A July 4th Moment

I was walking hand in hand with one of my granddaughters on the beach yesterday. We were hatching grand plans to construct a sand castle together. On the way to the beach we passed a lot of flags and other July 4th trimmings, and my granddaughter asked me, "What is July 4th about, anyway?"

Truth be told, I wasn't exactly "in the July 4 spirit," if there is such a thing. It felt hard for me to do anything other than lament yesterday, watching what is happening in this country ... a great reversion or great regression, you might say, the 2016-2018 moral counterpart of the great economic recession of 2008.

Believing that a child's question is a sacred thing, I told her about the Declaration of Independence, and she, an avid learner, summarized what I said. "So basically, July 4th is celebrating when those guys said they wanted to have their own country and not be colonies of England."

"That's it," I said. But I couldn't let that be the whole story. "They said that all men are created equal, which was a good start. But unfortunately, when they said 'all people,' they didn't really mean all people."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, only thought that white people were equal."

"What do you mean?" she asked again.

I realized that the concept of "white" hadn't yet colonized her mind.

"The thought only men with light-colored skin like them were equal. They thought it was OK to steal the land of the beautiful brown-skinned native people who were here first, and they thought it was OK to enslave the wonderful black-skinned people they kidnapped from Africa."

"That was so unfair!" she said.

"That's what it was," I agreed. "That's why we have to work really hard to be sure America is better in the future that it has been in the past, so that in the new America, all people are treated with ..."

She finished my sentence: "Kindness."

"That's it," I said.

My granddaughter is half European (I want to avoid using the racial term "white" in the future - believing that whiteness itself is a polluted construct). Her other half is Korean, and even though I don't think she has any real concept yet of whiteness, raciality or bi-raciality, I do think she is being formed in the mindset, not of the old racist America, but of a new America with liberty and justice for all.

My granddaughter gives me hope.

Yes, America's history is racist. No honest or rational person could question that fact. And yes, American's present is racist too, with America's current president and his sycophantic Congress proclaiming their nostalgia for that racist time.

And yes, sadly, a lot of the festivities yesterday celebrated that nostalgia.

And yes, Max Boot, a conservative commentator, spoke truly of the Republican Party today (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/max-boot-democrat-midterm-takeover_us_5b3d7b35e4b09e4a8b29d1cb), when he said:

“Now it’s a white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe... The current GOP still has a few resemblances to the party of old — it still cuts taxes and supports conservative judges. But a vote for the GOP in November is also a vote for egregious obstruction of justice, rampant conflicts of interest, the demonization of minorities, the debasement of political discourse, the alienation of America’s allies, the end of free trade and the appeasement of dictators."

All that is true. And it can't be denied.

But it's not the whole truth.


My granddaughter represents a possible future for America that we can encourage and tend.

The future can be different.

It can.


If you want to charge up your hope in that better future today, I hope you'll invest 32 minutes in this sermon by my friend Otis Moss III.

This is, in short, one of the best sermons I've ever heard.

Check out "This is America, But Don't Lose Hope."

Otis exegetes Matthew 25 alongside a video by Childish Gambino. I promise you - you'll be glad you listened from start to end.

We have lots of packed churches. But how many impact churches will we have in the years ahead?

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Q & R: Sorry, I’m not going to answer this, and here’s why …

Here's the Q:
My mom gave me your book, The Great Spiritual Migration, to read. Scanning it, it seems you are replacing existing creeds with your own new one?

I am skeptical, so can you state in a paragraph or two, or point me to them, of exactly what you are saying.

Have seen the challenges of religion, have seen how denominationalism created divisions but prevented burnings at the stake, and have seen brilliant and loving leaders handle the gospel and the existence of an intimate God with excellence.

How would you summarize your final proposition, and given your lengthy journey with so many changes to date, is this your final landing point or maybe the next in what you are thinking through?

Here's the R:
Thanks for your questions, but I'm sorry, I won't be answering them. And I thought I should explain why.

You say that you skimmed my book, which means you didn't actually read it. Your comment about creeds makes that point especially clear.

And now you're asking me to summarize it in a paragraph or two?

I don't write books to tell people what to think, nor do I write books so that people don't need to think on their own.

I write books for the same reason I love to read books - I like to think, and books help me do so.

I love to spend time in the company of a writer who has thought about things I haven't thought about, or who sees from a vantage point from which I've never seen.

So that's why I write, to do for others what I enjoy people doing for me.

One of my mentors said, "Learning isn't a consequence of teaching and listening (or writing and reading), but of thinking."

To help people learn, I try to stimulate their thinking, and books are one channel for doing that.

I heard a story about someone asking a dancer if he could explain the meaning of his dance. "If I could have explained it, I wouldn't have danced it," he said. I suppose the same thing applies to writers. If I could have stimulated the learning I was hoping for in a paragraph, I would have written a paragraph, not a book.

I assume you didn't mean for your question to be insulting or demeaning, but it would be easy to take it that way. Something to keep in mind ...

I thought that this feedback would be more helpful than anything I could say as a direct answer to your questions.

On the positive side, even your skimming of the book seems to have gotten you thinking, and that's a good thing. And it took some energy or initiative to write to me, and that's a good thing too. God bless.

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Here's the Press Release from Fortress Press:

Best-Selling Author Pens Spiritual Travel Guide, Launches Series

Brian McLaren, noted author and activist, travels to the fragile Galapagos Islands, site of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary discoveries, to write a book on spirituality and human care for the planet

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Brian McLaren, the best-selling author of A New Kind of Christian, has long challenged his fellow Christians to care for the environment. This month, McLaren is traveling to the Galapagos Islands, known to scientists as a bellwether of climate change and its effects on flora and fauna. Based on his visit, he will write a spiritual travel guide to the islands, weaving together history, theology, and the impressions of the people he meets and the species under threat.

“For me, the Galapagos Islands are an intersection of things I love . . . a preserve for unique and threatened living creatures, a case study in the power of human beings to protect and restore fragile ecosystems that we’ve harmed, and a key location in the history of science,” said McLaren. “This pilgrimage will give me an opportunity to reflect on ecology, theology, and spirituality in a dynamic and evolving relationship”

McLaren’s book is the first in the new On Location series from Fortress Press, in which established authors will write spiritual travel guides to exotic and not-so-exotic locales.

“Honestly, I want to give some of my favorite authors a chance to visit—or revisit—places they’ve always wanted to go,” said Tony Jones, senior acquisitions editor at Fortress Press and curator of the series. “I know if I let them loose in a place that inspires them, fantastic books will follow.”

McLaren’s book will release in late 2019, followed annually by other books in the series.

Readers can follow McLaren’s travels June 21–29, 2018, on his blog (https://brianmclaren.net/blog/) and on Instagram (@brian_mclaren).


Contact: Katie Clifford

I leave Thursday, June 21, and I'll be posting primarily via Instragram.

If you'd like to receive notifications about the book, you can sign up here in a matter of seconds:


I'm excited to share this experience with you!

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Pastors – Join me on a retreat in October!

I'll be co-leading a retreat with the gifted and amazing Aisha Brooks-Lytle, Executive Presbyter of Greater Atlanta. We'll gather at Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina.

Our theme:

Building a Multi-Denominational/Multi-Faith Spiritual Movement

Growing numbers of pastors, denominational officials, and other spiritual leaders are seeing that we face two interrelated challenges in the next decade: building vibrant spiritual communities in these changing and fractious times, and helping those congregations converge in a larger spiritual movement that is multi-denominational and multi-faith as well.

Only 30 seats are available for this amazing event. Don't miss out!

You can learn more here ...


With all that's going on in our world, getting away for a few days of spiritual refreshment, renewal, and mutual encouragement will matter a lot ...

I hope you'll sign up asap!

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Q & R: Fundamentalism?

Here's the Q:

Doubt I will get an answer but In have to try.
In your books, there has been a few different places where you make a point that a term a fundamentalist uses (Inerrancy and Infalability) or some other word conservative Christians use that is not in the bible. If anything, you sound more propositional than I do. If this is the standard for hermeneutics, I am wandering if you can detail which passages of scriptures details the ideas or words of Emergence, Emerging, Emergent, and Emergentism? I looked in the bible and they are not there! (I use Logos 7 for my main bible study tool and that is where I looked).
On a different subject, am wandering if you could explain to me who in fundamentalism decided to do some reductionism and make fundamentalism a foundational construction? Charles Spurgeon? Maybe D. M. Moody? I keep reading how fundamentalism is supposed to be foundational but just cannot seem to find anywhere who decided to reduce doctrine down to the Fundamentals of the faith-to five doctrines? Was there a team of scholars who did this work or just one or two people? My big problem is usually with people who can tell me but cannot show me why something is true or false. Maybe that is the real reason I only lasted three semesters in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible College.
Back to my questions, so who decided fundamentalism would be foundational and who did the work to reduce everything down to five doctrines. Along with this, what did they reduce it from and could they reduce it even further? I would say yes.
Thanks for at least reading my email to you
Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. The very best book I can recommend to help with your questions about fundamentalism and foundationalism would be Beyond Foundationalism by John Franke and Stan Grenz. Another great book on the subject  - but a bit more philosophical/academic - is Nancey Murphy's Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism.
As you'll see from both of these books, the roots of fundamentalism go back way before Moody in the 20th century and even before Spurgeon in the 19th. You could go back to Descartes in the 17th Century, and even farther back than that.
If you want to read a contemporary site that reflects a fundamentalist emphasis on "the five fundamentals," here's one:
You might also be interested in a CT article on the origins of American Christian fundamentalism, highlighting the close relationship between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.
There are social and political dimensions to American fundamentalism that I think are important to understand as well. Two voices I respect on these dimensions are Randall Balmer and Kevin Kruse. Their books are excellent, and you can also read them online. You might check out:
You might be interested in my chapter on Fundamentalism in A Generous Orthodoxy too (Chapter 12). There I wrote (playfully, but seriously too):
For me the "fundamentals of the faith" boil down to those given by Jesus: to love God and to love our neighbors. These two fundamentals will not satisfy many fundamentalists, I fear. They'll insist on asking, "Which God are we supposed to love? The God of the Baptists or the Brethren, the God of the Calvinists or the Methodists, the God of the Muslims or the Jews?" I'll respond by saying, "Whichever God Jesus was referring to." Then, still unsatisfied, they'll probably ask, "What exactly do you mean by love? And who is my neighbor?" At that point I'll probably mutter something incoherent about Samaritans and walk away.
My most recent book begins with a more extended reflection on love-centered Christianity - The Great Spiritual Migration. 

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