Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Everything Must Change

“Everything Must Change: When The World’s Biggest Problems And Jesus’ Good News Collide” by Brian D. McLaren

I finished Everything Must Change by McLaren on the trip to Bangladesh this past week. I have loved most everything McLaren has ever written and considered it music to my soul and speaking the language of my heart. This book, however, was a little harder to read than his others. It was more academic and at times, esoteric. But I agree with the heart and core of the message of the book – that the coming of the kingdom of God (heaven on earth) is so much more than just individual, personal salvation but salvation/redemption/hope/change in our relationship (not just to God but to the world (earth), others, and to ourselves. This has been a common reading in a lot of the books I’ve read in the past year, including When Helping Hurts.
Some of my favorite exerpts from this book:
Jesus’ message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven’s blissful shores, as is popularly assumed, but instead is about God’s will being done on this troubled earth as it is in heaven. 4
…It’s about changing this world, not just escaping it and retreating into our churches. If Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is true, then everything must change. 23
So we must carefully seek to determine not just what Jesus said, but what he meant, and how he would have been heard by his original hearers. Only then can we venture to explore what his original meaning would mean for us today, and even then, we must do so with great humility and awareness of our amazing human capacity to be wrong. This process is far more complex than simply marshaling quotes, and it is also more fruitful. It requires more than an ability to lift quotations out of context and fire them at an opponent like a missile. It requires the ability to get a sense for the shape, feel, and direction of Jesus’ life and words, in the swirl and spin of his times, and find patterns of resonance with our own. It is from start to finish a matter of interpretation, which, like reading itself, is as much art as science. 121-122
The phrase “the Second Coming of Christ” never actually appears in the Bible. Whether or not the doctrine to which the phrase refers deserves rethinking, a popular abuse of it certainly needs to be named and rejected. If we believe that Jesus came in peace the first time, but that wasn’t his “real” and decisive coming—it was just a kind of warm-up for the real thing—then we leave the door open to envisioning a second coming that will be characterized by violence, killing, domination, and eternal torture…This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly. 144
Mohandas Gandhi, who said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. 146
In defending the American “war on terror,” former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld summed up his, and the US government’s, security strategy: “We have a choice, either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way they live, and we choose the latter.” In light of the security policy of Jesus, I would say it slightly differently: “We have a choice, either to change the unacceptable way we live, or to change the unacceptable way they live, which is impossible to do against their will—without stooping to ethnic cleansing so they don’t live at all. So, we choose the former, in the confidence that a voluntary change in our behavior will precipitate an unexpected change in their behavior.” The key, then is to change the way we live not in capitulation to “them,” not in fear or intimidation or surrender to “them,” but in adjustment to the ways of God and the kingdom of God. What would it look like to “change the way we live”—which, by the way, is another decent definition of the word repentance? What would it mean to trade the love of power for the power of love? Discovering good answers to these questions is not made easier by popular preachers who call for a violent strain of the Christian religion. 183-184
[quoting Watson & Meeks] …As long as evangelism presents a gospel centered on the need for personal salvation, individuals will acquire a faith that focuses on maximum benefits with minimal obligations, and we will change the costly work of Christ’s atonement into the pragmatic transaction of a salvific contract…The sanctifying grace of God in Jesus Christ is meant not just for the sinner but also for a society beset by structural sin. 24.
Sadly, in too many quarters we continue to reduce the scope of the gospel to the individual soul and the nuclear family, framing it in a comfortable, personalized format—it’s all about personal devotions, personal holiness, and a personal Savior. This domesticated gospel will neither rock and boats nor step out of them into stormy waters. We have in many ways responded to the big global crises of our day with an incredible, shrinking Gospel. The world has said, “No thanks.” 244
The hard work of rebuilding community and family is essential—through community organizing, through moral instruction in local churches, through support for women and children through community centers and health clinics and schools, through micro-enterprise projects and drug rehabilitation programs to help people development employment or become employable.  264
While most of us won’t be called to sacrifice our physical lives (but many may), having faith in Jesus and sharing the faith of Jesus will lead us to make what an early disciple called “a living sacrifice.” We will give up the life we could have lived, the live we would have lived—pursuing pleasure, leasure, treasure, security, whatever. And instead, we will live a life dedicated to replacing the suicide machine with a sacred ecosystem, a beautiful community, an insurgency of healing and peace, a creative global family, and unterror movement of faith, hope and love. 277