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A reader writes from Egypt: Seeing God in a More Charitable Light

Here's a note from a reader of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World).

Mr. McLaren,

I've been voraciously reading your books for the past 6 months after I read through "A New Kind of Christian" with my pastor at University Baptist Church in Waco, TX. As a Baylor student and a religion/theology major (and Arabic minor), the things you have to say resonate with me. I especially appreciate your quoting Jonathan Tran, one of my former ethics professors, in your new book, which I'm currently reading while studying abroad in Cairo. I have two comments to make:

1. Your new book about religious plurality (with the cumbersome title--I won't try to reproduce it here) is especially applicable here in the Middle East, in a country with a Christian minority around 5-8%. As I'm reading the book, the American flag is being burned in the street here and in other close countries in protest of an inflammatory hate-speech movie which is inciting violence and unrest. It's good to have definitive solutions still rooted in robust tradition; for a lot of my life I've identified just as you did in the beginning, a hostile evangelical. But thanks to writing like yours and others', I've been helped to see God in a more charitable (and illuminating, and true!) light. And because of that, I now have a platform here, in classes with Muslim students and nonreligious students from the States and Europe, to practice what you write about: mutual respect and help for growth for religious traditions that are (consciously or not) waiting for and working toward the Kingdom of God. So thank you!

2. Also, I'd like to point you toward the work of another professor I've had at Baylor (who recently accepted a position at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago), Dr. Reggie Williams. Dr. Williams is doing important work with "black theology" in conversation with the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, focusing on Bonhoeffer's ideologically transformative time spent in New York City and Harlem specifically. His dissertation, “Christ-Centered Empathic Resistance: The Influence of Harlem Renaissance Theology on the Incarnational Ethic of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is well worth the read, and is indicative of an encouraging direction of both contemporary Protestant/Evangelical scholarship and Baylor University's religion department in general. Also, I couldn't have learned from a better man (although, of course, he'd say his desire is to know neither good nor evil but to know only God!).

In closing, thank you for the effect you've had on my life. I thank God for you and the way he's made you to see the world. Keep doing what you're doing!! I hope you have time to read this, but if not, I won't be offended at all. After all, you've got some pretty important things to do! :)

Thanks for this note, for the encouragement, and for these excellent recommendations. Keep up the good work in Cairo!