i love it when brian mclaren gets like this – he’s in total beast mode – most recently laying down his top 10 reasons he’s had to part company with what he dubs the Conservative Evangelical Project (if that doesn’t your interest, then what if i told you they include donald trump and katy perry – interested now?).
welcome back from sabbatical, brian.
it seems – especially in our current political climate – that today’s culture is starved for religious leaders that project a sense of sanity in the midst of chaotic circumstances.
we are looking for leaders – yes, even (perhaps especially?) religious leaders who are willing to engage our cultural issues both honestly and responsibly, to make sense of the way things are, and to cast a vision for the way things could be.
that’s the job of a leader – to move people from here to there.
doing so from within my own religious tribe and tradition can be costly, because while many religious buildings might have the right guy’s name on the door, many are often void of the radically inclusive, open, progressive perspective with which jesus and his followers challenged their own cultural and religious context.
as nichiolas kristof wrote in his piece for The New York Times, ‘What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?‘ featuring mclaren’s new book ::
Founders are typically bold and charismatic visionaries who inspire with their moral imagination, while their teachings sometimes evolve into ingrown, risk-averse bureaucracies obsessed with money and power. That tension is especially pronounced with Christianity, because Jesus was a radical who challenged the establishment, while Christianity has been so successful that in much of the world it is the establishment.
no wonder the world likes jesus but isn’t too fond of his fan club.
it’s often difficult to get religious leaders to recognize this tragic irony, as they’re quite often the very ones responsible for maintaining the problematic system which is being challenged in the first place.
as upton sinclair once famously quipped, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.‘
critique of the christian church has been ongoing for years – and rightfully so. there is much in our wayward following of the teachings of jesus that we’ve gotten horribly wrong in the past 2,000 years.
there’s much we still have wrong today. those misinterpretations, misapplications, and misunderstandings about God and the universe and our place in it and everything else – ought to be explored, critiqued, challenged, and changed. i am convinced much of what passes for ‘christian faith’ is good news gone awry. in today’s world, the word ‘evangelical‘ has been hijacked – and ought to be reclaimed and reoriented toward its original meaning of a declaration of good news.
increasing numbers of progressive ‘evangelical’ christians are finding new and innovative ways to follow jesus and his radical way of love in the context of 21st century western culture in an intra-faith world. what was seen as ‘progressive’ five years ago now just seems like common sense – even if the traditions and translations they grew up with disagree.
as brandon withrow’s recent The Daily Beast article reports –
’They’re young, liberal, LGBTQ+, pro-choice, feminist, science loving, climate change accepting and immigrant welcoming. They’re evangelicals.
No, this is not a report from an alternate universe, where history took a different turn. This is about a growing rift in the evangelical continuum, one with significant uncertainty about its future. It’s about a tribe within a tribe within a tribe — outcasts on the inside.’
but as mclaren writes in his new work,
’Eventually the time comes when we must move beyond demolition and focus instead on construction. We have to identify not just what we’re moving from and leaving behind, but what we’re moving toward and what we want to build.’
that’s one reason i smile when i see faith leaders like brian mclaren being asked to represent a new kind of christianity. it’s one reason i was excited when the DNC asked barber to speak at their convention, and relieved when CNN breaking news invites him to respond to the ongoing challenges in charlotte – confident he will do so factually, while at the same time intentionally pivoting the conversation to the necessary discussion around our nation’s systemic oppression of people of color, particularly in the south and specifically in his home state of north carolina – connecting those battles for justice and equality for a specific minority community to those of other disenfranchised and marginalized neighborhoods, such as the *trans community or the broader LGBTQ community and their fight for equality and justice, et cetera.
it’s one reason i am glad to band together with outspoken left-leaning faith leaders on matters of faith and culture on a variety of projects, through a variety of connection points. it’s what (un)common good collective is all about.
our inclusion of the Other happens not in spite of our christian faith, but because of it.
these and other progressive christian voices – evangelical and otherwise – are popping up all over the country, redefining what it means to be a follower of jesus.
‘There’s a more beautiful world my heart knows is possible, and any good God would want it,” says Michael. Finding others who not only believe the same, but strive to live out a more just and generous expression of Christian faith has been life-saving. You could even call it salvific.’
<quote from The Daily Beast article>
i’m both humbled and grateful to be connected to the hopeful future being built with friends at Convergence, Red Letter Christians, Center for Inclusivity, Wild Goose Festival, We Stand With Love and with a number of other like-minded organizations and individuals who are seeking to help shape a more beautiful reality – particularly what’s taken the majority of my work-life energy in the past year :: OPEN and our upcoming national conference in indianapolis, OPEN Faith 2016.
(again, from the article – ) ‘one of the values of OPEN is to resource the groundswell of people, churches and organizations who identify as both progressive and evangelical. many don’t even know there are others like them! yet we are many – and there are enough of ‘us’ out there to make a difference.’
time for us all to get into beast mode…
we’ve got a lot of work to do.