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Brian's Blog

  • July 30, 2015

    A reader writes: The Relief Brings Tears

    A reader writes:

    Dear Brian,

    I am only a tad older than you (your birthday is 4 years and 1 day after mine), similar long walk with Jesus through a wide net from Pentecostal, Presbyterian (family), to Roman Catholic. There have been other stops along the way and I have ended up in a great Methodist Church. The difference is a big twist. After over eight years of working HARD to have a good marriage my husband said, "I'm done. I won't divorce you but I am no longer involved with you either." Within a year, I came out. It had always been there but I had tried to ignore it. I was 28. It was HARD. I had a breakdown first. I was honest with my family and friends...thereby losing most of my support when I had to support myself for the first time in my life...well, I survived! I eventually spent 3 years in the military, [worked as a mechanic and driver], and worked for [a major corporation] for 7 years. I also wrote a small self-produced book of poetry.

    During that time it became obvious to me that I am transgender. I thought I could just walk it out like I had been...I am friendly, even though I dress in boots and jeans and button shirts, mostly, I can be disarming. However, very recently, I realized that as I was progressing in some areas I was steadily "circling the drain" in others. I came out to my family. Reactions were better than expected, but mostly not thrilled. I am in the process of deciding where to go from here.

    I know, a lot of info for you to know WHO is talking to you. The point is...I really enjoyed your book A Generous Orthodoxy (laughed out loud, chuckled, even choked a bit). I felt like it was written for me, expressing so much of what I wanted to say and taking it farther than I could have conceived. The relief brings tears. I GOT it! It is the answer to many prayers! It also challenges ME!

    … I will continue to check your books as I am able. You have my prayers. This is so very important. This CAN be prayed into existence, God willing, and I believe God is willing.

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  • July 29, 2015

  • July 24, 2015

    Which is Real? Which is Onion?

    Local Man Knows All He Needs to Know About Muslims

    Florida Man Declares Gun Shop Muslim-Free Zone

    Both are sad and ridiculous. If you'd like to understand the causes and cures of religious bigotry and hostility, consider my book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

    With some faith, hope, and love, we can build a beautiful and better world where these sad stories only exist in museums, along with other ugly artifacts of our past.

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  • July 23, 2015

    A reader writes: YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!

    A reader writes (Note: profanity alert, irony alert):

    Damn you Brian McLaren (because it is easier and more convenient to blame you than God),

    I have preached the most difficult sermons the last month. We have gone there. Gone there with race--looking instead of out there, examining ourselves and how racism infects us. How it has infected the systems we participate in.

    Your book We Make the Road by Walking has been more than prophetic--but it has been God sent. I could not have planned for the texts to line up the way they have, yes, with our national conscience, but also with what is happening in the life of our congregation.

    Four weeks ago, the message is Spirit of Love: Loving Neighbor. This comes the same week as our marriage polity changes in PC(USA) from marriage being between a man and a woman, to between two people. Through the leadership of our session, we were now in the third week of a book study on The Bible's Yes to Same-Gender Marriage. So our passage on loving neighbor is Acts 10 that includes "What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” And then concludes, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean...While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And coincidentally, this is the Sunday that we were baptizing the son of a new gay couple that had recently started coming to our church. Wow. My illustration this week was the police brutality at the pool in McKinney, Texas. I had heard an interview this same week on NPR where the person said something to the affect that at the heart of the struggle of equality, we find the image of a pool. And a pool magnifies and amplifies our greatest fears because of the vulnerability of water that touches me is water touching you. Think about this in the context of baptism? Again, wow. And then the intimacy and powerful image of the love of two moms standing up front as we baptized their precious son.

    And so the next week is the week of the Charleston shooting. And we went there--talked about combining loving our neighbor with truly loving ourselves. And we spoke of systemic racism and how it is wrong that not only are we in a world--but in a church where my sons have an advantages over so many of our youth simply because they are white male. And this fit so well in your chapter on loving self--and our narrative that can lend to this being self-centered and about self-interest.

    I am not done being pissed at you yet. The next week is Spirit of Unity and Diversity. I focus on John, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." And this is the Sunday we have another beautiful baptism of another new family, and this one from Togo. You can't make this shit up. We had more in church this Sunday than in Easter.

    But this week, now you have gone to far. James 5--really? Have to admit, almost skipped this one. But thankfully I have an administrator who challenged me saying, "I have never known you as one to skip the hard stuff." We have openly been talking about race, sexuality, and then I open up to this text: "Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you."

    Dammit Brian! Thank You.

    If others would like to embark on a year of grappling with the Bible in all its amazing challenge and relevance, I hope they'll consider using We Make the Road by Walking.

    Here's what it looks like for the 2015-2016 year.

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  • July 22, 2015

    Friends in New Zealand ...

    I'll be in your beautiful part of the world August 1-10 - in Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch. You'll find more information here:
    Hope to see you soon!

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  • Struggling with the LGBT issue?

    For those Christians sincerely struggling to come to terms with LGBT identity, equality, and inclusion, you couldn't ask for a better guide and mentor than my South African friend Graeme. Let me introduce you to him here.

    Here's his recommended reading list.

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  • July 21, 2015

    A reader writes: nothing more than intellectual slaves

    When I began reading "A New Kind of Christianity", I thought, finally!

    Then I began to understand that you propose a shift in what the Bible actually represents in our christian experience. Frankly, I struggle with the status change of God breathed to the more jewish interpretation as story for the purpose of teaching. I won't be so close minded as to dismiss the position, but I am struggling with it. When I discovered that you question the validity of atonement, I almost fell out of my chair. This revelation caused me to begin investigating theological history in the church. The history of christian teaching / preaching reveals (in my very limited study), that this interpretation of atonement hasn't always been a mainstream thing. Imagine my surprise !! Still, it's so ingrained my belief system that I feel the need to repent for even considering it.

    Your critics have called you everything from heretic to antichrist, as you are well aware.

    Although I don't embrace everything that you present, I have to admit that reading your work has inspired me to examine my beliefs. If our faith can't withstand challenges, we must confess that we are nothing more than intellectual slaves to those who instruct us. Thank you for your willingness to challenge what Jesus is in our lives.

    Thank you for your honest response. One small note - it's not exactly that I "question the validity of atonement," but that I question many of the assumptions behind traditional atonement theories, and I especially am concerned about the ways in which "penal substitutionary atonement theory" upholds and magnifies a violent view of God. I believe Jesus' nonviolence - to the point of death on a cross - subverts any conception of God as violent, and instead images God as utterly gracious and forgiving. I so agree with you: if our faith can't withstand challenges, if we are afraid of taking a second look at things when good reasons are presented, then we're in a prison, not a pasture.

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  • July 20, 2015

    The Jihad of Jesus ...

    One of my favorite people, Dave Andrews, has written a book of unique beauty and importance …

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  • July 16, 2015

    Peter Heltzel gets it right on faith-based social change


    But I think that the church is a movement, a Spirit-led movement for love and justice in the world. And the only way this movement is going to grow is through building coalitions for justice, advocacy and change with strategic partners in our cities and states.

    More here.

    Be sure to see the book Alexia Salvatierra and Peter wrote on faith-rooted community organizing, here.

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  • July 15, 2015

  • Your 2015-2016 Curriculum Solution?

    The data is in. Churches, small groups, classes, online groups, and families have used We Make the Road by Walking as their 2014-2015 curriculum, and the results have been enthusiastically positive.

    If you'd like to use the book as your curriculum/lectionary for 2015-2016, you'll see how you would sync up chapters with the calendar and holidays below.

    You can also use the book for a quarter or season together, and have folks use it on their own thereafter.

    First Quarter
    Aug 30 - 1
    Sep 6 - 2
    Sep 13 - 3
    Sep 20 - 4
    Sep 27 - 5
    Oct 4 - 6
    Oct 11 - 7
    Oct 18 - 8
    Oct 25 - 9
    Nov 1 - 10
    Nov 8 - 11
    Nov 15 - 12
    Nov 22 - 13

    (continued after the jump)

    Continue reading Your 2015-2016 Curriculum Solution?...

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  • July 14, 2015

    Wow! Here's some really good news ...

    Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent.
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  • July 13, 2015

    One of the most important things you will read this year ...

    Read the whole piece, please, starting with this ...

    Adding insult to injury, while we are having a photo-op next to the “dignified” removal of the flag in South Carolina, their counterparts in US Congress actually debated whether to keep the same flag flying on federal property, of the same government land that the flag sought to overthrow. To some of them, Black lives, Black emotions, Black history, and Black pain don’t matter. Human beings, deeply hurt by death, are the only creatures who don’t have to respond with death. But we must refuse to be easily comforted, and not to be tricked by cosmetic fixes. Our ability to forgive is, in reality, an act of resistance to the attempts to lay the blame for this horror at the feet of one man.

    Two days after the nine assassinations at Mother Emanuel, I was asked to preach at New York’s renowned Riverside Church a sermon, which I later completed in my own pulpit, and said in light of the arrest of Dylann Roof:

    The perpetrator has been caught. But the killers are still at large. The deep well of American racism and white supremacy that Dylann Roof drank from remains. The families of the nine martyrs challenged the schizophrenia of American morality that allowed political leaders to condemn the crime and at the same time embrace the policies that are its genesis. Many of South Carolina politicians and others in the nation are examples. They decry the killings but steadfastly refuse to support efforts to quell their divisive rhetoric and to cease their push for policies that promote race-based voter suppression. They refuse to vote for the Voting Rights Act. They cut funds for public education in ways that foster, re-segregation. They deny workers living wages. They refuse Medicaid expansion. They proliferate guns. They use racialized code words to criticize the president, all in the name of taking ‘their’ country back to ‘prevent its destruction.’ When will they own up to the fact that there is a history of racialized political rhetoric and policies that directly spawn the pathology of terroristic assassinations and carnages, and of violent resistance to constitutional decisions.

    —A Message to America in the Midst of Our Mourning, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
    Please follow Dr. Barber on Twitter here - @RevDrBarber

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  • July 7, 2015

    Dear Justice Scalia ...

    Melanie Griffin gets it right in her response to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia here. Quotable:

    So my closing argument, Justice Scalia, is that, yes, it’s risky when you acknowledge the Spirit and pay attention to where it might be leading you. It opens you up to all kinds of people who aren’t like you, and you find yourself looking for points of connection, things to love, instead of differences and things that separate you. You might even have to change your mind about some things.

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  • July 3, 2015