many of my readers are aware of a recently released and important book, authored by someone whose influence on my own way of thinking and being as a follower of God in the way of jesus cannot be overstated.
brian mclaren’s most recent work, why did jesus, moses, the buddha, and mohammed cross the road? :: christian identity in a multi-faith world has been critically acclaimed as his most important work to date, and is equally likely (not surprisingly) to be the most disruptive yet to the conservative american evangelical status quo.
in characteristic skillful prose, mclaren poses questions that point us toward a strong, benevolent christian identity in a multi-faith world. still, many of his critics would declare some of his wonderings wander beyond the boundaries of orthodoxy. mclaren himself reflects,
‘The deeper question is not whether revision [to doctrines, the church calendar, et cetera] is allowed, but rather whether [it] as it is currently practiced is actually working. Is it producing Christians with a strong and benevolent identity? If not, then how, in these critical times, could we possibly justify not revising it?‘
in the midst of a world at the boiling point of religious tensions and hostility, a conversation such as this is desperately needed. particularly in light of global current events such as the ignorant portrayal of leaders of other faiths as bloodthirsty, ignorant, sexually confused fools with an insatiable appetite for pleasure (while ignoring those very elements of our own religious history) combined with the angry, violent reaction from some within that faith in response, our hostile religious climate begs for a better way forward… a way to move beyond and rise above the cycle of violence between faiths before we find ourselves immersed in what mclaren has previously called a last-tango, nuclear-biochemical kamikaze crusade jihad. that not-so distant reality is, for those paying attention, close enough to taste.
even at CNN.com, mclaren’s recent article has gotten an overwhelming response – 7,000+ comments, 15,000 facebook recommendations, et cetera – further highlighting the intensity with which so many approach the delicate discussion of inter-faith dialogue.
yet in order to even begin to hold these conversations from a truly christian perspective – to join with what the holy spirit of God is doing among people of (and without) faith – i am convinced an intentional thirst for understanding God’s departure from division and his commitment to reconciliation is needed.
even for jesus, as mclaren points out,
‘it is permissible to say, ‘The Scriptures say…but I say otherwise,’ if the otherwise takes us in the direction of greater compassion, kindness, nonviolence, and reconciliation.’
yet an acceptance of the Other is exactly what has habitually been an aversion to ‘us’ throughout our religious history. as i’ve written previously here and here, our refusal to repent of our intolerance of the Other is precisely what jesus’ gospel calls us to repent of.
and so, in subsequent blog posts in this solidarity series, it is that commitment to the Other toward which we shall turn our attention.
UPDATE :: here are the links for the subsequent posts in the solidarity series ::