Saving the Planet One Left-Wing Position at a Time (VI)
The Arrogance Factor Increases
Bri is a lot like Dan “the Sensitive One” Kimball, who is a lot like Rob and Kristen Bell, a.k.a. the Confused Couple. What do all of these emergent non-leader leaders have in common? Well, it’s a disdain for many Christians, especially those who don’t share their non-leader leader leading. Chapter 5 of Bri’s new book on Jesus, the global crises, and a Revolution of Hope is entitled, “Second Thoughts Had Come to Stay.” Like Dan the Sensitive, Bri wants us to stop criticizing the young people and to cease asking “What wrong with them?” I’m not certain why we should stop asking that question, since almost every generation has asked it, but Bri believes we should rather ask, “What’s wrong with us?” How does one proceed to this high level of self-examination?
Well, it doesn’t come easily, but if you hang with Bri and the right crowd you’ll eventually get there. As a matter of fact, Bri is willing to share an outline with us of how you journey—I wanted to say “arrive,” but that isn’t cool in the emergent amorphous chit-chat—and come to the correct conclusions. (In the emergent conversation, you don’t ever actually arrive, you simply journey on happily hoping against hope that you’re heading in the right direction, but you’re never really certain—about anything, least of all what Scripture says. Anyway, Bri believes the former question smacks of superficiality. So how do you get beyond being an ignoramus? First, you need to be a thoughtful person and surround yourself with “thoughtful leaders.” These thoughtful folks are a lot better than the clueless dolts that are running the show now and—and this will come as a huge surprise—they tend to think and believe pretty much like old Bri. This is known as openness and toleration. Here’s Bri’s solution: “Then some thoughtful leaders go a little deeper, addressing the need to be relevant to culture and to contextualize their ministry for today’s world.” It seems that even those of us who are superficial and not thoughtful leaders understand that there is a need to be relevant to culture and to—to a greater or lesser degree—contextualize our ministry.
The question is, however: How ought we to be relevant? That question ought to be posed only after we clearly define what the word “relevant” means. What I find missing from Bri’s thoughtful rendition of ministry is where the notion of the “antithesis” or of Christians being “counter-cultural” fits into his scheme of things vis-à-vis our contextualization. I say this, because up to this point, it appears that Bri has simply bought off the secular, politically correct notions of culture. Why, Bri and the gang have not yet bothered to provide us with a working definition of “culture” or given us any breakdown of the differences between high and pop culture. But why worry about that when you have to deal with young people learning about the “dark side of the Christian religion’s track record...the Crusades, witch burnings, colonialism, slavery, the Holocaust, apartheid, environmental irresponsibility, mistreatment of women”? Goodness, I wasn’t aware of the fact that some of these things were the fault of Christians. The Holocaust? I realize that Hitler had his Reichs bishop, Müller, but he was hardly a Christian. In less thoughtful circles this might constitute Christian bashing.
The upshot of Bri’s being a thoughtful leader was that young people started caring about these issues. That helps. To make matters worse, “Too often, they realized, Christians through history have played on the wrong side of these issues.” This type of gross generalization is precisely what plagues the emergent crowd. McLaren is notorious for this type of thing as we shall see as we progress. Granted, Christians have made their share of mistakes, but it’s a stretch to say, for example, that Christians have a dark side of the Christian track record in environmental irresponsibility. In fact, many Christians have spoken out for a long time about the creation mandate of caring for God’s good green earth. Since Bri wants us to ponder global issues, one can only wonder why Bri doesn’t come down hard on China, who has been one of the planet’s worst offenders as far as pollution is concerned.
If you are a thoughtful and reflective Christian leader (apparently, there haven’t been that many prior to Bri and N.T. Wright), you’ll begin to realize that a number of young people today see Christianity as a “failed religion.” Here’s how far off base Bri is: “it (Christianity) has specialized in dealing with ‘spiritual needs’ to the exclusion of physical and social needs.” That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. There is always room for improvement, but this type of blanket statement might fly with the postmodern emergent crowd (of course, none of us can understand them because they’re so thoughtful and reflective), but someone needs to apprise Mr. Birkenstock that there was life before he left teaching English to be a non-seminarian, non-leader leader. He adds, “It has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life.” Really? When this country was founded, every hospital, every school, every orphanage, and every university was begun and maintained with Christian money. Today, Christians still do a great deal in terms of the physical and social needs of those within and outside the faith. Where in the world does this man get off making such nonsensical statements?
What should be done? If you’re like me, you’re expecting reflective Bri to be explicitly relevant and contextualize this for us lesser lights. Here’s the solution: “Truly good news…would confront systemic injustice, target significant global dysfunctions, and provide hope and resources for making a better world.” Honestly, that sounds like something you’d hear at a Miss America contest, only the contestant would add, “and strive for world peace.” That statement was dripping with so much cheese you could make lasagna with it. What, pray tell, constitutes a “significant global dysfunction”? Who decides? How is it decided? What if someone disagrees? Let’s say that from an ethical standpoint, man-made global warming is considered to be a significant global dysfunction. I’d like to ask a few questions, but before I ask them, I should warn you that I am not among the emergent initiated and would, no doubt, qualify in their book as not very thoughtful because I disagree with them. With that disclaimer here are a few silly questions. First, in discussing global warming, what is the perfect temperature? That is to say, what is the optimal temperature for which we’re striving? Is this to be a universal temperature or does it vary according to the region? If it varies, how do we control it in each region?
Second, what is the average temperature of the earth? At any one time, there are temperature extremes all over the planet. Our oldest granddaughter, who is living with us while attending university out here in Southern California, just returned from Toronto. The day she left it was -25 degrees Celsius. It was in the 70s when she stepped off the plane at LAX. How do we come up with an average, and how do those variations fit in with our desire to slow global warming?
Third, are there potential benefits to global warming? How will we measure our successes or failures? These are all questions I would have expected a thoughtful and reflective man like Bri to answer in his non-leadership ethics book, but we search in vain for any semblance of an answer to any of the non-thoughtful questions I’ve raised. All we get are some silly little graphics. But, hey, maybe that’s the thoughtful, reflective answer. You don’t really need sentient, cogent answers—after all, it’s just a journey—just a few spiffy graphics.
The Story of the Word “Postmodern”
“If you’ve listened to some popular religious broadcasters in recent years, you’ve probably heard simplistic caricatures of the word postmodern.” Bri’s next book—co-authored with N.T. Wright—will be What Postmodernism Really Is. I like the concept of simplistic caricatures because that’s precisely what old Bri has been doing to the Christian faith and to a number of his fellow-brothers and –sisters.
Who rejects or disdains the term postmodern? Why it’s none other than “defenders of the modern Western, colonial version of the Christian religion…” The term postmodernism has left a bad taste in the mouth of these colonialists like other epithets such as secular humanist, New Age, or liberal. But Bri is a stand-up kind of guy. He writes, “We don’t want to reject whatever is good and true in the Christian faith.” How magnanimous of this thoughtful, reflective, non-leader leader! I suppose we’ll first have to discern what is good and true in the Christian faith. We know from the get-go that it’s not the biblical view of homosexuality—both Bri and Dan the Sensitive has clearly manifested that—or the biblical teaching on the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. That’s primitive and obscene. Oh yes, and then we all need to forget the idea of hell even though those who are followers of God according to Jesus—Bri’s words—acknowledge that he spoke more about hell than anyone else in the entire Bible.
So how do we decide what is good and truth in the Christian faith? Here’s Bri’s solution: “But to hold our faith in good conscience, we needed to debug it from the viruses (modern, Western, colonial, imperial, rationalist, reductionist, and other types of viruses) that seem to have invaded its software.” This sounds very much like Bultmann’s program of demythologizing the Bible. If we’re to embrace a “debugged version of the Christian faith” we’ll need to know who, precisely, will present us with this correct version and how we will know that their version—Bri’s version—is the correct one. How do I know that Bri is correct or just being a secular humanist, New Age devotee, or just a liberal? Maybe it’s all of the above.
 Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p. 32.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 35.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
Labels: Emergent Church