By Brian McLaren
As are all of McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change is extremely well written and researched prose bordering at times on poetry. His theme is simple yet profound – unless everything changes in our approach to the suicidal systems story that drives today’s world life on this planet isn’t sustainable. He argues for Christians to believe a new framing story- the story framed by Jesus.
Based on the context of the Roman Empire (and the U.S. empire) the new framing story of Jesus is:
· The law of good deeds for the common good replaces capitalism’s law of progress through rapid economic growth
· The law of satisfaction through gratitude and sharing replaces capitalism’s law of serenity through possession and consumption
· The law of salvation through justice replaces capitalism’s law of salvation by win-lose competition
· The law of freedom to prosper by building better communities replaces capitalism’s law of freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations
I can’t see how any Christian can disagree with McLaren’s conclusion that life on this planet is presently unsustainable. I took away several beautiful “A-hahs.”
· We are all related to one another; therefore it should come natural to us to love even our enemies.
· The world would truly be better with religion
· The more Americans consume the more the world hates us. The more the world hates us the more we fear and stockpile weapons. The more we stockpile weapons, the more the world fears and hates us. I could go on but one can’t help but get the message.
However, based on the sales of apocalyptic books as the “Left Behind” series, I can see how many Christians will disagree with the solution he offers – we must truly disbelieve the framing story that the worse things get the closer we are to the second coming (which means we shouldn’t worry about saving the planet) and passionately believe a new framing story of God’s love for all creation including the planet earth (which means we should do everything in our power to save it and by doing so save ourselves).
Whereas I totally agree with the basic sentiment of the book, I have some serious concerns about the direction McLaren seems to be going (I wrote about this earlier on my blog). He seems to make salvation totally social – in relation to others and the environment. I get the impression that he has serious issue with salvation even having the hint of a personal savior.
If McLaren was an atheist I would say this is a book on how to respond to the plight of our planet. However, McLaren is a professed Christian and as such his treatment of Jesus concerns me. He constantly begs the Jesus question.
So I have some questions of Brian (you should know we have been friends for a decade)
Is he the eternal son of God? Was he God incarnate or just another great prophet? Or does his divinity depend on our language within the community of faith? Is salvation both personal and social? Can Christians have a personal savior and still have a concern for social justice? Is there a literally heaven and hell? Is salvation nothing more than the liberation from the framing story of the U.S. Empire? Did Jesus understand salvation to be nothing more than freedom from the Roman Empire or did it also encompass one’s eternal destiny? (The reader should know that I have always thought of salvation more in the context of how it causes one to live in this life but I have always also retained the belief in its affects on one’s eternal destiny.)
I would have found the book even more persuasive if so much of it was pitted against Brian’s fundamentalist background. Not all evangelicals I know subscribe to a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation. Even as Brian wrote this book, more social justice ministries are being done by evangelical churches than by liberal churches. The book would have far more punch, credibility, and a wider readability if he hadn’t based much of the early part of the book on that background.
Is this a book to read by all Christians- YES, by all means! The book is a call to arms to adopt a totally new way of looking at everything we do and profess to be. It tackles the second most profound issue of our day – the sustainability of our world (what is our relationship to Jesus). Still I want Brian to answer the questions above. Until he does I will continue to be concerned.