Last night I had the chance to share in a great conversation with Brian McLaren. I say that it was great because how often does a small group of maybe 20 people get to spend any meaningful amount of time with a thought-leader and author on the scale of a Brian McLaren? It was also great because it was thought provoking...and really for me it was emotion-provoking.
What I mean by that is that I left very frustrated, a bit angry and disillusioned...if you don't know me you may not realize that those emotions for me are not necessarily negative emotions at all. Typically my frustration is linked to a certain level of dissonance and my anger is due to some system in my life that just isn't completely functional. Here are some of my rather frustrating thoughts from the conversation...
1. McLaren is supporting Obama. I am not. But that's not the frustrating part. I can handle and actually value differing opinions. The frustrating part is that it seems that McLaren is putting a lot of stock in politics in general. After discussing some of the "systems" he describes in detail in his book, "Everything Must Change", I asked Brian if he feels like his participation in politics...even to the degree to endorse a candidate...is not participating in the dysfunctional systems that he says "must change". His response was that by note voting he feels that we are really voting to maintain the status quo. He doesn't like the status quo and as we have all so often heard, "the only thing required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing". I think McLaren is making the mistake made for so long by the "Conservative-Christians" in thinking that the only or even the best way to get things done or accomplish work for the Kingdom is through political means. Obviously some of the words of Jesus are political in that they are subversive. However, I think the people who most interacted and supported politics during the times of Jesus were not those primarily concerned with the Kingdom of God....probably in some form they were the Herodians, Pharisees and Sadducees. If that is indeed the case, why would any of us, Brian included, feel that not voting is some how detrimental or even negative?
2. I learned a cool yet troubling stat that Mike shared with us all last night. This stat is angering because it is yet another example of people of faith not putting their faith and walk with Jesus where their mouth is (myself included). In the state of Alabama there are 10,280 churches. That seems like a lot but it is really about one church for every 440 people in Alabama. Here is the kicker...guess how many children in Alabama are in foster care? 10,000!!! So that means that if every church...not every family or every person, but if just each church agreed to raise a child in this state the foster program would be empty. This would have amazing and far reaching effects in the state and within the Kingdom of God. Imagine the social, physical, emotional and spiritual implications of this act...yet most churches and the people that flood the church pews weekly seem more focused on politics, finances and growth strategies than on the 10,000 children within our state in need of a stable and loving home. Go figure.
3. I am increasingly aware of the arrogance on both sides of political and social issues. Though I have often tread there as well, noticing it is now pretty nauseating. For example, last night as we were discussing social justice and compassion a great question was raised by someone. The analogy that was being used was how followers of Jesus might be continuing to enable systemic dysfunction if we rescued people out of a dangerous river without ever asking why people were continually pushed or jumped into the river to begin with. He asked how McLaren would distinguish between the people who have chosen to be social victims and therefore to some degree "deserve" some of the crap in their lives versus those who are victims at no fault of their own. In keeping with the analogy...who is being pushed into the perilous water and who is jumping?
The response by some in the room...including me...was that it was a very valid question and one I often ask. Right or wrong, I am much more likely to be generous or sympathetic to those who haven't chosen to jump in the river. The reaction from some...judging the rolling eyes and the "what an idiot" looks was as though this guy was a buffoon for even suggesting that some people choose to be victims or choose to not have a great life. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that for every Rush Limbaugh there is a Bob Beckle...for every sincere question on either side there is an arrogant reaction.
Over all the meeting was a good experience...enlightening to say the least.