Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (II)
I’m willing to wager that most Christians were not even aware that God has dreams. Bri has helped us out with the following challenge: “So people interested in being a new kind of Christian will inevitably begin to care more and more about this world, and they’ll want to better understand its most significant problems, and they’ll want to find out how they can fit in with God’s dreams actually coming true down here more often.” At the risk of sounding like a fundamentalist Bible thumper, I’m going to do something that is foreign to Bri: I’m actually going to quote Scripture.
In Isaiah 55:10-11 we read the following: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Where Bri and the creative crew like to speak of God’s “dreams,” God prefers to speak about his sovereignty, his purpose, and his Word succeeding in what God plans for it to do.
Are you interested in being a “new kind of Christian”? Bri hopes so because if you are you will inevitably begin to care more and more about this world. Isn’t that neat? Bri believes in the inevitability of certain cause and effect relationships—not all; just some. You see, when it’s convenient to reject certainty—like penal substitutionary atonement and what Scripture says about homosexuality—Bri likes to latch on to that. At other times, however, he can say with certainty that if you become a new kind of Christian like the Emergent church describes then you will certainly become a tree hugger, a revolutionary (like Jesus), and an activist against global warming in Anchorage, Alaska.
It is encouraging to know that even fresh, authentic, challenging, and adventurous people like Bri struggle like the remainder of us “lesser lights.” How did Bri extricate himself from his conundrum? Well, this will surprise you: he started reading books and talking to “knowledgeable” people. That certainly was an insight for me. My problem is that I don’t know all that many “knowledgeable” people. Most of the people I know are angry, reactionary, stuffy, blasé, and crusading religious imperialists. So here’s what we’ve learn so far and we’re only on page 4: If you want to become one of the inevitable devotees to genuine Bri then you need to read books and talk to “knowledgeable” people, preferably those who are way out in left field like Bri does. As he proceeds Bri will inform us that there are certain books that aren’t really worthwhile reading but fresh, authentic, challenging, and adventurous guy that he is, he will supply us with the “preferred reading list.” Yep. He will also teach us that if the people he cites in his book in a favorable light are “knowledgeable,” then knowledgeable and George Soros are synonyms.
So he’s going to lead us on a journey that is almost entirely bereft of Scripture—unless it’s twisted Scripture—based on his feelings and suggestions—oh, yes. And also based on his talks with “knowledgeable” people. This feeling journey will describe “four deep dysfunctions.” At first I thought he was talking about his theology, but then I read on and discovered that he was actually referring to “the prosperity crisis,” “the equity crisis,” “the security crisis,” and “the spirituality crisis.” Let’s break these exciting deep dysfunctions down into “stories” that those of us who are children of a lesser god can grasp.
The prosperity crisis is an “Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy, an economy that fails to respect environmental limits even as it succeeds in producing great wealth for about one-third of the world’s population.” Watch out, folks, there’s a hidden agenda here as we shall see!
Second, is the equity crisis, which is inextricably tied to the prosperity crisis. This is “The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor majority (leading them) to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority—which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich.” This “crisis” explains at least two things: First, it explains why I envy, resent, and hate Alex Rodriguez; and second it explains why Barbra Streisand is so angry. Cindy Sheehan is still an enigma.
Finally, there is the spirituality crisis. What might that be? It is “The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crisis.” It’s difficult to provide a framing story capable of healing with C-4 strapped around you. Of course, Bri hasn’t stopped to consider the anomalies of expecting jihadists to heal anything. These are the folks that consider TV dangerous, but routinely carry live ammo in their robes and were amazed to find that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs. Yep, these are the folks we want to join forces with in eradicating the spiritual crisis facing us today.
What is a “framing story” anyway? Good of you to ask because Bri has the answer: “By framing story, I mean a story that gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives.” Moreover, “It tells them who they are, where they come from, where they are, what’s going on, where things are going, and what they should do.” In this sense, a good GPS might be what Bri has in mind apart from the nice voice telling me who I am. When you analyze his statement, a framing story could be just about anything or whatever you want to make it. There are any number of ideologies out there that offer direction, values, vision, and inspiration. How do you choose? How do you know? Does it matter which ideology you choose? Is Marxism on an equal par with Christianity? Are Islam and Christianity pretty much the same? What if your framing story is smuggling drugs into the country to make big bucks? What if it’s being a coyote that smuggles illegal aliens into the country? What if it’s jihad? In the course of the book authentic Bri never gets around to answering these questions.
But when you stop and reflect upon what he’s trying to achieve, you really do have to cut him some slack. As we shall see, he is setting out first to ask what the biggest problems in the world are and what Jesus has to say about these global problems. This is a good place to pause before we move on to listen to who Jesus is, because Bri is convinced—although he never tells us why—that Jesus was unique, brilliant, and wise. That’s it? In a book that is suggesting that everything must change this is the best he can do? Put in other terms, Bri is a “follower of God in the way of Jesus,” which begs the question if there can be other equally viable “followers of God” in the way of “fill-in-the-blank.” The answer is ostensibly Yes because we’re told that “Muslims revere Jesus as a great prophet” and “even nonreligious people (16 percent) admire Jesus.” This is some of the most nauseating drivel. All you have to do is to revere Jesus as a great prophet and you’re a follower of some god. Heck, even some raw pagans will acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet. What in the world does it mean to “admire” Jesus? Bri seems to neglect or overlook a small point between Scripture and the Koran. God forbids people to add to or take away from the words that he has revealed (cf. Deut. 4:1-2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). To him, it’s all of a piece; it’s all the same as long as you are a follower of God. Bri is willing to put aside the burning questions of whether God’s revelation to man is infallibly and inerrantly true if he can get to the larger questions of the relationship of Jesus and the world’s top problems. We’ll delve more deeply into this matter in coming issues. We’re heading towards the Age of Aquarius—or, did we already do that? Someone crank up the CD of Cat Stevens singing Peace Train.
Adventurous Bri believes that we can have a better “framing story” than we currently proclaim and Christians like him “can discover a fresh vision of our religion’s founder and his message, a potentially revolutionary vision that could change everything for us and the world we inhabit.” Two things here: First, it could change everything, but then again it could change nothing. Bri’s not offering guarantees. Second, Bri takes us back to the 1960s and the “Jesus was a Revolutionary” motif. Jesus or Che Guevara—both were revolutionaries.
You would have thought that the Jesus the Revolutionary thing would have worn very thin by now, but Bri is willing to resurrect it for his purposes because there are enough mushy minds out there willing to jettison the “Jesus for the Unchurched” model for “Jesus the Revolutionary.” Here’s an angle authentic Bri might not have considered because he’s been so busy trashing stuffy traditionalists: Jesus was less of a revolutionary than he was a reformer. Back in the day, the Dutch statesman Groen van Prinsterer wrote an intriguing work with the translated title Unbelief and Revolution. Rather than embracing and reveling in the notion of revolution, Groen outlined how revolution was a product of the Enlightenment, especially that aspect that dispensed with the “God hypothesis.” The twin sister of revolution remains unbelief.
Yet fresh old Bri is convinced that we can rediscover what it can mean to call Jesus Savior and Lord “when we raise the question of what exactly he intended to save us from.” This might come as a surprise for you especially since you probably thought you had a clue why Jesus came to save us. The problem is that you just have not been reading enough books and talking to “knowledgeable” people. We must move away from “The popular and domesticated Jesus, who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization” Jesus and replace him “with a more radical, saving, and, I believe, real Jesus.” I’m at a loss to know when precisely Jesus became popular or when he became a hood ornament on a Hummer, but if we stick with Bri he will introduce us to the real Jesus. Since I’ve read the book, let me briefly describe the real Jesus for you. He wears Birkenstocks and drinks a lot of Starbucks coffee. He’s big into flying all over the country on jet fuel guzzling jumbo jets. He likes Putumayo Mali, U2, Harp 46, and Carrie Newcomer. He does not like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, or Ann Coulter. He does like Tammy Bruce not because she’s conservative, but because she’s a lesbian. He is deeply concerned about the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a socialist who gets giddy when he talks about the redistribution of wealth. The real Jesus is in favor of universal health care and homosexual marriage. He loves Al Gore, is a pacifist, had no clue what the covenant of grace was all about, was a flaming Arminian if not a Pelagian, and tried to explain that he didn’t come so that people might just be saved but so that they’d leave their carbon footprint all over the planet as they rectified the global economy and global warming—or freezing. Whatever.
Let me close by giving you how horribly twisted McLaren is. He is an iron first in a velvet glove. According to his upbringing, he tells us, Mary’s Magnificat is all wrong. (Note to Emergents: Since your knowledge of Scripture is so impoverished I should warn you that Mary’s Magnificat has nothing to do with cars or her son as a hood ornament.) Here is what Bri believes most Christians believe Mary was saying:
 Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 4. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 2-3.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 5, 4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 103. Italics mine.
Labels: Emergent Church