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Brian's Blog

  • February 27, 2015

    IT Spooks … and It's Unique

    I really enjoyed being asked to contribute to this project with Jack Caputo and a cast of equally fascinating characters …
    If you ask the big questions, including questions about the existence of God, this book could be a big help.

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  • February 26, 2015

  • February 25, 2015

    I'll be in Alexandria VA March 8-9 ...

    2015 is off to a great start for me. I've enjoyed opportunities to speak in Phoenix AZ, Barrington IL, Edina MN, and Richmond VA.

    In early March, I'll be in Alexandria VA on the 8th and 9th. There are open-to-the-public events Sunday and Monday evening at 8:30 …
    Download file
    You can register here.

    And a special clergy event at 9:30 am Monday …
    Download file
    You can register here.

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  • February 24, 2015

    I'll be in Iowa City March 6-7

    I'm looking forward to meeting many old and new friends in Iowa City. More information here.

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  • February 23, 2015

    A reader writes: Two things nobody can take away ...

    Certainly enjoyed your sermon on Sunday. Was unable to attend the Saturday sessions (Caregiver duties) but heard great things about the entire program. As I mentioned briefly when I met you in the church lobby, my Dad expressed a message to me that I thought would be an excellent tie-in with your stated message, "The Way of Life is the Way of Love."

    My Dad and I were out fishing one summer's day, and after arriving at one of our favorite spots on the lake, getting all of our lines set and ready for the fish to take over, he said to me, "Jim, I want to talk WITH you about something special. Now having a parent talk "TO" you is one thing, but when the statement includes the word "WITH", I knew we were going to have a two-way conversation about some topic he had in mind. Being twelve years of age at the time, I figured this was going to be a special discussion.

    So, he opened up the dialogue with the comment, "It's something I've been wanting to share with you, and I believe now is a good time to do so." Then he intoned, "Son, you have two things that no one can take away from you. You have to make the personal decision to give them up." Well, I thought and thought about that comment, and lots of things I owned flashed thru my mind. Must have looked fairly perplexed, because his next comment gave me one of the answers.

    "The first and most important thing you own is your INTEGRITY. No one can make you cheat. No one can make you steal. No one can make you lie. You have to make the conscious effort to do one of those activities yourself. You have to cross the line of honesty to do so, and once you do it's hard to get back on the other side of the line."

    Well, I thought to myself that that made a lot of sense. I was getting ready to join Boy Scouts and the first law of that organization was Trustworthy. I felt that I could keep that law, so the being honest was not going to be too tough of a challenge.

    "The second thing you have that no one can take away from you is your POSITIVE ATTITUDE. You have to give that up and join the many, many people who seem to want to exhibit a negative line of thinking on situations. And from my experience, no amount of negative thinking ever made activities and life worth much. From my point of view", he said, "there is no statement about any situation that you can't make from a positive frame of thinking."

    I thought about that comment for a minute, and then he said, "Let me give you an example of what i'm talking about. When we get home later today, and we haven't caught any fish and your Mother asks you how was fishing, what are you going to say?"

    I looked a little perplexed, so he offered a suggestion. "Would you tell her that 'We didn't catch any fish'?" A pause ensued, and he said, "You know what? She'll already know because we aren't cleaning any!"

    Well, sir. That day meant a great deal to me as I grew up and joined the adult world. And I have been trying to live that discussion for the last 60 years of my life.

    Please feel free to use any of this in any of your workshops where you feel it might prove to be a worthy addition.

    Again, thank you for gracing our congregation with your wisdom.

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  • February 19, 2015

  • Fossil Fuels & Divestment

    As I watched this short film ...

    … I couldn't help but imagine a version of it being released in, say, 1860, with the word "slavery" substituted for "fossil fuels."

    In love with fossil fuels? That certainly describes our current economy. I hope in the future, we'll fall in love with life, with God and neighbor, with God's beautiful creation … and with our holy calling to be humble stewards rather than extractive, consumptive plunderers.

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  • February 18, 2015

    This Sunday Is Special Because ...

    It is a great time to begin my 2014 book We Make the Road by Walking. The book was written to be read in sync with the church year. Season 3 begins with Lent (which starts today) and this 13-week quarter, called Alive in a Global Uprising, is an immersion in the Sermon on the Mount. (It begins on page 127.) It was one of my favorite parts of the book to write - You can read the book on your own, or invite a few friends to read it with you. (You'll find lots of reading group resources here.)

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  • February 17, 2015

    Q & R: Maintaining Christian identity?

    Here's the Q:

    Loving "We Make The Road By Walking." You're always looking at things from a fresh perspective with a great set of questions.

    Is there any real point to being a Christian, or maintaining a Christian identity? I don't ask this from a place of despair and frustration but I ask out of contentment, joy and surplus. I went to seminary, planted a church, expanded as a person and now haven't been a part of a church for a couple of years. I'm not asking the tired question of whether we should keep Jesus and forget the church or whether we should have a relationship with God and discard religion (for me, I found that when I've asked those questions, I've been frustrated and disillusioned)...but even more fundamentally, what is the point of aligning one's self with this thing that eventually got called Christianity? I'm just not seeing the point anymore.

    I've found love, life and light in Christianity and Jesus (and am forever thankful for that), but that has not come separate from my discovery of all that is good, right and true that I see in Taoism and Lao Tsu (for example), or in my meditation journey, or in my creative endeavors, or in my health, nutrition and exercise practices, etc. I found your "Why Did Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Muhammad Cross The Road?" as a great help, but I now just don't see any compelling reason to remain identified as a Christian, despite my love and admiration of Jesus. There's lots I could go on about, but I think you get my point.

    Thanks, man. Keep up the great work.

    Here's the R:
    This is such an important question. I'm working on my next book, entitled This Way of LIfe (due out September 2016), and just wrote a few paragraphs that I think will be helpful … not on the specific question of why Christian, but on the more general question of why identify with any tradition at all. (You may be interested in the ways I addressed the why Christian question in a book I wrote called A Generous Orthodoxy.)

    To my mind, nobody has written more lucidly about the connection between spirituality and religion than Catholic educator Catherine Maresca, building on the work of Maria Cavalletti. In her work on developing spiritual literacy in children, she offers insights that are equally relevant to adults. Generalized spirituality, she says, must be “made specific” in some religious context, because
    You can’t teach children language without teaching children a language. [Cavalletti] writes, “Wishing to stay on a vague level without any specific content is the same as wanting a child to talk without using any particular language.” Some parents say they don’t want their children to learn a particular religion because they want them to be free to choose their own. But these children are missing the opportunity to become spiritually literate.
    ... While we don’t reject other traditions, a particular religion has to be our starting point. To say, “I’m spiritual but not religious” is like saying, “I’m linguistic but don’t speak any particular language.” Everyone has innate linguistic capacity that gets activated as one learns a particular language or languages. Likewise, everyone has spiritual capacity that gets activated and mobilized through becoming religious in a particular way.

    At this point in human history, our religious communities are especially conflicted, so it’s understandable why people would want to put a "but" in between spiritual and religious. If thoughtful spiritual people leave the destiny of our religions to the unthoughtful and unspiritual, then their destiny is to be conservative in the worst possible way: the last to accept good new ideas, the last to abandon ugly old prejudices, the last to admit they’ve been wrong. I believe religion is meant to lead, not lag, as a critically progressive community. As a progressive community, it should attract the brightest minds, the most sensitive and courageous hearts, to help lead the way into a brighter future by discerning and embodying the vision and values of tomorrow today, in the fierce urgency of now. As a critically progressive community, it should not blindly accept every new idea, but ground its foresight in hindsight and insight gained from thinking critically about the past and present. (From This Way of Life, Brian McLaren, Convergent Books, September 2016)

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  • Thanks for Profound Dialogue ...

    A reader writes:

    Thanks … for profound dialogue with Michael Dowd.

    My thanks go out to Michael for an amazing project of bringing together a wide range of people for dialogue on matters of ultimate importance for humanity. People can listen in on those dialogues here …

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  • Q & R: hints of Kierkegaard. What about Chalcedon?

    Here's the Q:

    Over the past year, I have come to appreciate your challenges to conventional theology. I am particularly interested in your discussions about the incarnation, where you have described a sort of “solidarity Christology” in relation to Philippians 2:5-11 that emphasizes Christ’s identification with creation in order to transform it.

    I was hoping you could elaborate just a bit more on your particular view of Christology. Does it just involve God’s solidarity with creation and the human story or does it also incorporate ideas of the divine-human natures as in the Chalcedonian formula?

    Also, with relation to the hymn in Philippians 2, I detect hints of Kierkegaard’s stress on subjectively actualizing Christ in our personal life. Would you say you agree with Kierkegaard’s form of kenotic (kenosis) Christology, where Christ empties himself of certain divine attributes in order for us to emulate his example of humility and willingness to suffer? Thank you for the clarifications, Mr. McLaren!

    Here's the R:
    Philippians 2:5-11 is indeed important to me. It is one of very few passages that made it more than once in the lectionary for my 2014 book, We Make the Road by Walking.

    I cherish the church's attempts to articulate the mystery of Christ, including the language of Chalcedon. Our great creeds from the 4th and 5th centuries were doing important work for their time: seeking to articulate an evolving understanding of God in contemporary thought forms and cultural settings. I think we face an important question today: if the Gospel of Jesus, a Jew, could be radically reinterpreted in the framework of Greek philosophy and Roman politics in the church's first five centuries, is it forever bound a limited to function within those exclusive parameters? Or is it free to enter and engage with new cultures and thought patterns, including our own - learning both positive and negative lessons from its earlier engagements?

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  • February 16, 2015

    "ISIL's Barbarity Knows No Bounds"

    THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 15, 2015 Statement by the Press Secretary on the Murder of Egyptian Citizens The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens. ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect, or ethnicity. This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL. This heinous act once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya, the continuation of which only benefits terrorist groups, including ISIL. We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.
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  • Some churches that need your help ...

    Several churches from Evangelical backgrounds have in recent months made the decision to welcome LGBT persons as equals in their congregations. They knew they would pay a price for this decision, as some people would no longer want to be a part of or support their churches. Others, in time, will make the opposite decision, to join and support them because of this stand … but in the meantime, I hope many of us can show support from a distance.

    1. Here's a message from Ryan Meeks at Eastlake Church in Seattle:

    Ryan Financial Update from EastLake Community Church Media on Vimeo.

    To give, go here.

    2. In Portland, Adam Philips leads a new church plant called Christ Church:

    3. One of my highlights of 2014 was visiting GracePointe Church in Tennessee. What a beautiful spirit, and what a rich worship experience! I recently watched Pastor Stan Mitchell's sermon online in which he explained how the church was changing its policies to end discrimination against LGBT people. I was deeply moved. Along with the courage to take a stand, GracePointe has set an example of graciousness toward those who don't feel they can move forward with them on this journey. With a heart like that, I know that whatever the short-term stress, there will be long-term blessing and joy. Here's the sermon (the section on inclusion begins at 44:00).

    Living Between Emmanuel & Epiphany Part 3 - GracePointe Church from GracePointe Church on Vimeo.

    You can support GracePointe here.

    It's not easy making a change like this, and I know that no pastor or leadership team would make such a decision lightly. As someone who grew up in segregated churches that were slow to acknowledge the injustice of racial exclusion, I am sensitive to the courage it takes to follow Christ on the path of inclusion, compassion, repentance, and justice.

    I wish I could be present to express my support to these congregations and others like them, but I hope these words will send a big dose of encouragement, and I hope many of my blog readers will show support financially too. (If you've been wishing for a church in your area like these three, maybe you can start supporting from a distance longer term?)

    I expect that in the coming years, dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of churches will forge a similar path. GracePoint in Tennessee, Eastlake in Seattle, Christ Church in Portland, Cedar Ridge in Maryland, and many other similar churches will stand as trailblazers whose example inspires and encourages others.

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  • February 15, 2015

  • February 14, 2015

    An opportunity for creative, innovative Christian leaders

    My friend Spencer Burke is focused on raising up Innovators who are committed to living out the message of Jesus in a way that impacts the...

    ▪ New – never been to church before.
    ▪ Nones – no affiliation with a religion.
    ▪ Next – involving people 22-29.


    Based in Redondo Beach, California, HATCHERY is an incubator that provides world class teaching and a residential learning program for social transformation entrepreneurs who want to invest in a local community by launching a sustainable Common Cause Community.

    ▪ A “Common” journey in the way of Jesus.
    ▪ A “Cause” to rally around on a regular basis.
    ▪ A “Community” of people where relationships are nurtured.

    As the future blurs the line between ministries and churches, the Hatchery will be at the forefront of the transition from "teaching-centric" to "service-centric" church planting. They offer a hybrid between a Seminary and an MBA program, holding the tension between the best of non-profit NGOs and the best of what church communities create.

    THEIR FIRST CLASS ARRIVES ON SEPTEMBER 15, 2015. Interested? Check this out!

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