Everything Must Change
Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
by Brian McLaren
Everything must change? Oh yeah? So what’s new?
Honestly, this was my first reaction.
McLaren says right in the introduction that for some people, this book will come as new information, and for them, he probably goes too far. For others, the chapters about materialism and violence and the links between Christians and social, economic and political oppression will seem like old news and for them, he probably doesn’t go far enough. He admits that he made a preferential option for the new and up-til-now-unincluded-in-this-conversation folks.
But you know what? The Bible and Social Justice was a class I took in 1990. The parish where I lived and worked in southern Mexico? Liberation theology in action. The Franciscan church where I worked in San Francisco? The sanctuary is an intentional daytime homeless shelter. The Poor Are The Church is a book by Father Joseph Wresinski that I read and internalized when I was a Fourth World Volunteer. I’ve been hearing Walter Wink’s analysis of Jesus’s non-violent resistance strategies for years and years.
So please excuse me if I feel like McLaren is re-stating the obvious.
However, you know what else? Humans have a habit of continually stating and repeating the very, very obvious, and not just so our mouths don't freeze up.1 I think we need to keep repeating the obvious. Because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,2 remember?
Part of me knows that I need to hear it again. I can’t just hide from the sheer terror of our reality by saying “I already know that; I don’t want to hear it again.” Or can I?
About six and a half years ago, I made some conscious decisions to not keep up with current events. I was pregnant, with serious worries about my health and my baby. The post-9/11/01 actions of the United States just made reading the news more agonizing. I decided it was okay for me to retreat into a semi-cocoon and just focus on the little part of the world that I was in – my body, my family, my meeting.
It was a matter of mental health and I’m glad I did it. But that need has declined now. My health has improved tremendously. My babies are growing into young men. My time is more free and I am ready to return to a more active social-economic-political life.
But the world didn’t get any better in the last six years. It is still agonizing to read the newspaper or online news sources or listen to the radio news. Especially if I listen to Pacifica radio. The problems of poverty and violence are so close to home and all around the world. The issues of global environmental (and ultimately economic) collapse have risen in everyone’s minds. Misery seems omnipresent and overwhelming. Even my meeting seems to have dropped most of its collective social justice work.
Would it be easier to just go to the mall and forget everything outside? Apparently lots of people do. Other people retreat into movies or video games or listening to so-called Christian radio stations. That’s not so much my style, but I have to ask, “What are the ways that I insulate myself?”
How do I protect myself both from information overload and from compassion fatigue? I have said that I don't want to protect my children from all the harshness of reality, but I do want to protect them from the unreality of the media. I don't read murder mysteries anymore. I still don't go to violent movies. I don't need fictional accounts of misery and man's inhumanity to man to inure me to the horrible things that really do happen.
At the same time, I have to keep listening: both to my fellow humans crying out and to God’s whispery voice.
What are the ways that God is calling me out?
What are the paths that Jesus is inviting me to walk?
How can I hold my life together and give it up at the same time?
McLaren and others are looking at the same questions at www.deepshift.org
1 Ford Prefect, in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, p.49
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