A New Kind of Christian

Brian McLaren’s 2001 semi-autobiographical semi-novel. The first part of a trilogy that continues with The Story We Find Ourselves In and The Last Word and the Word After That. It’s just come out in paperback, and it’s published by my friends at Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint. It was sent to me by The Ooze, and I actually read it in the same month I received it!

It’s the story of how a pastor finds his faith again, and understands why he’s been increasingly unsatisfied with his life and his church. It’s not just him; he's feeling the discomfort of a transition from modernity to postmodernity, and he’s making the transition a little sooner than some.

It’s a fictionalized account of a transition that McLaren and a lot of other people have gone through. It’s hard for me to picture how radical this must have sounded in 2001. I suspect it must have been shocking to a lot of people. OK, I know it is still controversial for a lot of people – I just don’t know very many of them. For more people I do know, I think their response is going to sound like “finally”, and “Thank God somebody is making sense out of Christianity.” And a sense of “of course, I get it now,” because McLaren is articulating what we already knew but couldn’t quite explain.

This is a story more than an academic treatise. There’s just enough plot and character development to make it entertaining reading. As a novel, wellllllll, it’s a lot more telling than showing. But still, it’s a lot easier reading than most academic explanations or even personal interpretations of this complex set of theories and transitions. At least the ones that I’ve read.

I liked the comparison of the postmodern shift to puberty. You’re not better before or after puberty, you’re just different, and you have to learn to think and act differently. And you’re not better or worse for going through puberty early or late, although being on either extreme can be uncomfortable, for you and for those who love you.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I’m still looking for a book about the emerging church that doesn’t assume that you already were a conservative evangelical Christian and that this shift represents a liberation. I’m looking for one that represents the transition from “I didn’t want to be a Christian” to “Now I can see a way that I can call myself a Christian.” You know, like my journey. (I’m also writing more about that topic, but I think it’s for another blog post.) If you have suggestions, I’m really interested.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A writer one said, "We write the books we ourselves need to read." (I think it was Toni Morrison.) Perhaps you need to write the book you're looking for:)

10/23/2008 10:12 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Eileen, that thought has occurred to me, but I don't see how it's going to really happen.

10/28/2008 11:11 PM  
Blogger suzannah | the smitten word said...

you might appreciate "the shaping of things to come"--it has two authors, hirsch and frost.

i haven't read mclaren's trilogy, but really enjoyed his "a generous orthodoxy" and "more ready than you realize." i think both speak partly to non-christian audiences and not just to converted/converting conservatives.

10/29/2008 10:32 AM  
Blogger Kim Ranger said...

Robin, I think I'm writing one of those books, a memoir about spending 2 years with the Seventh-day Adventists, from the starting place of being a non-theistic Quaker to being... oh dear, a Christian...liberal Quaker. I have a sabbatical starting in January to try to get a publisher.

11/25/2008 10:34 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Kim, I will hold you in the Light - let me know how the search goes!

Suzannah, I will look for "the shaping of things to come." I read part of "A Generous Orthodoxy" and found myself going, yeah, yeah, so what's new? But that was a while ago. I may be more ready to appreciate it now.

12/17/2008 1:13 AM  

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