1.22.2008

Everything Must Change

[Second in a short series of highly subjective mini book reviews.]

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
2George Santayana

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7 Comments:

Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Not to mention that repeating the obvious--the "new" that is not so new--is incredibly important to those of us who are, ourselves, new. New Christians, new Quakers, and (maybe most of all) new humans.

Each day I'm surrounded by 15 year olds, and sometimes the things they don't know blow my mind! This is especially hurtful when I learn of outreach to my students from at least some of the local evangelical churches, who are still preaching that intolerance of homosexuality is pleasing to God, for instance, or that belief in the theory of evolution will lead to damnation. I hope somebody, in the next few years slips them a copy of a book with a few "new" ideas in it.

It won't be me, for lots of reasons, only starting with the separation of church and state. But books like this one are going to be very important, both in helping Christians and progressives find way forward in doing the real work of Spirit, and in preventing more ex-Christian religion refugees.

I realize this was awfully opinionated, coming from a non-Christian. If it sounds like there's finger-pointing coming from me, I really am not feeling accusatory. But I do feel pained about the distortions to what I, at least, outsider though I am, understand to be Christianity. It's not a subject on which I feel I can legitimately comment, most of the time. But, well, it pains me.

We got new people out here. And the old ideas are not so very old to them. I'm glad they're still being put into words...

1/23/2008 3:59 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

This is so true, Cat. It's hard to remember that things that seem obvious to me now were new to me once too. My small town public high school education was not big on radical analysis either.

I got another new book last night, an advance copy of "The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier" by Tony Jones. There are a slew of books like this coming out around now. Jim Wallis has a new one out. Doug Pagitt has one that I think is called "A Christianity Worth Believing". Mark Scandrette's "Soul Graffitti" is coming out in paperback. So maybe there's more hope than we know.

1/24/2008 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Ayo said...

Hi Robin,

I was going through this when I was doing my work with the homeless in SF. I think that is why I was mad at the Meeting. Some of it might be true (The Poor are the Church... are they really?) but it's hard to tell when you're just mad at the state of the world in general. It's hard being a young person and it's hard caring so much.

There needs to be more joy. Why don't Quakers seem to be bubbling over with joy? Isn't joy a form of protest too?

1/24/2008 8:37 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Allison, I think I loaned out our copy of The Poor Are The Church. At least it's not where I think it should be on my shelf. We should get one for the meeting library.

One of the points in it is that Jesus was of and for the poor, and the church/his followers are supposed to be the same way. When the empire took over the church, things changed. But a great image I read last night was this, from Tony Jones: the gospel is like lava. No matter how much it is crusted over, it will find a thin place and break out.

Oh yes, about joy. I wrote a post a couple years ago Why do Quakers talk like that? There's way more that could be said on this topic!

1/25/2008 2:24 PM  
Blogger MartinK said...

Reminds me a little of the time I went to a Emergent Church "meet up" in Philly--the evangelical pastor there was so excited by the possibility that faith could be combined with social action, it was touching to see how new an idea this was to him (on my side the excitement was probably the reverse, combining faith with social action!).

I've kind of wondered whether part of the burden of a teaching ministry isn't simply to repeat the obvious truths over and over again. It's easy to delve into esoteric details and forget that the basic message is so very simple and so easily overlooked.

1/25/2008 7:23 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

One of the things I have learned from teaching First Day School is to be able to articulate religious ideas in words under three syllables.

1/28/2008 3:15 PM  
Blogger ShaneBertou said...

Hey, I noticed that you're reading Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change. A few of us are planning to read the book together and blog our thoughts as a sort of online reading collaboration. Any interest?

http://www.shanebertou.com

2/08/2008 2:12 PM  

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