A Little Background
A friend from the 1970’s is now a well-known writer, activist and speaker. When I first met him, he was probably about twenty years old. He was remarkable, even at that age, in his charisma, warmth, dedication, musical talent and ability to reach out to and relate to nearly anyone in an authentic and meaningful manner. He was the first person I met whose life called me to rethink my oh-so-well-informed-19-year-old-critical-judgment that all Christians are hypocrites.
Back then, remember, young people were idealistic. We were peace-loving activists who believed we could change the world. Brian exceeded all the other I’d-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-type activists I knew, as he embodied the notion of love and purity, doing his best to live as Jesus would in present day. No pot-smoking, let’s-all-love-each-other-but-I-really-mean-let’s-go-to-bed-sort was he. No, he was idealism at its best, and I loved him for it. I followed. I joined his family’s home church, meeting in an elementary school on Sundays and in their home on Wednesday nights. They meant to create a new testament church, similar to what the apostles in the early church experienced. We met in a circle, facing one another, talking about how we were doing, sharing a Bible verse that we felt encouraged by that week, praying for each other, singing songs together, breaking bread. I pretty much devoured every word, soaking up the lessons and applying them to my life as if they were the cure to all that ailed me. It was really quite wonderful, while it lasted.
Before long, the little church dissipated, dwindling away rapidly once Brian went off to college. It was he who was the main attraction, after all, in that time and place. Yet we who were impacted by those relational meetings remain bonded over time and space, even sharing a Facebook group today. Brian went on to an English degree, then became a pastor, and later a full-time author, activist and speaker.
Several years ago I stumbled upon him again, and found that he has not lost the ability to influence me powerfully. Through exchanging a few emails, reading a few of his books, his blog and Facebook page, Brian again spurs me to go beyond my working definitions in life, and out of my realm of comfort.
Not blindly, though: I am not a loyal follower of anyone like I was when I was 20. No, these days I’m more apt to think for myself. I’ve seen enough hypocrisy among Christian leadership to make me reconsider my 19-year-old-wisdom. I’ve met more dysfunctional, toxic and down-right scary folks in churches than anywhere else, and I’ve met some of the most sincere, authentic people-of-little-faith in the most ungodly places. So, now, when I read Brian’s writing, I don’t swallow it whole, but I certainly give it thoughtful consideration.
In the last fifteen years, his writing helped me accept my “little faith” as enough through some very trying times, and to think more positively about my ability to influence the world–internally, externally, locally and globally.
My old friend’s work has become very well-known; you can find his books in Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and, of course, Amazon.com.
Chances are, though, you won’t find his books in your local Christian Supply. Brian is still a Christian, yet his works are banned by most Christian bookstores. His ideas do not conform to the Christian bookstore measures, or so the bookstore owners tell me. His work is not mainstream Christian stuff. In fact, a movement he is credited with leading, the Emergent Church, is cited as an enemy of America (in a breakout session at an October 2013 Values Voter Summit, War of the World Views). He says some pretty controversial things, but an enemy of America?
It would seem, in recent times of political and religious polarization, that one may be judged according to which side of the Brian McLaren fence one stands. Personally, I think this is ridiculous! Brian is a human being, not a Divine Being. We are allowed to have areas of agreement and disagreement with our spouses, our families, our friends. . . why not in our politics and religious beliefs?
The Point of All This
This brings me–finally–to the main reason for this series of posts: Recently, Brian posted two articles on his blog that are worthy of national, no–global, attention and consideration. They came as a response to the Westgate Mall shootings, and in part to little-known news reports such as this (please click if the whole article does not appear here):
Though I thought my main purpose in blogging lies far from this topic, I cannot sit quietly while this sort of thing is going on! As I investigated my topic further, I realized it really does fit here. My blog theme, writing from heart to heart toward healthy relationships and living, involves both personal lives on a small scale AND global relationships. After all, we are all individual people on this earth, and we are one humanity. While I have no interest in opening this blog to religious warfare blog-style (you know, where readers start to argue with each other and tear each other up in the comments section), I do want to call attention to, respond to and promote Brian’s two articles addressing this issue. These are presented not as a pill for us to swallow, but as a starting point for conversation, because, well, excuse me, beloved readers of any mindset, but, um, they’re killing people over there!
If you will, please, click on the links here to read his two articles, think on them a bit, and then come back for parts two and three of this three-part series here on joantwarren.com.
This post is the first in a series of three (possibly more) that can serve as a platform where we can begin to speak up about the rising tide of religious violence, and engage in meaningful conversation that has the potential, given form and shape by its partakers, to become a profound and guiding philosophy. Thank you for taking the time to read and follow along on this serious matter. Please be sure to sign up for email notifications following joantwarren.com, so you won’t miss the next two posts in this series, where we will have ample opportunity to discuss these vital issues and how we might respond to them.
Joan T. Warren