Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Night With Brian McLaren

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.


Ken Haynes said...

Good thoughts...

Lindsay said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I hope you are doing well. I haven't read McLaren, but have heard others quote him and comment on his writings. I am therefore, in no position to judge him. However, when I hear of Christians who are supporting Obama, I tend to think, "How can they justify supporting abortion and the homosexual agenda?" Essentially, by supporting him, they are supporting his views and I don't believe the stance Obama takes on these issues are a stance Christians should be taking. I know that sounds very judgmental of me, and I know everything the Republican party does is not always right, but I have to side with them on the pro-life issue and the traditional marriage issue. If only one baby is saved from abortion because McCain is elected, to me, it is worth it. These are moral issues for me. I am also not for socialism and believe Obama has socialist views. Have Christians began to expect the Government to help the poor instead of the church or the individual Christians? All of this being said, I'm trying not to judge anyone for their political beliefs, but I confess it is difficult at times to keep my mouth shut. I think it is important to be informed and to discuss these type of issues.
We miss seeing you guys.
Take care,

Blake said...

I hear you loud and clear. That is the same struggle I have...I see issues like abortion and think to myself, "how in the world could anyone who knows Jesus vote for some guy that supports abortion?"

In my conversations over the past year I also have found those who ask the same questions about a political party that decided to stay in Iraq and kill the enemy rather than love the enemy as Jesus says. You know my military history and can imagine my initial thoughts on such but I can't deny some validity in those statements as well.

To me the whole idea of theological implications within the world of politics is becoming increasingly absurd. The Republicans didn't vote once to overturn Roe V. Wade when they were in power in the House and Senate and Democrats obviously haven't either. I think they are all liars and the more faith we put in government to help us accomplish anything, the more foolish we become and the less likely it will ever be for the Kingdom to be glorified in the process...but that's just my opinion.

TnknOutLoud said...

Hey Bro,
It's good to "hear your voice" back on blog (no, you didn't leave, but I haven't seen it recently) I'm with you on McLaren's enthusiasm for a candidate and I agree its disappointing to see such a leader get sucked into politix. I have a couple of problems with both candidates, but I am not going to address them. In the end I will look at which one is most aligned with my thoughts of how a secular gov't should operate and I will make an infinitesimal effect with my vote. Given the smallness, I don't want to get too caught up in the political soup du jour so that I loose focus on the important things of which I have much greater influence.