Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Rap Session: Brian McLaren on Useful Perhaps

Christianity Today recently published a semi-negative review of Brian McLaren's most recent title, Everything Must Change. Brian is an author, speaker, networker and much appreciated voice in the Emergent conversation. Here was his response to the CT article...

A statement like "this changes everything" or "everything must change" is what one might call idiomatic hyperbole: rhetorical exaggeration for the effect of conveying an overall meaning that is larger than the sum of its parts. Thus, when I came to the book Everything Must Change, I didn't expect it to be a literal "theory of everything." That would be too much expectation for any treatise to bear. However, I was hoping for a way forward out of the gridlock of integrity that occurs when people of faith no longer expect of themselves that "words of wisdom would be ways of wisdom" (Arrested Development, 1992).

However, I do understand why some might take exception to Brian McLaren's most recent book , released October 2007. One major reason for consternation may be that Everything Must Change offers a hearing of the Jesus message that takes the gospel out of the battle for primacy in the global theater of self-aggrandizement. McLaren deconstructs the age-old debate of whose religion deserves top billing by conspicuously not participating in it. As opposed to hearing in the message of Jesus an exclusive call for Christians and the Christian church to be central in world affairs, he implores any (Christian or otherwise) who finds the way of Jesus inspiring to become integral in seeking justice, truth, peace and beauty in dealing with the biggest problems facing the world. Such a subtle yet profound shift undoubtedly unsettles many.

John Wilson, Editor of Books and Culture for Christianity Today, was certainly among those unsettled by Everything Must Change—in ways that he apparently did not appreciate.

I attended the launch of McLaren's Deep Shift Tour in Charlotte, NC. We gathered in a most beautiful urban arts commune, Area 15, embedded in the reconstituted NoDa neighborhood of Charlotte. The artists' home is an old warehouse that has been converted into gallery, gathering and prayer space and has had such an affect on the community that the City of Charlotte has asked the creatives of Area 15 to open a second studio in another distressed portion of the city. While there, I took the opportunity to invite McLaren's clarification of any of the issues raised by Wilson's article.

You may ask who am I to seek to challenge the collective wisdom of the Evangelical world's foremost public marketplace of ideas. To be honest, no one of much significance. Publicly, I am a simple storyteller, writer, activist and friend. Nonetheless, in a brave new wiki world, post-modernity, we are finally coming to recognize everyone's stake and the value of everyone's voice. And it just didn't seem right for Wilson's review to be the final word in Christian circles for what I and many others have found to be a most unsettling yet also inspiring declaration of revolt.

Q: Were you surprised to hear about the Christianity Today review?

A: In early or mid-January, a friend called me to express his condolences about a negative review in CT and to tell me not to let it get me down. I said, “What review?” It was a couple weeks before I actually saw the review, so over those weeks I imagined the worst. The review ended up being less negative than I had imagined it would be. John Wilson is arguably the best-read Evangelical in America and editor of a premier Evangelical publication in America, so I’m pleasantly surprised that someone of John’s stature would take the book seriously enough to engage with it.

CONTINUE READING This Changes Everything>>>


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