You may be wondering, who is Brian McLaren? I think the title of one of his earlier books paints the best picture of this man: "A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am A Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-Yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN". And I think he has a message that we should all hear!
So for today's blog post, I'd like to give you a quick synopsis of Brian McLaren's book, "Everything Must Change". But this is no replacement for reading it. There is a lot of good stuff in there!
Here we go:
McLaren started on this journey years ago when he found himself struggling with the questions that Christians asked. He told a story about working with youth in the 70s and asking them what issues their churches were fighting about. "Whether or not to play guitars in worship...Whether or not to build a new building....Should we be speaking in tongues...." He put that list on the wall to the right. He then asked them what things kept them awake at night worrying. "Nuclear war...Poverty...Disease...Nuclear winter..." He put that list on the wall to the left. He looked back and forth. There was not an issue in common between the two lists.
“When I was a pastor, people often asked my opinion on hot-button issues like evolution, abortion, and homosexuality. The problem was that after discussing those issues in all of their importance and intensity, I couldn’t help asking other questions: Why do we need to have singular and firm opinions on the protection of the unborn, but not about how to help poor people and how to avoid killing people labeled enemies who are already born? Or why are we so concerned about the legitimacy of homosexual marriage but not about the legitimacy of fossil fuels or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (and in particular, our weapons as opposed to theirs)? Or why are so many religious people arguing about the origin of species but so few concerned about the extinction of species?”
~ Brian McLaren, from Everything Must Change
So, McLaren set out to discover what were the most important global problems. He concluded that we're suffering from four crises - prosperity, equity, security, and religious. He then built a model where prosperity, equity, and security are three interdependent cogs driving the "machine" that is our society. This machine is then situated inside of the environment where the only input is sunlight and the only output is heat. This machine would work fine if everything stayed in balance, but as we all know, it's not in balance. Prosperity has grown to the point that the gap between rich and poor is out of balance, the equity system is not able to keep prosperity in balance, which leads to rich people feeling unsafe since they know the poor outnumber the rich. And the whole system has grown too large for the capacity of the environment to support it.
McLaren suggests that the reason for these crises is the central cog, which drives the three wheels. That central cog is our framing story. There are four framing stories in society today: domination, revolution, scapegoating, and withdrawal. Domination says, "if only we were in charge"; revolution says, "if only they weren't in charge"; scapegoating says, "our problem is X" (i.e. illegal immigrants); withdrawal says, "let's get outta here!". The answer to these global crises is to reclaim Jesus' framing story which says, "Don't dominate, serve! Don't get revenge, reconcile! Don't scapegoat, embrace! Don't isolate, draw near and heal!"
The reality is that climate change affects all of us...there's no "us" and "them", we're all in this together.
I have an example to make this more concrete. Someone asked about capitalism versus communism. McLaren's response was that the question is not about one versus the other, they are just two different responses to the same issue. Capitalism isn't inherently bad. The problem is that capitalism, as it is currently used, has the goal of maximizing profit. What we need to do is change the goal of capitalism to maximizing empolyment while also making a profit. This is how we can change our framing story and make our society more equitable.
Hearing Brian McLaren helped me to see that our global problems are not insurmountable. I came away with a renewed sense of hope and excitement. We just need to be asking the right questions and holding less tightly to our preconceived ideas of Christianity and of Jesus Christ.