifies it by saying, "Now I'm not a pacifist or a communist..." But he doesn't explain how he expects these views to be legislated. He simply says that Christ gave the command and it is the Church's responsibility to figure out how, a responsibility with which he helped very little.
This book is not worth the reader's time. Rather read the book of Amos, the gospels, and the epistle of James....more info
- Emerging Church Economics
There are too many errors in this book for unsophisticated readers. McLaren's book has value only to readers who recognize the mistakes but are willing to learn about a position that springs from ideology and a theological framework. For me, the emerging church movement is enough to consider by itself without flawed economics intertwined.
- Indeed, EVERYTHING must change.
In Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren lays out a critique of human civilization. Such a task would seem impossible for its scope, but through McLaren's macro-lens exploration, the reader walks away with a diagnosis that feels eerily accurate to our modern situation: that human civilization has become its own suicide machine. This metaphor of a system gone destructive against those it was intended to serve is the central image of McLaren's diagnosis. The machinery of our society falls into three main subsystems: the prosperity system, which provides us with the goods, opportunities, and experiences we feel we need to be happy; the security system, which seeks to protect the existence and the standard of living of those who prosper; and the equity system, which seeks to distribute the goods of the prosperity system and the costs of the security system in fair and equitable ways.
Each of these systems fulfills a useful and worthy goal. But each also faces a crisis. Our global prosperity system, McLaren asserts, has grown without regard for limits or sustainability, irresponsibly consuming resources and producing waste faster than the environment can compensate while producing a disproportionate amount of wealth for one third of the world's citizens. This great disparity between the haves and the have-nots strains the equity system to the breaking point, and breeds tension, fear, resentment, and distrust between the two groups. These feelings of antagonism make the wealthy nervous about the security of their goods and lifestyles, prompting them to further secure their assets and resources from the disgruntled majority. As a result, the have-nots become even more antagonistic toward the wealthy, leading to another increase in security. Eventually both sides become so antagonistic toward one another that the resulting militarization and pre-emptive strike power is enough to ensure the mutual destruction of both sides. Our systems are locked in a downward spiral, driven by and fueled by the fourth and greatest crisis, the spiritual crisis, "the failure of the world's religions, especially its two largest religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crises."
Our framing story, the story that tells people "who they are, where they come from, where they are, what's going on, where things are going, and what they should do," is the linchpin in our whole mess. Our societal systems - prosperity, security, and equity - serve the ends that our framing story dictates.
"If our framing story tells us that we humans are godlike beings with godlike privileges...we will have no reason to acknowledge or live within limits, whether moral or ecological. Similarly, if it tells us that the purpose of life is for individuals or nations to accumulate an abundance of possessions and to experience the maximum amount of pleasure during...our short lives, then we will have little reason to manage our consumption. If [it] tells us that we are in life-and-death competition with each other, that only the fittest will survive, that each species and group is in a violent struggle to outcompete and gain independence and safety from or dominance over all others, then we will have little reason to seek reconciliation and collaboration and nonviolent resolutions to our conflicts."
We have, as a result, our current situation, where the prosperity system threatens to outproduce the planet and leave us in a pile of our own waste, where the equity system serves fewer and fewer people (the gap between rich and poor in America continues to grow, let alone between the global rich and poor), and the security system, rather than ensuring us of our own survival, now only ensures that if we go down, so does everyone else.
The result? Suicide, says McLaren with no lack of gravity. Indeed, there are chapters in Everything Must Change that will require some time to process if we seek to maintain hope for our future. We need more than tweaking the system here and there to fix a squeak or to grease a cog. We are in need of a radical new story that tells us something different about who we are and what we are here for.
Enter Jesus and his good news about the kingdom of God. The "good news" is a phrase we're all familiar with, whether from our days in Sunday school or from the man preaching on the street corner. There are multiple versions of the good news, but all share the same nuts and bolts: "You are a sinner and you are going to hell. You need to repent and believe in Jesus. Jesus might come back today, and if he does and you are not ready, you will burn forever in hell." It is safe to say that a significant number of people, both within and without the church, have found this "good news" to be rather uninspiring and unconvincing, and have chosen not to adopt it as their framing story. And so McLaren observes, "a message purporting to be the best news in the world should be doing better than this."
McLaren argues that we in the 21st century have nearly entirely lost any idea as to how radical Jesus was in his own day, and how much we have co-opted a neutered version of Jesus' message in order to justify and round off the harsh edges of our current system. McLaren spends a significant portion of the book reframing and reintroducing Jesus, painting a picture of the world Jesus was born into and exploring just how different the kingdom of God is from the kingdom of this world. Jesus' radical message changed and challenged everything, including some things we were comfortable with. "The kingdom of God is not simply a new belief or doctrine that can be patched into an old way of life; it is, rather, a new way of life that changes everything."
McLaren spends the last portion of his book imagining what this radical Jesus would say to us were he to visit us today. What would Jesus have to say about the system that currently runs our world? Probably much the same thing he had to say about the system of his own day, since they are essentially the same machinery. His call to us is the same: "Repent! Rethink your whole way of life! The kingdom of God is here! I am the new Way! Believe in me and the good news I bring about a new, fuller, everlasting life."
To believe, McLaren says, is the most radical thing we can do. When we realize what true belief in Jesus' way requires of us (complete defection from the dominant framing story of our current existence), belief in its reality and possibility is no mere intellectual exercise. Instead, it is a work of faith on the part of our whole being, as we learn what it means to live in the kingdom of God and follow Jesus into everlasting life....more info
- Jesus and life issues today
Two underlying questions are the reason for this book by Brian McLaren.
1. What are the world's top problems today and 2. What do the life and message of Jesus have to say about these issues? This is a continuation of Brian's previous book, "The Secret Message of Jesus" about the Kingdom of God and what does it look like today.
Brian traveled around the world in the writing of this book, talking to church, community, business and government leaders, asking questions and listening to answers. Brian is a thinker and makes you consider your faith, the mission of God's people and its practical outworking to personal, community and global issues in light of the model and message of Jesus.
Like this book or not, you will have to think about the global issues that confront us and the relevance of faith and action to these issues. You may not agree with his ideas and his potential solutions but I have been impressed with his thinking and scope that will give us wisdom and keep us better informed in our response.
McLaren challenges us followers of Jesus about what it means to do God's will on earth. His writing on the context of the life of Jesus and his teaching on the Kingdom of God in regard to Rome and its authority as well as the religious leaders of Judaism and those who opposed Rome is so relevant to us today.
I think that Brian has something very important to say to us as people of faith. I believe that Jesus has some critical things to say to us. The question is are we listening and what will be our response?...more info
- Swinging the pendulum from talk to walk
EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE--including the way that correct doctrine has been elevated above Christlike living.
If Christians are not Christlike, and Christianity is not a powerful force for making the Kingdom of God more visible on earth, then we must be missing something in our beliefs, because they are only "correct" if they lead to actual expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the central challenge McLaren poses so powerfully and persuasively. His challenge is bound to upset those who place highest value on conformity to systematic articulations of boundary-marking beliefs.
McLaren forges a new way of studying the world and studying Jesus to see how we can incarnate a "ministry of reconciliation," just the way Karl Barth advised holding a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. If you want hope and practical guidance for living out a gospel for the whole world, not just for Christians, then this is your book.
As a public figure, McLaren takes a lot of hits. Before you decide whether his critics are justified, read him for yourself. Keep an open mind and an open heart--because McLaren has plenty to satisfy both....more info
- McLaren Changes Everything
Those of us who have been keeping a wary eye on the Emerging Church know that to understand the movement we must understand Brian McLaren. Though it is not quite fair to label him the movement's leader, he certainly functions as its elder statesman and his writing seems to serve as a guide or compass for the movement. Where he leads, others follow. And so it is with interest that I turned to Everything Must Change. This book is shaped by two preoccupying questions: what are the biggest problems in the world and what does Jesus have to say about these global problems? They are valid questions and probably questions to which Christians should devote more attention. In this book McLaren address them head-on.
According to McLaren, we live in a societal system consisting of three subsystems: the prosperity, equity and security systems. These are all guided by a framing narrative. The world was made in such a way that these should function in perfect harmony as they are guided by God's framing story, but unfortunately they have become misaligned so they no longer function as they should. When the framing narrative is destructive, this system can go suicidal, ultimately self-destructing. This is society as we know it now--a society that is completely suicidal. And this is the problem Jesus came to address. Having thought long and hard about the world's problems, McLaren says this: "Our plethora of critical global problems can be traced to four deep dysfunctions, the fourth of which is the lynchpin or leverage point through which we can reverse the first three." These three crises are linked in a very tightly integrated system that functions as this "suicide machine."
Jesus, says McLaren, stepped into this dysfunctional system and proposed an alternative in both word and deed. Jesus' solution was to confront society's suicide machine, to redraw and reshape the framing narratives by proposing a radical alternative. He says Jesus' message, His good news, is this: "The time has come! Rethink everything! A radically new kind of empire is available--the empire of God has arrived! Believe this good news, and defect from all human imperial narratives, counternarratives, dual narratives, and withdrawal narratives. Open your minds and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter this new way of living." Jesus took that message to the cross, an instrument of torture and cruelty that He used "to expose the cruelty and injustice of those in power and instill hope and confidence in the oppressed."
McLaren's utter disdain for Protestant theology is evident throughout, but perhaps nowhere so clearly as in his rendition of Mary's Magnificat, rewritten in such a way, he says, that it can now be consistent with traditional theology.
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my personal Savior, for he has been mindful of the correct saving faith of his servant. My spirit will go to heaven when my body dies for the Mighty One has provided forgiveness, assurance, and eternal security for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who have correct saving faith and orthodox articulations of belief, from generation to generation. He will overcome the damning effects of original sin with his mighty arm; he will damn to hell those who believe they can be saved through their own efforts or through any religion other than the new one He is about to form. He will condemn followers of other religions to hell but bring to heaven those with correct belief. He has filled correct believers with spiritual blessings but will send those who are not elect to hell forever. He has helped those with correct doctrinal understanding, remembering to be merciful to those who believe in the correct theories of atonement, just as our preferred theologians through history have articulated."
But the Bible, he says, teaches none of this. Rather, "Mary celebrates that God is going to upset the dominance hierarchies typical of empire so that the nation of Israel can experience the fulfillment of its original promise."
After reframing Jesus and His message, McLaren reintroduces Him through a new lens. This Jesus, as we might expect, is radically different from the one Protestants have known and honored and radically different from the Jesus of the Bible. McLaren continues to systematically dismantle Christian doctrine. "With no apologies to Martin Luther, John Calvin, or modern evangelicalism, Jesus (in Luke 16:9) does not prescribe hell to those who refuse to accept the message of justification by grace through faith, or to those who are predestined for perdition, or to those who don't express faith in a favored atonement theory by accepting Jesus as their `personal savior.' Rather, hell--literally or figurative--is for the rich and comfortable who proceed on their way without concern for their poor neighbor day after day." Jesus "calls them to grow their good deeds portfolios for the common good, especially the good of the poor and marginalized."
McLaren seems particular incensed with the biblical concepts of heaven, hell and atonement. Rather than being eternal realities, heaven and hell become states we create on this earth as we pursue or deny the kingdom of God. Because Jesus' message is not one of sinful men becoming reconciled to a holy God through an atoning sacrifice, those of any creed can seek and participate in the kingdom. People of other creeds may well be participating in it more fully and more purely than ones who claim to be Christians. Men and women of all creeds can be followers of Jesus living out the kingdom of God even if they have never heard His name.
With this book McLaren further draws a line in the sand between traditional Protestant beliefs and the Emerging Church. He declares, increasingly unequivocally, that this Emerging Church bears little resemblance to the church as we know it. This book is, in my opinion, McLaren's first real attempt to reconstruct the "Christian" theology that he has dismantled in his previous books. But what he has rebuilt bears little resemblance to the Christianity of the Bible....more info
- well worth the read
at this point in his publishing career, brian mclaren could publish the sentence, "water is good to drink," and people would freak out. john mac and john pipes and the don and others would deconstruct his sentence (ironic, actually). christian radio shows would invite him on to talk about his drinking water sentence, but bait-and-switch into a discussion of relativism and hell. christianity today would be oddly silent, with only a passing sarcastic comment on the editors' blog.
and, of course (to be fair), too many emergies would start drinking more water, without thinking, because "the brian" said it.
at first brush, i couldn't find all that much controversial about brian's new book, everything must change: jesus, global crisis, and a revolution of hope (which, btw, releases next week). but, i'm sure that's the "i'm not a theologian" in me peeking above the firing line, and there will be plenty of helpful and unhelpful critique from others.
i will say this: brian knows how to stir a pot without letting it boil.
he's a master of properly placed emotion. it's not that the book is emotionless: far from it. brian just knows (or chooses?) to get fiesty on some matters, and graciously sashay up to, but not onto, other matters that would hurt the book. knowing brian, i'll call this humility (which is genuine).
this wasn't my most-favorite-all-time-bestest of mclaren's books. but it was 110% thoroughly worth reading, and will have me thinking for a long time; and, likely, it will push me to change some things (maybe not everything, but some things). and, i expect, there are plenty of people (i can think of many) for whom this will definitely be their most-favorite-all-time-bestest brian mclaren book.
while his breakdown of the engines that create or power culture were tough for me in the sense that i don't feel i have the faculty to think critically about what brian wrote (i'm not sure i would know if he's correct or not), it did give me a whole new way to think about those componants. like, the "three interlocking systems" of prosperity, equity and security.
i think most helpful for me was the section on "framing stories". as is often true of brian's writing, this section put words to things i kinda understood (somewhat understood, partially understood), but didn't have a good way of articulating, even to myself; and, then, he added to that thinking, or pushed my thinking further. brian makes an interesting case for how the framing stories in jesus' time should shed light for us today on how to read his life and message, and how our own framing stories need to be acknowledged and partially (?) deconstructed.
it's not a skimmer. you gotta read the whole thing. if you're one of those who would rip on brian for the above fictional sentence about water, you'll find plenty here, i'm sure, to fuel your fire. but for those of us who read with a desire to live openly, believing that god will reveal truth to us from both likely and unlikely sources, i fully expect god to stir your pot.
thanks, brian....more info
I purchased this book and read it cover to cover and must say that I wish that I had waited until it came to our library system. First of all, if I see the words "framing" and "story" used together again in a sentence, I will probably go mad. Although the author is obviously intelligent and this book is written more as a psuedo-textbook than a regular work (it even has discussion questions at the end of each chapter) it is very ambiguous in some places. It is as if the author forgets that he is writing to a general audience (or does he) and addresses the text to other educated elites like himself. Through the book it seems like he wants to destroy the old notions of Christianity, as he incessantly berates those who disagree with his ideas of what Christianity should be, and rebuild Christianity in the new "Emerging Church" image.
That said, I do agree with some of his ideas. All in all I gave this book one star because it was a very tiring read and I really didn't learn anything new about Christianity in general. The author needs to seek counseling for the white guilt he has acquired, most likely, in college. I wish that I could return this book to where I purchased it for my money back. ...more info
- I agree with this book's author!
I agree with this book's author! I am very pleased to see that there are some Christians who care about making the world we are living in a better place. Like Brian McLaren, I don't approve of Christians who don't care about how bad the world we are living in is, as long as they go to Heaven when they die. I find it very ironic that George W. Bush has shown no evidence of caring about the rich getting richer only at the expense of the poor getting poorer, or any other quality of life issues when he is a Christian (or at least claims to be). It is even more ironic that North America's conservative Christians have generally been among the strongest supporters of right-wing governments when right-wing governments, although more strongly against sex-related sins than left-wing ones, have not shown any evidence of caring about greed-related sins, and have, in fact, even been promoting them. Personally, I used to be a strong supporter of conservative governments myself, but in recent years, I have been having second thoughts about them. ...more info
- Don't fear the bad reviews!
When Jesus came to earth, most people either followed Him or decided He had to die. That was the radical nature of His message in their culture. Likewise, you cannot dissect and apply His message to our own culture without inciting similar reactions. I see Brian McLaren as more philosopher than theologian. Theologians answer the important questions; philosophers ask them. The problem with many Christians (or religious people) is they feel they must condemn anything they don't 100% agree with. That's what killed the prophets, both ancient and contemporary. They asked dangerous and status-threatening questions. Thank you Brian, for asking the important questions that most of Chistendom is not asking (i.e. what does our faith have to say about the world's most important crises?) ...more info
- One of the most important books I've ever read
McLaren has presented an extremely well-researched and clear overview of the gravest issues in the world today, and what followers of Christ should be doing about them. THis book is eye-opening and hopeful, frightening and empowering. It has changed my life, and I bought 5 more copies to share with others....more info
- I've been waiting for a book about this.
I've been waiting for a book about this. I've asked my pastors: For which party should a Jesus-follower vote? What stance should a Jesus-follower have on war and peace? How far should Jesus-followers go toward feeding the poor and caring for the outcasts? Are Jesus-followers really supposed to be loyal to the economy at the expense of caring for the Earth? And I've been looking for a Christian leader to say something intelligent on the subject, something not firmly entrenched in conventional Christian dogma.
Here it is.
Three dominant social systems are at work in our world society: The Security System (The attempt to keep us all safe through dominating all enemy powers), The Prosperity System (The pursuit of riches at the expense of everyone who doesn't have them), and The Equity System (The attempt to redistribute wealth to make things fair). People throughout history have tried to fix the world's problems by adjusting any combination of these, without success. The problem is that all 3 systems are symptoms of the same Framing Story, and until an alternative Story is provided, our world is doomed to destroy itself. Blame that on The Fall (Genesis 3).
EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE asks 2 overarching questions:
1) What Are the Biggest Problems in the World?
2) What Does Jesus Have to Say About These Global Problems?
McLaren looks at the ministry of Jesus as it relates to the dominant powers of his day, namely the Roman governmental machine. The machine was oppressive, and so were its rulers, the Caesars. Then Jesus steps onto the scene proclaiming a different Framing Story, that a new Kingdom is here, forgiveness is available to all by following him, love is the new economy, and this new kingdom offers hope for a healed world. The problem, as McLaren sees it, is that "our conventional view has accidentally put Jesus in the very framing story Jesus originally sought to subvert" (83).
If you're looking for a cakewalk read, don't pick up EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE. This book will make you think. In good ways, it will challenge what you think you know about Jesus. Because when it comes down to it, if the Good News of Jesus isn't big enough to fix the enormous global problems we face today (both spiritually and physically), then the News might not be Good enough. Luckily Jesus' wisdom and truth speaks not just about salvation for our personal souls, but also for our very broken systems of the world. Shalom.
--- Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens...more info
- One-sided and exegetically questionable
One of my biggest frustrations with a lot of what is written by the Christian community is the stark one-sided approach that most of the writers take. In particular I'm talking about the writings of the "Emerging" of "Emergent" authors (yes I know there's a difference but I challenge you to define it) and the conservative, evangelical authors. Scot McKnight said it well on his blog when discussing the concept of gospel, "Too many today want to be faithful to Jesus' use of the word "gospel" and ignore Paul; too many also want to be faithful to Paul but ignore what Jesus said."
This is my fundamental issue with McLaren in Everything Must Change. His premise is that the spiritual aspects that evangelical Christianity tends to focus on are not biblical. Now, I'm committed to communicating my presuppositions on this blog so you should know that my theology is very evangelical and I have spent my entire adult life working in evangelical churches. That said, I feel that McLaren is doing some exegetical gymnastics in his argument that the focus of Christianity is solely in changing what he call the "suicide machine." The difficulty comes from the framing questions that he is asking. Questions that Scripture never intends to answer.
For more check out my blog bryonharvey.wordpress.com...more info
- The good and the bad
Where would we be without people that actualy take the time to think and analyze the things we think and do. If you're able to put preconcieved ideas out of your head for a bit you'll find this book a very interesting exersize.
What I was dissappointed in:
There seems to be a broad acceptance of much of the liberal teaching in this book. While our earth care as a society does have a dismal record many of the things being preached (global warming in particular) simply have yet to be proved. Our ability to measure has outgrown our knowledge of history and we seem bent on using our recently aquired ability to measure to drum up support for most anything we can make the numbers infer. Second his acceptance that business is just after another customer and and forgets all about the customer they have is another statement without fact. So many take for granted that because 1% of the businesses do something bad that paints all business with the same brush. I find these types of broad generalizations dissappointing.
While Brian spends much time on the "Security" issue and quotes turn the other cheek passages he really doesn't even attempt to reconcile that view with the "I AM" of the old testament who ordered the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child. I would find it most helpful to have the justice of that placed in context of the New Testament. Taking portions of scripture to prove a point without a full discussion of those scriptures that might cloud the issue seems a bit counter productive.
What I liked:
In short this book has caused me to start a complete overhaul of the way I live my life. Politically I would call myself a conservative but now I'm pretty much ready to throw political labels aside and find a another title. Most of the things talked about in this book I really never thought about in terms of christian responsiblity. What happened outside my city, county, state, etc.. just happened and that was just reality. War is just a reality and there's really nothing I can do about it. Now however, I am forced to take a really hard look at my consuption, earth care, care for my neighbor, even if in another country or unborn, and what Jesus would have me do. Working through this will, over time, change my christian walk completely. ...more info
- Africa Awareness
Read this book if you believe in the compassion Jesus Christ wants us to share with all people....more info
- Real Time
This book is so well written and addresses present issues as they are that you will be amazed at the insightfulness and surprised at the hope....more info
- I want a place in this new story
This is one of those books I could barely put down. I started it in a hotel room, read it in the shuttle bus, kept reading in the airport and airplane, and finally finished it at home in my own bed - twenty four hours after I started. Throughout the book, I kept thinking "yes, yes, YES!"
As Brian McLaren has been for me in the past, this book was refreshing, inspiring, encouraging, and challenging. He lays the facts on the table, describes the old order of things, and then offers up a new story - a new interpretation of the good news of Jesus in the context of the "suicide machine" we are caught up in.
One of my favourite quotes in the book is this... "We are so familiar with this old version of Jesus and the gospel that it is truly difficult to imagine any other alternative. It's as if we've only seen trained lions in circuses behind iron bars, snarling at whips snapped by performing trainers, jumping through hoops and leaping through rings of fire; we can't imagine what a lion living wild and free on the Serengeti Plain would be like. We've got to release Jesus into the wild of his native habitat to let a fresh view emerge." I want to be a follower of that wild Jesus.
It is thinking like this that has kept me from abandoning my faith entirely. If I can be a committed follower of Christ and believe it is ethical and indeed our moral imperative to care about creation, put an end to hunger, and work for transformation in this world, then I'll stick around for the continuing story.
I work in international development, and I'm thinking of making this required reading for my staff. As people whose mission is to "end hunger" and who see themselves as "a Christian response to hunger", this is just the kind of thing we need to hear more of to keep us on the path toward transformation. We have heard all the doomsday prophets in the past, but what we need most right now is someone who will offer us hope that the future CAN be different. I have renewed faith that a new story of Jesus - the one that releases the lion from its cage into the jungles of the Serengeti - is the hope we need....more info