The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way To Be Christian by Brian D. McLaren
Reviewed by Rev. Matthew J. Seargeant
As a former Christian conservative pastor, Brian McLaren has some perspective and insight into the mindset of that tradition. Yet, some of his recent publications have set him at odds with past allies, many of whom have branded him a heretic. In The Great Spiritual Migration, McLaren points out some troubling aspects of modern Christianity, while contending (accurately, I believe) that these are often the result of poor scholarship and bad theology. Perhaps most importantly, he reminds us that while this faith has traditionally been about movement (a journey), as well as evolution of thought and action, the Church is designed for self-preservation, institutionalization, and stagnation. This has led to a migration away from the Church, toward a more organic [my word] spirituality. McLaren believes the Church can and should find a way to step into this void. He continually suggests that following Jesus requires us to act in love and inclusivity. And, while he doesn’t offer easy solutions, I believe his hope is to open the eyes of the reader to the reality facing Christianity, and to help lead toward intentional work toward solutions for the future.
Religion Month Encore
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren
Total Reading Time: 3.25 hours
Review: Why can’t we all just get along? No, seriously, why not? Rev. McLaren makes a passionately persuasive argument that it is imperative to ameliorate the horrible hostility among religions and the religious/nonreligious. He advocates a position that he himself admits is radical and subversive: that we can share our faith without requiring conversion and in return we should gratefully receive the treasures offered by other faiths without feeling the need to convert. It would be a complete paradigm shift from the current religious atmosphere of “I’m right and you’re going to hell.” It’s completely necessary and we can do it without losing all that is good about our respective beliefs, without losing our Christian identity. Because guess what? That’s how Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed would do it.
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong
Total Reading Time: 3 hours
Review: I will let Bishop Spong’s elegant & thoughtful words speak for themselves. “The task of the modern Christian is to have the living Word that moves beneath the literal words of the Bible erupt to call people into life and into the task of building an inclusive community where Christ is seen in all persons, where those in Christ can begin to respect the dignity of every human being, and where all people can begin to respond to the presence of God that is over, under, around and through all of life.” “Men and women, homosexual persons and heterosexual persons, all races, nationalities, and persons of any ethnic background, all communists and capitalists, rich and poor, old and young, religious and nonreligious, Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus, atheists and agnostics–all persons reflect the holiness of God, for all are made in God’s image. How can I enslave, segregate, denigrate, oppress, violate, or victimize one who bears the image of the Holy One? That is the Word of God I meet in the Bible.”
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus J. Borg
Total Reading Time: 1.75 hours
Review: Part lesson on the historical Jesus & part lesson on how accepting a different image of Jesus than the one taken literally from the Bible can help move “beyond believing in God to being in a relationship to God.” And I definitely think that the world would be a better place if more people had a relationship to God rather than simply believing in God. Although I wholeheartedly acknowledge that a relationship to God takes more courage & faith than just believing. Still, I wish more people would meet the Jesus I just read about especially those who think they already know him.
Note: For the next month, I’ll be reading books about religion. My father has generously given me some good suggestions and I’m looking forward to it. So here it goes…
The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction About Jesus by John Dominic Crossan
Total Reading Time: 4.75 hours
Review: I was immediately struck by Professor Crossan’s impressive academic vocabulary. However, if you’re scared of words like paradigmatically, eschatological or asceticism, you might want to think twice about this book. I imagine this book is a lot like sitting in one of Professor Crossan’s lectures. I tried my best to keep up with the profound nature of his religious academia and I hope I retain even a small amount. Although, I’m pretty sure, as a preacher’s kid, I find this stuff overly fascinating. Case in point: I’ve grown up hearing the term “apocalyptic eschatology” over and over, so much that when I read (and finally understood) it here, I had a nostalgic reaction which I’m guessing most people wouldn’t.