13 October 2012

An Evening with Brian McLaren

Brian's latest book.
So, last night, my wife and I went up to Mayflower Congregational Church to listen to one of my favorite authors, Brian McLaren. He was there promoting his latest book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Muli-Faith World. I’m not really sure what I expected, but it was great being able to listen to Brian give his presentation. While I haven’t read this latest book, it seems that it’s getting a lot of positive attention from other religious groups - especially from those mentioned in the title!

Brian’s point in the book is to propose a middle ground between a strong Christian identity that is hostile (or un-hospitable) towards people of other faiths or a weak (or watered down) Christian identity that is affirming of other faiths. He believes that a follower of Jesus can have a “vigorous hospitality toward, interest in, and collaboration” with people from other faiths and still maintain a strong faith in Jesus Christ.

The book is divided into four section, Historical, Doctrinal, Liturgical, and Missional. During this book tour, he has been just picking one section for each speaking engagement (although he briefly talks about the other sections). Our evening was on the last section of the book - Missional. While I would have been more interested in some of the other sections, Missional proved to be a good section for discussion.

Promoting our new book!
He talked about how we can do “mission” or “evangelization” from the standpoint of Christlikeness; of grasping the concept of “the body of Christ” as “the embodiment of Christ.” Of course, this resonated within me because of the first Understanding of the Lindisfarne Community - “[To] be as Christ to those we meet; to find Christ within them.” This embodiment doesn’t come from a place of seeing the Other as needing to be “saved” or “converted.” But from a place of honest humbleness and meekness; of suggesting that Christ may already be present in the Other but in ways that we don’t recognize because it doesn’t fit in our understanding.
Brian told a few stories (as Brian always does) as examples or ideas of what he’s talking about. One in particular I think really encapsulated the whole evening.


He told of a denominational missionary in a Muslim country. The man was fairly successful in converting several people from Islam to Christianity. The small group soon grew and they incorporated a lot of Western Christian culture into the community - a sort of “Mega Church” in the middle of Muslim territory.

At one point, though, several of the Muslim Christians came to their pastor and friend. They expressed something rather radical. They told the story about when a foreign power came into and occupied their country through colonialism, and how they lost a lot of their Muslim heritage. After that foreign power left, they rebuilt who they were as a people. The same happened when a group of Korean Christians came in. And now, they said, they were seeing the same things with Western Christianity. “We love Jesus, but we want to keep our religious and cultural heritage.” The leader had enough spirit about him so he took a step of faith and courage and said that he would support their efforts.

This lines right up with what I’ve been reading in the Gospels (see my posts here and here), that Jesus came to show us a way of living and not to create another religious tradition. This is something that we desperately need to recapture. And while a lot of people can’t even fathom what that would even look like (because Jesus is so heavily contained within the Christian religion), perhaps our brothers and sisters from other cultures can show us how.

Brothers?
All in all it was an exciting night (the very first question proposed in the Q & R session came from someone who didn’t agree with him and accused him of rewriting the gospel) that ended with me getting to briefly chat with Brian, have him sign a book, take a picture, and give him an ad for the Lindisfarne Community’s new book,
Secular Monasticism: A Journey.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

03 October 2012

Eleventh Understanding


11. We are an ecumenical community. In sacred history, God has allowed many different streams. They are all refreshing in different ways. So we reject party spirit in any of its forms, secure in who we are and where God has us; refusing to mold others to our own understanding of truth. Other people do not have to be the same as us. We are developing a theology which is comfortable in difference. In the freedom that a desire for unity brings, we are to dismantle the walls between separated sisters and brothers across religious and secular boundaries.

What’s so inspiring to me about this Understanding is that we’re not alone in the thoughts and ideals contained here. I’m hearing these same thoughts and expressions from others. For example, one of my favorite musicians is Trevor Hall. He has a song titled, Unity. In it, he states:

Whatever path you follow push on till tomorrow
Love all serve all and create no sorrow
So many rivers but they all reach the sea
They telling me he’s different but I just don’t believe it
Love is the goal yes, and everyone shall reach it
Whoever seeks it
Seen and unseen

Indeed.

St Paul echoes these very sentiments in his first letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth (12.12ff). He states that followers of Christ are not all the same - we’re all different - and that’s a good thing. He then compares followers of Jesus to the human body. The human body is made up of many different “parts.” Not everything is an eye. The human body is not made up of ears. The human body is not made up of hands or feet or intestines or hearts or lungs, etc., etc. It takes all of those things (and more) for the human body to perform properly (and let’s not forget things like air and water and light and love).

Likewise, people who follow Jesus aren’t always like us. They aren’t supposed to be. And, here’s the shocker for a lot of people, they may not even be part of the Christian tradition! Jesus stated that he had “sheep that don’t belong to this pen” - that is, people who were outside of the religious and national institutions of his day. But, they would follow him and they would join other followers. There would be “one flock” with “one shepherd” (John 10.14-16).

So, I encourage us to look to others for the light and life of god. Perhaps, if you’re a little weary to venture out of the Christian family, look to others who hold different views and positions. If you’re a Protestant, read some blogs, articles, books by Catholics. If you’re Catholic, read articles, blogs, and books by Orthodox Christians. If you’re Baptist, read some stuff from Pentecostals. Perhaps even start an ecumenical study group. Whatever we end up doing, we need to challenge our understandings to find unity between ourselves and others.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC

Quote

“I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”

~~~ C.S. Lewis