McLaren, a leader in the emerging church, issues a salvo of arguments for "radical hope" in the face of profound dilemmas. The prolific author and pastor identifies the earth's "four deep dysfunctions" that have created a "suicide machine": crises in prosperity, equity, security and spirituality. "What could change," he asks, "if we applied the message of Jesus-the good news of the kingdom of God-to the world's greatest problems?" Here McLaren builds on the theme of his 2006 book The Secret Message of Jesus-that bringing about the kingdom means transforming the world we live in-to propose that we create a "hope insurgency." Using a close reading of the Gospels to challenge conservative evangelicals' emphasis on individual salvation, not to mention end-times theology and, by implication, the prosperity gospel, McLaren argues for establishing a "beloved community" based on justice, peace, equality and compassion. McLaren's conclusions are not new, but his ability to be clear and persuasive-and get the attention of a segment of America's Christians-are exceptional. While his critics will find yet more material for challenging McLaren's views, his supporters will consider this book a riveting call to a new conversion. (Oct. 2)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hopeby Brian D. McLaren, Lloyd James (Read by)
What do the life and teaching of Jesus have to say about the most critical global problems in our world today? McLaren asks, "Shouldn’t a message purporting to be the best news in the world be doing better than this?” What he sets forth in this provocative, unsettling work is a "form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral, balanced, that offers
What do the life and teaching of Jesus have to say about the most critical global problems in our world today? McLaren asks, "Shouldn’t a message purporting to be the best news in the world be doing better than this?” What he sets forth in this provocative, unsettling work is a "form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral, balanced, that offers good news for both the living and the dying, that speaks of God’s grace at work both in this life and the life to come, both to individuals and to societies and the planet as a whole.”
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Everything Must ChangeJesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
By Brian D. McLaren
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Brian D. McLaren
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHope Happens
If you're like some people (including my wife and a few friends who have been nervous about this book since they heard what I was writing about), you may already feel a little skeptical and suspicious, having only read the title and subtitle of this book.
You've surmised that the statement "everything must change" is hyperbole. Whatever your reaction to the subtitle's mention of "Jesus" and "revolution of hope," you've judged "global crises" to be totally depressing and overwhelming. You've determined that people who talk about global crises aren't life-of-the-party types; instead, they score high in the categories of being boring, humorless, and guilt-inducing.
If we're going to get anywhere, I have to convince you-and fast-of at least four things. First, that I'm not another blah-blah-blah person ranting about how bad the world is and how guilty you should feel for taking up space in it. Second, that I can help you understand some highly complex material and make it not only accessible but maybe even interesting and inspiring. Third, that when you're done with this book, you'll not only better understand the world and your place in it, but you'll also know how you can make a difference. (You'll also be able to engage in dialogue and further research through the book's website-www.everythingmustchange.com.) And fourth, I must convince you that making a difference is not another dreary duty for an already overburdened person, but rather that making a difference is downright joyful-fulfilling, rewarding, good.
You also may be wondering who I am and why I'm writing on the subjects of Jesus, global crises, and hope. I'm not an economist, politician, or certified expert on anything really. But I am a normal person like you who cares and wants to do the right thing. I started my career as a college English teacher and then became a pastor for twenty-four years. In the mid-1990s, while I was a pastor, I started writing books, a few of which have been best sellers. I serve on a number of nonprofit boards and travel extensively as a public speaker and networker. I've been on national news shows as a spokesperson for "the emerging church" and "progressive evangelical Christianity" and other such oxymorons (some would say), and you can Google my name and find websites and blogs from fundamentalist groups who consider me the son of Satan or on the wrong side of both the "culture war" and "truth war."
More personally, I'm a rather ordinary person. I care about my young adult kids and the kids they may someday have. I care about my friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens and our common future on this beautiful, imperiled planet. I care about the billions of people I've never met and never will meet, including people who might be called my nation's enemies. I also care about our fellow creatures-brown trout and blue herons, raccoons and gopher tortoises, red dragonflies and royal palms, barrel cactus and woodland ferns. I care about all of these for a lot of reasons, especially because I am a committed follower of Christ, and people with this commitment, it seems to me, can't help but care about all these things.
As a follower of God in the way of Jesus, I've been involved in a profoundly interesting and enjoyable conversation for the last ten years or so. It's a conversation about what it means to be "a new kind of Christian"-not an angry and reactionary fundamentalist, not a stuffy traditionalist, not a blasé nominalist, not a wishy-washy liberal, not a New Agey religious hipster, not a crusading religious imperialist, and not an overly enthused Bible-waving fanatic-but something fresh and authentic and challenging and adventurous. Around the world, millions of people have gotten involved in this conversation, and more are getting involved each day. (One reason we keep calling it a conversation is that we can't find a short way of describing it yet.)
The couple hundred thousand people who have read my previous books seem to find in them some hope and resonance with things they've already been thinking and feeling, including a suspicion that the religious status quo is broken and a desire to translate their faith into a way of life that makes a positive difference in the world. They share my belief that the versions of Christianity we inherited are largely flattened, watered down, tamed ... offering us a ticket to heaven after death, but not challenging us to address the issues that threaten life on earth. Together we've begun to seek a fresh understanding of what Christianity is for, what a church can be and do, and most exciting, we're finding out that a lot of what we need most is already hidden in a trunk in our attic. Which is good news.
So this is a religious book, but in a worldly and unconventional and ultimately positive way, a way some nonreligious people would probably call "spiritual but not religious."
I've always had a propensity to think a few degrees askew from most people, especially about religion. And not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worse, I've consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.
For instance, when I was a pastor, people often asked my opinion on hot-button issues like evolution, abortion, and homosexuality. The problem was that after discussing those issues in all of their importance and intensity, I couldn't help asking other questions: Why do we need to have singular and firm opinions on the protection of the unborn, but not about how to help poor people and how to avoid killing people labeled enemies who are already born? Or why are we so concerned about the legitimacy of homosexual marriage but not about the legitimacy of fossil fuels or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (and in particular, our weapons as opposed to theirs)? Or why are so many religious people arguing about the origin of species but so few concerned about the extinction of species? Then I'd wonder, If we religious people have exclusively seized on a couple of hot-button questions, what other questions should we be thinking about that nobody's asking? That's the kind of wonderment that can turn into a book like the one you're holding.
Part of what it means to be "a new kind of Christian" is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about. As I explained in some detail in The Secret Message of Jesus, more and more of us are realizing something our best theologians have been saying for quite a while: 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. 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.
Which is why I wanted to write this book: because when I started caring about these things, I didn't know where to begin. I started reading books and websites and talking to knowledgeable people, but I soon felt my naïveté being replaced by an overwhelming complexity. I kept looking for a way to tame the complexity in a big picture or metaphor, and when the big picture began to come into focus, I felt I had discovered something worth sharing.
The Leverage Point-A Better Framing Story
To make preliminary sense of the crises that surround us, I can briefly introduce a few metaphors or word pictures that we'll consider later in more detail. For example, I can speak of a perfect storm of global crises brewing like an undetected hurricane out at sea, sending preliminary rain bands ashore that aren't themselves the problem but are signs of the problem that approaches. I can develop a disease metaphor, comparing our global crises to varied symptoms of a single as-yet undiagnosed autoimmune disease. Or I can explore the ways our society has become an addict.
In particular, I can use the image of a suicide machine that co-opts the main mechanisms of our civilization-our economic, political, and military systems-and reprograms them to destroy those they should serve. It's not coincidental that the image of a machine that turns on its creators has recently become popular in movies from The Matrix to I, Robot. In this book, I suggest that the image is true.
Whatever metaphors I employ-an undetected storm, an undiagnosed disease, an unacknowledged addiction, or a machine that has gone destructive-I'll suggest that our plethora of critical global crises can be traced to four deep dysfunctions, the fourth of which is the lynchpin or leverage point through which we can reverse the first three:
1. 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. We'll call this the prosperity crisis.
2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, which prompts the poor majority to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority-which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich. We'll call this the equity crisis.
3. The danger of cataclysmic war arising from the intensifying resentment and fear among various groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum. We'll call this the security crisis.
4. 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 crises. We'll call this the spirituality crisis.
By framing story, I mean a story that gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives. 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 searching for a better framing story than we currently proclaim, Christians like myself can discover a fresh vision of our religion's founder and his message, a potentially revolutionary vision that could change everything for us and for the world we inhabit. 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. (His angry Father? The logical consequences of our actions? Our tendency to act in ways that produce undesirable logical consequences? Global self-destruction?) The popular and domesticated Jesus, who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilization, can thus be replaced with a more radical, saving, and, I believe, real Jesus.
The Hope That Can Change Everything
As I worked on this book-grappling to understand our world's top problems and to see them in relation to the life and message of Jesus-I was struck as never before with the one simple, available, yet surprisingly powerful response called for by Jesus, a response that can begin to foment a revolution of hope among us, a hope that can change everything. That hope may happen to you as you read, without you even noticing it. If it happens in enough of us, we will face and overcome the global crises that threaten us, and we will sow the seeds of a better future.
I spent 2006 and early 2007 writing and editing this book. It brings to fruition thought processes that go back for several decades. This book took shape in a variety of places around the world, over twenty countries in all: Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, England, Wales, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, and the United States. It was written in slums, in airports and trains, in hotels, in homes, in seminary dormitories, in places of great natural beauty, in places of great human ugliness, and some of it (thankfully) in my own home in Maryland, in the good company of my wife and life companion, Grace. It was written under the musical influence of Bob Dylan and Bruce Cockburn, Afro Celt Sound System, the Putumayo Mali collection, Steve Bell, U2, Harp 46, Carrie Newcomer, David Wilcox, Eva Cassidy, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, and Keith Jarrett. These many influences, plus the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the invasion of Lebanon, the deteriorating conditions in Darfur, and the slow, sad burn of the Congo ... all of these have marked and flavored this book in some way, making it, of all of my books so far, the most "worldly."
The book is a first visit to a new way of seeing the world and hearing the message of Jesus. Many things I have understated in the interest of gentleness; they could have been expressed in much stronger language, but that more passionate language would have been off-putting for uninformed readers (just as the understatement may be off-putting for informed readers, which shows my bias). Everything here also could have been explored in much greater detail. That's why in the back of this book, you'll find extensive notes that cite resources to help you go deeper in areas that grip you. You'll find much additional background in The Secret Message of Jesus, and although it is the prequel to this book, you can read either book first.
Having finished writing the book, I am eager for you to read it-slowly and thoughtfully, I hope, and with some friends if possible-and I'm eager for all of us to get to work. There is much to dismantle, much to overturn, much to rebuild, much to imagine and create, and there are many seeds to be sown and grown.
GROUP DIALOGUE QUESTIONS
1. As you begin this book, what are you most excited about? Confused or curious about? Eager to learn more about? What feelings has this chapter elicited in you?
2. What are your impressions of the author? Is he winning your confidence, or do you feel some of the skepticism he identified in the opening paragraphs of this chapter?
3. How do you react to the summary of global crises in this chapter-environmental breakdown (the prosperity crisis), the growing gap between rich and poor (the equity crisis), the danger of cataclysmic war (the security crisis), and the failure of the world's religions to address the first three crises (the spirituality crisis)? Think of issues you've seen in the headlines lately. How do they fit under these four categories?
4. This chapter introduces the subject of hope. How would you describe your level of hope about global crises as you begin this book?
5. What would you like other people in your discussion group to know about you as your group begins?
6. Are there some traditions or patterns you would like to observe when you gather (whether you gather in person, by conference call, or online)? For example, would you like to begin an end with the Lord's Prayer or one of the prayers attributed to St. Francis? Would you like to take a collection each week and use the proceeds to help someone in need? Would you like to sing or a play a theme song to conclude your meeting? If some of you are writers or poets or artists of other sorts, would you like to share things you're inspired to create as you read?
7. You can find links to other group resources at the book's website: everythingmustchange.org. Discuss with other group members some of the resources you discovered on the website.
Excerpted from Everything Must Change by Brian D. McLaren Copyright © 2007 by Brian D. McLaren. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Brian D. McLaren (MA, University of Maryland) is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. After teaching college English, Brian pastored Cedar Ridge Community Church in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. Brain has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors for over 20 years. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings in the US and internationally.
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The premise of this book is that a part of the message of Jesus has been largely missed or ignored by the Christian church. This message is that the kingdom of God is present,available, and expected now, not just in heaven when we die. The result of taking the kingdom seriously would give hope to a world now following a suicide machine toward destruction. McLaren asks two questions. First, What are the biggest problems in the world and second, what does Jesus have to say about these global problems? The book asks us all regardless of our religious persuasions, to realize the wisdom of Jesus message for the problems of the world today. This was the most practical, instructional and inspirational book for me in 2007.
This book is very sobering for anyone who cares about the world around them. The amount of money spent daily on things like defense is staggering. My only criticisms of this book is that the author tends to be a little redundant, and he uses words that may go over the heads of the people who need to read this book.
In Brian McLaren's new book, Everything Must Change, he brings together many different resources together, both religious and secular, to offer a theo-political critique of our current society and its global crises. He then offers an alternative vision in the form of a new 'framing story' that he argues can transform the way we life. McLaren argues that 'our societies are unified, integrated, motivated, and driven by the framing stories we tell ourselves are groups' (66). He then contrasts the Christian 'framing story' (i.e. Kingdom of God) with the theocapitalist 'framing story' (i.e. suicidal machine). 'Suicide machine' is the metaphor McLaren says 'captures the way the world's most serious problems are linked in a vicious, self-reinforcing circle' (52). These suicidal systems are the following: dysfunctional prosperity system (culture of affluenza), dysfunctional security system (invisible hand of the market requires the visible fist of the military), and the dysfunctional equity system (sharing the cost and story of prosperity and equity) (55-56). 'Kingdom of God' is the metaphor McLaren uses to describe the alternative, transforming framing story that has the potential to bring life instead of death. The Kingdom of God is the divine vision of justice and peace communicated in Hebrew and Christian scripture. For McLaren, the Kingdom of God offers the best framing story: 'a story in which God provides through creation's natural systems, a story in which we acknowledge our creaturely dignity and limits within those systems, a story in which we celebrate our kinship with birds and flowers, with season and toil' (139). This story is a story where peace is achieved through collaborative efforts at 'justice, generosity, and mutual concern' (159). McLaren believes that Jesus' message and ministry challenged the dysfunctional, destructive status quo of the Roman Empire in his life. McLaren writes: 'Jesus' creative and transforming framing story invited people to change the world by disobeying old framing stories and believing a new one: a story about a loving God who, like a benevolent [leader], calls all people to live in a new way, the way of love' (274). McLaren also believes Jesus' challenge to the old story and offering of a new story is just as relevant for our lives today. For McLaren, Jesus message is so relevant because it invites us to live a new and better life right now. Not something we must wait for, but something God invites us into in our daily lives. And this better life we can live now is '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, an unterror movement of faith, hope, and love' (227). Ultimately, McLaren's book is about how Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God can offer us a way to discover hope and 'abundant life' in the midst of a world in crises.
The book is granted one star for being engagingly written by a person sincere about his own personal beliefs and highly individual discoveries. But, the more I read, the more I found that the only thing that must change is the author and his views about Jesus. Jesus wants everyone to repent of their sins against God and trust in His sacrificial death on the cross to forgive their rebellion against heaven. Eternal life is offered by repentant faith in Christ. He is the Supreme Being as Son of God to be worshipped. This book is the precise opposite. Jesus is a wisdom teacher, guru, model to follow. His crucified execution was no sacrifice for sins, but a martyrdom. This book talks about Global Crisis like Al Gore would. Or Gandhi. Or Greenpeace or Sierra Club or World Health Organization, etc. The Bible talks about Global Crisis like the Apostle Paul would. The natural man is in a state of dangerous rebellion against its Creator and stands in the fearful judgment of a Righteous, Holy, Loving God. God's love is rejected all day long by billions of very religious devotees. I found no material reference to Book of Acts. If this author is on the right track, he would be tracking with the Apostles as they spread Jesus' transformative message across the Roman Empire. Not even close. Paul and Peter in Acts declare that everyone must repent of wickedness and turn from rebels against Jesus to worshippers. Only then can everything change in the world. The author of this book has his hope in everything must change on earth among pagans, idolaters and Jesus-rejectors. Historic Christianity must change to embrace his global restoration philosophy. The Bible must change. Jesus must change. 'Aren't you erroneously mistaken because you don't understand the Scriptures or the Power of God?' That's Jesus' question today.