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.

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


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