Reading a Brian D. McLaren book is very similar to eating an entire lemon marring pie by yourself: it’s sweet at times, troubling at others, a lot to take in and hard to finish. With that being said, his latest venture into disrupting the Christian status-quo, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddah, and Mohammed Cross the Road, is most likely the best book on theology I’ve ever read.
I’m not saying I agreed with every sentence—or even understood every sentence—but I think McLaren appropriately tackles a giant issue usually ignored and commonly mishandled in the modern Church (that big C is on purpose).
So before I breakdown my review, I will just say: yes, go read this book. It will answer questions, ask even more questions, and cause you to examine, test, and filter your faith in ways you may never have wanted to—though desperately needed to.
Here’s the gist:
-Friendships with personal agendas are not friendships. If we seek out people only to change them (or convert), then we are not loving missionaries but religious salesmen.
“Shouldn’t it be possible to have a strong Christian identity that is strongly benevolent toward people of other faiths, accepting them not in spite of the religion they love, but with the religion they love?”
-There are generally two views of a Christian multi-faith perspective (three if you include moderate in the middle): Weak/Benign or Strong/Hostile.
“Christians settle on the right side not because they want hostility but because they want a strong faith identity. Christians clutter on the left side not because they want weakness but because they don’t want hostility”
McLaren goes on to say that there could exist a new identity altogether, introducing the main theme of his book: a “Strong/Benevolent” identity.
-Instead of looking for ways to change other people in other religions, we should be healing the body of Christ first. If we are to look to other religions, it should be in ways of working together for the “common good.”
“…the choice to live not for our own selfish interests alone, and not for the groupish interests of our clan or caste or civilization alone, but for the common good, the good of all creation.”
McLaren doesn’t take the challenge lightly. All the research, arguments and counterarguments are incredibly arranged and well-written.
My favorite spot in the book was his reflection upon Christopher Columbus, Constantine, and the Crusades; how all these horrific figures and events changed the face of Christianity—from that of love to domination and oppression. In consequence, McLaren argues, other religions sprouted; not in opposition to Christ but to his followers and the bloodshed that followed them.
Another quick note was McLaren’s take on Christ himself. Though not demeaning his death and resurrection in any way, he states that if we frame our perspective differently, it will add more value to it.
Was Jesus’ death simply a substitution sacrifice for a bloodthirsty, limited god, or rather, the largest stance of peace on earth ever to be proclaimed, forever changing to fate of history and setting humanity free? (summarized from text).
As I first mentioned, the book is a lot to take in. At times, it seems as if McLaren crammed as many cans of worms between the covers as he could find. Many topics are brought into the conversation only to be featured as a sentence, paragraph, footnote, or even chapter; though they add value, they are not fully explored. Some issues may have been better left out entirely instead of the surface depth exploration they were allotted. Some readers may enjoy that aspect, I found it distracting from the core theme.
Speaking of distraction, there are more footnotes than anyone reader could ever really do anything with. He puts them at the bottom of the page; since they are in view, I feel I must read them. By the time I finish with his branching thought, I forgot where I was earlier and get lost. So a little warning: stay away from the footnotes, or rather, at least pick and choose those that interest you.
They are books within books.
My perfect bible study would revolve around this text. Not because I agree with it all and only want to read what I want to read, but because I think it would be impossible to get enough people to agree on everything in it. And it would be a fun and rewarding challenge for those daring enough to take their faith outside the comfort zone.
And yes, we Christians need to change some things.
My final thought:
Don’t skip this book just because McLaren is labeled “emergent.” Mother Theresa is labeled “catholic,” though I’ve been hearing protestants quote her my whole life. Labels are just a way to keep people from learning from each other and from loving each other.
We’re all just men and women anyways.
Now go buy the book!