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Beauty Abounds

A wonderful song by Joe Ramsey ... perfect for a Sunday.


Wisdom from a North Carolina pastor ... Someone you should know


How about a trip to Ireland in August?

Last summer I had a brilliant time in Ireland guesting on a retreat designed and led by my friend Gareth Higgins. It's a feast for the soul - immersed in storytelling, landscape, creativity and peace. The experience was a profound lesson in how one society is emerging from violent conflict, and an embodiment of how the external process of making peace in the world mirrors the inner journey of becoming whole within.

Gareth is bringing another group of pilgrims back to Ireland in August - just three months from now. He'll be joined this time by another friend of mine, the amazing musician David Wilcox, and you're welcome too! I loved this trip, and folk who have attended these trips have considered them life-changing. I think there are important gifts here for anyone who cares about reducing violence and transforming the political culture in the US from despair to hope. The trip is fun too! (There's music and laughter and new friendships, and you also get to see beautiful mountains and rivers, and drink Guinness (or Irish spring water) in its natural habitat!)

If you're interested in learning more, you can find the details at www.irelandretreats.com


Like to Color?

Check this out!


Q & R: Debate? Dialogue?

Here's the Q:

Quick question: way back when you were at CRCC, you organized a debate between people who were pro-going into Iraq and against. You moderated the panel and had a systematic series of steps - I remember asking people for the strength of their opponents' argument and the weakness of their own at some point.
Is this approach described somewhere? Named?
I'm thinking of using something similar at work of all places. I hope you'll remember.

Here's the R:
Actually, I think it was a "faith in politics forum" around a presidential election - in 2004? I think it was something like, "Here's why I as a Christian support John Kerry" and "Here's why I as a Christian support George W. Bush." I remember my pastoral goal was to create a space in our congregation for Christians to model civil discourse because, as you know, we had people who were passionate participants in diverse political parties.

I don't think there's a formal description of that method ... it's something I developed way back when I was an English teacher to help people understand and develop arguments. The basic idea went like this:

1. Allow an advocate to speak (time limited)
2. Invite others to rephrase key ideas in their own words, with a brief response by original speaker. (Yes, that's what I was saying.... No, that's not it.... That's partially what I was saying.)
3. Invite respondents to find points or values of agreement/common ground (only).
4. Invite respondents to express points of disagreement/difference.
5. Repeat process (1-4) with next advocate, always seeking fair restatement and agreement before disagreement.
6. Invite speakers to summarize strengths of their opponents' arguments and weaknesses of their own.
7. Invite speakers to summarize the main strength of their own argument.

Most people pit their strengths against their opponents' weaknesses, ignoring their weaknesses and their opponents' strengths. Just getting beyond that impasse is a good thing. This is related to the famous johari window - https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/JohariWindow.htm and appreciative inquiry -
https://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/whatisai.cfm. I also think it's related to the wisdom described in James 3:17-18.


Q & R: Missional? Emerging?

Here's the Q:
I am currently doing a research paper on the Emerging Church and the
Missional Church and how the two terms relate to each other for my
missiology studies. I would greatly appreciate any academic material
you could send me relating to these topics. My studies reveal that you
are one of the leading founders of the term Emerging Church. What is
your involvement and knowledge on the Missional Church?

Here's the R:

Thanks for your question. Short answer ... I think that everyone who would feel resonance with "emerging church" would also feel resonance with "missional church." I think some who feel resonance with "missional church" would not want to be associated with "emerging church." The reasons are complicated, but mostly relate to how tied people are to traditional theological and ecclesial assumptions.

Both terms, as you know, are defined differently by different people. As I understand the terms, missional church reflects the belief that God's sphere of concern is not just the church, but all of creation. The church, in missional theology, is God's agent of transformation and healing for the sake of the world. In missional theology, the gospel is a transformation plan, not an evacuation plan. It is focused not on airlifting souls to heaven, but on transforming lives so they can be agents of God's will being done "on earth as in heaven." The emerging church works from those missional premises and asks, "If that is true, what does that mean for the church? How will the church change to cooperate with God's saving love for all creation?" Those are easy words to say, but deeply challenging - and unsettling - and liberating - if we take them seriously.

My books, especially Secret Message of Jesus, Everything Must Change, We Make the Road by Walking, and my upcoming book, The Great Spiritual Migration, explore these issues in greater depth, and I hope they will be helpful in your studies.


Q & R: 6 Framing Stories

Here's the Q:

I pastor a church in Southern California. I’ve been using the Six Framing Stories found in one of Pastor Brian’s talks to help people understand the stories in which they are currently living in. Could you help me find further research and/or books I can use to delve into this a bit more?

The Six Framing Stories I believe Pastor Brian gave is found here: http://www.slideshare.net/markbradford/mars-hill-which-story-do-we-live-in-brian-mclaren-pdf-presentation

Thank you for your time and all your hard work for the Kingdom.

Here's the R:
I'm so glad you've found that slideshow helpful. I haven't written more about these narratives since introducing them in my book Everything Must Change ... but I hope to return to this material in a future book. I'm grateful for your interest!


Creation in Your Spiritual Life ...

Here are some excellent resources: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa0q1BIzZ_Y1d58Zt4a8IfYzPnjDfBV5K


Wisdom about Interfaith Understanding

From Jim Burklo, here: http://tcpc.blogs.com/musings/2016/04/seven-principles-of-interfaith-engagement.html

You may also be interested in my book on the subject ...


Q & R: Naked Spirituality for a Summer Sermon Series

Here's the Q:

Good afternoon! I hope that this finds you well... Without taking up too much of your time, I wanted to briefly pick your brain in hopes that there might be some wisdom that we here could benefit off of.

This Summer, at [our congregation] we are planning on going through your book, Naked Spirituality, where we will look at a word every week. Each of us are super excited about it and are curious if you have any advice as to how we could best maximize this experience. Have you seen churches go through this really well? If you were leading a church, are there any rhythmic practices that you’d incorporate as you go through the 12 words? Are there any extra resources that would be great companions for a community as they go through your book?

I know that you’re incredibly busy, but if you have any wisdom to offer up on this, we’d be grateful.

Here's the R:
I'm thrilled you're doing this. I wrote the book in hopes it would be used in exactly this way. You'll find a bunch of resources here:

And here, various congregations have shared their resources.

Also, if you have folks interested in yoga, we developed a whole course integrating the 12 words with physical movement. Info here:


60 gifts I'm grateful for (Part 6/final)

51. Travel - I've been in 40+ countries in my life, and I am so grateful that my dad instilled in me a love for travel at a young age. I never had a passport until I was about 40, so these last twenty years have been an incredible education ... and a great blessing.

52. The Earth - the more of it I've gotten to see, the more I realize what a miracle it is. From the Big Bang until now, it has evolved and survived incredible catastrophes. My little 60 years is a blip in its amazing career. Plate tectonics, the magnetic field, the moon and tides, seasons, winds, polar ice caps, rainforests, ocean currents, the carbon cycle ... every dimension of the earth fills me with wonder and awe, and gratitude to the Creator. I realize that even this body in which I happen is composed of molecules that were once in stars, then in interstellar dust, then in rock and soil, then in other living creatures. I have borrowed a small share of matter and energy for 60 years and will someday relinquish my share for others to use and enjoy. What a gift!

53. My professional team ... my literary agent Kathy, my booking agent Laci, my fellow Senior Fellows at Auburn, my colleagues in Convergence and Center for Progressive Renewal, my fellow writers: I am surrounded by talented and good-hearted people, for whom I am deeply grateful.

54. Publishers: My career as a writer (almost 20 years of my 60) has coincided with a time of transition in the book industry, and I know it's not easy to be a publisher in these times. That's why I'm grateful that Zondervan took a risk on a new "young" writer in 1998. Then I'm grateful my later partnerships with Jossey-Bass, Thomas Nelson, HarperOne, Jericho, and now Penguin/Random House/Convergent. Thanks to all the editors who have worked with me. I'm proud of what we've accomplished together.

55. Sabbatical: A couple years ago, I started feeling tired ... not just physically, but in my brain. Because my speaking gigs are scheduled 1.5 to 2 years out, I knew that when I stepped on the brakes, it would take that long to stop. I'm so grateful that I could take this time (guided by a coach/therapist provided by Auburn Senior Fellows program) to reassess and get a fresh vision (aided by several friends and colleagues) for what my highest and best contribution can be for the years ahead. And I'm grateful that my wife has been putting food on the table for us this year!

56. Plans: I've always been a planner and goal-setter, and I'm so grateful that during this sabbatical, clarity has been gradually emerging about my future.

57. Spiritual Practices: I'm grateful for the practices I learned back when I was in college ... journaling, spiritual direction/mentoring, practicing the Presence, Bible reading and prayer ... and for the practices I've learned more recently (like the value of sabbatical). They have sustained me and enriched my life immeasurably.

58. Possessions: My guitars, my laptop, my faithful old "sport utility Prius," my kayaks and fly rods, my home and yard (and mango trees), and my new birthday present - the best bike I've ever owned. Someone once said materialism isn't about overvaluing possessions; it's about undervaluing them (so that you don't appreciate what you have, but only want what you don't have). I'm so grateful for what I have.

59. The Future: Since I believe that God is with us, I believe that we will never be abandoned, and I face the future with hope and joy.

60. This moment. Now. This breath. This heartbeat. Thanks be to God.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this list as much as I've enjoyed writing it.


Working without Caring

On a day off, you may find my friend Jeffrey Olrick and me paddling our kayaks in the waters of Southwest Florida where we live. Jeffrey wrote the following after a recent outing:

The Book of Genesis declares that we are made for this earth to "work and care" for it. I am thinking about these words as I return from the water. The water, for me, is my place of recovery. A refuge. Four days a week I do holy work as a therapist. But it's in an office. With a very small window. And I'm an introvert. In the middle of those four work days, on Wednesday, I go to the water to fish in my kayak. Normally, the water feeds my soul.

But today it grieved my soul. The water was barren. Where there should have been acres of seagrass, there was only mud and patches of algae. For those who do not spend their time on the water, such a change in landscape is hard to appreciate. It would be the equivalent of revisiting a mature forest, home to a rich ecosystem of animals big and small, and finding it clearcut with only scrub bushes left behind. And for no reason. Not even a shiny new development to put in its place.

How did this happen in my home of Southwest Florida? The same way that it happens all over this planet every day: powerful corporations have been given the right to "work" the land without in any way "caring" for it.

In our case, three sugar companies receive the bulk of 1 billion in federal loans annually, plus subsidies that cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions annually. (1) Supported in this way, these companies grow sugar on land that is meant to be a flowing sheet of water draining a lake half the size of Rhode Island. During wet periods, excess water backs up in Lake Okeechobee; meanwhile, these companies back-pump polluted waters into the lake from their lands to keep them dry. This brown mess is then redirected to two magnificent estuaries that have no natural connection to the lake, Indian River Lagoon (2) on the east coast of Florida and San Carlos Bay via the Caloosahatchie River (3) on the Southwest coast of Florida. (4)

This winter in south Florida we had the wettest January on record. The resultant flow of water as been above the maximum discharge that the San Carlos and Indian Lagoon estuaries can handle without major ecological damage for over 2 months running.

And so it was, that today I saw what work without care looks like in my little corner of this Creation. There I sat, in my kayak in the middle of San Carlos Bay, floating over an underwater desert where only months earlier had been a vibrant seagrass forest, weeping.

And angry. Time and time again we are told that the value of working the land (without caring for it) is always worth the cost so long as it means jobs and economic activity. But the problem is that we are never given a full accounting of the costs of economic activity, including health costs, or devaluation costs, or environmental costs. When those costs inevitably arrive, they are almost always born by you and me (not to mention our fellow creatures), while the corporations continue to rake in profits. A 2015 Florida Realtors report estimated that the property owners of just one county affected by the last Big O discharge event in 2013 lost 488 million dollars in property value as a result of that single event.(5) When the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved by Congress in 2000 to fix South Florida's version of work without care, the price tag was estimated at 10.5 billion dollars.(6) Big Sugar agreed to pay 320 million of the bill.(7) You and I are left with the rest of the 10 million tag.

So, what costs are you in line to pay to let a few profit by working God's beautiful earth without caring for it? If we don't insist that our elected officials care more diligently on the front end, we will surely be stuck with a bill on the back end that we may or may not be willing or able to afford.


Jeffrey Olrick is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Southwest Florida with his wife and 3 children. He is an excellent fisherman!


60 gifts I'm grateful for (Part 5)

41. Colleagues: I have great memories of all the people I worked with, from fast food (remember Burger Chef?) and construction (Mop-It & Co, and roofing), to summer camp, to teaching at universities and colleges, and my 24 years at Cedar Ridge. I wish I could have been a better boss to those who worked under me (that was certainly not my strong suit as a pastor), but I am so grateful for every person with whom I've been a colleague, including the amazing people I work with now through publishing, Convergence, and other organizations.

42. Cedar Ridge Community Church: The 24 years I enjoyed as part of this amazing community are so close to my heart. There are no words for my gratitude, especially to Bill & Shobha Duncan who were our companions through it all. I just learned I'll be back for my book tour this fall, which will be such a joy.

43. Long-Term friends: Thinking of CRCC brings so many people to mind ... too many to name, people we may only see occasionally now, but whenever we do, it's like picking up right where we left off. You know who you are, and please know that I thank God for you. (Maybe next year I'll list 61 people I'm most grateful for ...)

44. Forgiveness: When I think of people I've known through the years, I have regrets for those whom I've hurt or disappointed, or been hurt or disappointed or hurt by. But then I think of how forgiveness and grace allow us to let those hurts and disappointments go, and I feel a wave of gratitude for each relationship that struggled because it gave us the opportunity to embody the grace of God to one another. What a gift! Thanks be to God.

45. Critics: My critics (I hope someone will forward this to them!) have meant a lot to me. They helped me see how insecure I was; they kept me on my toes; they challenged me to think deeper and work harder, and they forced me to develop courage and confidence that I never would have developed otherwise. As one of my favorite prayers says, critics are really friends in disguise. How can I not be grateful for them?

46. Literature and Poetry: I remember being a boy and reading "My Side of the Mountain" and "Robinson Crusoe." They woke up my boyhood imagination. Then I remember in high school discovering e.e. cummings, and in college, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, and William Wordsworth. In graduate school came my great literary mentor, Walker Percy. Literature, and especially poetry, have been such a big part of my 60 years of life. I am so grateful. Who would have guessed in those undergraduate Advanced Composition classes that I would become a writer?

47. The Bible: It dawned on me (I know, it's obvious to many people) when I was a graduate student studying literature and critical theory that the Bible was, in fact, great literature. No literature has had the effect on me that the Bible has, especially Genesis, the Four Gospels, and Paul's epistles. Matthew 5-7, John 12-17, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 13 have been the most important texts to shape these 60 years. Thanks be to God!

48. Social Media: I started blogging relatively early, and now, adding Facebook and Twitter and more, I realize that social media are so important to me. I'm especially grateful for all the bloggers and tweeters whom I follow, and all who follow me.

49. Writing (and readers): I started journaling in college and writing has been a medium of thinking and reflection for me, not just of communication. I love the whole process ... asking questions, writing furiously fast first drafts, revising and editing, having the courage to dump thousands of words and start over, fine tuning. Of course, I am deeply grateful for all who read what I write!

50. My country. I'm grateful for the USA ... for the beauty of the land, for the people, for our history with all its glory and horror (for inspiration and education). Watching the ugliness that is currently being displayed in our politics makes me all the more grateful for those times when we put our best foot forward. I'm deeply grateful for President Obama, who, I believe, will be shown by history to have been a far greater president (yoked to a far worse Congress) than most people currently realize. I'm sure I'd feel similar gratitude whatever country I was born in, but since I was born in the USA, that's the country I'm especially grateful for.


60 Gifts I'm Grateful for (Part 4)

31. Childhood friends ... I think back to Delayne, Robbie, Paul, Dave, Alan, Bruce, Peter, Rob, Dave, Scott, MaryLou, Gail, and so many more. What great friends to grow up with!

32. Childhood Church ... our family was at church 2 or 3 times a week, and although I remember a lot of boredom, I also gained so much from the singing, preaching, prayer, worship, and fellowship.

33. The Fellowship ... I was part of an amazing group of people in high school who came together through the Jesus Movement. So many of us look back on that experience as one of the greatest blessings of our lives ... more special than we could have realized at the time.

34. Music lessons ... First piano, then violin, then clarinet (which led to sax and flute). Then I picked up the guitar (thanks, Don, for the loaner and first lesson of 5 chords - C, Em, Am, G, and that vexing F). For the bands I was part of (garage and otherwise), including symphonic, marching, and jazz ... I am so grateful.

35. Fishing and fishing buddies. I came across that Thoreau quote recently: "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." From my first fishing trips with my grandmother on a rowboat on Conesus Lake to the great weeks with the Ich-Theology gang (theologians who fly fish for trout in Yellowstone) to my current circle of fishing buddies, I know there are many reasons fishers fish ... a perpetual series of occasions for disappointment (and hope), the development of skill, the game of chance and opportunity, the excuse to be outdoors, the search for something elusive and unseen, the connection to life via a thin thread, the search for a good story to exaggerate, the indulgence in a primal hunting instinct, and more.

36. Wildlife and ecology. I have always loved nature ... first bugs and reptiles and amphibians as a boy, and now, birds and trees and even dragonflies: creation is truly the original Bible, and for me, it is the most direct avenue to worship and communion. I am so grateful for 60 years of living on this beautiful earth, alongside brother tortoise and sister swallow-tailed kite.

37. Music and musicians: James Taylor, Carol King, Joni Mitchell, Chicago, Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn, David Wilcox, Jackson Browne, Keith Jarrett, Jodi McLaren and so many other singer-songwriters have enriched my life. I am so thankful to have been on earth at the same time as they are. And then are all the classical composers

38. Making music: I remember learning to improvise on the sax, and feeling that a whole new world was opening up to (and in) me. Around the same time, I began writing songs on piano and guitar. Never has time flowed by so quickly as the times I've been in recording studio, taping (remember tape?) and mixing. Now I can sit at my laptop and have a studio in my living room. What a joy!

39. Worship: Through my Plymouth Brethren heritage, I learned that worship was one of life's greatest joys. That was intensified through the Jesus Movement, the Charismatic Movement, and later, my discovery of liturgy through the Episcopal Church. Music, of course, played a key role in all those experiences ... as did silence, wonder, and awe in the presence of the Mystery we call God, to whom I send all these thanksgivings.

40. Eucharist: Central to my 60 years has been the simple ritual of taking bread and wine in remembrance of and communion with Jesus. I am so grateful for all the ways I have enjoyed the eucharist, from cathedrals to summer camps to communal meals, and especially for the 24 years I was privileged to help lead in the eucharist at Cedar Ridge Community Church.


60 gifts I'm grateful for (Part 3)

21. Nieces and Nephews and other extended family ... each a gift who mean more to me as I get older.

22. Averie ... our first grandchild, radiant with exuberance and joy.

23. Mia ... our second grandchild, a sweet and gentle soul.

24. Ella ... our third grandchild, a well of creativity.

25. Lucas ... our fourth grandchild, my littlest pal.

26. Granddaughter number five ... whom we'll meet this summer!

27. Thinking of my grandchildren, I think of my own childhood: holidays, vacations, summer camps, pets, playmates ... skateboarding, exploring the woods and swamps, catching all manner of creatures, playing hide and seek and soccer, reading great books, enjoying wonderful friends.

28. Thinking of my childhood, I think of the great education I received ... wonderful teachers from kindergarten through graduate school. People often complain about public schools, but I am so grateful for my public school and state university education. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

29. Then there's my spiritual education ... learning from sermons, Sunday School classes, family devotions (which I constantly complained about, but benefitted from nonetheless), and later, mentors.

30. Speaking of my mentors ... from Dave to Rod to Tom to Stan to Dallas to Marcus to Phyllis and many more, I have been blessed with encouragers a few years to a few decades older than me. They inspire me to want to do the same for others, all the more in the decade ahead.

More tomorrow ...


Hillary made a mistake, which provides an opportunity ...

My friend Mark Charles explains the mistake here:

The opportunity, to admit the mistake, learn from it, and address the underlying reality of America's unaddressed injustice towards the original inhabitants of this land, so this will no longer be true:

Unfortunately, the dialogue that is taking place this election cycle is not about broad-based equality or ending racism. The conversation we are having today is about the type of racism we want to settle for. "Do we want Hillary Clinton to work to keep racism as our nation’s implicit bias; or allow Donald Trump to champion racism as our explicit bias?"

After all, isn't building a wall, banning Muslims, and personally funding a presidential campaign with a fortune made by buying and selling land that has been ethnically cleansed, merely the fruit of a country that has learned all too well how to deal with the “merciless Indian savages” who sometimes get "off the reservation"?


60 Gifts I'm Grateful for (Part 2)

11. My mom is alive and well, healthy and full of cheerfulness and kindness at 89. We get to see her almost every day, and I can't begin to express how grateful I am for a mother so full of love, encouragement, and warmth. I can't imagine what life would have been like without her. Well ... I wouldn't be here, for one!

12. Of all the people I've ever known, my brother Peter is among those I respect the most. As a kid, he had to put up with a big brother who way too often teased him and way too seldom appreciated him. But now, older, whenever I think of my brother, I am inspired by his great heart, hard work, and solid character ... not to mention his superior golf game.

13. Grace. We'll celebrate 37 years of marriage in a couple months, and I'm really impressed with how two people who are so different (ENTP, INFJ) could make such a great team ... raising amazing kids, helping start a wonderful church, supporting one another in so many projects and adventures, and being good to each other through all life's ups and downs. I couldn't be more grateful for Grace as my partner in life.

14. Rachel: The only thing better than having Rachel as a daughter is seeing her thrive as a mom. I feel like she's not just one of my kids; she's a great friend.

15. Brett: The only thing better than having Brett as a son is seeing him thrive as a dad. And I feel like he's not just one of my kids; he's a great friend.

16. Trevor: As a child, Trevor became known as a cancer survivor. Now, as an adult, he is a phenomenal human being who brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart whenever I think of him.

17. Jodi: We share so many things ... a love for music, a love for good literature, a love for the outdoors. One of the highlights of my sabbatical was having her invite me to come out west and teach her to fly fish ... something new to have in common.

18. My kids' spouses ... Jesse, Breana, and Owen are as much a part of our family as our biological children, and I am so grateful for each of them.

19. In-Laws: I think of how much my brothers- and sisters-in-law have meant in my life over these 60 years ...

20. Cousins/Aunts & Uncles: I think of the great blessing of extended family ... from shared vacations to family reunions years ago, and now, to rare and special chances to reconnect (often at a memorial service to honor and celebrate the generation that is passing).

More tomorrow ...


60 Gifts I'm Grateful for on my 60th Birthday (Part 1)

As many of you know, I've been on a sabbatical coinciding with my 60th birthday, which is today (May the Fourth Be With You!). This has been a rich, rich time of looking back (with gratitude), looking within (for greater self-understanding), looking up and around (for guidance), and looking ahead (with anticipation).

A while back, I got an idea for a new practice: each year, to write a list of things I'm grateful for ... one for each year. The idea was to do this spontaneously, stream-of-consciousness. (For my very-very spiritual friends, I intentionally decided not to put God, faith, etc., first, but to see where these elements of gratitude came up in my list spontaneously.)

Here's my list, just as it flowed. I'll post ten per day.

1. The gift of life. I've been given 21,900 days, 525,600 hours, and 3,120 weeks. How many breaths? How many heartbeats? How many mornings to awaken, and nights to sleep? Each day, each breath, each moment is a great gift. Thanks be to God.

2. The gift of good health. I survived three illnesses that, had I been born 100 years ago, would have killed me (appendicitis, 2 simultaneous tick-borne diseases that affected my liver and heart, and melanoma), not to count all the other ways I could have kicked the bucket early. The fact that at 60 I feel absolutely great ... Thanks be to God.

3. The gift of clean air to breathe. I've spent time in cities where the smog was thick, and I am so grateful that each morning I can step outside and take a deep breath of clean air. Thanks be to God.

4. Clean water to drink ... I realize that 750+ million people don't, and this is a great blessing which makes me want to help everyone everywhere have access to clean, safe drinking water.

5. Great food to eat ... I remember my mom's home cooking and all the great Italian meals Grace and I have shared. I also think of my favorite kinds of cuisine ... Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Cambodian, Indian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern ... And then there's my dietary nemesis: tortilla chips and fire roasted salsa. I think of wonderful meals I've enjoyed around the world, from Costa Rica to Burundi, from Sweden to New Zealand.

6. Sanitation and Health Care ... to have a toilet is a blessing 2.5 million people don't have. And to have access to good medical and dental care ... I am blessed indeed.

7. Good Faith: I was born into a Christian family, and I became a committed Christian by choice as well as by heritage ... but I eventually learned that for some people, their faith does them more harm than good. So I am grateful that I've been guided into an understanding of God and faith that have been a doorway into greater life and freedom rather than a passage into a prison cell, and I'm grateful that my only options weren't fundamentalism or faithlessness.

8. Homes: I think back on all the homes I've lived in. As a child and teenager, I lived in Olean, NY; Rockford, IL; Caroga Lake and Johnstown, NY; Kensington, MD; and Rockville, MD ... and I have wonderful memories of each home. When I got married, Grace and I rented and apartment in College Park, MD; then bought our first home in Riverdale, MD, then moved to another place in Riverdale, and then moved to Laurel, and then here to Marco Island, FL. When 60 million people in the world are refugees or displaced, I think of what a blessing it is simply to be safe and at home.

9. Neighbors and Neighborhoods: My parents taught me to appreciate the value of neighbors and I think about how my neighborhoods have shaped me ... from gaining a love of nature in Olean, NY, to the amazing educational opportunities of growing up in Maryland with its great schools, and now, to living between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico. I am thankful for neighborhoods of racial, religious, and ethnic diversity ... and for folks who watch out for each other.

10. My dad. He died two years ago, leaving me a huge fulness rather than emptiness ... He filled me with encouragement, curiosity, energy, a strong work ethic, strict (in the best sense) morals, a deep faith, and a restless hunger for adventure and experience. Even his quirks and weaknesses brought great blessing to me. I can't say enough about how grateful I am for him; I only hope I will leave a similar fulness in my kids' lives.

(More tomorrow)


Rhythm ...

Beauty and wisdom ...


The Great Spiritual Migration Book Tour (US & UK)

First, thanks to all who have invited us. We received more invitations than we could accept, but we're hoping that in many cities, multiple hosts can collaborate, and in some cases, we might be able to schedule additional events next year. We'll be responding privately to all those who invited us in the next week or so.

We'll be sharing more details soon. But for people like me who like to plan ahead ... here's where I'll be this fall. In each US city, I'll be doing an afternoon event for pastors, and a free evening event open to the public:

September 20-30:
Tuesday 20 September: Seattle, Washington

Wednesday 21 September: Tacoma, Washington

Thursday 22 September: San Francisco, CA

Friday 23 September: Los Angeles (Encino), CA

Saturday-Sunday 24-25 September: San Diego, CA

Monday 26 September: Phoenix, AZ

Tuesday 27 September: Denver, CO

Wednesday 28 September: Dallas, TX

Thursday 29 September: Chicago IL

Friday 30 September, Minneapolis, MN

November 1-7:
Tuesday 1 November: Nashville, TN

Wednesday 2 November: Charlotte, NC
Thursday 3 Noveber: Atlanta, GA

Friday 4 November: Boston, MA area

Saturday-Sunday, 5-6 November: New York (Manhattan)

Monday 7 November: Washington DC (Maryland)

In between these two dates, I'll be in the UK October 8-15 (more information here):
Saturday 8 October: Oasis Church Waterloo London SE1 7QP

Sunday 9 October: Mint Methodist Church Centr Exeter followed by Exeter Cathedral

Monday 10 October: City United Reformed Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff, CF10 3BZ

Tuesday 11 October: St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham B5 5BB

Wednesday 12 October: St Columbas Parish Church, Gallowgate Street, KA30 8LX

Thursday 13th October: Manchester Cathedral

Friday 14th October: St Thomas the Martyr, The Haymarket Newcastle NE1 7PF

Saturday 15th October: St Marks Church, Leeds Road, Harrogate, HG2 8AY


Please watch this video ...

When politicians try to make Syrian refugees a wedge issue, remember what you see, hear, and feel from this video.


Q & R: A sequel?

Here's the Q:

Dear Brian

Many of your books have impacted my life for good, especially Everything Must Change. The book was published in 2007. Is there any way to get updates on the chilling statistics on the prosperity, security and equity systems you catalogued? Have wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates made a difference? It would be wonderful if you could write a sequel to Everything Must Change.

Sincerely, and with thanks for the difference you have made in my life.

Here's the R:
Thanks so much for this question, and these encouraging words. Someone recently tweeted that my books seem about 15 years ahead of their time ... I would love the chance to update EMC with current statistics. Alas, this is a decision made by publishers and is (at this point) out of my hand. It's very gratifying to see Bernie Sanders and many others addressing issues that fewer people were willing to listen to back in 2007.

My book that will be out in September, The Great Spiritual Migration, will in many ways address the positive question of "how do we change?" that flows from EMC.


Legislation rooted in Voter Suppression

Sometimes, religious and political leaders are unaware of the hidden currents beneath the legislation they support. Sometimes, even worse, they are aware. The rest of us need to develop insight into the unintended (and harmfully intended) consequences of laws.

From my friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Wm. F. Barber ...


We Make the Road as a Church-Wide Curriculum ... and beyond

When I wrote WMTRBW, I hoped that churches could use it either for a season or a whole year ... as an "alternative lectionary" to frame sermons and worship, as a curriculum for small groups and youth groups, even as a framework for a kids ministry program. It has been deeply gratifying to see the book work in all these ways and more.

If you'd like to consider using the book to give your group or congregation a season-long or year-long overview of the whole Biblical narrative and an orientation to the Christian life, you'll find lots of resources here.

A number of groups have contacted me with questions like this:

Our congregation is journeying together through We Make the Road by Walking. Many have found it very valuable. We have used the book for both preaching themes and small group discussions each week. We are set to complete the book later this summer and are beginning to ponder where we go from here. Do you have any suggestions on a good follow-up resource that will help us grow forward?

Someday, I may try to write another 52-chapter resource that could be used as one-year companion to WMTR. But for now, I can recommend my book Naked Spirituality. It could provide a 12-week curriculum that would be a deeper engagement with the spiritual life. Groups around the world have used it in this way with similar results. The book includes discussion questions, and this website includes resources that various churches have shared. I hope that will be helpful!


Sabbatical Update

I'm about halfway through my first-in-my-life sabbatical. I've been home without a single plane trip for about four months. It has been amazing and wonderful simply a) hanging out with Grace, b) spending many each day hours outdoors (hiking, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, etc.), c) enjoying my home and yard, d) plotting future goodness with some creative friends, and e) being quiet and listening to the silence. Good for my soul.

I also completed my next book, which will be out in September. The new (and final!) title: The Great Spiritual Migration. More on the book (and a speaking tour) soon.

I've been working with a wonderful professional coach, seeking help in discerning priorities for the next ten years (60-70). My coach has in turn solicited input from a number of my friends and colleagues. I'm not rushing the process, but so far, it has been fruitful and meaningful ... a great gift.

My flight-free record is being broken this week. I'm an Auburn Senior Fellow and will be with my colleagues in Colorado for a retreat for a few days. This is a special group of people whom I have grown to love and respect deeply. As always, your prayers are appreciated, and please know how grateful I am for a network of friends and allies like you who share the same soul-hunger and thirst for "justice, peace, and joy in the Spirit."


A Reader Writes: I find God in ...

I recently read your book: “A New Kind of Christianity” and would like to offer these shared comments for you. Ø I can identify with your searching and yearning for God;

Ø I can feel the anguish you must feel in dealing with the darkness that accompanies the spiritual journey;

Ø At times the silence becomes like an enveloping cloud in your walk with God

Ø Jesus, the face and human gift of God to humanity has given himself to us from ancient times through the Israelites, the prophets, judges, his apostiles and the church of ancient times to our present day.

Ø To me He is present and found in the sacraments and liturgy of the Catholic Church, particularly the Eucharist.

Ø We humans find Jesus not as an intellectual quest, but as a quest in Faith connecting with Him in our hearts and in one another.

Peace and Joy be with you and yours.

Thanks for your response. Although I'm not Roman Catholic, like you, I find God in the face of Jesus, in the eucharist, in deep inner silence, and in one another. In fact, if someone asks me who or what God is, an honest though ever-incomplete answer would be ... "the beautiful and infinite mystery I find in Jesus, the eucharist, deep inner silence, the wonder of creation, and the loving encounter with others."


A Post-Easter Meditation

For many people, Holy Week is a time of triumphant faith. But for others, it raises all kinds of questions and doubts. Here is a meditation from Duane Clinker especially for the latter: http://loveandresist.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-apology-for-faith-in-love-by-duane.html

After his death, instead of being crushed as the empire expected, his followers actually grew and spread his words and actions throughout the empire. They spoke brutally of death, but also of a kind of resurrection powered by Love. In those first years they often seemed to lose every sense of class bondage and they shared what they had. Many followers suffered similar fates as he, but they kept on as if something was burning now that could not be extinguished by swords or crosses or personal affliction. And, as foolish as it sounded, they testified, and acted like they were still experiencing this Jesus as a living presence; as if they knew that history could change and that nothing could separate humankind from this kind of Love.

It was as if they had seen, in the vulnerability of God, a kind of God who was with us in the pain of creation, ain the contradiction of life, as a kind of answer that involved human action in the direction of the universal Love that creation had loosed.

More here: http://loveandresist.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-apology-for-faith-in-love-by-duane.html


Readers write: chopping a path through the woods

I think there is a rumor that you are on sabbatical right now. You have come to our mind and been part of our conversations many times over the last little while. We thought it was high time to send you the note of encouragement we keep wanting to send. It's a simple message.... and that is that we are very grateful for the work you are doing in chopping a path through the woods for folks like ourselves who are in a place of grief when we see the current political climate in the United States, the exclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in fellowship, or the hateful rhetoric spoken against friends of other faiths who are teaching us so much about what it means to trust God. Thank you for your bravery in embracing people who are seen as a threat to the culture of "Christianity." It helps us to feel less alone, knowing that you are quietly standing in the place of love, rather than fear.
Thanks, friends. We're all in this together! If you're looking for kindred spirits, check out: http://convergenceus.org/ and http://www.theopennetworkus.org/#home

We're not alone!


A reader writes: a song inspired by WMTR

A reader writes:

I told you I would update you on how it is going at First Presbyterian Palo Alto using your book for our Sunday worship, and I am pleased to say it is going really well! People in the congregation have so many positive things to say. They are remarking that we are preaching on passages they have never heard (especially when we were in the OT during the fall). People are also responding positively to getting a larger view of the story arc of scripture. For me personally, it has challenged me to not get lost in the details of these long passages and try to preach about the core truth that is being communicated. So I want to thank you for providing this valuable resource!!

Also, Rob Martin, my supervisor and the head pastor here, is a hymn writer. He wrote one inspired by your book, and we thought you would like to see it, so I have attached it.

Thanks for this encouragement. If other churches are interested, you can learn more about using the book for a season-long or year-long curriculum here. For a year-long framework for worship and teaching, you'd begin in September with Chapter 1.

Rob graciously gave me permission to include his lyrics here:

We Make the Road by Walking Forth (Sung to the tune KINGSFOLD) Words by W. Robert Martin, III

We make the road by walking forth
In faith and not by sight,
A journey of discovery
With challenge and delight.
This path takes us to wider realms
Where joy and faith can grow—
As Christ, beside us on the way,
Guides gently where we go.

We make the road by walking forth
In hope and not in fear
A byway built on trust and love
That brings the Spirit near.
This path shall cause the blind to see
The mute to find their voice
The last to boldly lead the way
The hurt to cry, “Rejoice”.

We make the road by walking forth
With joy and not regret,
A path where all are truly loved
And long-held needs are met.
This path will lead us to a place
Where hate will finally cease
As we, who journey on the Way,
Proclaim God’s promised peace.


A reader writes: I was warned about the dangers of Brian's work ... and then I read for myself

A reader writes:

I am currently doing my first close read of Brian's book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (2010). This act alone was a major step for me, as I have been "warned" repeatedly about the "danger's" of Brian's work for the Christian faith.

I am so glad that I am reading Brian's work first-hand for myself, bypassing the self-sppointed critics and so-called defenders of the faith. What a breath of fresh air!

As someone with earned graduate degrees in anthropology and the philosophy of education, I can honestly say that Brian's attempt to integrate the best insights from developmental theory and theology in his work is nothing short of brilliant. As a Christian and college instructor, I find his questions, insights and genuine humility refreshing in this ever-changing and volatile period of church history. My only regret is that it has taken me this long to digest and assimilate Brian's work. Thankfully, I am now a part of a faith community that spends a lot more of its time listening, learning and loving others instead of lecturing and sounding false alarms.

Keep up the great work, Brian.

Thanks for this encouragement!


The Most Important Question Pastors Can Ask Before this Easter Sunday

My old friend Bruce Johnson is a savvy business consultant, and in a recent article, he challenges businesses to learn their NPS - Net Promoter Score.

The key insight - that some business customers or clients will leave a business so thrilled that they'll tell their friends - applies to churches as well.

The article (and its predecessor, also worth reading) is important for pastors and other church leaders to consider leading up to Easter Sunday, when most churches experience a surge in attendance.

Here's Bruce's question, recast for churches:

On a scale of 0-10 with 10 being highly likely, how likely is it that you would recommend our church to a friend or colleague?

In other words, will people have an experience at your church this Sunday that is so remarkable and meaningful that they'll be spontaneously talking about it on Monday and Tuesday at work or school or in the neighborhood?

What will be remarkable for them? Unexpected friendliness? Delightful creativity? Extraordinary insight? Deep emotional connection? Moments of beauty and transcendence?

Remember: what will be most remarkable for your first-time visitors will probably not match with what your most vocal critics talk about. (Sadly, the critics get too much of our attention most of the time!)

In these final days leading up to Easter, why not invite your team to brainstorm three to five ways to make this Sunday so extraordinary, so remarkable, so moving and delightful and joyful and meaningful that they can't help but tell friends about it on Monday?

You never know: seeking to be remarkable could become a habit. (Thanks, Bruce!)


Q & R: our search for a meaningful faith after a great loss

Here's the Q:

How does one go about finding a church that would most embody the open Christian theology that Brian McLaren speaks of?

My wife and I have lived in our same community for many years and been members of two wonderful, but "old-school" Christian churches. We lost our son [to cancer last year]. My wife has almost lost faith, and many beliefs I've held for life have changed too. My other adult children are also facing a very similar struggle with what to believe and who God is. Mr. McLaren seems to speak directly to our search for a meaningful faith.

We are reading his works, but would love to find a place of worship that more closely resembles the kind of Christian faith he writes about. Thus, my question is how does one narrow the search for such a place of worship? The emotional energy to physically visit church after church in search of the right fit is just too much for us right now.
Many thanks to any guidance you can offer.

Here's the R:
First, my heart goes out to you as will thousands of people who read this blog. I trust many will join me in praying for you and your family. Words fail.

I'm so grateful my books have been of help to you. You're right: it really matters to find a faith community that is in sync with where you are and where you're going in your faith. I sent you a few specific names of congregations in your area, but your question speaks to a larger need.

We need a place where forward-leaning Christians can find forward-moving congregations. For years, I've been wishing and hoping that someone would find a way to make that connection.

FINALLY, I'm glad to say some folks are working on it. It's not available yet, but if enough of us get behind Convergence, it will be available soon. You'll find information here:


Why World Water Day Should Matter to You

The world's number one killer of children is not war, guns, or terrorism.

It's dirty water.

That's why I hope you'll spend a few minutes at this site: http://www.faithsforsafewater.org/

Whatever issues you care most about ... hunger ... maternal and child health ... kids living past that vulnerable 5th birthday ... HIV/AIDS ... poverty ... food security ... girls' education ... gender equality ... violence against women ...

The more you learn about any of these issues, the more you realize that the world water crisis is related to each one. For example, did you know ...

Fifty percent of undernutrition in children is due to inadequate water and sanitation.

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading causes of child death and both are frequently caused by unsafe water.

One-third of school-age children in developing countries are infected with intestinal worms from water.

272 million school days are lost due to diarrhea.

Walking down a deserted path to collect water or seeking a bit of privacy to relieve oneself leads to daily violence against women.

Water is a woman's burden. Bodies break under the heavy buckets, jars and jerry cans filled with water that makes their families sick. They have no choice.

At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.

663 million people today lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion (one sixth of the world) doesn't have the dignity and safety of a toilet.

Fifty different diseases and illnesses are linked to unsafe water.

Immuno-suppressed HIV/AIDS patients must take anti-retroviral drugs with filthy water that makes them sick and unable to properly absorb the medications.

17 different Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are caused by poor water and sanitation, but we’re curing NTDs with medication rather than preventing them all together with access to safe water and sanitation.

So today's a day we encourage each other to think about something many of us can take for granted - but millions of our neighbors can't. I hope you'll spend a few minutes at this site: http://www.faithsforsafewater.org/

And here's another link that will inform and inspire you: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2016/03/blessed-by-water-a-sermon-for-world-water-day/

You'll find a number of ways you can get involved and make a difference. You can even start by sharing this link!


An important message to Democrats and Republicans

I'm disgusted by Trump. I'm disgusted with his violent and hateful rhetoric and authoritarian arrogance. But I think North Carolina lawyer Michael Cooper, Jr. has a message for all of us who feel this way. He invites us to "look behind the fault and see the need" of his neighbors - white, rural, working-class Americans, many of whom are Trump supporters:

As productivity climbed, working-class Americans wanted their wages to rise also. Instead, Republicans gave them tax cuts for the rich while liberal Democrats called them racists and bigots....

According to the Republican Party, the biggest threat to rural America was Islamic terrorism. According to the Democratic Party it was gun violence. In reality it was prescription drug abuse and neither party noticed until it was too late.

Cooper offers this advice:

To win again in the Deep South and Appalachia, the Democratic Party must recall the days of Roosevelt's New Deal and Kennedy's New Frontier by putting people to work rebuilding America, and making college free after two years of national service.

Trump's appeal as a strongman reveals the desire in Middle America for public action. His supporters want healthcare, like Social Security and are frustrated by the gridlock on Capitol Hill, so they must return to the days of Eisenhower, standing for conservative principles but also compromising when possible.

You can read the whole article here.


Here's an Evangelical Voice you can be proud of:

If Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham define Evangelicals, then it's high time for millions of us to head for the door. Thankfully, there's another kind of evangelical voice out there, embodied powerfully by my colleague Rev. Wm. Barber.

If you don't know him yet, you should. For starters, check out this article.

Presidential candidates of all political stripes have long courted what the media calls the “evangelical voters” in the South, using the language of morality. Well, I am an evangelical. I have been born again. I don’t think it is because I have African and Native American and some European blood flowing in my veins that I have a different view of evangelism. Yes, I learned my evangelism from my father, a Disciples of Christ minister... I learned that persons who claim to be evangelicals are anointed to preach good news to the poor.

Trumpism was created in the crucible of the “Southern strategy.” ...We can’t isolate Donald Trump and his supporters, because that is a simplification. When you unpack the policies of all of his competitors, most of their disagreement is in tone, not substance. It is not as though they are moderate and he is extreme. Trump is not the problem; it’s all of the xenophobia and racist innuendo and othering of immigrants that is the problem. It is all of the coded language ... from the Southern-strategy lexicon of Wallace, Nixon, Reagan, and Atwater that has been spewed for years. That is the problem... Long before Trump, all of this rhetoric created a kind of us-against-them mob mentality, which after it is loosed can manifest in the violence that we now see.

Too many Evangelicals have become the zealous religious chaplaincy of the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party. Even more Evangelicals aid and abet their colleagues by remaining silent and therefore complicit. But thank God, there are other voices. Let's lift them up as a needed and inspiring alternative!


Everyone's against slavery - and here's how to show it!

Thanks to International Justice Mission, Not for Sale, Stop the Traffik, and other excellent organizations, there's been a lot of attention focused on the existence of modern day slavery in the last few years.

People might associate modern-day slavery or human trafficking with diamond mines in Africa or brothels in Cambodia, but it happens right here in America too. Many of us were shocked a few years ago to discover that farm workers in Florida (where I now live) were being trafficked ... right in our own back yard.

Thankfully, a movement arose among farmworkers themselves to address these ugly realities. Faith leaders like Audrey Warren, Shane Claiborne, Roy Terry, and me enthusiastically added our energies to the "Fair Food" cause.

The Fair Food movement has made amazing progress. Taco Bell, McDonald's, Walmart, and many other leading companies have signed on to the Fair Food Program. But a few companies are still holding out - notably, Publix grocers and Wendy's fast food.

You can raise your voice on behalf of exploited farm workers. You can spread the word about the Wendy's boycott. You can join thousands of people who are refusing to patronize Wendy's until they join the Fair Food Program. If you live in Ohio, you might even want to be part of the upcoming march and protest at Wendy's headquarters.

Let's look forward to the day when the Coalition of Immokalee Workers can announce that Wendy's too has joined the Fair Food Program. But until then ... let's show our support for exploited farm workers by avoiding Wendy's. Please spread the word ...


The Bible's #1 statement is ...

DO NOT FEAR. Yet fear is running the table in the hearts of so many in America today. It doesn't matter that we're the country with the most weapons (including nuclear weapons), the most wealth, the largest military by far ... we also need a strong man, a demagogue/dictator in the making, a "really big" wall (to keep others out - or to trap us in?), the "exceptional" freedom to use torture and even break international law, and surveillance system that makes individual privacy an endangered species. Anything goes when we have media and political industries that make money and win votes based on ginning up fear, fear, and more fear. A friend (and former member of the congregation I served for 20+ years) wrote this to me earlier this week:

Brian, here's an article that I think deserves your attention and contemplation during your sabbatical:


It turns out that there is substantial reason to think that our current electoral landscape is fueled, on the right, by fear. This explains why people who would normally not give a philanderer like Trump a second thought on election day. Evangelicals (whatever that means -- I'm no longer sure) historically vote for people who at least support their values. Trump, on the other hand, is very unevangelical and possibly not even a Christian in any sense that you or I would accept (mere self-identification is not a satisfying definition). In previous elections, he would not be getting the church vote. In this election, he has substantial church support.

But I don't think that electoral politics is what will most grab your interest in this report. Rather, it is that fear is what drives people to act in ways that are distinctly at odds with the idea of following Christ. How many times in the Bible do we see the words "fear not"? I think somebody has tallied them up and there are a lot. A good discussion of this is in Rick McDaniel's article at http://www.christianpost.com/news/faith-over-fear-the-bibles-1-statement-is-dont-be-afraid-129050/.

If we Christians are going to have anything to say to modern (or postmodern) America, we are going to have to find a way to focus on this key theme from the Bible: Fear not! A true Christian realizes (at least intellectually) that there really is nothing to fear. All things work together for good to those who love the Lord. We've read the last chapter of the Book, and we found out that we win! Those thoughts and many more that have surfaced in sermons over the years all need to somehow be made real, so that we won't be only intellectual believers in the "fear not" message, but instead make it a down-deep part of our very souls.

This is a command from God. But it is also a gift. I don't recall whether I ever told you, but I received that gift some years ago. I had a dream in which [my wife] and I were in a house at night and somebody dressed in military fatigues, carrying a rifle, and accompanied by a dog came looking for us. But I heard a voice saying "Don't worry. He won't find you. He can't even see you. Look, step outside and see what happens." I went outside and the man was just coming around the side of the house. He looked right at me. He and his dog walked right past me, not seeing, hearing, or scenting me. The source of the Voice had spoken truly. There was nothing to be afraid of.

From that day, I have never had any real fear. Yes, when something scary happens in a movie or in real life, I momentarily react as if I were afraid. That's in the moment. But, when I structure my life, it is with very little attention to fear. God has given me a deep and abiding sense that all is in God's hands and that nothing can happen to me or mine, without God's permission -- and, in the end, God will make it all come out right.

People of the 21st century need this gift. Your previous writings, as well as a great many things you preached about when we were in your congregation, strongly suggest that you have some things to say about it.

So I hope you can find some fuel for thought in the article.

Thanks. The article is more than worth reading - it is profoundly important. The chart speaks for itself, as does this quote: "Trump embodies the classic authoritarian leadership style: simple, powerful, and punitive."

Unless we deal with authoritarianism, we may face an even scarier quote from the article: "Donald Trump could be just the first of many Trumps in American politics." Will our faith communities rise to the occasion and spread the "do not fear" message, the message that genuine liberating faith in God actually inoculates us against authoritarianism? (I'm reminded of the distinction I made back in my book Finding Faith between "good faith" and "bad faith" - one liberates us from fear and authoritarianism, and the other makes us more susceptible).

I'll be doing all I can to draw attention to this important article. Thanks for sending it!


Readers write: exclusion, hateful rhetoric, courage, quietly standing in the place of love

Readers write:

I think there is a rumor that you are on sabbatical right now. You have come to our mind and been part of our conversations many times over the last little while. We thought it was high time to send you the note of encouragement we keep wanting to send. It's a simple message.... and that is that we are very grateful for the work you are doing in chopping a path through the woods for folks like ourselves who are in a place of grief when we see the current political climate in the United States, the exclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in fellowship, or the hateful rhetoric spoken against friends of other faiths who are teaching us so much about what it means to trust God. Thank you for your bravery in embracing people who are seen as a threat to the culture of "Christianity." It helps us to feel less alone, knowing that you are quietly standing in the place of love, rather than fear. We often wish that we could make a meal for you, and speak about these things face to face (in this life.)

Thanks for making contact. I am indeed on sabbatical, and your words bring me real encouragement. Thank you. Perhaps this absurd and crass political climate, not to mention the complicity of religion in so much that is wrong with it, will help more and more of us engage in "a great spiritual migration" to a better way of being Christian, and a better way of being human. We're in this together!



“The Great Spiritual Migration” Book Tour with Brian McLaren
September 20 - 30
November 1 - 7

If you live in or near one of the cities below and would like to explore hosting a stop on Brian McLaren’s “Great Spiritual Migration” tour from September 20-30 and November 1-7, please contact us ASAP here.

New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Washington DC
Richmond, VA
Charlotte, NC
Atlanta, GA
Nashville, TN
Columbus OH
Chicago, IL
St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN
Denver, CO
Houston, TX
Austin, TX
San Antonio, TX
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX
Denver, CO
Phoenix, AZ
San Diego, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Bay Area, CA
Portland, OR
Seattle, WA

Here's some information about The Great Spiritual Migration: How the world’s largest religion is seeking a better way to be Christian:

People by the millions are migrating out of traditional religion - some into secularism, some into experimental forms of nonreligious spirituality. But even within religious communities, people are on the move, migrating in exciting new directions. Drawing from his work as a pastor, speaker, public theologian, ecumenical networker, and activist, Brian D. McLaren challenges Christians to embark on a great spiritual migration: to seize this dynamic moment as an opportunity for Christian faith to become more just, generous, and joyful - and therefore more truly Christian.

The book explores three conversions or spiritual migrations. Spiritually, McLaren advocates a migration from Christian faith defined as a system of beliefs to a love-centered way of life. Theologically, he challenges people to move from defending God as a violent Supreme Being to experiencing and embodying God as the nonviolent Holy Spirit. And missionally, he explores how congregations can move from being institutional outposts of organized religion to networked cells of organizing religion. In The Great Spiritual Migration, McLaren invites readers to join a movement that can shift the direction of Christian faith to be more in sync with its founder, more life-giving for individual Christians and congregations, and more of a just, generous, and joyful resource for the whole world.

Here's some information about the tour:

We're looking for churches, colleges, seminaries or other organizations that can host a free 75-minute public lecture/discussion with Brian McLaren, coinciding with the release of his next book, The Great Spiritual Migration. Wherever possible, we would also like to schedule a half-day clergy-oriented gathering with Brian, the afternoon before or the morning after the free public lecture. To explore hosting, please contact us here, and we will send you all the information you need.


A pastor writes: Using We Make the Road by Walking

A pastor writes ...

I told you I would update you on how it is going at our Presbyterian congregation using your book We Make the Road by Walking for our Sunday worship, and I am pleased to say it is going really well! People in the congregation have so many positive things to say. They are remarking that we are preaching on passages they have never heard (especially when we were in the OT during the fall). People are also responding positively to getting a larger view of the story arc of scripture. For me personally, it has challenged me to not get lost in the details of these long passages and try to preach about the core truth that is being communicated. So I want to thank you for providing this valuable resource!!

If your church would like to consider making WMTR their curriculum guide and alternative lectionary for a year, you can start Holy Week, or right after Easter, or this summer, or this fall ... or anytime, really. More info here.


In < 8 minutes, Mark Charles will teach you something you really need to know ... about America, Christianity, racism, and more

Learn more from Mark here: http://wirelesshogan.blogspot.com/2014/12/doctrine-of-discovery.html

I will be engaging with this important subject in my upcoming book, "The Great Spiritual Migration," coming out in October.


Q & R: What do you say to Russell Moore?

Here's the Q:

You no doubt have read Russell Moore's intelligent rejection of your sanctimonious and politically-correct attack on one of Christianity's most sacred hymns. Why haven't you responded to him? Will you?

Here's the R:
Thanks for this question. First, I should say that I'm on sabbatical so have been spending as little time as possible online. But I just had a chance to read Dr. Moore's column and am happy to offer a brief response here.

By way of background, Dr. Moore was responding to an interview (available here) with a journalist who was asking about some alternative lyrics I wrote that can be used with the familiar "Onward, Christian Soldiers" tune (available here).

Dear Dr. Moore,
I don't believe we have ever had the opportunity to meet, but I hope we will meet someday and have the opportunity to get better acquainted in person.

I have respected your courage in speaking up against the rise in Evangelical and Southern Baptist support for Donald Trump. I share your concern about the ugly current of racism and xenophobia that still runs deep in American culture and in many sectors of the church, and I share your commitment to speak out against it.

This presidential campaign is bringing that current to the surface so responsible people can deal constructively with it. Although you and I no doubt have many disagreements, I sense we are in deep agreement that the venom, ignorance, and sleaze unleashed in this political season are good neither for our country nor our souls.

In your article on my interview and rewrite of Onward Christian Soldiers, you correctly say that I believe "that hymns with war imagery can lead to hatred and violence," and that I would like there to be more hymns that call us to live as peacemakers, as Jesus taught.

When you say, "He's wrong," I hope you are only referring to the former assertion against war imagery, and not the latter call for more hymns on the theme of peacemaking and reconciliation. If we are to "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly ... as we "teach and admonish one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," then surely Christ's teachings about peace should have a more prominent place in our songs.

I have had trouble thinking of a single well-known song, traditional or contemporary, about peacemaking. So maybe some of us will stop singing warrior songs and others of us will keep singing them, but I hope that all of us, even your home church, can write and sing more songs about peacemaking and reconciliation.

That's the spirit in which I offered the "Onward Christian Peacemakers" lyrics. I welcome people to use the lyrics in their congregations anywhere and everywhere.

You accuse me of a "crude literalism" in finding danger in the "Onward" lyrics, but I don't actually think literalism is the problem.

I think the real problem is imagination. The combined imagery of the songs we sing creates a kind of inner construct or lens through which we see the world. If the background music and imagery of our lives is predominantly hostile, fearful, aggressive, or dominating, if it sends us into the world primarily as warriors, then we will find ourselves encountering the world, including other people, in a certain way.

If, in contrast, the background and imagery of our lives is generous, confident, loving, gracious, healing, service-oriented, and forgiving, we will enter the world in a very different way - as peacemakers, hungering and thirsting for justice, seeking peace through peaceful means.

Perhaps if American Christians today were more firmly and deeply involved in peacemaking (as the early Christians were), we might be inoculated against the potentially destructive effects of warrior imagery.

But we American Christians, especially white Christians, generally lack that inoculation ... with our history of genocide, land theft, enslavement, segregation, homophobia, nativism, Islamophobia, and the like. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, after we became victims of the horrific violence of others, we seemed to enter into a kind of warrior trance of our own, mirroring violence with violence, and too many of us have been living in a revenge narrative ever since.

In a nation with a damaged soul like ours, for our churches to fund our imagination with more warrior imagery adds fuel to a fire that already is in danger of raging out of control.

I think you can feel this danger more acutely if you imagine a Muslim leader in, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia, promoting the singing of songs or prayers that contain violent imagery. Then imagine another Muslim voice rising and saying that they should transform or exchange that violent imagery into something less hostile, beating rhetorical swords into plowshares. It's that latter role I and others would like to take in our faith community, and I wish you would rethink this and join us.

Context matters. When the "Onward" hymn was written in Great Britain in the mid-19th Century, the British were building their global empire. When I imagine British Christians in that cultural and historical context singing a hymn about "marching as to war" behind the banner of the cross, I can't help but see resonance with Constantine waging war under the sign of the cross. I can't help but hear echoes of the militant Christian imperialism that periodically resurged from the 4th to the 20th centuries. However unintentionally, a hymn like "Onward" in the 1850's could only serve to reinforce the values of the empire ... not through a crude literalism, but through a deep funding of the personal and corporate imagination.

Very real people in India, Africa, and elsewhere suffered and died (literally) by the millions because the imaginations of European colonizing Christians had been funded more by the imperial tradition of the Caesar's Roman Empire than the reconciling tradition of Jesus' kingdom of God. Sadly, the reality of this heritage is still too little acknowledged.

I believe that America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has too much in common with Great Britain in the 19th. That's why in our context, I think it is pastorally wise to fund our imaginations not with taking up swords and spears (or whatever) and "marching as to war," but with beating them into plowshares and pruning hooks, and going into the world not swinging swords or dropping bombs, but sowing seeds of reconciliation, respect, and service.

The choice isn't between following the Bible or not: the choice is between which parts of the Bible we who are pastors and worship leaders bring to the fore and apply to the moment. The choice isn't between using Biblical imagery or not; it's the choice of which Biblical imagery is most suited and needed in a particular context.

You and I both understand this because of our shared heritage. Although I wasn't raised Southern Baptist, I was raised in the larger conservative Evangelical and fundamentalist community. We both know that leaders of that shared religious heritage defended slavery, segregation, and the white Christian privilege that supported them - and not that long ago. We both know that for a long time and for a lot of people, Bible verses (like Genesis 9:25) provided a Biblical "justification" for racism. (Anti-Semitism was similarly "justified" based on Scripture, as you know.)

It was inconceivable a few years ago to imagine a politician proposing that people be barred from legal entry to our nation based on religion, but now, such a politician is the likely candidate for the political party supported by most Evangelicals. Similarly, it is hard right now to imagine politicians and religious leaders at some point in the future using Bible verses like Psalm 137:9 or Psalm 5:5 or Revelation 19:11-16 to authoritatively justify, say, launching a nuclear war (although such a proposal was made by another Republican candidate back in 2007). We need to realize the dangerous moment we are in.

Even though you currently think I'm wrong about the danger of warrior imagery in a context like ours, I know you are concerned about the tone and direction of Mr. Trump and others like him, and you have clearly and consistently named racism as a sin. I admire you for challenging your tradition in this way; I think my concern about warrior imagery in Christian hymns is simply another step in that process of growth.

You said, "I realize that some from McLaren’s theological tribe cast doubt on the authority of the Old Testament narrative, but if one starts cutting away the warfare imagery from the Bible one will end up with a tiny set of scraps."

I used to say this sort of thing about those I deemed "liberal" too, but Dr. Moore, people like me are not advocating "cutting away the warfare imagery from the Bible." Rather, we're advocating a faithful and reverent way of interpreting the Bible that precludes it from being used to justify atrocities in the future. Even if you don't share my concern about warrior imagery, I hope you will at least affirm this deeper concern.

I don't know if you've read any of my books, but if you're interested in my actual thinking in this regard, I'd encourage you to read Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? It's a book about the problem of religious hostility in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions as well. If you simply read the book looking for things to disagree with, you will miss the opportunity to engage with a disturbing trend in our own country - and especially in our shared Evangelical heritage. Chapters 19-21 are especially relevant to this discussion; Chapter 21 engages with a problematic verse of another beloved hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Maybe you would be willing to find common cause with me in seeking to counter the rising tide of religious hostility in our world with a rising tide of love.

You also might be interested in my upcoming book, The Great Spiritual Migration, which will come out in October and will deal more directly with the issue of religious hostility and the Bible's role in either supporting or subverting it.

Where we currently disagree appears to be more a matter of pastoral wisdom than ultimate aim. Is it wise for people with our largely unacknowledged history, in the context of well-funded demagogues who want to gin up fear and hostility for political gain, to keep singing songs that fund our individual and corporate imagination with images of warfare and violence?

Or is it time to fund and energize the imaginations of our people with a different kind of imagery? That's what I'm trying to do, along with many wonderful colleagues. Even if you disagree with putting songs like "Onward" on the museum shelf, I hope you'll agree with our desire to help Christians "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly" in the "song, hymns, and spiritual songs" that we sing, especially Christ's paramount teaching of love. That is what we are fighting (nonviolently!) for.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Otis Moss III


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


What? Bipartisan Political Cooperation? In 2016?

Yes! Read about it here ... a positive role by faith-inspired leaders:

Quotable, from Jen Butler:

With Ohio as a blueprint, we expect to see religious communities across the country work together to address issues that affect families’ health and economic security. This focus transcends ideology, and is driven by faith.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


Good (actually, AMAZING) news for music lovers ...

In my travels over the years, I've heard some absolutely amazing music. One group that stands out is Edge Kingsland in New Zealand. Here's a press release about their latest:


Edge Kingsland to release 'Vol. 3: The Common Good’ February 3rd

Auckland worship outfit Edge Kingsland has always prided themselves on a certain amount of reinvention. When it came to writing their third full-length album, they found themselves faced with their challenging evolution yet - taking worship music out of the church.

“There’s a certain functionality that comes with writing worship songs” explains the band, “It’s almost as if you serve an imaginary congregation as you write, keeping the crowd in mind as you pen the lyrics, melody and aesthetic of the thing. And yet, as we sat down to write this new batch of songs, that congregation seemed to be replaced with individuals from our church community, with thoughts of their everyday situations and challenges.”

In his 1984 book The Other Hundred Hours, author Wyn Fountain paints picture of a faith that is bigger than the Sunday pew, a concept he called ‘The whole of life’, a nod to the other hours of our waking lives. As the band gathered in Auckland’s Roundhead Studios to start work on the new album, they soon realised they were penning worship songs for the other hundred hours; songs of devotion for ordinary time.

Drawing upon the dual concept of liturgy, which has its roots in both the church and the works of the public, Edge Vol. 3: The Common Good sees the creative collective describing a faith not confined to the walls of a Sabbath service; a blue-collar God who meets us every day of the week.

Album teaser (video):

Album website with lyrics, artwork, pre-order links and video teasers:

I ordered mine on ITunes and have been listening to it on continuous loop.

Also - for Worship Leaders, if you don't yet know about Convergence Music Project - here's the latest:

The Convergence Music Project (CMP) will launch officially in mid April with a batch of 15 songs ...
The Convergence Music Project (CMP) will launch officially in mid April with a batch of 15 songs for worship in Mp3, lead sheet, and piano arrangement formats. Please use the following link to opt in to our “early adopters” mailing list if you would like to receive information on this initial product offering. http://sirchio.com/news

We are thrilled to be bringing a whole new genre of worship music into being! Imagine an extensive catalogue of great songs, indexed and categorized to make it easy for you to find the exact song you need for a specific moment in worship. Imagine a whole catalogue of songs for worship from diverse traditions and musical styles that will be theologically progressive/expansive and inclusive in terms of language and images. Imagine new, singable songs that move the heart and engage the mind—biblically based songs that promote life-giving spiritual formation, social justice, and the wellbeing of the planet. This is what CMP will be all about.

Our website is not yet fully functional in terms of music being uploaded and available for purchase, but you are welcome to visit our site as we continue to progress and move toward our official launch. The URL is www.convergencemp.com.

We also have established a Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/convergencemusicproject/?ref=hl
and encourage you to like it and to join the conversation about CMP. Please contact Bryan Sirchio, CMP’s lead designer, at bsirch@sirchio.com if you have any questions about CMP. This is going to be a fantastic adventure!


A reader writes: pure gold

A reader writes ...

Just wanted to say that your open letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr. is pure gold. Thank you so much for taking the initiative to make such a clear and unequivocal statement. Our country is meandering into some very dangerous areas of late. Sanity, compassion, and the peace of Jesus Our Lord were never more needed.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


Q & R: should a pastor marry a non-religious couple?

Here's the Q:

Should a Christian pastor conduct a secular wedding? The bride was an active youth in our progressive ELCA Lutheran congregation and her family is still active. She is now getting married and her groom has requested no scripture, no mention of God, no prayers or blessings. This isn't the first time one member of the couple is not a believer, but it is the first time one has had such anger and open animosity to God and religion in general.

Here's the R:
Many pastors struggle with questions like these. I wouldn't want to make a rule because I think situations like these demand pastoral sensitivity and practical wisdom, not to mention situational guidance from the Spirit! As I imagine being in your situation, here is what I notice.

If the groom wants a wedding that reflects his convictions but is insensitive to the concerns of his bride and her family, I would see this as an occasion for some premarital counseling ... just as I would if the situation were reversed. So I would enter into a premarital counseling relationship with the couple and be sure this issue is addressed. I might also ask to meet with the groom privately to make his animosity a topic of conversation. In other words, if he wants me to perform the ceremony, maybe he would trust me enough to talk about unprocessed spiritual pain.

I also notice that the bride doesn't seem to be making herself heard in this. Again, that is a subject for premarital counseling.

All this presumes a general commitment I made when I was a pastor, that I wouldn't perform a wedding without premarital counseling. I can see situations were exceptions might be made, but it was a good commitment that I don't regret making.


If you're involved in children and youth ministry ...


Faith Forward 2016
"Re-Imagining Children's and Youth Ministry through Theology, Relationship, and Practice"
April 18-21, 2016 in Chicago

For the past 4 years, I’ve been following the amazing work of Faith Forward, an organization that’s rethinking children’s ministry and youth ministry in innovative and progressive ways. The work they are doing is shifting the paradigm of how we minister with young people in ways that are truly inclusive and creative, and they deal with important issues like sexuality, race, and violence, that are unaddressed by other events and networks.

I’ve been honoured to be a speaker and participant at every Faith Forward gathering so far. And while I can’t be there in person this year, I’ll be doing a video presentation on the opening night. Other speakers and artists this year include Lisa Sharon Harper, Nichole Flores, Audrey Assad, Otis Moss III, Ivy Beckwith, Daniel White Hodge, Soong-Chan Rah, Leah Gunning Francis, and many others!

If you’re looking for a dynamic, creative, and passionate group of leaders who are changing what it means to do faith formation with youth and children, then you won’t want to miss Faith Forward 2016, April 18-21 at St. James Cathedral in Chicago. You can find out more at http://faith-forward.net. Save $20 when you register using promo code FaithFwd2016.


A reader writes: 5 men + your book = a wonderful experience

A reader writes:

Brian: I am one of five men (a surgeon, IT manager, PR manager, teacher, and retired retail guy) who faithfully meet at [our church] in Cincinnati, Ohio, every Wednesday night to discuss your book “We Make The Road by Walking.”

It has been a wonderful experience for us, and we are advocating the book for other studies within the church.

Our format is to read the chapters out loud. We also keep a list of fascinating tidbits you include in your chapters to spring on people --- i.e. – “Yes, Herod was a Jew. Who know?”

I thought you might enjoy knowing this.

... As they say in the secular world, “we’re big fans.”

It's so good to know the book is being used in this way. I "field tested" the book with a lot of different groups, and in all our field tests, the most effective and enjoyable way (not to mention easiest way) to use it was just as you're doing - reading it aloud together, then using the discussion questions to dig deeper. Thanks for the encouraging note!


Faith Can Change the Climate: Sister Simone Campbell


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rabbi Steve Gutow


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


A reader writes: we went out for coffee ...

A reader writes:

Thank you again for the time you spent with us on the podcast talking about We Make the Road By Walking. Over the last month I've been leading two book study groups through Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohamed Cross the Road? It has been a very positive experience. I explained to the groups that I think that all that are there have been feeling this way about God for sometime. We all feel that God is open and loving, and that there is no need to demonize or convert the 'other,' but our traditional understanding of God did not give us a way to think about that. Your book allows us to align the way we think about God with the way we already feel about God. One thing that has come up in discussion is the need to put some of what we are talking about into action. It is not enough to simply be strong, benevolent Christians, and hope that some people wander in so we can be strong and benevolent with them.

So today I had coffee with the only Imam in [our area] (a metro area of 350,000+). We met at the library coffee shop and got to know each other. We talked about our families, our calling, our common humanity, and our own versions of identity crisis, of which you speak so well in the book. It was a wonderful time, and we agreed that we need to meet again and start talking about ways to intentionally get our people together - especially our youth. He was very intrigued by your book, so I'll be getting him one soon.

Thanks for your work and ministry,

Thanks for your work and ministry! I hope that thousands of pastors and Christian leaders around the country will follow your example. As Paul said, we must not be overcome with evil; rather, we must overcome evil with good.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crow


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Suzii Paynter


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Jim Wallis


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


World Harmony ...

Every time you turn on the TV, you find a lot of people fueling fear, hate, hostility, and disharmony. Here's a voice for harmony ... Dr. John Esposito.

Hamdani World Harmony Lecture: John L. Esposito from ACMCU on Vimeo.


A Reader Writes: I didn't feel he was speaking to me ...

A reader writes:

I realize Brian may not see this, but I need some place to go to tell him thanks. I read him years ago, when "A New Kind of Christian" first came out. After the initial trilogy and one or two other books, I didn't really read him any longer. No real reason. I just wasn't where he was, it seemed to me, and it didn't feel that he was speaking to me. But in the past few months I've been going through a bit of deconstruction and coming back to read him again has been a gift, a very necessary guide in the journey and I'm grateful for his work. God speaks through him often.

So, thank you, Brian. You've been a help and a blessing and a tremendous encouragement these past few months!

Glad to know you're finding a connection - and thanks for sending the encouragement!


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation. Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016. I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Faith can change the climate!
Here's how you can get involved:


God is Violence? Money? Or ... Love?

"If only there was a new way to be in the world, if only there was someone who came to dismantle the power narratives that we find ourselves living in the tension of, if only there was one who endured violence and endured the wrath of the rich elite due to his message of Love, Compassion, and Empathy…

If Only…"

Read more of Mark Fitzgerald's thoughts here.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Imam Mohamed Magid


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation.

Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016.

Faith can change the climate!

I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!

Here's how you can get involved:


A Scottish Reader Writes: unfurling faith ...

A reader writes:

I just wanted to say that I hope you have a wonderful time of silent, still reflection and I do hope 10 months is enough...you have given so much to so many over the years I will pray that it is a real oasis for you.

After reading your trilogy books your thought and ideas have influenced me on my journey of unfurling faith. I can echo many things I hear others say in comments to you and have finally discovered what being born again and again really means!! I pass on your books, podcasts, videos etc to whoever I think will read or listen.

Thanks for these encouraging words. I have been finishing up my next book (new title: The Great Spiritual Migration - release date this September) and enjoying not standing in airport security lines! Meanwhile, I have been working with an executive coach in a discernment process about how I can most make my life count in the decade ahead (age 60-70). And I have been letting my brain and soul rest ... It's hard to explain how tired the creative parts of my psyche became over the last few years, but I know that sometimes, rest is the thing most needed, and it can't be rushed. So your thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated ... as are your prayers.


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. John Dorhauer


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation.

Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016.

Faith can change the climate!

I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!
Here's how you can get involved:


Please be part of the National Spiritual Growth Study -

Christianity in the United States is changing. Each year the church struggles to find ways to connect with its members and community to be engaged in our changing culture. We're part of a team that has set out to discover what is hindering people from growing spiritually and uncover new opportunities for the future of the Church. We are helping to conduct the National Spiritual Growth Study, and I wanted to ask you if you'd participate. The survey takes just 5 minutes, and it'll help paint a picture of what gaps the church is missing and how we can fill them as we move forward. CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE: www.NationalSpiritualGrowthStudy.com


Q & R: Onward Christian ... what?

Here's the Q:

Did you re-write the lyrics to Onward Christian Soldiers and if so, are the lyrics available online?

Here's the R:
Yes - If you're interested in some fresh things happening in worship music, check out the Convergence Music Project here: https://www.facebook.com/convergencemusicproject/
Here are the lyrics ...

1. Onward, all disciples, in the path of peace,
Just as Jesus taught us, love your enemies
Walk on in the Spirit, seek God’s kingdom first,
Let God’s peace and justice be your hunger and your thirst!
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly

2. We now face our failures in remorse and tears.
We must hammer plowshares from our swords and spears,
Turn from the broad highway of prejudice and war
To follow Jesus to a place we’ve never been before
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly

3. Feel a fresh wind stirring. Justice, flowing free,
Makes our deserts bloom in Eden-like beauty.
Seek the greatest treasure: let peace be your dream -
Justice like a river and an ever flowing stream!
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly

4. All regimes of violence, dominating power,
They will boast of victory for their fragile hour.
But the way of Jesus, weaponless and meek,
Will not be defeated, and so his way we seek.
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly

5. Onward arm in arm, then, onward hand in hand,
March with joyful song so all can understand
Nothing is impossible for our God above,
Through the power of service and the gentle might of love.
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly

6. Boldly let us venture where Christ’s feet have trod
Sharing the adventure of the living God
Saving, not condemning, not casting a stone,
Spreading a rich banquet for the outcast and alone.
Onward, all disciples, in humility
Walk with God, do justice, love wholeheartedly


Faith Can Change the Climate: Rev. Amy Butler


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation.

Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016.

Faith can change the climate!

I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely!
Here's how you can get involved:


Q & R: Kill the nonbelievers?

Here's the Q:

[Our] Men’s Study Group completed the study of your book “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road” last Sunday. Most of us agreed with many of the concepts expressed while a few of us had varied opinions.

I am writing this as in between the study, I read the ISBN 978-955-665-129-4 book titled “A 16th Century Clash of Civilizations” by Susantha Goonatilake. The author on pages 250 and 251 of his book quotes citations from the Bible that instructs us seven times, to kill the non-believers and ten times, to ignore or avoid associating with non-believers. These biblical instructions contradict the conclusion of your book that we should move away from the ‘We’ versus ‘They’ attitude ingrained in us.

I am attaching a brief biography of the author of the book, copies of pages 250 and 251, and my analysis of the citations. The writer being a Buddhist did not realize that six of the citations that instructs us to kill are from the Old Testament and the ten instructions to ignore or avoid associating are from the New Testament. He simply listed them as quotations from the Holy Book and concluded “Strong stuff indeed”. This clearly shows how 2/3rd of the world population looks at us – the Christians.

What is our response to such a conclusion?

I am sure our study group would appreciate your views on how we should react to this “erroneous concept” that is prevalent in the minds of four billion Non-Christians.

Here's the R:
What an important question! First, I should say that the erroneous concept is also present in a few billion Christians too! I'll address this issue in the middle third of my upcoming book (September 2016), The Great Spiritual Migration. I hope you'll find it helpful.

I recently was sent a link to a sermon by a pastor who quoted some violent passages of the Quran, and then held up his Bible and said, "The only way we can beat this book (holding up Quran) is through this book (holding up Bible)!" But I thought to myself - is this fellow intentionally hiding the violent passages from the Bible, or is he sincerely blind to them?

The fact is that there are more violent passages in the Bible than in the Quran. Verses in both Old and New Testaments lie like loaded guns in our bedside tables, easily used to harm and kill if we don't disarm them quickly. The current presidential primary season tells us that there are many Christians happy to quote those verses to justify carpet bombing, torture, exclusion, and other expressions of hate and violence. It makes me sick.

Thank God, writers and speakers like Derek Flood, Peter Enns, Brian Zahnd, Michael Hardin, Shane Claiborne, and many others (including yours truly) are challenging Christians to face these passages and to change our approach to the Bible so that it can never again be used for violent purposes. We are part of a "Great Spiritual Migration" away from violence and toward peace, justice, love, and joy in the Holy Spirit.


Faith Vs. Climate Change ...

“If we shall suppose that human-caused global warming is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through God's appointed time, God now wills to remove, and that God gives catastrophe to China and America, Russia and India, the Maldives and Indonesia alike as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of catastrophic climate change may speedily pass away….. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the wounds wrought by global warming, to care for those who have borne its disastrous effects, to do all which may achieve and cherish a healthy planet for ourselves and all nations.”
Read more from Jim Burklo here ...

Faith Can Change the Climate: Melissa Rogers


In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation.
Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016.

Faith can change the climate!


A Beautiful Sermon from ...

President Barack Obama - his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast provide a powerful reflection on 2 Timothy 1:7. (below)

Continue reading A Beautiful Sermon from ......


Faith Can Change the Climate

In September 2015, I was honored to be among a group of multi-faith leaders who came together in Washington, DC, to amplify Pope Francis’ message to care for God’s creation.

Videos of the gathering are now available, produced by Blessed Tomorrow. In sharing these materials through email and social media you will help keep the momentum moving throughout 2016.

Faith can change the climate!

I'll share more of the speaker videos in coming weeks. Please share widely! #FaithAndClimate

Here's how you can get involved:


Lent begins next week ...

And Christine Sine and friends are once again providing beautiful resources to help you and your family, group, or congregation make the most of the season. Here.


Would you please join me ...

Back in 2009, in the face of rising Islamophobic rhetoric (especially disturbing rhetoric coming from my fellow Christians), I felt the Spirit calling me to express my solidarity for my Muslim friends by participating in the Ramadan fast. It was a profound spiritual challenge and a meaningful experience on many levels, which you can read about here.

Because of my 2009 experience I was especially moved when I heard the story of Dr. Larycia Hawkins who engaged in a similar prophetic action late last year, in deciding to wear a hijab as a professor at an Evangelical college in Chicago.

And that's why I ask you to ...

Join #AuburnFellows to stand w/ Dr. @LaryciaHawkins & call on @WheatonCollege to #ReinstateDocHawk: http://bit.ly/1SOEzyS

Would you please join me and the Auburn Senior Fellows in signing this Groundswell Petition calling on President Ryken at Wheaton College to reinstate Prof. Hawkins, the first tenured African American woman at Wheaton since 1860, and the only full-time African American woman on the faculty? During a time of anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in our country, Professor Hawkins demonstrated moral courage by standing in embodied solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers. Now we stand with her. ‪#‎ReinstateDocHawk‬



Christian Higher Education

"Christian higher education must exist in a genuine cosmology. The word ‘university’ is derived from the idea of universe; that is, a university is a microcosm of the larger world–or it should be. For a few years, people of all kinds should live and learn together, so that they can continue to do so for the rest of their lives. This is the relational mandate in education.

When a school truncates its educational cosmology, it diminishes its students’ ability to develop the integrative capacity to co-exist in society, which is already diverse and global. It creates graduates who only know how to get along with those who are like them–a problem in its own right, but one that has the seeds to sow suspicion of “the other” who is unlike them." - Steve Harper

More here: https://oboedire.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/christianity-culture-wheaton-hawkins-4/


Jazz & Justice

“Movements teach you to make plans and then remake them on the go…the art of improvisation is about negotiating the unexpected.” - Rev. Wm. F. Barber

Read about Rev. Barber's new book in Peter Heltzel's interview here:


Islamophobia and Antisemitism

"Interestingly, a Gallup study based on major polling found that a significant number of those who were biased towards Muslims were also anti-Semitic. Major studies have shown that if you compare anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric, dehumanisation, cartoons and caricatures there are striking parallels.

...The good news, though, is that in countries like America, Australia and in Europe, increasing numbers of the younger generation attend schools and universities that are multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Where that occurs, one finds that polls show that the younger generation is less biased than the older generation, who were raised and educated in different times and circumstances." - John Esposito

More here:


Race and Misuse of Power ...

"The problem is always the misuse of power..." Fr. Richard Rohr.

A great meditation for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day - See Romal Tune's interview with Richard on white privilege ... here:


Another response to Jerry Falwell, Jr.

"... let us agree to work together to end all acts of violence and build a safer world.

That will not happen by calling students to arms. It will come by having the courage to create spaces where persons from different faiths, nationalities and races feel respected and safe enough to risk seeing the humanity in the other. It will come by being humble enough to recognize our own contributions to the world’s conflicts. It will come by training our students with analytical tools and skills to address the root causes of violence.

Let us offer hope to the world, instead of more reasons for others to hate us.

Daryl Byler's op-ed is so worth reading, here:
You may also be interested in my response from several weeks back.


Contrast this: Oregon v. Israel

The standoff going on in Oregon vs. the action of Tair Kaminer in Israel. What's similar? What's different?

Quotable from Tair:

Even if I must pay a personal price for my refusal, this price will be worthwhile if it to helps place the occupation on the agenda of Israeli public discourse. Far too many Israelis don’t directly feel the occupation, and they tend to forget about it in their daily lives - lives that are eminently safe in comparison with those of Palestinians, or even of the Israelis who live in the Western Negev (Gaza border area) . We are told that there is no way other than the violent military way. But I believe that this is the most destructive way, and that there are others. I wish to remind all of us that there does exist an alternative: negotiations, peace, optimism, a true will to live in equality, safety and freedom. We are told that the military is not a political institution - but the decision to serve in the military is a highly political one, no less so than the decision to refuse.
... I am not scared of the military prison - what truly frightens me is our society losing its humanity.


Liberty University, Wheaton College, and Hostility to Muslims

“If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.”

- from “My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose” on CNN website, posted September 12, 2012 (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/15/my-take-its-time-for-islamophobic-evangelicals-to-choose/).


The Afraid People

My friend Darren Freeman-Coppadge wrote a poem that expresses what a lot of us have been feeling lately. You'll enjoy reading it here: http://djfree.blogspot.com/2015/12/over-last-few-days-my-emotions-have.html

I. Am afraid.
I am afraid to go to the movie theater. Out to dinner. To school. To work. Anywhere.
I am afraid when I see white vans parked by the side of the road.
Don’t you think I’m afraid?
I am afraid of being afraid.
I get a check in my gut when I see that beautiful brown skin, and quintessentially manly beard, especially when there’s no accompanying smile on that face.
I am afraid that this goes through my mind. I don’t want to be this way.
I am afraid that I am ignorant.
I am afraid for my friends: Muslims, and Arabs, and people that look like Arabs – beautiful people, all.
Some of them are even Christians. And Hindus. And Buddhists. And atheists. None of them are terrorists. But I am afraid that this means nothing to the man who is reactionary and afraid.
I am afraid that the Afraid People don’t even recognize how much their words and their actions come from a place of being afraid. I am afraid of what they will do.
I am afraid of how the sight of a hijab makes the Afraid People so afraid that all the hate they’ve kept hidden for so long in the secret parts of the heart will come roaring forth like a mighty river after a hurricane.
I am afraid that we will lose our humanity… in the name of combating people who have already lost theirs.
I am afraid that the Afraid People will win – that they will become the majority because they stir up everyone else who is afraid.
Yes, I am afraid that the Afraid People have made me more afraid. I am afraid of how that will affect me.


Watch this. On Muslims in America. The Daily Show.

"Where people get radicalized is ... [not the mosque, but] the internet."

I've learned so much from Dahlia Mogahed ... you'll see why here:


You may need this right about now.

19 minutes can make a big difference sometimes!


Dr. Larycia Hawkins, Wheaton College, and an Opportunity for Courage

Having grown up Evangelical and having been a speaker at many Evangelical colleges across the country, I think David Gushee got it right in his piece on the recent conflict at Wheaton College over Professor Larycia Hawkins, namely, that donors trump academic and theological integrity. Two additional factors come to mind:

1. As I explored in a recent book, religious identity (Evangelical, Muslim, even atheist) is often strengthened by hostility to "the other." Relatively few religious communities have consciously sought to build strong religious identity around solidarity with the other (as Jesus did) rather than hostility.

2. The fact that Dr. Hawkins is a woman of color is not (understatement alert) insignificant. Her gender and race raises the question of how many white men at Wheaton hold similar views but aren't punished for them.

These two factors raise two interesting opportunities:

1. Why don't Evangelical students and faculty at Wheaton and other Evangelical schools take this opportunity to reach out and invite some Muslims to campus? (This could be a bit scary for the Muslim guests, in light of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s recent statements.) In this way, they could model a positive response to the negative actions of Falwell and the Wheaton administration.

2. Why don't white male faculty at Evangelical institutions take a stand in solidarity with Dr. Hawkins, putting some of their privilege on the line for the benefit of a colleague and sister? Silence in the presence of injustice can easily be a form of complicity.

I'd love to hear about, report, and publicize positive actions in this regard ...


Wisdom from a Wheaton College Grad ...


He reflects on this story ...

In 2013, I was facilitating a conflict assessment workshop in Jos [Nigeria]. As usual, they opened the workshop with a prayer, in the name of Jesus — that we would have a good and meaningful dialogue to better understand the root drivers of conflict and find solutions, and that God would be honored by our thoughts and words.

We were sitting under a pavilion outside the hotel. Almost everyone around the table was Christian. After the prayer, I glanced at the two women wearing hijabs and asked, “Are we interfaith?,” in case they also wanted to say a prayer. The young woman in a blue hijab smiled gently and said, “No, that prayer will suffice. We all worship the same God.”


David Gushee gets it right on Wheaton College

"Conservative evangelical institutions such as Wheaton are governed and supported, overwhelmingly, by people who are not just theologically conservative but also politically conservative. I would wager that the boards, top administrators, and biggest donors of most self-identified evangelical schools would vote Republican at around 95 percent. Recall that in every recent presidential election, 75 to 80 percent of white evangelicals have voted for the GOP candidate.

Evangelical Christian universities walk a tightrope. They are precariously balanced between the need to build a faculty that is academically respected and the need to satisfy the demands of very conservative donors, trustees, and parents. They have to pluck graduates from mainly liberal research universities and find or develop enough of them who can toe an explicit conservative theological line and an implicit conservative political line. This is no mean feat.

... My theory is that what Professor Hawkins really violated were the implicit but very real political preferences of Wheaton’s constituency, not the school’s explicit theological standards."

- See more at: http://davidgushee.religionnews.com/2016/01/07/wheaton-hawkins-evangelicals-politics/#sthash.fYVlQylB.dpuf


Aliveness in 2016

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
(HT Bob Carlson)

My book We Make the Road by Walking looks at the whole Bible through the lens of "seeking aliveness." If Campbell's quote resonates with you, you'll enjoy the book. More here:


Politics and Consciousness

This year's campaign rhetoric provides a great database for studying different structures or levels or paradigms of human consciousness.

Richard Rohr recently offered a helpful one-page summary of Integral Theory's "levels of consciousness" here:

Beige: Instinctive/Survivalistic -- The basic theme is to do what it takes to stay alive, with a preference for pleasure over pain. There is a unitive absorption with one's mother and an original innocence and naïveté. (Sunday) Purple: Magical/Animistic -- It becomes important to honor and obey the spirit-being presented and the group's leaders, rituals, and customs. Red: Impulsive/Egocentric -- The individual realizes that he or she can be distinct from the tribe and can break free from group constraints; the heroic self. Blue: Purposeful/Authoritarian -- The "true believers," the concrete-literal fundamentalists, love certitude and knowing who is right and who is wrong. They presume they are right and will be rewarded. Orange: Achievist/Strategic -- People who are self-reliant, rational, educated, and willing to take risks will "win." Societies will prosper through competitiveness and technology. Green: Communitarian/Egalitarian -- "Seek peace within the inner self and explore, with others, the caring dimensions of community." Political correctness, human rights, and equality are the highest virtues. Yellow: Integrative -- Human lives and society are seen much like vibrant, resilient ecosystems where chaos and fluctuation are expected. Turquoise: Holistic -- The entire world is "a single, dynamic organism with its own collective mind."

For those who are interested, I synthesize these eight levels in a four-stage schema in Naked Spirituality:

Simplicity: Beige/Purple/Red/Blue
Complexity: Orange
Perplexity: Green
Harmony: Yellow/Purple


Happy New Year, Everyone!

A note of sincere thanks - to all who followed me on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog in 2015. I'm deeply grateful for your interest and I look forward to an even better year next year ... as we seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. My prayer for you is that your heart fills up and overflows with love, joy, peace, and generosity ... so that you are blessed and a great blessing to others near and far. Happy New Year, everyone!


A Powerful Christmas Sermon from North Carolina ...

by Rev. Dr. William Barber speaks the truth about hypocrisy and Christmas. His sermon starts at 17:30:


Why Are You Here?

My friend and colleague Valarie Kaur posted this heartbreaking news this morning:

Elderly #Sikh man beaten, collar bone broken, asked "WHY ARE YOU HERE" in town where #Sikhs have lived 100+ yrs.

Read more here:

The assailants' ignorant taunt is eerily and heartbreakingly resonant with the song I posted last week:

Not Welcome Here
A couple showed up last Sunday at church
They hoped we could help in their spiritual search
Their marriage is legal but our leaders say
It’s morally wrong so they sent them away and said ...
Not welcome here, Not welcome here.
We have our beliefs to which we adhere
It’s a dangerous world. There’s much we should fear
So people like you are not welcome here.

A family showed up at border control
We want our kids to be safe. They said. That is our goal.
We’re homeless and hungry and frightened and poor
And our country is ravaged by hatred and war. We said
Not welcome here, not welcome here
How do we know if you are sincere?
It’s a dangerous world. There’s much we should fear
So people like you are not welcome here.
A couple rode in from some other town.
The woman was pregnant. They both looked worn down.
You know how things are. What else could I say?
I shut the door tight and sent them away.
Not welcome here. Not welcome here.
You know times are tough. Please don’t interfere.
It’s a dangerous world. There’s much we should fear.
So people like you are not welcome here.

Sometimes I wonder how it would be
If the tables were turned and instead it was me
A different religion or color of skin
A refugee hoping to be welcomed in ...
You’re welcome here. You’re welcome here.
You’re safe here with us. You have nothing to fear.
It’s a dangerous world, but be of good cheer.
There’s a place here for you, and you’re welcome here.

You can hear the song and read about it here:

May God help each of us to convey "You're welcome here" in all our actions - and may we stand up to ignorant bigotry wherever it appears.


Merry Christmas to all!

Luke 2
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,* the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


Peace on Earth ...

"God is not Christian, God is not Jewish, God is not Muslim ... God is love." - Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis

Religion is often part of the problem, but these powerful women will remind you that it can be part of the solution ...

Let's join them in converting our faiths from weapons of war into instruments of peace.


Fear, Love, Christmas, and a New Song by Brian McLaren

My friend Bryan Sirchio just posted a song I wrote recently ... along with a Christmas season meditation, here:


Pee, Poop, and Theology

Wise words from Susan Thistlethwaite, here.

When you're thankful for the gifts of 2015, and looking forward to the blessings of 2016, remember your body is a wonderful gift indeed.


Really, Wheaton College? Really?

I just read about Dr. Larycia Hawkins being placed on administrative leave for showing human solidarity with Muslims. Really, Wheaton College? Your definition of Evangelical Christianity requires hostility to Muslims rather than solidarity?

Congratulations to Professor Hawkins for making a needed stand, and kudos to the students who stood with her. This could be a defining moment for students and faculty at that school - and for a rising generation of Evangelical students across the country. The hostile rhetoric of presidential candidates - much of it spewed out to impress the "Evangelical base" of the Republican Party - seems to have swayed college administrators from their professed theology, which at Christmas should remind us all that God is in solidarity with all humanity, all creation ...

For anyone interested in my engagement on the issue of interfaith solidarity, read Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? and check out this series of posts.


Congratulations, Humanity!

There's a lot of bad news out there ... but we shouldn't miss this amazingly good news:

“For the first time, we have a truly universal agreement on climate change, one of the most crucial problems on earth.” - Ban-Ki Moon
“This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future. We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.” - Pres. Barak Obama

But as one expert said, “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world ... depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.” There is no Plan B. That's where each of us will have a part to play. As a national panel of religious leaders said in September, there are five specific steps each of us can take to seize this moment of opportunity, and not let ignorant and short-sighted interests sabotage the progress people of faith from the Pope to you and I are calling for:

1. Engage: Speak out - beginning in your house of worship - about climate change, beginning in your own congregation.

2. Energize: Pull together a group to explore ways to increase your energy efficiency - in your house of worship and in your individuals homes.

3. Divest/Invest: Pull investments out of dirty energy and shift them into ethically responsible investments.

4. Vote: Make climate change one of the top three issues in every election.

5. Educate: Educate yourself and spread what you learn to others through all your social media.

Want to take some first steps? Start here for links to amazing resources:

And whenever someone talks about the bad stuff happening out there, say something like this: "Well, at least we've taken a really positive step on climate change! That's something to celebrate and get behind!"


An Advent Prayer ...

From my good friends at Mustard Seed Associates, here.


Lots of hateful speech going on these days ...

Let's start some positive messages going, OK? Here's how:


Listen to Dave, not Donald ...

My friend Dave Andrews recently wrote an excellent book on Muslim-Christian relations (and more). It's called The Jihad of Jesus.

Dave recently sent this note to his Muslim and non-Muslim friends in the US in light of the disturbing rise in Islamophobic and nativist rhetoric here.

It was wonderful to meet you while I was in the USA.

I am most grateful for your hospitality, friendship and fellowship

I thank God for the great interfaith engagement you are involved in and am writing to you to encourage you to keep up the good work - overcoming evil with good.

I beg of you that you continue to resist the mischief makers and continue to embrace one another, open your arms to make space for the other and to welcome one another; wrap your arms around each other, to comfort one another, and to keep one another safe. For it is most important to do it, when it is most difficult to do.

God bless you. Your brother from Australia, Dave

It is most important when it is most difficult to do ... amen. Overcome evil with good ... amen! If you wanted to read (or give) 2 books on Christian identity in relation to people of other faiths, along with Dave's excellent book, you might be interested in Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?


Trumping Jesus

I wrote a letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr, the other day (you can read it here). Peter Enns also wrote an important and helpful article available here. Enns writes:

Biblicism is the idea that the Bible functions as something like a Christian field guide to faith and action: Since the Bible is God’s word, and therefore inspired by God, every word of it reveals true, reliable, and incontrovertible information about what God is like — and what it means to follow God faithfully.

This Bible happens to contain quite a bit of tribalistic, violent rhetoric against the enemies of God, the most famous of which is God’s command that the Israelites exterminate the Canaanites and take their land. Elsewhere, Israel’s enemies are impaled, and women and children are taken as spoils of war. In the final book of the Christian Bible, the apocalyptic book of Revelation, the blood of the ungodly flows for 200 miles as high as a horse’s bridle.

Divine violence in scripture, either done or commanded by God, is hardly a momentary lapse. According to fundamentalist logic, this revealed aspect of the divine must be taken seriously.

Falwell’s rhetoric about arming young Christians against the enemy isn’t difficult to justify on Biblicistic grounds.

Enns concludes:

Falwell’s rhetoric isn’t an expression of true Christian faith. It is a problem that true Christian faith seeks to correct.

I couldn't agree more. This will be a central theme of my 2016 book, Converting Christianity.

Just as peace-loving Muslims must find a way to distinguish their faith from the hostile distortions of apocalyptic cults like ISIS, peace-loving Christians must find a way to distinguish our faith from fundamentalist biblicism.

While peace-loving Christians revere the Bible as a library of sacred documents that reach their culmination in the life and teachings of Jesus, Biblicists treat the Bible as an infallible, inerrant, timeless constitution that allows them to justify anything they can find a chapter and verse in the Bible to justify, including gross and heinous violence done in God's name.

As a result, even though Jesus taught his disciples to respond to evil with good, this biblicist form of religion teaches its students to respond to bullets with bullets. Where Jesus taught, "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake," this biblicism decenters Christ and allows its adherents to teach, "Blessed are those who shoot first" and "Blessed are those with better weapons." Where Jesus taught to love the stranger, outcast, outsider, and enemy, biblicists choose verses from Deuteronomy, Joshua, the Psalms, or Revelation to justify profiling, shunning, hating, and harming "the other," trumping Jesus (pun intended).

Where authentic Christianity sees the Bible (as Martin Luther said) as the manger on which Christ is presented to the world, Biblicism is a clever way of submerging Jesus, and even drowning him, in the 783,137 words of the Bible.

Biblicism is one of history's most effective means of trumping and burying Jesus and his good news of peace and reconciliation for all people. But anyone who needs to be buried so often must have a power greater than those doing the burying understand.

The power of love and reconciliation will not remain buried by the powers of fear and hate.


Evangelical Faith and Science ...

This piece from Ryan Gear is well worth reading and sharing ... here.


My Letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Liberty University ...


A quote from the letter:

Your message faithfully represents a longstanding (and ugly) stream of American culture and politics. This tradition goes back to those who argued against the equal human rights and dignity of the Native Peoples and African-American slaves, often abusing the Bible to justify white supremacy under its various guises.

It was also manifest in the Protestant prejudice against Catholic immigrants, in centuries of morally repugnant anti-Semitism, and in the unethical treatment of the Japanese during World War II. During the McCarthy era, it launched witch hunts using "red" and "Communist" as its epithets.

In this ugly American tradition, your father used antipathy towards gay people to rally his base, and now, you are doing the same with Muslims. You are being deeply faithful to a tradition that is deeply unfaithful to the life and teaching of Jesus... not to mention the broader American ideal that upholds the dignity and equality of all people, whatever their religion.


A reader writes: A great book ...

A reader writes ...

I just finished reading “A Generous Orthodoxy” and I wanted to take a moment and congratulate you on a wonderfully inspiring work. I have been a conservative evangelical Christian for nearly half of my adult life but in recent years i have felt that something has been missing. I am frustrated over the lack of unity in Christianity today. There is practically no ecumenical cooperation between denominational churches. We have become so mired in tradition, creeds, denominationalism, doctrinal rigidity and hypocrisy that we are failing to reach today’s post-modern culture. I have no doubt that you have received a fair amount of criticism for some of the things you have written in this book but I am guessing that most of it is from hard-core conservatives or those who have not taken the time to actually read the book. It took me two weeks the first time while taking copious notes but I already know I will have to read it again to fully grasp it. Don’t be discouraged by any negative comments. A Generous Orthodoxy is a great book. Best Regards.

Thanks for these encouraging words. A Generous Orthodoxy was published over a decade ago, but my suspicion is that its message is more applicable now than ever, especially when there's so much ungenerous religion out there! Thanks for your desire to embody a better path.


An important Thanksgiving reflection ...

One of the most important Thanksgiving reflection a US citizen can read ... from Mark Charles. Quotable:

Being Native American and living in the United States, it feels like our Native communities are an old grandmother who has a very large and very beautiful house. Years ago some people came into our house and locked us upstairs in the bedroom. Today our house is full of people. They’re sitting on our furniture, they're eating our food, they're having a party in our house. They've since come upstairs and unlocked the door to our bedroom but it's much later; we're tired, we're old, we're weak and we're sick, so we can't or we don't come out. But the thing that hurts us the most, the thing that causes us the most pain is that virtually nobody from this party ever comes upstairs, seeks out the grandmother in the bedroom, sits down next to her on the bed, takes her hand and simply says thank you. Thank you for letting us be in your house.

More here:


My short thanksgiving list ...

My top twenty in (sometimes humorously) random order:
1. The gift of life and health, all the more because this year I had successful (and minor) cancer surgery, and because next year I turn sixty (a milestone that causes people to "number their days" as the Psalmist said)
2. My amazing wife, my beloved wonderful unimaginably fantastic adult children, my dont-get-me-started-on-how-extraordinary-they-are grandkids, my sweet mother, my beloved brother and in-laws, nieces and nephews and extended family, each a beautiful gift ...
3. That every year is not an election year, and that even many Republicans are sickened by the thought of President Trump
4. For food ... and for the soil, rain, sunlight, air, and seasons on which it depends
5. For Pope Francis ... and for all the other sane religious leaders whose voices are often drowned out by those whose sanity is less, errrr, substantial.
6. For my favorite possessions - especially my computer, my kayak, my fly rod, my guitars, my herd of tortoises, and my mango trees
7. For birds and other creatures whose company enriches my life is so many ways.
7. For my favorite musicians - a long list that begins with Bruce Cockburn, Bob Dylan, and my singer-songwriter daughter Jodi.
8. For all the people who do their work well every day, improving life for everyone - especially teachers, librarians, people who protect public safety, doctors and especially nurses, pastors and priests and their colleagues, public servants (some politicians belong to this category), sanitation workers, ethical engineers and accountants, and farmworkers (the unsung heroes around the world).
9. That most people use the internet responsibly, unlike the few who constantly put up bogus fake me accounts, spread crazy falsehoods, and troll all our comments sections.
10. For all the people who resist xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and all the other sociopathic epidemics for which this is a very bad year ...
12. For all the people who respond to each tragedy, terrorist attack, war, earthquake, refugee crisis, and bad "breaking news" with prayer, love, grace, and the determination not to be overcome by evil, nor to respond to evil with evil, but rather to overcome evil with good.
13. For the love and grace of God, for the unfathomable good news of Jesus, and for the constant, surrounding, upholding, healing, and inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit.
14. For all the people who read my books, and especially those who underline things they like and recommend them to others.
15. For all the organizations that invited me to speak in 2015. It was a wonderful year!
16. For my closest friends ... you know who you are.
17. My ancestors who have gone before, and all the saints and elders who inspire me by their words and example.
18. For the beautiful place I live, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades.
19. That in spite of all the free stuff to read on the internet, some people still buy and read books (which I hope they'll keep doing at least until my next one comes out next year!)
20. For all the people who realize I missed #11, for those who realize I cheated with two #7's, and for all the other blessings I missed and should have included in this short list ...


What I Said At the Parliament of World Religions last month:

I don’t know which comes first - my love for God or my love for creation? Do I love birds and trees and oceans and forests because I love the One who created them, or do I love the Creator because I love this exquisite, precious, fragile, resilient, beautiful earth? I don’t know which comes first, but I do know the two go together.

Global warming is a spiritual issue, a moral issue, and people of faith around the world know it. We know that many of the stories we have been telling ourselves and our children are destructive, harmful, and dangerous.

Our old stories often said that God gave the earth to humans so they could use it for their profit. They said that God would soon destroy the earth, which gave powerful people a license to plunder it as if it were a store going out of business.

Our old stories often said that God chose and favored some to the exclusion and diminishment of others. Men and boys over women and girls, one race or tribe over others, straight over gay, this religion above and over that, the pure and orthodox over the skeptic or different, the rich over the poor.

Or maybe our old stories said that everything was a matter of fate, or that the earth was an impermanent distraction from which we can escape on our own private inner enlightenment vacation while the rest of the world burns.

The earth is singing to us, crying to us ... telling us we need to learn and tell a new story, a bigger, better, and more gracious story, rooted in the diverse riches of our various traditions, spoken in the accents of our different cultures, but leading us to common action.

Something is trying to be born among us. Something is trying to take flight, take root, and break free. It is a movement, an urgent multi-faith spiritual movement that looks like the people gathered here - diverse, mutually appreciative, and deeply dedicated.

It has been said that organized religion is dying, and sometimes, that may be a good thing ... because the religious industrial complex is often stuck and stagnant, organized for the wrong purposes: self-preservation, protection of privilege, an escape into yesterday or tomorrow rather than an engagement with the fierce urgency of now.

The movement we need must transform organized religions into organizing religions, religions organizing for the common good, religions equipping and deploying people in a global, passionate, dynamic movement to heal the earth and protect all living things.

We can’t treat climate change as just one more problem in a list, one problem unrelated to all others. Rather, we must realize that the burning of fossil fuels is closely related to the combustion of human beings to fuel a destructive economy ...

- millions of farm workers sweating in the hot fields for obscenely low pay,
- millions of women of heroic character and dignity whose potential melts away because of selfish and arrogant men who exploit them,
- millions of boys and girls who have neither clean water for their bodies nor a quality education for their minds,
- millions of frightened grandfathers and brokenhearted grandmothers burning in the fever of hate, racism, and war.

Just as many pronounce religion as passe, irrelevant, and dead, suddenly we need religion as never before to come together in saving love to avert climate disaster on planet earth.

If we stop and listen, we will hear the earth and the poor together cry to us, people of faith of many religious traditions, to put our individual and institutional egos aside ... to come together in humble, earnest, self-giving zeal, and tell a new, life-giving story of repentance, reconciliation, and regeneration.

If we love God, we will love creation. If we love our children, our grandchildren, and our neighbors, we will love creation. What we love, we honor. What we love we protect. May our religions become what they were meant to be ... schools of love that heal and change the world.


From Chicago Pastor Otis Moss 3 on Laquan McDonald ...

My friend and colleague Otis Moss shares these powerful and heartfelt words in response to another black life taken by a policeman's bullet ...

An 80s song told us “video killed the radio star”. The music was catchy and referred to the varied attitudes we all had about technology. What is this? What would we do now? Fast-forward 35 years, and videos are the very technology for which we are so thankful.

Video changes everything.

When the Chicago Police Department released the dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by one of their own, the city braced for disruption. When we learned of the $5 million settlement to the McDonald family that stipulated the video remain confidential, the city braced for disruption. When residents discovered that footage from a nearby security camera had been deleted by Chicago police, the city braced for disruption. Mayor Emanuel and his team had seen the video, and were afraid of the public reaction.

People from various corners of the city protested, wanting to know “why the cover up”, “why did it take nearly 400 days to release the video and bring charges”? Fair questions. And in a city not known for its political transparency, we didn’t necessarily expect answers. But we demand answers, and we demand change. That it took a court order to release the video to demonstrate police transparency results in an additional level of distrust innuendo, conspiracy and rumors. Again, we demand change.

What Chicago needs – and what Chicago shall have – is a diverse group of moral voices to speak out with authority about the failure of retribution, containment and "broken windows" model of policing. We need a social media-led campaign of letters and video sharing a different vision. We cannot revert to the transgressions that took place in the 70s, 80s, and 90s under Police Chief John Burge. The court just in the last two years put down judgments for this egregious policy and violation of human rights.

Faith leaders from Chicagoland are requesting a special prosecutor be appointed through the Department of Justice; we have NO confidence in our state, county and city officials to fairly investigate this case. We also ask for your support and prayer as we further the dismantling of a corrupt system that shielded a corrupt police officer.

Our goals are to:

 Demilitarize the Chicago Police Department

 Have a department that reflects the community they serve

 Put in place a civilian review board with indictment power

 Secure proper funding for restorative justice programs

 Force the resignation and firing of ALL involved

 Force the indictment of officers and commanders

 Seat a new District Attorney

 Hold all elected officials accountable

Tomorrow marks the beginning of what’s supposed to be a joyous and thanks-filled season. We’ll sit down with our families, sharing in good food with good company – taking extra time to say thank you. Of all the things for which I have to be thankful – friends and family, and a Lord that has never forsaken me – I’m especially thankful for a video that may lead to justice. Justice for the families who will forever have an empty seat at the table.


A joyful song of welcome ...

Written for baptism, by Rob Leveridge:

You can get behind the album here:


Grounded, by Diana Butler Bass - a great Christmas gift

I've had the privilege of knowing and working with Diana Butler Bass for several years. Her new book Grounded is a real treasure. It would make a stellar Christmas gift ... maybe even one to yourself. There were a few points while reading where I teared up (the story on p. 256-258 for one) ... many points where I put the book down for a few minutes to ponder and pray. Seldom do you read a book that is at once devotional and revolutionary, but this is one of them. If you're like me - a lover of books as gifts to give and receive - this is a great option for 2015.


We're blessed to have theologians like

Thomas Oord. You'll enjoy his video ... and book.


A first step in loving your enemies is humanizing them

... and this article helped humanize people in Syria who become part of ISIS, become disillusioned, and then become refugees. Well worth reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/world/middleeast/isis-wives-and-enforcers-in-syria-recount-collaboration-anguish-and-escape.html?_r=0


Pulpit Fiction ... great interviews!

I'm in good company ... here.


Faith and Climate

For all who care about the environment, and especially the climate crisis, here are several things to check out.

First, this amazing interview with Katharine Hayhoe ...

Second, what a sustainable world looks like - in your state:

Third, check out the maps-in-motion here:

Fourth, look at some important (and interesting) policy matters here:

And while you're at it, check out faithandclimate.org.


The Terrorism Trilemma, Part 2: Creative Nonviolent Courage

A friend recently wrote to me with this question:

Your imagined speech by George Bush after 9/11 really helped me have clarity and begin differentiating between US Militarism and the way of Jesus. It's embarrassing to say it took that long but with how I grew up, that's a starting point in my evolution.

Now, when I really think about not just the attacks in Paris but the beheading in rural Tunisia, the shootings in a village in Nigeria, the seemingly interconnected mission and violence of ISIS, I'm having such a hard time expressing my beliefs as a strategy or response to this organization(s).

I'm assuming you've been writing and speaking about it, and I read on your blog your response to someone asking basically the same thing as me.

But do you have any revelation about actual steps or strategy of engagement? What can that wedding banquet table look like in these moments? Every Christian I know is arming themselves to exterminate this wicked movement, kill them all, unleash the wrath of God through the US Military, etc... I can't articulate an alternative but I know there's a brilliant one, as elegant as turn the other cheek yet practical and applicable.

Just curious, I know public policy is not your job :)

I certainly don't have an easy answer on this, and certainly not a brilliant or elegant one. But as I wrote in a previous post, I do know that choosing to respond to horrific violence with denial or transmission will only intensify the cycle of violence.

So what would a third option - creative nonviolent courage - look like?

I believe it would have four initial components, all rooted in the Bible:

1. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15): Compassion and empathy must be our first response.
We must let our hearts be softened, not hardened, to suffering. So as we feel the pain of those in Paris, we also open our hearts to the pain of other human beings suffering from brutality and violence in Central African Republic, Burundi, Nigeria - including the people of Syria whose homeland is being destroyed by ugly regimes from Isis to Assad.

2. Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17 ff): Short term, we should look for some constructive good in which to engage ... from a random act of kindness to a long-term commitment to help people in need.

And longer term, we should devise a strategy to overcome great evil with even greater good. The greatest example I know if this is the Global Marshall Plan proposed by Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives. If you haven't read it, now would be a great time. Without a plan like this, we will keep treating symptoms while worsening the disease.

3. The ear of the wise seeks wisdom (Prov. 18:15): When people claim to understand a complex situation and spout off with their opinions without listening and learning, you can guarantee that wisdom will be confidently left behind. So it's a good time to ask questions, to learn, to do some serious research (starting with the Global Marshall Plan above) ... and to seek out wise counsel from people who have a diversity of viewpoints. (Remember: hearing the same opinion from the same source ten times isn't the same as seeking out ten diverse viewpoints from ten reputable sources.)

4. He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov. 13:20). Choosing whom you will hang out with - in person, on air, or online - makes all the difference in times like these. We've all heard of "collective intelligence." Well, there's also something called collective stupidity ... it shows up in lynch mobs, panicked crowds, witch hunts, and feeding frenzies, and is aided and abetted by cable TV and talk radio. People become radicalized - as violent terrorists or as reactionary and even more violent anti-terrorists - by hanging around with people who normalize violence. And people become transformed toward creative nonviolent courage by associating with others who are on that path.

That's why it is good when churches and houses of worship open their doors and wise spiritual leaders speak out in times like these. Collective stupidity (aka "foolishness" in the Bible) sings its siren song (and remember, fear raises ratings and sells more advertising) ... wisdom must also call out in the streets. Coming together for prayer and contemplation becomes all the more important in times like these.

Choosing empathy rather than denial, refusing revenge and choosing to overcome evil with good, and seeking wisdom and associating with wise people of peace (James 3:17-18) rather than falling prey to collective stupidity ... these, I believe, are important initial reactions to acts of terrorism. And longer term, we need our world leaders to come together in a plan of creative and nonviolent courage. May that day come soon.


Want to know how to talk about ISIS?

You'll find really helpful resources here:


The Terrorism Trilemma

Each new terrorist attack presents us with three basic choices as individuals, and each choice has significant consequences ... for ourselves and others.

1. Denial: We may respond with denial: That's far away. That's not my problem. I don't have time for this.

Some of us are, indeed, operating at the maximum of stress and suffering already, and for us, denial is the only viable option. But for others of us, pushing away an unpleasant reality is like ignoring symptoms of a disease; it will only get worse the longer we ignore it.

2. Transmission: If we let the pain in, many of us will immediately find a way to pass it on, to transmit it to others.

We may choose revenge ... calling for "an eye for an eye." When we choose this popular path, we forget, as Gandhi said, that following the "eye for an eye" strategy will eventually leave everyone blind. And we also forget that the revenge strategy can easily turn us into the mirror image of those who have hurt us: they desire violence, and we imitate their desire.

If we feel we can't transmit our pain back on those who inflicted it, we may choose blame and scapegoating as another way of transmitting our pain: it's the President's fault, it's the fault of religion, it's because of refugees and immigrants, etc. We feel pain and we don't know what to do with it - so we turn it into aggression toward some third party. In so doing, we climb on the pain train and keep the vicious cycle going.

If we reject both denial and transmission, is there a third option? I believe there is:

3. Transformation: This is the way taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. When someone slaps you, he said, don't slap them back and don't run away or cringe in fear. Instead, stand tall. Refuse to back down. And refuse to mirror their violent behavior. (This is what "turning the other cheek" means. It doesn't mean being a doormat. It means responding with creative nonviolent courage.)

What would creative nonviolent courage look like in the face of groups like Isis, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, etc? I'll offer a few thoughts on that subject in the next day or two.


Your Christmas List

I'm a huge fan of Glennon Melton and the whole tribe at @Momastery …
And I'm honored that my book We Make the Road by Walking is on her recommended list this year. Check it out here:

While you're at it, consider her formula for a good Christmas list:
Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.
And something to light up the world …

And join the fun of giving here through Holiday Hands:


Converting Christianity/UPDATE

Here's some information about my next book, scheduled for release September 2016:

Many people experience Christianity as a system of belief. It is focused on an exclusive Supreme Being who favors some and rejects others, and it is defended by a set of change-averse, self-protecting institutions. In Converting Christianity, Brian D. McLaren challenges this conventional understanding of Christianity, and invites forward-leaning Christians to participate in a movement of conversion. Drawing from his work as a pastor, speaker, public theologian, ecumenical networker, and activist, McLaren offers a plan for radical change that can shift the direction of Christian faith to be more in sync with its founder, more life-giving for individual Christians and congregations, and more of a just, generous, and joyful resource for the whole world.

Here's updated information, including the new title:
... will be the title of Brian's September 2016 release. Here's a short summary:

Many people experience Christianity as a system of belief. This system of belief focuses on an exclusive and violent Supreme Being who favors some and rejects others, and it is defended by a set of self-protecting and change-averse institutions. In The Great Spiritual Migration, Brian D. McLaren challenges this conventional understanding and invites Christians to participate in a movement of conversion and transformation. Drawing from his work as a pastor, speaker, public theologian, ecumenical networker, and activist, McLaren offers a plan for deep change that can shift the direction of Christian faith to be more in sync with its founder, more life-giving for individual Christians and congregations, and more of a just, generous, and joyful resource for the whole world.

The book addresses three needed conversions:

1. From system of belief to loving way of life (a spiritual conversion)
2. From a violent supreme being to the life-giving Spirit embodied in Jesus (a theological conversion)
3. From Organized Religion to Religion Organizing for the common good (a missional conversion)

Here is a brief selection from the introduction:

For centuries, Christianity has presented itself as a system of beliefs. That system of beliefs has supported a wide range of unintended consequences - from colonialism to environmental destruction, from subordination of women to stigmatization of LGBT people, from antiSemitism to Islamaphobia, from clergy pedophilia to white privilege. What would it mean for Christians to rediscover their faith - not as a problematic system of beliefs, but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion, that makes amends for its mistakes, and is dedicated to beloved community for all? Could Christianity be converted from defining itself as a system of beliefs to a loving way of life? Could Christianity lose the bitter taste of colonialism, exclusion, judgment, hypocrisy, and oppression, and regain the sweet and nourishing taste of justice, joy, and peace again?

For centuries, Christianity has presented God as a Supreme Being who favors insiders with certain beliefs and proper institutional affiliation, while threatening outsiders with eternal conscious torment. Yet Jesus revealed God as one who “eats with sinners,” welcomes outsiders in, and keeps forgiving while being rejected, tortured, and killed. Jesus associated God with self-giving service rather than self-asserting domination. Jesus associated God more with parental tenderness rather than authoritarian toughness. What would it mean for Christians to let Jesus and his message convert them to a new vision of God? Could Christians be converted to understand God as the loving, healing, reconciling Spirit in whom all creatures live, move, and have their being? Could Christians experience a conversion in their deepest understanding of God?

For centuries, Christianity has understood itself as an “organized religion” - an institution or set of institutions that conserve a timeless set of beliefs that were given fully-formed in the past. Yet Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation in message, methods, and mission. What would happen if we understood the core Christian ethos as creative, transformative, and forward-leaning - as a constructive change agent rather than as the nostalgic curator of an aging tradition? Could Christianity be converted into an ever-evolving movement or “organizing religion” that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a common and enduring vision?

Today, millions of us - Catholic, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, share something in common that we seldom verbalize: we believe our religious communities have lost their way and have become something very different from what Jesus would recognize as an expression of his heart and passion. The “brand” of Christianity has been so compromised that many of us are barely able to use the label any more. Whether we lean conservative, progressive, or moderate, whether we are pastors, priests, denominational leaders, or lay people, whether we’re teenagers, young adults, adults, or senior citizens, more and more of us are reaching a shared frustration that prepares the way for a profound conversion.

We all love Jesus. We all think he was right, and we all want to follow the way of life he modeled and taught. We all believe there are unique treasures in our Christian faith. But we are coming to realize that many sectors of our Christian faith need something more radical than renewal, revival, or even reform. We need a great spiritual migration.

Stay tuned for this release from Convergent Books.


A Sabbatical ...

About ten years ago, I completed 24 years in the pastorate to begin a new chapter in my life and ministry, working as an author, speaker, and activist. For these ten years, I’ve been on the road 80-100 days a year. That means I've had the great privilege of meeting and speaking to thousands of pastors and other faith leaders and hundreds of congregations, across a wide span of denominations and interfaith gatherings. I’ve met amazing people and had the chance to speak and write about matters I care passionately about. It has been a great ten years, and I’m deeply grateful to God, my readers, my colleagues, and all with whom I’ve worked.

But these ten years have also meant a lot of hotel rooms, a lot of time zones, a lot of landings, takeoffs, delays, rental cars, security lines, airport food, early mornings, and late nights, a lot of emails and phone calls, and a lot of time away from my wife and our home.

Over a year ago, I started to feel tired - physically tired, but more, mentally tired. I felt that certain creative parts of my brain were constantly under pressure and weren’t getting a rest. My soul felt healthy, but I felt a growing need for four things:

1. To be at home to rest and recharge mentally and physically.
2. To spend time with Grace, so she didn’t need to ask, “How many days are you home for this time?”
3. To be quiet. To not speak or write for a while.
4. To discern what should change and what should stay the same for my next ten years.

That fourth item feels especially important because I’ll turn sixty next year, and this age milestone presents me with questions about the best ways to invest my remaining active years.

Because of the nature of this work, when you step on the brakes, you don’t stop for 12-18 months. So last year I stopped taking speaking engagements for a ten-month period (one month for each of the past ten years) that begins today. Here’s what that will mean:

1. If you would like to invite me to speak, I’ll be taking speaking engagements beginning September 10, 2016. That’s also when my next book will be available. (You can read more about Converting Christianity soon.) Laci will be handling speaking requests as usual, here.

2. I will be spending little time on email and social media, and won’t be responding to requests as I normally do. Thanks for understanding and for respecting this time of rest and reflection.

3. Your prayers are greatly appreciated. I want my next ten years to be as useful as possible to the causes and priorities so many of us care about so much. And I want to keep enjoying the incalculable gift of aliveness each moment, each day.


397.7 … 800,000 … 3.6: Why these numbers matter to you



Speaking with American Baptists

I enjoyed my time with "Space for Grace" in LA last week … amazing people and conversation! Here are the slides from my talks there:


Pray for Burundi

This disturbing piece from Nicholas Kristof warns of a looming catastrophe in this beloved East African country this weekend. Quotable:

One of the great lessons of modern history is that once an atrocity or civil war begins, it’s very difficult to stop and often spreads to surrounding countries. This is the moment for world leaders to intervene urgently — warning Burundi’s leaders that they will be prosecuted for crimes against humanity if they go that route — not after the slaughter has happened.

This International Crisis Alert includes these ominous words:

... it appears that President Pierre Nkurunziza and those around him intend to use force to end the protests that have been held in Bujumbura since April. The president made public an ultimatum giving the “criminals” seven days to lay down arms. Révérien Ndikuriyo, the Senate president, cryptically warned on 1 November that the police would soon go to “work” and asked district heads to identify “elements which are not in order”. The language is unambiguous to Burundians and chillingly similar to that used in Rwanda in the 1990s before the genocide.

To see what I've written in the past about Burundi, click here.


Morally precocious ...

This little girl has a heart for peace, justice, and reconciliation. May it become contagious!


Choices. Desire.

Lots to ponder in this beautiful song ...

Dynamite | Sandra McCracken and Sara Groves from Laity Lodge on Vimeo.


When Fossil Fuels Become Dinosaurs ...

All of us who care about protecting God's beautiful creation envision a day when dirty energy is left buried in our past. Here's a sign … from a coal executive in a coal producing state … that tells us the tide is turning. Quotable:

“With or without the Clean Power Plan, the economics of alternatives to fossil-based fuels are making inroads in the utility plan,” Patton said. “Companies are making decisions today where they are moving away from coal-fired generation.”

What’s more, the debate over the “war on coal,” which sucks up so much of the political air in West Virginia, has largely been settled in other states, Patton said.

He said 72 percent of Americans believe the earth is getting warmer and that man-made causes are partly attributable. Nearly two-thirds of Americans favor stricter emissions limits on greenhouse gases, Patton said, with even larger majorities among young people.

“Americans believe there is a problem, and while we in West Virginia believe that’s ludicrous and we have our view on coal, it’s really important to understand, if you’re not in a coal-producing state, your affinity for coal is not there,” Patton said. “The debate largely, at this point in time, has been lost.”

Patton reminded the audience that the closest the United States ever came to a carbon tax was the cap-and-trade bill pushed by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain. “I don’t see John McCain as a flaming liberal,” Patton said.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151027/GZ01/151029546/1419#sthash.XYjC3eqW.dpuf


Standing by the Door

A poem by Sam Shoemaker has defined my sense of calling since I was in my late teens.
Some friends at Forefront Church in NYC created this video that includes the poem with some nice beats and imagery at 14:55 … check it out.

ADVENT | Week 3 (MH): "Doorkeepers" from Forefront Church on Vimeo.


Frank Schaeffer and Frank Schaefer … know the difference?

Learn here.


A Conversation with a (former) Fundamentalist

I know you'll enjoy my conversation with Mark Fitzgerald, here. Download, listen, and spread the link. It has already had around 10,000 plays.


Two Evangelicals on Refugees

Two of the most gracious and wise Evangelical Christians I've ever met are speaking out on the Syrian refugee crisis.
Jeff Burns here. Quotable:

I have been studying the Bible all my life. I have a bachelors degree in Pastoral Studies and Philosophy, a Masters of Divinity, and an earned doctorate that I completed in 2013. I was an Evangelical minister for 18 years. I am familiar with this wonderful book called the Bible. As an Evangelical I was taught that the Bible was to be read through the centrality of Christ’s teaching, but as I look at the political landscape of Christians both on the Right and the Left I am convinced that if Jesus ran for public office and declared his domestic and foreign policies we would destroy him in the media as a dreamer and idealist. We would probably declare that his message is not relevant to American life today.

Lynne Hybels, here. Quotable:
Pray a simple prayer: God, what is mine to do? None of us can do everything, but we can all do something — big or small, according to what we’ve been given. And if we all do something, we can change the stories being lived out across deserts and oceans, at country borders and in the hearts of men, women and children just like us.

More than borders, I think it’s been hearts that have been closed to the suffering masses seeking refuge. But a photograph of one small child opened a crack in millions of uninformed or hardened hearts. As one who believes that we are all part of the same human family, I pray that the gates of our hearts will continue to open — like never before.


Gradye Parsons to Donald Trump

A wise letter worth reading, for Donald and all of us, from the elected spokesperson of the Presbyterian Church, USA here. Quotable:

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II. Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders. We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution. We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here.



A reader writes: soul manna

I'm reading We Make the Road by Walking as my morning devotions. I cannot describe the impact this wonderful work is having on me. I refer to it as "manna" in a very real sense: "What is it?" Is it devotional, yes. Is it biblical study and profound scholarship, yes. It is so many things, so beautifully written, solidly researched and deeply moving and defied traditional categories. Whatever it is, it is nourishing me. I hope to share it with others in our church who are seeking a deeper experience of this faith we call Christianity.

A Career of Building Bridges: John Esposito

Well done, John!

John Esposito: "A Career of Building Bridges" from ACMCU on Vimeo.

Blessed are the peacemakers.


Faith Leaders on Earth's Climate

You can jump directly to various speakers here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cl2IMb0pGOY

If you'd like to hear specific speakers from Coming Together in Faith on Climate, you can use this as a guide:
Rev. Gary Hall - 0:00
Rev. Otis Moss & Brian McLaren - 3:00
Rabbi Steve Gutow - 5:10
Imam Mohamed Magid - 10:00
Moss/McLaren - 5 Initiatives - 13:40
Rev. John Dorhauer - 18:40
Rev. Sharon Watkins - 23:15
Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe - 26:05
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, "The Tide is Rising" - 31:05
Sr. Simone Campbell - 36:15
Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool - 41:55
Rev. Suzii Paynter - 46:55
Moss/McLaren/Interaction - 51:45
Rev. Fred Small, "Tree of Life" - 56:30
Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori - 1:01:40
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse - 1:06:21
Rev. Amy Butler - 1:10:40
Moss/McLaren - 1:14:30
Rt. Rev. Marianne Budde - 1:19:45

Links to organizations and more here … http://faithandclimate.org


Randall Balmer gets it right on Evangelicals and Trump


Regarded by many conservationists as the greatest environmental president ever, Carter also understood nature as God's creation and worked to protect it. Reagan, on the other hand, appointed James Watt as secretary of the interior; Watt favored development over conservation and was unremittingly hostile to the protection of the environment.

By the 1980 election, evangelicals had seized on abortion as a pretext for abandoning Carter. As governor and as president, however, Carter had worked very hard, within the confines of the law, to reduce the incidence of abortion; Reagan, while governor of California, signed the most liberal abortion bill in the nation. Although he came around to a so-called pro-life position by 1980, Reagan, as even his apologists acknowledge, made no serious attempt to make good on his promise to outlaw abortion.


A moment of worship

I received a great gift from my friends at Riverside Church in New York when they used one of my songs in a recent service. It turned out beautifully. The whole service is so worth enjoying, but if you just want to hear and see the song, you can take it in from 17:40-21:30, here:
Here are the lyrics:

Lord, every star, blazing bright, shines of you Lord, mountains tall, high with might, stand for you And these hearts beat to you And these feet dance for you And these hands raise to you And these lives live to you

Lord, every leaf, green, red, gold paints of you
Lord, every wave, crashing bold, roars of you
And these hearts beat to you
And these feet dance for you
And these hands raise to you
And these lives live to you

Lord, every tear, truly cried, cries to you
Lord, every love, longing deep, calls to you
And these hearts beat to you
And these feet dance for you
And these hands raise to you
And these lives live to you


A reader writes: Rocked in a Good Way

A reader writes (and asks):

Just wanted to THANK you for this intriguing book WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING! That (& trilogy New Kind of Christian) has been huge to this Lutheran-turned-Methodist (Wesleyan) girl! A LOT if my old thots on faith have been rocked, but in a GOOD way! I've had a lot of questions & they are seeming to find answers the longer I live. I have been "opened" & I KNOW God is at the heart of my "awakening". Thank you & I am continuing to explore.

May I ask you, what do you think of George MacDonald's work? I have been led to him, but as if yet, haven't read any of his work...only excerpts from Michael Phillips' work. (You see, I think even fiction can lead to faith...)

Thanks again for stretching me & I only wish I could use this as a sermon series! But alas, I am retired!

God bless you as you spread the GOOD NEWS!!

Thanks for your encouraging words. On George MacDonald - I was a English major in college and grad school and so, as you might expect, I am a big fan of MacDonald. He saw as few have seen how deeply faith and imagination are connected. Here are two of my favorite quotes from him:
It matters little where a man may be at this moment; the point is whether he is growing.

When we are out of sympathy with the young, then I think our work in this world is over.


13 Minutes of Beauty and Grace … remembering Phyllis Tickle


A Week Ago ...

A week ago, an amazing group of people from around the continent gathered in Washington, DC, at the National Cathedral for Coming Together in Faith on Climate. We were so inspired by Pope Francis' message on "integral ecology" that we wanted to echo and amplify that message to the best of our ability.

In the weeks to come, we'll be building on that momentum. If you'd like to learn more, check out our five initiatives here.

You can watch the whole Celebration from Thursday, 24 September, here:

And you can watch the follow-up discussion from Friday, 25 September, here:


A Moment of Disappointment

There is so much to celebrate about the recent visit of Pope Francis to Turtle Island (aka the USA). But there are also reasons for disappointment, especially this from my friend Mark Charles:

About half way through his speech, Pope Francis mentioned the indigenous peoples of this land. My heart jumped. I was nervous, but eager. This was it. Here was the section. What would he say? What sin would he address? The Catholic Church's Doctrine of Discovery? The colonialism of Europe? The stolen lands and broken treaties of the United States?

… I waited in anticipation…

"Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present."

What??? Did I hear him right???

"…it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present."

My heart sank. My body went numb. I could not believe my ears. Pope Francis was standing on the world stage dismissing the Catholic Church's devastating Doctrine of Discovery.

Be sure to read Mark's commentary on Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress, earlier in the article

Also see this.


So much beauty ...

A friend reminded me of this amazing scene …

A good meditation for a Sunday.


Friends in New York

I'll be at Riverside tomorrow with @PastorAmyTRC to debrief @Pontifex visit & talk abt ‪#‎climatechange‬. Join us https://www.facebook.com/events/785964668181258/permalink/785964688181256/ … ‪#‎TrendingAtTRC‬
I'll be preaching at 10:45 service ...


Two powerful messages on Climate ...

This one from Ambassador Daniel Speckhard, head of Lutheran World Relief. Quotable:

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have agreed that compassionate foreign aid to the poor overseas—through disaster relief, improved health, and sustainable development—is the right thing to do and a critical part of our national security, complementing investments in defense and diplomacy. Because promoting stable and responsible societies and governments promotes our interests as well as our values, instability and assault on the poor and vulnerable unleashed by climate change requires us to respond
He will be part of our Coming Together in Faith on Climate gatherings this week. (There's still room for your to join us on Thursday evening!)

Also participating will be Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Here is one of the most powerful moral voices you'll ever hear addressing Congress ... (AKA "the hall of mammon!")


Muslim, Christian … listening?


To the creative ...

A gift from Joel McKerrow …
More here.

Another gift here:


Rev. Suzii Paynter - ecological healing



Rev. John Dorhauer - disdain or hope?



Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman - protecting the future



Rev. Jim Wallis - care and act



Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe - faith leaders on the forefront



Rev. Cameron Trimble - the number one crisis



Rev. Fred Small - care for the weak, the vulnerable



Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner - there will not be another



Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter - the earth and the vulnerable



Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori - a system of creative activity



Rev. Gary Hall … our neighbors are affected



Rabbi Steve Gutow - the fullness of our responsibility



Sister Simone Campbell, SSS - a loving act



Rev. Dr. Amy Butler - called to love



Rev. Mariann Budde - Breadth, Compassion, Depth



Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson - a transformative moment



Please join me in sending this important message ...

to Pope Francis who will be visiting the US next week:

And consider joining us September 24 and/or 25 at the National Cathedral. More information here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/coming-together-in-faith-on-climate-an-evening-of-celebration-at-washington-national-cathedral-tickets-17898882038


Why September 24 could be the Most Important Day of the Most Important Year of Your Life

See my post at Huffington Post, here.

Join us in Washington, DC, or tune in to live-streaming of the gathering.


Are you Roman Catholic? Have some Catholic friends?

If you're Roman Catholic, check this out from the Franciscan Action Network:

If you're not Roman Catholic, please forward this to a Catholic friend.

Want to get involved? Here are two great initiatives …





A reviewer writes ...

about We Make the Road by Walking ...

The Revised Common Lectionary for year B just didn't work for us. The readings were too disjointed to make sense for a normally non-liturgical church. After getting through Advent we switched to this offering from McLaren. It has been a blast! I had already begun hosting a weekly sermon workshop wherein members worked through the texts with me to help me compose my sermons. That enabled me to enjoy this study both as a small group study and as a sermon Lectionary. McLaren has carefully constructed this series to stretch settled long-time church members and at the same time disciple the newest in the faith. The language is accessible, the verses for each week work together to build understanding. And over time, the series invites and draws believers deeper into the heart of God. I only wish we had begun at Advent last year.

More here.



Reimagining Theological Education

Brian, this blog is in the spirit of your recent posts (and, I think, in the spirit of your next book!). In your work with Convergence you often summarize the struggles of the church today — the quest for vital spiritual community, but also the discouragement with institutional structures that seem (to many of us) to get in the way of finding those communities. And yet your books and posts are consistently positive and hopeful, looking for solutions rather than bemoaning how hard the challenges are.

I want to bring that same spirit to one of the most urgent issues of today: how we train leaders for the church of tomorrow … and invite you to think with me about how to launch some radically new models. The first National Summit on this topic takes place next month in Chicago (see TheoEdu.org for details), and it’s urgent to build a groundswell of support for change.

It’s easy to focus on the problems because they are so serious: the seminary curriculum is based on a 200-year-old model, developed by the German theologian Schleiermacher for the needs of the Berlin University and Lutheran pastors in the early 19th century. Access to seminary teaching is usually controlled not by ministry experience but by one of the academic guilds, whose allegiance is to the Academy; and professors are often tenured for life. When ministry is taught, the classes assume a traditional congregational context of the head pastor/preacher — even though a minority of seminary graduates will ever be paid full-time to serve in this context.

Access to ministry often depends on ordination, which is controlled by the denominations, and on the only accredited degree for ordination, the Master of Divinity, which is controlled by a somewhat conservative accrediting organization, the Association of Theological Schools. And let’s not even mention the time it takes to get this degree (three years minimum), the strangeness of taking folks away from ministry contexts in order to teach them how to minister (!), and the impossible debt load that seminary graduates carry, which often makes it impossible for them to accept a call to ministry because they can’t afford their monthly debt payments.

Do you think we have a problem here?

Convergence has dived, head-first, into the battle for new solutions. A generous grant from the Carpenter Foundation has allowed us to assemble some of the most visionary leaders to work on reinventing ministry education. Next month (October 9-11) begins a five-year series of National Summits, which will bring together ministers and others with a call to ministry, students, educators, and funders to “reimagine theological education.” The best experimental, future-oriented programs will be featured. For the first time, the full range of stakeholders — not just representatives of The Way It Has Always Been Done — will be able to work on a national scale to work out and implement new and more useful models.

The funny thing is, folks already know the kind of changes that are necessary. The needs of ministry should dictate what “theological education” means, not the opposite. Spiritual formation and practical skills are indispensable. Practicums and internships and hands-on experience must stand at the center, with traditional academic fields playing a supportive role. Most of all, the pathway to ministry must be open to all; or, put differently, we need multiple pathways to ministry for the vast variety of types of ministry today, many of them not congregation-based at all.

It is too early to say exactly what the future of theological education will look like. But (spoiler alert!) here are some features that will probably have a place in the new models:

Ministry education becomes mostly non-residential, perhaps with short-term intense learning experiences with a teacher and cohort of students; Teachers are scholar/practitioners, blending theory and praxis in their lives and teaching; Your program is highly adapted to your context of ministry. It consists of a series of modules, which you and your advisors put together to give you the skills and knowledge that you need. The modules are “stackable,” so that they gradually constitute the unique preparation that you need; Theological education includes a ministry placement early on (and perhaps all the way through!); Perhaps most important, each module is accredited by scholar/practitioners in that field (pastoral counseling, community organizing, nonprofit management, interfaith activism, new church starts). If you take 16 classes, you walk away with 16 skill sets and 16 credentials. Your mentor(s) work with you to design your ministry experiences and your culminating project so that all the pieces are tied together into a unified whole … of understanding, expertise, and practical skills.

It’s unlikely that the establishment will design a really out-of-the-box, radically innovative approach to ministry preparation — even though new approaches are desperately needed.

So let’s do it ourselves. Nothing is more appropriate to the Convergence initiatives (and to the spirit of your work, Brian) then for us to roll up our sleeves, reimagine the future, and get to work to bring it about.

So come join us in Chicago next month — October 9-11 (details at TheoEdu.org). Listen to reports from the most innovative ministry programs in the country. Join the panels, workshops, and brainstorming sessions where the framework for a genuinely postmodern approach to theological education is being hammered out.

If you want to influence the future of the church, then you need to influence how its leaders are trained!

— Philip Clayton

Philip Clayton writes books at the intersection of faith, contemporary culture and science, teaches theology at Claremont School of Theology, and works with ConvergenceUS.org to train future leaders for a more just and generous Christianity.

Bad News Yesterday - Good News Today

There is good news. And not just incremental good news but transformational good news, developments that have the potential to mitigate the worst effects of climate change to a degree many had feared impossible. Those who have consigned the world to its doom should reconsider. The technological and political underpinnings are at last in place to actually consummate the first global pact to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. The world is suddenly responding to the climate emergency with — by the standards of its previous behavior — astonishing speed. The game is not over. And the good guys are starting to win.

More here.

Also quotable:

For humans to wean ourselves off carbon-emitting fossil fuel, we will have to use some combination of edict and invention — there is no other plausible way around it. The task before the world is best envisioned not as a singular event but as two distinct but interrelated revolutions, one in political willpower and the other in technological innovation. It has taken a long time for each to materialize, in part because the absence of one has compounded the difficulty of the other. It is extremely hard to force a shift to clean energy when dirty energy is much cheaper, and it is extremely hard to achieve economies of scale in new energy technologies when the political system has not yet nudged you to do so.

And yet, if you formed a viewpoint about the cost effectiveness of green energy a generation ago (when, for instance, Ronald Reagan tore the costly solar panels installed by his predecessor off the White House roof), or even just a few years ago, your beliefs are out of date. That technological revolution is well under way.

Here's how you can get involved in making the good news better …
Coming Together in Faith on Climate


Bad News Today - Good News tomorrow.

Here's the bad news:

Here on planet Earth, things could be going better. The rise in atmospheric temperatures from greenhouse gases poses the most dire threat to humanity, measured on a scale of potential suffering, since Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany launched near-simultaneous wars of conquest. And the problem has turned out to be much harder to solve. It’s not the money. The cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels, measured as a share of the economy, may amount to a fraction of the cost of defeating the Axis powers. Rather, it is the politics that have proved so fiendish. Fighting a war is relatively straightforward: You spend all the money you can to build a giant military and send it off to do battle. Climate change is a problem that politics is almost designed not to solve. Its costs lie mostly in the distant future, whereas politics is built to respond to immediate conditions. (And of the wonders the internet has brought us, a lengthening of mental time horizons is not among them.) Its solution requires coordination not of a handful of allies but of scores of countries with wildly disparate economies and political structures. There has not yet been a galvanizing Pearl Harbor moment, when the urgency of action becomes instantly clear and isolationists melt away. Instead, it breeds counterproductive mental reactions: denial, fatalism, and depression.

More here.

Please join us in DC (or via live streaming anywhere) to take positive action …


Pope Francis' visit is a moment for contemplation and action … join us in Washington DC!

Join us at the National Cathedral, September 24, 7:30 - 9 pm.


Here's a flyer to share ...

… about Coming Together in Faith on Climate.

Post it in your house of worship … share it via social media …
Thanks for helping spread the word!

Download file



Donald Trump … here's something to think about

from Native American Mark Charles. Quotable:

Without Natives at the table, all we have is one generation of undocumented immigrants trying to decide what to do with another generation of undocumented immigrants, and there is no integrity in the conversation.


Coming Together in Faith on Climate

If you’re going to be in the DC area for the Pope’s historic visit September 24, please join us for Coming Together in Faith on Climate ... a public celebration at the National Cathedral, 7:30 - 9:00 pm.

You can register here.

What an amazing list of leaders!

Rabbi Shoshana Friedman is the Assistant Rabbi at Temple Sinai of Brookline, MA. ( http://shoshanameira.com)

Rev. Fred Small is minister of First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-chair of Religious Witness for the Earth. (https://www.uuworld.org/authors/fredsmall)

Rev. Otis Moss III, is Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. (https://trinitychicago.org/rev-dr-otis-moss-iii)

Brian McLaren, a former pastor and church planter, is an author, blogger, speaker, and activist (brianmclaren.net).

Rev. Gary Hall, an ordained minister for more than 35 years, is the tenth dean of Washington National Cathedral, and past dean and president of Seabury–Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. (https://www.cathedral.org/staff/PE-5SFID-EO000J.shtml)

Rabbi Steve Gutow, a lawyer, rabbi, and political organizer, has served as President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for the last ten years. (http://jcpaplenum.org/rabbi-steve-gutow-jcpa/)

Imam Mohamed Magid, a Sudanese-born American, is president of the Islamic Society of North America. (http://www.isna.net/mohamed-magid.html)

Rev. John Dorhauer is the new General Minister and President of the United Churches of Christ. (http://uccfiles.com/pdf/press-room-dorhauer.pdf)

Rev. Sharon Watkins serves as General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. (http://disciples.org/ogmp/dr-watkins-biography/)

Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, the CEO / Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, seeks to serve the global evangelical Church through the WEA network. (http://www.worldea.org/whoweare/leadership/geoff-tunnicliffe)

Sister Simone Campbell, a religious leader, attorney and poet, is the Executive Director of NETWORK, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, and is widely known for leading the “Nuns on the Bus” tours. (http://www.networklobby.org/people/simone-campbell-sss)

Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool is the former ambassador of South Africa to the United States and Georgetown University’s new distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Al Waleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. (https://www.georgetown.edu/news/south-african-ambassador-joins-georgetown-as-distinguished-scholar)

We hope you'll be part of this amazing gathering too. Space is limited, so your free tickets are available here.



I'm honored to be an original signor of this letter to President Obama

Read the letter here: http://obamasclimatelegacy.com

Innovating our way to zero emissions through an all-hands-on-deck societal mobilization at wartime speed is not only our best hope for averting climate catastrophe – it is key to revitalizing our economy and putting America back to work.

In three months, you and leaders from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris for the UN Climate Conference…. Intergenerational justice demands that the centerpiece of that accord be zero emissions…. Three months is ample time for your administration to draft a legally binding zero emissions commitment for Paris.

As you know, Pope Francis wrote in his recent encyclical: “Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.” Since the U.S. historically contributed the most to global climate pollution … we have a moral imperative to lead the zero emissions charge in Paris.

The current weak U.S. target of 26-28% carbon cuts by 2025 cannot be described as honest, courageous or responsible in the face of a crisis that threatens the continued existence of humanity. To pretend otherwise is to recklessly gamble with the fate of future generations.

If you want to join me in Washington, DC, on September 24 - the day the Pope speaks to Congress, here's information about our Coming Together in Faith on Climate Celebration:


Does Your Congregation Want to Get Serious About Caring for the Earth?

Consider hosting a viewing party for the live-streamed event - COMING TOGETHER IN FAITH ON CLIMATE - September 24th at 7:30 pm eastern.

And check out these amazing resources:




Pope Francis and Planet Earth Need You!


Friends - I'm thrilled to be part of a team organizing a multi-faith response to the Pope's historic visit to the US Congress, September 24.

You are invited to a multi-faith celebration at the National Cathedral, Thursday evening, September 24, at 7:30 pm EDT - free, open to the public, and ticketed (space is limited).

And then there will be a follow-up invitation-only gathering of faith-based climate leaders on Friday morning.

Here are three ways I hope you'll want to be involved:
1. If you're in the DC area, you can come to the Celebration (tickets here).

2. Wherever you are, you can organize a local gathering that night too - in your home, in your church, etc., because the National Cathedral event will be live streamed.

3. Stay informed and spread the word. I'll post additional information here as it's available.


Between Now and My Sabbatical ...

Here's where I'll be:

September 10, Asheville, NC.

September 13, Charlotte, NC.

September 24, morning, Columbus, OH.

September 24 (evening) and 25 (morning), Washington DC, National Cathedral Also see this.

September 25-27, Riverside Church, New York City

October 12-15, Montreat, NC.

October 18, Salt Lake City, UT, Parliament of the World's Religions

October 22, Spring Lake MN.

October 23-25, Nashville TN.

November 5-7 Los Angeles, Space for Grace

I'll be in the Bay Area November 7-9, details TBA.

Then, beginning November 10, I'll be on a travel sabbatical for ten months. So I hope to see you at one of these events over the next 2 months!


Back Home After a Full August

I spent the first half of August in New Zealand with Rob Kilpatrick and the Smallternative Trust, and the second half at beautiful Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming. It's hard to imagine more beautiful scenery and enjoyable people than I've encountered over the last month.

Of course, with all that travel, my email inbox is the fullest it's ever been, so you can guess what I'll be catching up on in the coming days.

As always, you can see the slides I shared during my presentations here:

If you sign up for my email newsletter, I'll be sending out a more detailed report - with pictures - in a few days. Sign up here.


A reader writes: reading the Bible with heart and head

A reader writes:

Blog entries Aug. 22 & Aug. 23 both deal with violence. Isn’t it interesting that we readily accept that God would willingly, and with malice, smite the firstborn of Egypt and yet reproach David as unworthy precisely because of his violence? These passages have always been part of the cannon. What changed from one epoch to the other? God? The Hebrew writers' view of God? I am no Biblical scholar, but I have always known to question the "letter of the law" when it did not match God’s character. It is a pity we Christians do not read the Bible with our heart and our head.
Thanks as always for your continued inspiration, Brian.

Thanks for reading!


A Sermon from a 9 year old girl

During my recent trip to New Zealand, a mom shared a fascinating story with me about her daughter, in response to a talk I gave about my most recent book, We Make the Road by Walking. She followed up with this note:

Below is the sermon I mentioned that my daughter did when we did a service at home while we were still looking for a church after moving to [a new city]. She said she would word it differently now but she still agrees with its sentiment. She is now 10 so was probably 8 or 9 when she wrote it. :) At the time she chose her own topic and of all the BIble that is what she chose to talk about. :)

Lucy's Sermon.
"When I think about God I think of a person who would never murder or kill anyone. But when you think about it you wonder because wasn't it God who swept the angel of death over Egypt? It makes you think doesn't it? Is God against it or is he not? I mean what had the boys done to die? It was the Pharaoh wasn't it? Now do you realise how little we know about God? I hope this made you think, thanks for listening."

Thank God that a nine-year-old is troubled by the violent view of God so many accept without a second thought. Thank God her view of God is of someone "who would never murder or kill anyone." If her sermon has touched you, maybe you'd enjoy WMTRBW.

As Lucy says, "I hope this are you think, thanks for listening."


Why You Have to Love my Readers … Reason #371

They offer ways to improve points I made in a book. Take this reader for example:

Hi. I'm reading JMBM of Brian's and finding much to grapple with, and thoroughly enjoying the experience. Thank you.

In chapter 21, Brian is quoting from Tom Boomershine about using stories in isolation, but recommends 'pairing' stories.

As an example he uses David killing Goliath 1 Sam 17, and pairs it with David not being allowed to build the Temple because he is a violent man. He quotes 1 Kings 5.

It may seem a small point, but the same reason for David not being allowed to build the Temple is given in 1 Chron 22;8, and 1Chron 28;3. The passage Brian chose didn't illustrate his point quite as well as the other ones.
The 1 Kings 5;3 almost paints David as passive, unfortunate, and just happened to be at war, so couldn't fit in building the Temple during wartime. 'You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet.'

However the two other passages quoted above seem to link his violent lifestyle, with his unsuitability to be the Temple builder 1 Chron 22;7-8

'David said to Solomon:"My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: 'You have shed much blood, and fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.'

In my opinion this, and the other 1 Chron passage link the violence with his unsuitability to be the builder better than the 1 Kings 5 passage. Perhaps worth considering for future reprints/versions of the book, which I'm sure there will be a need for.

Please pass my thanks on to Brian for writing such a courageous book. Keep up the 'fight'......the creative benevolent fight, that is.

Thanks. I'm blessed indeed to have such thoughtful and helpful readers.


A tribute to an Egyptian brother ...

a good and peaceful man who died for love of democracy. A look behind the headlines - including the stories that aren't being told. Here.


Next Year's Vacation Bible School ...

These reports just came in from a congregation in Texas who used four chapters from We Make the Road by Walking as their curriculum.
First …

Wow, the first night of WMTRBW VBS went better than I could have hoped. We had about 50 people participating ages 3 months to 89.

We fed everyone dinner in their "tribes" and then had a worship service. Everyone got up to dance (even our oldest Presbyterians) during the music. We have a bit of training yet to do on the response to scripture reading. When the groups were dismissed to the tribal councils (small groups of about 14) there was more discussion. I did not hear the depth of discussion I was hoping for but it was just the first night and people were working on figuring out just what this family style experience was going to be. The response activities were a hit. We had a prayer room with mandalas, quiet space and Greek and Hebrew writing stations. The games room had four square, jenga, and hopscotch. The science room had stations to build cooperatively build structures from marshmallows and spaghetti as well as other experiments. The final room was an art room where the group made Hamsas and talked about how people of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith use this as a good luck symbol.

We have three more regular nights scheduled then we have our mission night. I was able to get in touch with the city of Fort Worth which donated gloves and trash bags to support the effort. There is a stream leading to a small pond in the church's neighbor that is in desperate need of cleaning. Even with threats of the temperature being in the 100s that night, I have several signed up to help.

Even the church [skeptic] had to admit at the end of the evening that it was a good thing.
Finding a metric for success was interesting. I come from a deeply Baptist background and the measure of success would be conversions and attendance. The committed decided the best metric for us would be the comments overheard. I think the best long term indicator of success would be an increase in the depth of dialogue about scripture and its use. We will see how that plays out. For now, the goal of the VBS is to expose the congregation to a type of learning that honors the gifts of each member of the group, builds community, and deepens faith as demonstrated by more questions with fewer answers.

Thank you for the gift of WMTRBW and the time you spent with us in the Dallas bootcamp


Here's the final update:

The VBS is complete and it was a success. The people involved were overwhelmingly positive in their assessments of the event. Last night we did a stream clean up. We had a team of 11 who attended. The youngest was 6 and the oldest was 72.

The material from WMTRBW was accessible to all ages. The group really enjoyed the worship liturgies. The common meal was another great part.

I used the sermon on the mount as our basis but I think the framework could be applied to any four chapters.It is also highly adaptable to the individual needs of the church.
I had one person tell me it was like an "old fashioned revival with time to talk and have fun".

(She was also a former Baptist in the Presbyterian church.) I am pleased with the response. I am attaching a few pictures.



It's time for a new song ...

Stay tuned for an exciting project I'm working on with some amazing friends … launching a new generation of progressive Christian worship music - songs of praise and protest, joy and lament, contemplation and motivation.

But for inspiration, let's look back at arguably the most deeply Christian music in American history, the negro spiritual. Here's an amazing interview. And here's an inspiring song:
Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, why not everyone?

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, why not everyone?

He delivered Daniel from the lion's den

Jonah from the belly of the whale

The Hebrew children from the fiery furnace

Why not everyone?

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, why not everyone?

The moon runs down in a purple stream

The sun refuse to shine

Every star shall disappear

But Jesus shall be mine.

Oh, didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel

Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel, why not everyone?

Why not everyone?

Why not everyone?


What Can You Do with an Old Shipping Container?

Of the many amazing people I met on my recent trip to New Zealand, I especially enjoyed meeting some enterprising folks in Wellington who are repurposing shipping containers to deliver job training to folks in need. Learn more here …


Signs of Hope


What Donald Trump is Teaching Christians ...

from Ryan Gear, here. Quotable:

James 2:6 seems to be relevant in every age, including ours, “But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?” Old habits die hard, as Trump supporters have forsaken billionaire party bosses in favor of . . . well, another billionaire. What would James say?


Carol Howard Merritt gets it seriously right on Donald Trump ...

and several other things, here:


Great Speakers to Consider ...

I'll be on travel sabbatical from November 10, 2015 to September 10, 2016. If you're looking for a speaker, you'll find some excellent ones here:


Transform Network

Center for Progressive Renewal

Auburn Senior Fellows


Civil Discourse is Possible -

And you can become a practitioner and promoter. Here are a plethora of resources …

· The Public Conversations Project (www.publicconversations.org/resources) —They have a helpful guide called “Fostering Dialogue Across Divides” as well other materials.

· National Institute for Civil Discourse (www.nicd.arizona.edu)- NICD conducts programs to promote civility and also does research to identify individuals and groups promoting dialogue around the country work.

· Everyday Democracy www.everyday-democracy.org/resources -- This group assists people who want to conduct dialogues on difficult issues in hundreds of communities across the country and they have many online resources available.

· Intergroup Resources (www.intergroupresources.com/one-america-dialogue-guide) – This organization has numerous resources for dialogue including the One America Dialogue Guide that has been widely used around the country to help structure community conversations on race relations.

The Faith & Politics website (www.faithandpolitics.com/better-angels) offers a variety of resources that have been created as part of the Better Angels project during the past three years.


Initiative 5: Educate - yourself and others


Our final initiative in Coming Together in Faith on Climate is to educate yourself and others.

Many of us feel that a tide is turning and momentum is building. Every week, the costs of solar and other forms of renewable energy are decreasing, the data against fossil fuels is growing, and the level of passion and commitment among normal people is rising.

So we're asking you to stay informed. News sources like Common Good News will keep you up to date, and so will the websites and mailing lists of all our partners.

But we don't just want you to stay educated. We want you to educate others. We want you to be "that guy" who always forwards information and links to people … using your Facebook, Twitter, blog, and other lines of communication to be contagious in your enthusiasm for integral ecology and climate change solutions … rooted in faith, expressed in action.


Initiative 4: Vote


Until now, very few political leaders have shown much courage in grappling with Climate Change. Many, in fact, are still in the climate change denier camp. It's no wonder, since the fossil fuel industry "buys" politicians with campaign donations and pressures them through lobbyists.

We're glad that President Obama has taken unprecedented action in this regard. But many presidential candidates are already vowing to reverse his positive actions. And we need leaders at all levels of government - city, county, state, national, and international - who agree with Pope Francis' call to integral ecology.

That's why we're making this bold request:
That you make climate change and integral ecology to be one of your top three issues in selecting candidates … for the foreseeable future.

We need to let candidates know that by ignoring or opposing action on climate change, they are turning away millions of potential voters … and by showing moral courage to lead in climate change, they will be attracting millions of potential voters.

We don't have time to waste. The opposition to climate change solutions is strong. But our numbers our growing, our commitment is strengthening, and our shared dream of integral ecology is in line with the arc of history that bends towards justice. May it be so!


Initiative 3: Divest and Invest


Building on our first two initiatives, if we take Pope Francis' call to "integral ecology" seriously, we will be sure our investments are shifted out of companies that continue to extract more dirty energy from the earth and pump it into the atmosphere.

After all, if it's immoral for them to make a profit destabilizing the planet's climate, creating catastrophic conditions for billions of people, and harming the poor the most … it's wrong for any of us to be part of their destructive work.

Until recently, it was very difficult for individuals to find funds that are dirty-energy free.

But that is changing. On September 24, we'll announce a number of ways for you to quickly and conveniently shift your investments to fossil-fuel free funds.

In the meantime, you can make a pledge to divest from dirty energy and invest in socially responsible funds … here.


Initiative 2: Engage and Organize a Group


The second initiative in Coming Together in Faith on Climate is to create an "integral ecology action group" or "climate action team" (please don't call it a committee … which sounds so boring) in your congregation. Thankfully, many such teams already exist, but we need many more. We hope that the vast majority of congregations will have these teams in the coming years.

If your congregation is closed to such a group, you could
- find one in a neighboring congregation.
- form one in your neighborhood.
- form one in your congregation, but "unofficially"

Such a group might meet weekly for a month, and then monthly thereafter, or it could meet "virtually" online or via phone/videoconferencing too.

What might your group do? Here are 6 starter ideas:
_____1. Read, discuss, and distribute the Laudato Si encyclical. It is a delight to read, theologically rich, inspiring, full of substance, and understandable.

_____2. Find and incorporate integral ecology prayers into your weekly services. You'll find excellent resources here.

_____3. Use a "starter kit" available at one of our partner organizations, here.

_____4. Focus on energy efficiency first - in your congregation and in your homes. You'll find ideas here.

_____5. Solarize - your group could launch some solar energy projects. You'll find excellent resources from Interfaith Power and Light here.

You might help your congregation's facility to go solar.
You might organize a solar energy co-op - cutting costs by getting 5 or 10 or 50 families in your church buy solar panels for their homes together.
You might get families in your congregation forming solar energy co-ops in their neighborhoods - as a beautiful outreach from your faith community.

_____6. Divest from Fossil Fuel companies, and invest in socially responsible companies. More on this tomorrow ...

The possibilities are endless and exciting!


Initiative 1: Engage & Speak Up!


The first initiative of our Coming Together in Faith on Climate begins immediately after the Pope's visit on September 24. That weekend, September 25-28, we're asking people to speak to their clergy persons with a personal message of support, agreement, and commitment … something like this:

Reverend (Rabbi, Imam, etc.) Smith, I wanted to tell you that I agree with Pope Francis about climate change. I believe that caring for God's beautiful world is part of our spiritual responsibility. I wanted to ask if you a few questions ...
Are you already planning to lead our congregation to be involved?

How can I be of help?

Are there other people I should be in touch with?

If your congregation is so large that you can't get a personal word with your clergy, we hope you'll write a brief note (attached to a check, of course) and include it in your offering. If your congregation has a Facebook page or blog, speak up there. The first step for all of us is to speak up and identify ourselves as people who care.

If you're a congregational leader, we're asking you to speak to your congregation through your sermon, through a prayer, or through a simple statement like this:

Like millions of people, I've been deeply impressed by Pope Francis' leadership on climate change and integral ecology. I want you all to know that I am personally committed to finding climate solutions, and I hope all of you who feel this call to action will join me. I'll be organizing (a meeting, a Facebook group, etc.) later this week....

What do we hope you'll do? That's Initiative 2, which I'll share tomorrow.


Important Announcement - Save the Date - Stay tuned for more information ...


Friends - I'm thrilled to be part of a team organizing a multi-faith response to the Pope's historic visit to the US Congress, September 24.

There will be a Press Event on Monday, September 21. (Details TBA)

There will be a multi-faith celebration at the National Cathedral, Thursday evening, September 24, at 7:30 pm EDT - free, open to the public, and ticketed (space is limited).

And then there will be a follow-up invitation-only gathering of faith-based climate leaders on Friday morning.

Here are three ways I hope you'll want to be involved:
1. If you're in the DC area, you can come to the event (tickets here).

2. Wherever you are, you can organize a local gathering that night too - in your home, in your church, etc., because the National Cathedral event will be live streamed.

3. Stay informed and spread the word. I'll post information here - and you can expect a full website with additional information in the next few days.

Additional information below ...

Continue reading Important Announcement - Save the Date - Stay tuned for more information ......


Yesterday I posted a letter to Franklin Graham.

Today I want to offer a suggestion to Evangelical pastors and churchgoers around the world about a positive way to respond to his and similar statements that intensify distrust, fear, scapegoating, stereotyping, and misunderstanding between people of different faiths.

In the spirit of Romans 12:9-21, I would like to suggest that you find a local mosque or Muslim community center and schedule a visit. At that visit, you could say something like this:

"As you may know, Franklin Graham, a well-known Evangelical Christian leader, recently made some statements about Muslims that were highly offensive and hurtful. Mr. Graham has done many wonderful things to help poor and needy people around the world, building on the legacy of his father, Billy Graham. But I found these statements to so deeply offensive, misguided, and mean-spirited that I couldn't remain silent. I decided that I would come and apologize to you and your community on behalf of Christians who say things like this. And I want to express my sincere desire to get to know you, to be of help in any ways I can to you and your community, so we can model the kind of love and respect among neighbors that we both believe pleases God."

Then you could set up a lunch or other gathering. Get to know one another as friends, neighbors, fellow leaders and people of faith. Build a real relationship.

People like my friend Jeff Burns and many others are helping Evangelicals find a better way to relate to their Muslim neighbors. I recount my experience in this regard in my book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Wouldn't it be great if we took something negative and reversed it into something even more positive?


Dear Franklin Graham...

I was terribly saddened by your recent statement about Muslims. Your words had an effect on me opposite to the effect it had on the thousands who "liked" your message.

Your statement reminded me of some horrible scenes in American and Christian history, events I hope are never repeated. Your words made me want to become all the more dedicated to being a peacemaker between people who, because of their faith, distrust and distance themselves from others.

I wonder if you would be willing to listen to a fellow Evangelical, Jeff Burns, share this story about how God changed his heart towards Muslims. It will take less than fifteen minutes of your time.

I had a similar experience many years ago, and I pray you will experience a change of heart too.

You are in my prayers, and I hope I will be in yours as well -

Brian McLaren


Solar Energy Update

Good things happening!

Van Jones gets it right here:


Something positive from the faith community ...

A few religious leaders have been doing and saying lots of embarrassing things lately. But don't forget that quietly, behind the scenes, thousands of faith leaders are doing amazing things, creative things, beautiful things.

Need some examples? Check these out - a group of faith leaders recently honored at the White House.

And this:

(HT Susannah Tuttle)


A reader writes: The Relief Brings Tears

A reader writes:

Dear Brian,

I am only a tad older than you (your birthday is 4 years and 1 day after mine), similar long walk with Jesus through a wide net from Pentecostal, Presbyterian (family), to Roman Catholic. There have been other stops along the way and I have ended up in a great Methodist Church. The difference is a big twist. After over eight years of working HARD to have a good marriage my husband said, "I'm done. I won't divorce you but I am no longer involved with you either." Within a year, I came out. It had always been there but I had tried to ignore it. I was 28. It was HARD. I had a breakdown first. I was honest with my family and friends...thereby losing most of my support when I had to support myself for the first time in my life...well, I survived! I eventually spent 3 years in the military, [worked as a mechanic and driver], and worked for [a major corporation] for 7 years. I also wrote a small self-produced book of poetry.

During that time it became obvious to me that I am transgender. I thought I could just walk it out like I had been...I am friendly, even though I dress in boots and jeans and button shirts, mostly, I can be disarming. However, very recently, I realized that as I was progressing in some areas I was steadily "circling the drain" in others. I came out to my family. Reactions were better than expected, but mostly not thrilled. I am in the process of deciding where to go from here.

I know, a lot of info for you to know WHO is talking to you. The point is...I really enjoyed your book A Generous Orthodoxy (laughed out loud, chuckled, even choked a bit). I felt like it was written for me, expressing so much of what I wanted to say and taking it farther than I could have conceived. The relief brings tears. I GOT it! It is the answer to many prayers! It also challenges ME!

… I will continue to check your books as I am able. You have my prayers. This is so very important. This CAN be prayed into existence, God willing, and I believe God is willing.


Exciting new developments in theological education!

Worth checking out!


Which is Real? Which is Onion?

Local Man Knows All He Needs to Know About Muslims

Florida Man Declares Gun Shop Muslim-Free Zone

Both are sad and ridiculous. If you'd like to understand the causes and cures of religious bigotry and hostility, consider my book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

With some faith, hope, and love, we can build a beautiful and better world where these sad stories only exist in museums, along with other ugly artifacts of our past.


A reader writes: YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!

A reader writes (Note: profanity alert, irony alert):

Damn you Brian McLaren (because it is easier and more convenient to blame you than God),

I have preached the most difficult sermons the last month. We have gone there. Gone there with race--looking instead of out there, examining ourselves and how racism infects us. How it has infected the systems we participate in.

Your book We Make the Road by Walking has been more than prophetic--but it has been God sent. I could not have planned for the texts to line up the way they have, yes, with our national conscience, but also with what is happening in the life of our congregation.

Four weeks ago, the message is Spirit of Love: Loving Neighbor. This comes the same week as our marriage polity changes in PC(USA) from marriage being between a man and a woman, to between two people. Through the leadership of our session, we were now in the third week of a book study on The Bible's Yes to Same-Gender Marriage. So our passage on loving neighbor is Acts 10 that includes "What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” And then concludes, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean...While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And coincidentally, this is the Sunday that we were baptizing the son of a new gay couple that had recently started coming to our church. Wow. My illustration this week was the police brutality at the pool in McKinney, Texas. I had heard an interview this same week on NPR where the person said something to the affect that at the heart of the struggle of equality, we find the image of a pool. And a pool magnifies and amplifies our greatest fears because of the vulnerability of water that touches me is water touching you. Think about this in the context of baptism? Again, wow. And then the intimacy and powerful image of the love of two moms standing up front as we baptized their precious son.

And so the next week is the week of the Charleston shooting. And we went there--talked about combining loving our neighbor with truly loving ourselves. And we spoke of systemic racism and how it is wrong that not only are we in a world--but in a church where my sons have an advantages over so many of our youth simply because they are white male. And this fit so well in your chapter on loving self--and our narrative that can lend to this being self-centered and about self-interest.

I am not done being pissed at you yet. The next week is Spirit of Unity and Diversity. I focus on John, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." And this is the Sunday we have another beautiful baptism of another new family, and this one from Togo. You can't make this shit up. We had more in church this Sunday than in Easter.

But this week, now you have gone to far. James 5--really? Have to admit, almost skipped this one. But thankfully I have an administrator who challenged me saying, "I have never known you as one to skip the hard stuff." We have openly been talking about race, sexuality, and then I open up to this text: "Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you."

Dammit Brian! Thank You.

If others would like to embark on a year of grappling with the Bible in all its amazing challenge and relevance, I hope they'll consider using We Make the Road by Walking.

Here's what it looks like for the 2015-2016 year.


Friends in New Zealand ...

I'll be in your beautiful part of the world August 1-10 - in Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch. You'll find more information here:
Hope to see you soon!


Struggling with the LGBT issue?

For those Christians sincerely struggling to come to terms with LGBT identity, equality, and inclusion, you couldn't ask for a better guide and mentor than my South African friend Graeme. Let me introduce you to him here.

Here's his recommended reading list.


A reader writes: nothing more than intellectual slaves

When I began reading "A New Kind of Christianity", I thought, finally!

Then I began to understand that you propose a shift in what the Bible actually represents in our christian experience. Frankly, I struggle with the status change of God breathed to the more jewish interpretation as story for the purpose of teaching. I won't be so close minded as to dismiss the position, but I am struggling with it. When I discovered that you question the validity of atonement, I almost fell out of my chair. This revelation caused me to begin investigating theological history in the church. The history of christian teaching / preaching reveals (in my very limited study), that this interpretation of atonement hasn't always been a mainstream thing. Imagine my surprise !! Still, it's so ingrained my belief system that I feel the need to repent for even considering it.

Your critics have called you everything from heretic to antichrist, as you are well aware.

Although I don't embrace everything that you present, I have to admit that reading your work has inspired me to examine my beliefs. If our faith can't withstand challenges, we must confess that we are nothing more than intellectual slaves to those who instruct us. Thank you for your willingness to challenge what Jesus is in our lives.

Thank you for your honest response. One small note - it's not exactly that I "question the validity of atonement," but that I question many of the assumptions behind traditional atonement theories, and I especially am concerned about the ways in which "penal substitutionary atonement theory" upholds and magnifies a violent view of God. I believe Jesus' nonviolence - to the point of death on a cross - subverts any conception of God as violent, and instead images God as utterly gracious and forgiving. I so agree with you: if our faith can't withstand challenges, if we are afraid of taking a second look at things when good reasons are presented, then we're in a prison, not a pasture.


The Jihad of Jesus ...

One of my favorite people, Dave Andrews, has written a book of unique beauty and importance …


Peter Heltzel gets it right on faith-based social change


But I think that the church is a movement, a Spirit-led movement for love and justice in the world. And the only way this movement is going to grow is through building coalitions for justice, advocacy and change with strategic partners in our cities and states.

More here.

Be sure to see the book Alexia Salvatierra and Peter wrote on faith-rooted community organizing, here.


What's the Opposite of Inhumanity?


Your 2015-2016 Curriculum Solution?

The data is in. Churches, small groups, classes, online groups, and families have used We Make the Road by Walking as their 2014-2015 curriculum, and the results have been enthusiastically positive.

If you'd like to use the book as your curriculum/lectionary for 2015-2016, you'll see how you would sync up chapters with the calendar and holidays below.

You can also use the book for a quarter or season together, and have folks use it on their own thereafter.

First Quarter
Aug 30 - 1
Sep 6 - 2
Sep 13 - 3
Sep 20 - 4
Sep 27 - 5
Oct 4 - 6
Oct 11 - 7
Oct 18 - 8
Oct 25 - 9
Nov 1 - 10
Nov 8 - 11
Nov 15 - 12
Nov 22 - 13

(continued after the jump)

Continue reading Your 2015-2016 Curriculum Solution?...


Wow! Here's some really good news ...

Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent.
More here.

One of the most important things you will read this year ...

Read the whole piece, please, starting with this ...

Adding insult to injury, while we are having a photo-op next to the “dignified” removal of the flag in South Carolina, their counterparts in US Congress actually debated whether to keep the same flag flying on federal property, of the same government land that the flag sought to overthrow. To some of them, Black lives, Black emotions, Black history, and Black pain don’t matter. Human beings, deeply hurt by death, are the only creatures who don’t have to respond with death. But we must refuse to be easily comforted, and not to be tricked by cosmetic fixes. Our ability to forgive is, in reality, an act of resistance to the attempts to lay the blame for this horror at the feet of one man.

Two days after the nine assassinations at Mother Emanuel, I was asked to preach at New York’s renowned Riverside Church a sermon, which I later completed in my own pulpit, and said in light of the arrest of Dylann Roof:

The perpetrator has been caught. But the killers are still at large. The deep well of American racism and white supremacy that Dylann Roof drank from remains. The families of the nine martyrs challenged the schizophrenia of American morality that allowed political leaders to condemn the crime and at the same time embrace the policies that are its genesis. Many of South Carolina politicians and others in the nation are examples. They decry the killings but steadfastly refuse to support efforts to quell their divisive rhetoric and to cease their push for policies that promote race-based voter suppression. They refuse to vote for the Voting Rights Act. They cut funds for public education in ways that foster, re-segregation. They deny workers living wages. They refuse Medicaid expansion. They proliferate guns. They use racialized code words to criticize the president, all in the name of taking ‘their’ country back to ‘prevent its destruction.’ When will they own up to the fact that there is a history of racialized political rhetoric and policies that directly spawn the pathology of terroristic assassinations and carnages, and of violent resistance to constitutional decisions.

—A Message to America in the Midst of Our Mourning, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
Please follow Dr. Barber on Twitter here - @RevDrBarber


Dear Justice Scalia ...

Melanie Griffin gets it right in her response to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia here. Quotable:

So my closing argument, Justice Scalia, is that, yes, it’s risky when you acknowledge the Spirit and pay attention to where it might be leading you. It opens you up to all kinds of people who aren’t like you, and you find yourself looking for points of connection, things to love, instead of differences and things that separate you. You might even have to change your mind about some things.


Preparing for the 4th of July

Wise words from Mark Charles:


Stan Mitchell gets it right on what it means to be Evangelical ...

"As Christians who believe in the resurrection, we see that our LGBT friends have long suffered. It's my Christian and evangelical tradition that reminds me that suffering is always joined to the suffering of God, and will not only be overcome, but redeemed. This is just the beginning, and we have a long way to go."
More here.

I don't often get to the Los Angeles area, but this November ...

I'll be there for several days to be part of "Space for Grace." More information here:


Ecology. Economy. Equity.

“Not blind opposition to progress but opposition to blind progress” as John Muir said.
More here.

Dr. Steve Harper gets it right on the state of the church ...

Here ...

Here are a limited number of examples where I believe God is pruning us…

—Christianity is being separated from the impression that the true version of it is largely located in one political party,

—Christianity is being pulled from the grip of “media Christians” who use their platforms, institutions, and ministries to allege the country is going to Hell in a hand basket, and they are the only ones who can “save the nation,”

—Christianity is being pruned of dualistic thinking which (among other things) allows one group to claim it holds the copyright on orthodoxy,

—Christianity is being purged of a top-heavy institutionalism that concentrates power in too few and consumes too much money on ecclesial maintenance,

—Christianity is being taken out of the hands of “old guys” (and yes, much of it is GUYS), who hang on too long and block the emergence of a new generation of young leaders,

—Christianity is being salvaged from those who blur the life-giving distinction between doctrine and opinion, losing sight of the fact that the issues we must face are shaped by hermeneutics, not by the false charge that only certain Christians “believe in the Bible,”

—Christianity is being cleansed of the public impression that it is made up of people who are mean-spirited, judgmental, and arrogant, and

—Christianity is being emptied of concepts that allow quantification (“more is better”) to be definitive in determining its authenticity and vitality.

These cut-backs are threatening to any living on the part of the branch that will be removed, and we can expect the soon-to-be-pruned branch portion to put up quite a fight when the shears begin to do their work.

Dr. Harper has also been hosting online reflections on my book We Make the Road by Walking. You'll enjoy his blog - full of gentle wisdom.


Rev. Dr. William Barber speaks truth … on Charleston

The real issue is not just one murderer, but the climate that can produce someone who says, "You are taking over my country and I want to kill you." - Rev. Wm. Barber

I have such deep respect for Rev. Barber. You can see why here:
"If they're very serious about honoring Rev. Pinkney … then bring the flag down, pass Medicaid expansion, promote public education, stop doing voter suppression, and show that we can move beyond these issues and move to what is just and right."


Laudato Si … an excellent 1-page summary

Here. Quotable:

“Roman Catholics account for the largest single religious denomination” (PDF) among members of the 114th House of Representatives, a number that has been trending upward in recent years.

“While six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is a man-made phenomenon and that it poses a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree,” reports a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

This ThinkProgress page provides quotes and demographic information for the 170 climate-change deniers in Congress.

The New York Times reports that Americans’ concern for climate change is increasing. More than 6 in 10 American adults now say that "global warming is either a ‘very serious’ or ‘somewhat serious’ problem.”


Struggle, struggle, struggle ...

Struggle, struggle, struggle to develop a nonviolent heart in our violent culture and world. "Nonviolence", Mahatma Ghandi said, "is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart and it must be an inseparable part of our being." - Marian Wright Edelman


Lament for Charleston

Of the many powerful things I've read online about what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic (I'm in Ireland this week), this piece by Navajo Christian leader Mark Charles stands out. Quotable:

I lament the words of our political candidates who promise to lead America back to its former "greatness", ignorant of the fact that much of America's "greatness" was built on the exploitation and dehumanization of its people of color.

I lament that today the dominant culture in America is in shock because last night in Charleston South Carolina one individual committed a single evil and heinous act of violence, while minority communities throughout the country are bracing themselves because the horrors of the past 500 years are continuing into their lifetime.

I lament with every person and community, throughout the history of this nation, who, due to the color of their skin, had to endure marginalization, silence, discrimination, beatings, lynching, cultural genocide, boarding schools, internment camps, mass incarceration, broken treaties, stolen lands, murder, slavery and discovery.

Today I lament that the United States of America does not share a common memory and therefore is incapable of experiencing true community.


Charleston and Laudato Si, a prayer ...

Living God, help humanity see how the same violence of heart that destroys precious human lives with bullets of hate destroys the planet for pockets of money. Humble us, convert us, teach us to love, make us instruments of healing and peace. Amen.


A Summary of the #Encyclical (Part 1)

The earth is our sister, and she “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” The earth is “among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor,” the victim of “violence present in our hearts” (2).

With this stark and agonizing image, Pope Francis begins Laudato Si, a letter addressed to “every person living on this planet ... about our common home.” When I began reading an advanced copy the other night, my heart literally pounded in my chest. I felt, and feel, that it is the most important public document written in my lifetime.

I am not Roman Catholic. But never in my life have I felt that a religious leader has better used his position of influence for a more important purpose.

The question, of course, will be how we respond. And the answer to that question depends not just on the Pope, but on you and me. Here is a brief summary, although I hope all will read the whole document.

After providing some historical background (paragraphs 3 - 12), the Pope makes his appeal “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet ... a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (14). He expresses thanks for all those “striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share” (13).

Then he names the obstruction: “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity” (14).

A description of “what is happening to our common home” follows:

Pollution (20-21), fueled by a wasteful throwaway culture that has not adopted a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them” (22).

Climate change, the result of “a model of development based on the inte

nsive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes” (23-25).

Obstruction and denial by “many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power” (26).

Potential and threatened shortages of fresh drinking water, a special need for many of the world’s most vulnerable poor (27-29)

Further dangers for the poor through privatized drinking water: “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” (30-31).

Loss of plant and animal species due to habitat destruction, toxins, careless development, habitat segmentation, commercial overharvesting, monoculture farming: “the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly” (32-42)

Loss of quality of life through loss of contact with nature’s beauty and wisdom, loss of health through pollution and overcrowding, loss of contact with creation through oversaturation with mass media (43-47).

Gross inequality, where the rich live in luxury and have little contact with or awareness of the poor who live in privation and risk (48).

A failure to realize how ecology is integrated with economics, politics, religion, and other dimensions of life: “... the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together) (48) so that “... a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49).

A situation of imbalance where developed countries, with a minority of population, consume a majority of resources and produce the majority of pollution; meanwhile, the multinational corporations based in developed countries exploit resources in developing countries and then “leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable” (50-52).

Total failure of political leadership to respond appropriately (52-55).

The deification of the market, so that economics rules without ethics (56)

Complacency, superficiality, recklessness, denial, and endless argument, which leave people “trying not to see [the realities], trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen” (57-61).

Part 2 to follow ...


Today is a day for prayer ...

to overcome with peace the violence that harms people and the planet … From the Papal #Encyclical

A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


Sometimes we all need a dose of Weird Al ...


Laudato Si

I just finished the Pope's Encyclical, "Laudato Si," a copy of which I received today. It is stunning, beautiful, and pitch-perfect.

You can download it here.

All I can say is that as soon as you can, please download it and read it. I think it is one of the most important things written in my lifetime. Stay tuned for ways many of us will work together to ponder and apply its message and moral summons.


coming soon to a reality near you


A reader writes: funny story

A reader writes:

I wanted to tell you a funny story about how I found my church community here in [the Bible Belt]. As much as you might cringe to think that someone would use such a litmus test -- when I first came here, I was having trouble narrowing down my search for a good church. So I just searched all the churches in town that had at some point hosted you as a speaker. I think I found two - one close and one far away. Naturally, I picked the one closest, a Baptist church of all things (!), and it has been as good a large church community as I've ever been a part of. I even got Baptized and became a member, both for the first time. So, thanks for that! I actually think you should post a list of all the churches you have spoken at in North America at some point. That would be a helluva list, and a great way for people to narrow down their searches in a new place. It might also provide a great network of pastors/churches for spreading information...

Glad I was helpful in your search for a church! The idea of a list is a good one … in fact, some friends of mine are working on such a "finder" tool. See more here: http://www.convergenceus.org


What Does Art Have to Do with Religion?



Pastors and Group Leaders … thinking about next year?

Whole congregations, diocesan groups, and informal learning circles have used We Make the Road by Walking over the last year in several ways.

Some used it for their church's sermon series, and some developed kids and youth curriculum to go along with it. Their reports have been so enthusiastic!

Some used it in home-based groups, like this group in the Midwest:

About 12 of us ,from varying backgrounds, but several of us from our small Episcopal church here in [the Midwest], have formed a learning circle or as M.Borg calls it a “Christian community" last fall and have been studying your We Make the Road by Walking. What a joy it is !! We meet twice a month in a friend’s home in the evening, share a snack and some wine, usually read one or all of the scripture passages; we do two of your chapters each session. Even though we all try to read the assigned chapters ahead of time , we find your format conducive to going around the room and each of us reading a paragraph or two. I have read just about all of your books and we used The Secret Message of Jesus as adult ed. a few years ago in church on Sunday a.m…. I love that your great themes of Jesus and the Reign of God, the problem of violence, the Eucharist as a table of fellowship and not an altar for sacrifice is so woven in to this current book.

If you're making plans for 2015-2016, I hope you'll consider using We Make the Road by Walking. It's got a year of solid reviews behind it now. And it was just released this week in softcover - so it's even more affordable.

More on the book here.

And you'll find a huge bank of additional resources here.


Evangelicals and LGBTQ equality ...

Tony Campolo recently came out in support of LGBTQ equality.

Perhaps more surprising, retired Christianity Today editor David Neff did as well, saying:

“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships… I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”

A CT editorial responded by reminding readers that the vast majority of the world's Christians have not (yet) changed on this issue, and are not likely to do so any time soon. The editorial then added:

“We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter."

The response employs the time-tested strategy of interpreting the motives for the change (to accord with the current secular thinking), and in so doing, it discredits the person who has changed as a mere accommodationist or compromiser. (One can imagine exactly the same strategy being deployed in, say, 1858 regarding slavery or in 1958 regarding segregation.) The editorial then applied the strategy preemptively to all the others who are considering joining Jim Wallis, Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, David Gushee, Tony Campolo, David Neff, Laura Truax, and many others:

“And we’ll continue to be sorry, because over the next many years, there will be other evangelicals who similarly reverse themselves on sexual ethics.”

Meanwhile, Franklin Graham recently called for a boycott of gay-friendly businesses. (This boycott stands in fascinating contrast to the boycott led by 350.org.) I think Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler is correct when he says,

“Every one of us is going to have to give an answer in short order. There are good number of evangelicals who have been trying to fly under the radar. It isn’t going to work.”

Meanwhile, many progressive Evangelicals are not retiring or retreating: they're organizing and moving forward. For example, the Open Network recently formed to foster a "just and generous progressive Evangelical expression of Christianity."

All this tumult will play out during the upcoming election cycle, no doubt, with many candidates courting the Evangelical vote by appealing to its most conservative wing. Animating the most conservative wing will also arouse those who do not feel comfortable with its positions or rhetoric, further straining the fabric of Evangelicals tent.

Which raises an interesting question: Will conservative Evangelicals find a way to excommunicate or refuse to associate with more progressive Evangelicals, will they learn to peacefully coexist, or will they decide to cede the "Evangelical" label and adopt a new term altogether? The next few years will be interesting, and an opportunity for all concerned to practice Christian virtues.

An encouraging sign: the CT editorial on this subject made it clear that they plan to peacefully coexist with their differing sisters and brothers rather than excommunicate, refuse to associate, or withdraw:

We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them…. It’s disappointing, but no reason to react defensively or angrily. We plan to treat with charity and respect those with whom we disagree….

That response is, to me, the most encouraging news of all.


One planet. Many religions. What will that mean for future generations?


An Ecological Civilization?

This weekend I'll be in LA for the Seizing an Alternative conference … addressing the necessity of and paths toward becoming an ecological civilization. More here …

Stay tuned for important and exciting news about faith-based climate collaborations and convergences … gestating now!


A Joyful Request … About This Summer!

Hi, friends …

You know I’m a person who believes that our world is in trouble, and that the message of Jesus has a lot to say about that. More and more of us are coming together to translate that faith into constructive action.

It’s been shown that the number one way to bring about change is to create spaces where people’s paradigms or mental models can be challenged and changed. So a few years ago, some of us set out to do just that and we created the Wild Goose Festival. The Festival has already grown to be the largest gathering of its type in North America.

I’d like to encourage you to view a brief video created by some of my friends, which in about seven minutes goes a long way toward conveying the meaning and the spirit of the Goose.

If you agree with me that it’s worth sharing, please pass it along though your website, blog, social media, or email.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/wlTgGGlR1bk

The Wild Goose is offering a 25% ticket discount for those who buy their festival tickets as result of watching this video. The discount code appears at the end, along with a link to the website.

Thanks for your good work and for your kindness in considering this request.

Brian McLaren


Q & R: Your Faith Forward presentation

Here's the Q:
Thank you for your very moving and thoughtful presentation. I became so wrapped up in what was presented that I lost track of taking notes. A copy of your powerpoint presentation would be helpful!

Here's the R:
That presentation included a lot of personal photos that I'd rather not share online, but here are some of my own notes from the presentation. I hope they'll be helpful!
Looking back as a parent ...
What worked in helping my kids (I think?):
- Daily prayer at meals & bedtime
- Connecting God to experiences of life
- Connecting God to acts of service
- Sharing our struggles
- Asking for their prayers
- Inviting their interpretations
- Never judging
- Surrounding them with friends
- Church as introduction to new experiences
- Hospitality to multi-religious, nonreligious friends
- Continuing to learn
- Apologizing

What didn’t work in helping my kids spiritually:
- Unexplained exposure to fundamentalism
- Not preparing for Christian diversity, especially fundamentalism
- Not being more overt about Bible as literature, exposure to meaning over fact

What I wish I would have done differently as a pastor/parent:
- Encourage kids and youth ministries to augment Sunday mornings with daily web-based connections.
- More and earlier involvement in “grown up church” - so it’s “all ages church”


Some exciting new projects ...

by friends of mine.

Clergy for Hire - what a great idea!

Van Gogh to Go:


Surprises in the Bible Belt ...

I've had the great pleasure of visiting some surprising churches in the Bible belt in recent months. For example:
In Northwest Arkansas:


In south-central Kentucky:

If you live near these areas, check these faith communities out! And maybe you'll want to get behind them financially too …




Theology & Peace

I'm presenting this week at the Theology and Peace conference in Chicago, which is exploring the linkages between peace and economics (a topic I posted about recently relating to the crisis in Burundi). You can see my slides here.


A turning point in Catholicism

The beatification of Oscar Romero.
Titanic battles were waged over liberation theology in the 1980s and 1990s, which, today, are largely over. A moderate consensus has taken hold, which goes like this: If “liberation theology” means fighting poverty and struggling for justice, the answer is yes; if it means armed Marxist rebellion and class struggle, it’s no.

And quotable:
the beatification ratifies a new standard for what counts as “martyrdom” in Catholicism. It’s no longer necessary to die explicitly in odium fidei, at the hands of those who hate the faith, which was the traditional test. One can also be recognized as a martyr for dying in odium caritatis, as a victim of those motivated by a hatred of charity.


Phyllis Tickle: You are loved!


The news became public today: Phyllis Tickle is writing her final chapter. You can read about it in this poignant and pitch-perfect RNS piece:

For all of us who know and love Phyllis, this is an emotional time. She's become a kind of patron saint and elder for all of us associated with "Emergence Christianity" (which Phyllis christened) and a whole array of inter-connected communities like the Wild Goose Festival. She has (in Diana Butler Bass's unforgettable terms) provided a needed alternative to "ignorance on fire" and "intelligence on ice." "Intelligence on fire" captures her spirit pretty darn well. If I could summarize her message in a single sentence, it would be, "The Christian faith is pregnant."

She's been given a prognosis of several months … and my hope is that every minute of these months will be enriched with the knowledge of how beloved and appreciated and cherished and honored she is for so many of us. The good people of the Wild Goose Festival have put up a tribute page where messages of gratitude and love can be shared. You can add your celebrations of a beautiful, fruitful, joyful, generous life here: https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisTickleTribute?fref=ts


Jonathan Merritt gets it right … on Evangelical supremacy


… evangelicals’ greatest weakness is what they’ve championed as their greatest strength: the marrying of political and theological ideology. The rise of the religiously unaffiliated—the “nones,” as in “none of the above”—dates back to 1990 when the Christian right was in full-on combat mode. As conservative bodies became more partisan, members who couldn’t stomach the political agenda waved goodbye.

“Among those who disaffiliated during this period, most were raised in evangelical denominations but were centrist to leftist politically,” Hout says.

- See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/05/13/evangelicals-claims-of-conservative-supremacy-are-overstated-and-misread-americas-religious-landscape/#sthash.EzuGafKO.dpuf


A reader writes … the most influential undergraduate book

A reader writes

I attended a celebration banquet last night for the graduates in our College of Christian Studies (undergrad). As we honored the students, we asked each one to name one of the most influential books they read during their educational journey [here].

You will be pleased to know that several students identified A New Kind of Christian as the most influential book they read in their undergraduate program.

I thought you'd appreciate that! :)

That's encouraging! Undergraduates (and faculty) will be pleased to know about this new initiative I'm involved in …

A Common Table … bring together college-aged Christians devoted to people, the planet, poverty, and peace.


Political wisdom - not just for the UK

From Adam Dyer, here.

‘I hope that our leaders across the United Kingdom realise the disastrous consequences for our way of life and the integrity of our United Kingdom if they continue to appeal to grievance rather than generosity and fear rather than hope’


A song for the times


Q & R: Church futures?

Here's the Q:

from your perspective professionally and your position (of great privilege!) as a grandparent, will the followers of Jesus meet in a place called "church" when your grandchildren are grown?

I'm sitting with how much time and effort is focused on (to) "keep" in the church....families, young people...and I really think it's from an orientation towards self-preservation.

I feel pretty solidly there is a need to prepare them to go! ‎I don't know what that looks like to those of us who are still in the building.

Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. It's especially encouraging to me because a key chapter in my upcoming book is devoted to this question.

When I speak of Christian futures, I usually talk about 3 primary options:

A. Continuing decline - current trendlines continue
B. Conservative resurgence - a warrior fundamentalism predominates
C. Pregnancy - Christianity-as-it-is giving birth to Christianity-the-next-generation.

Then I say our job is not to predict which is most likely and prepare to adapt to it, but rather to determine which is most needed and dedicate our energies to making it so.

In that spirit, I think the pregnancy option will both celebrate and affirm the value of our existing structures (buildings, denominations, agencies, etc.) and welcome innovative new structures. I think we will take your implied question - "How can we prepare people to go and live a regenerative life of love in our world in the Spirit of Christ?" - and make that the primary question … not "how can we keep people coming to our buildings or contributing to our budgets," and not "how can we preserve the religious industrial complex we have created."


Q & R: What Should I Read Next?

Here's the Q:

Brian, I am currently taking a class on spiritual direction and my class leaders suggested, probably based on the questions I was asking, that I read your book "why did JMBM cross the road" . Having read this, and still having questions I then moved on to read your book "a new kind of Christianity" which, studying daily during lent and utilizing the bible extensively in my research I will complete my reading by Easter Sunday.
With all this reading and after attending your homily at St Pauls in Richmond a couple of weeks ago I am convinced you are on the right track and look forward to learning more.
My question therefore is which book do you recommend my reading next in my continuing journey with you?
I realize you are very busy, and just a one liner telling me which book you would recommend would be most helpful.

Here's the R:
First, I'm sorry for the delay in responding! Here's a one sentence response:

You should read We Make the Road by Walking.

It will show how ideas you've encountered in the previous two books are rooted in the Scriptures. Some other suggestions -
If your primary interest is …

Spirituality: Naked Spirituality of Finding Our Way Again
Faith and Contemporary Issues: Everything Must Change
Jesus: The Secret Message of Jesus
Faith and Postmodernity: A New Kind of Christian
Hell: The Last Word and the Word After That
The Biblical Story: We Make the Road by Walking or The Story We Find Ourselves In
Evangelism/Christian Witness: More Ready Than You Realize

You can find more information plus links to purchase these books here.

I hope that helps! Thanks for your interest.


The most important thing in American politics ...

As a political scientist, I think the change, the position Pope Francis has adopted repeatedly on issues of social justice and poverty and youth poverty especially could turn out to be the most important thing in American politics, because the pope matters. I don’t mean just that he’ll say “jump” and people in the United States will say, “How high?” I mean he’s changed the whole tenor of the discussion and not just among Catholics. - Robert Putnam

More here:


Wise words from a wise Christian leader

Thanks, Thomas Oord!

Mature Christians are humble and courageous enough to allow diverse opinions on how best to answer life’s most challenging questions. Smart and loving Christians can responsibly disagree. We must learn to live well amidst our different Christian perspectives.

Q & R: What form of Christianity?

Here's the Q:
Does Brian belong to a particular form of Christianity. If so, which one?

Here's the R:
I was brought up in a small fundamentalist group called Plymouth Brethren - wonderful people with many wonderful gifts. (Sadly, one of their founders was also a founder of dispensationalism, one of the most unhelpful theological inventions in recent history.)

I was a pastor for 24 years of a nondenominational progressive Evangelical congregation. There weren't many of those back then, but there are more and more these days.

Now, my wife and I attend an Episcopal church that we love.

I speak to groups across the spectrum of "forms of Christianity" - and I see goodness and beauty, along with challenges and struggles, everywhere I go.


Two amazing mothers - in dangerous times

Read about them here:


Maternal Images for God ...

With Mother's Day coming Sunday … this beautiful meditation from Mustard Seed Associates is a treasure:


An important piece not just about Burundi ...


The similarities between Burundi and Baltimore that I wrote about recently are more stark than ever.


The concern is that the international community might rush in to solve a political problem - a president hungry for an unconstitutional third term. The advocates for peace might come to stem the growing possibility of ethnic violence that circles back to genocide, as seen in Burundi and Rwanda not too many years ago. Then, once the president is dealt with, once the crisis is averted, everyone will leave thinking they've solved the matter and brokered a peace. But there will be no lasting peace until the root issue is addressed, and that's the economy, stupid.


Your chance to make a difference today ...

You can do something today to help people who make less than $1.25 a day. Better than a handout, you can give folks help in a new kind of business that employs them and lets them share in the profits.

This project, called "Dignity," is based in The Philippines. It makes coconut products like Virgin Coconut Oil. The business is designed not only for profitable sales, but also to dramatically transform the poor communities in which it is creating jobs.

This new business model sees beyond the single bottom line of profit for a few, but rather seeks economic benefit for many, along with environmental sustainability and social enrichment.

I really like what this company is doing. That's why I'm asking you to take a minute and look at the Kickstarter - and if you like it too, to pledge something toward their campaign. Beyond pledging - which I hope you will do - I am also asking you if you will share this e mail with as many friends as you can. Let's do some good!! www.idigcoconuts.com

And you can contribute here:


And now, in bird news ...

This. I encourage you to involve your kids and grandkids in caring for the earth and all its creatures.


And now, in gecko news ...



A bigger circle in Baltimore and Burundi

There's trouble today in two places I know and love: Baltimore and Burundi.

I spent over forty years of my life in Maryland, not far from Baltimore. During the last six or seven years of my work there as a pastor, I was blessed to have friends who worked in the neighborhoods of the city that are on TV this week. They regularly invited me to spend time with them and learn what life was like for them.

I recall a walk down some of those streets back in early 2009, just after the economic meltdown. I was spending the day with a pastor who loved the city and was showing me what he and his congregation were doing to make a difference.

"It's ironic," he said. "Everyone is in a panic because the national unemployment rate is around 9 percent. Let me tell you - the unemployment rate in this area has been around 18% as long as I've worked here."

Then he added, "When unemployment for white folks hits 9 percent, it's called a great recession and a national emergency. When unemployment for African Americans is 18 percent, it's normal and no big deal."

That's some of the background to the anger that's erupting there this week. Add to that mass incarceration (the new Jim Crow), and to that young black men being killed by police, and to that underfunded public schools … and you'll wonder why there hasn't been more trouble sooner.

It's easy to condemn desperate people who do wrong and destructive things - as a small number of people have been doing in Baltimore in recent days. It's a lot harder to take the big planks out of the eyes of the rest of us … larger numbers who also do wrong and destructive things, not by burning cars and buildings or throwing bricks, but by standing idly by while our neighbors suffer from the long-term effects of unemployment, white supremacy, white privilege, systemic racism, and structural injustice.

Pay attention to the rage and hopelessness of the rioters, and pay attention also to the decency and dignity of the many who are responding in mature, generous, and healing ways. And then decide to add your voice and energy to the latter.

Whatever our race, religion, or politics, let's take the opportunity of this moment to deal with underlying social and spiritual causes - in ourselves, in our society. Let's learn how the many and diverse acute symptoms we're seeing trace back to some underlying chronic diseases, and let's start treating the sickness, not just the symptoms. And through it all, let's not stop praying that God's dreams come true here on earth … especially in the beautiful and beloved city of Baltimore.


Readers of my books know that one of the places on earth that most has won my heart is Burundi in East Africa, just south of Rwanda and east of Congo. Its population is about the same size as Maryland. You may have heard that unrest has broken out there again - the consequence of the president deciding to run for a third term, in spite of the fact that the constitution has a two-term limit. Many of us fear that this political unrest will reignite old tribal hostilities (created by colonialism) … and that external forces from neighboring countries will get involved.

From Baltimore to Bujumbura, we human beings love to cling to our little boxes of hostility - boxes of race, religion, tribe, nation, party, ideology. In the name of our little boxes, we marginalize, ignore, oppress, and evil kill others, as if their lives don't matter because they identify with another box.

For me, to have faith in God means to step out of my little boxes into a bigger circle, a bigger sphere, called by some of us "the commonwealth of God" or "the ecosystem of God" or "the beloved community." In that larger circle of God's love and grace, little boxes of hostility - this religion/that religion/nonreligious, slave/free, male/female, straight/gay, rich/poor, white/black/brown/whatever - fade away. We discover one another as human beings, as sisters and brothers. In that larger circle, all are beloved. All are neighbors. All lives matter.

In Baltimore. In Burundi. Everywhere.


Eschatology, Anyone?

Riley O'Brien with a fresh approach to the Bible, the past, and the future … here.


Just a heads up ...

My 2014 book We Make the Road by Walking will release in paperback June 9, 2015. At about $12.00, it will be even easier to use in groups - congregations, classes, campus groups, online discussions, family devotions, etc.

I'll be sharing information soon on my next book via my email newsletter. You can stay in touch by signing up here.


Earth Day … a conservative value!

Here's my piece in the Hill Blog today ...


Right? Wong?

Wisdom from Michael Hidalgo …


Dear President Obama ...

Dear Mr. President,

I hear that you’ll be coming to my neighborhood this Wednesday for Earth Day. Thank you so much for coming. If you want to stop by for coffee or lunch, I’d love to have you!

I lived in the Washington, DC, area for most of my life, but chose to move to SW Florida (Marco Island) because I love the beauty and wildlife of this region, especially the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands.

Whenever I can spare a few hours from my work as a writer, speaker, and activist, I get outdoors to enjoy manatees and alligators, tarpon and snook, gopher tortoises and burrowing owls, swallow-tailed kites and bald eagles, cabbage palms and cocoplums. I volunteer in a number of initiatives to protect endangered species and ecosystems so they aren’t poisoned by polluters or destroyed by so-called developers.

That’s why I’m glad you’re coming here to draw attention to our region. We are blessed with natural treasures, but we are plagued by even more threats poised to plunder them - for short-term corporate and political profit.

Recently, a group of brave activists in the region managed to run off a Texas firm that was trying to frack the Everglades. But environmental successes are rare in a state whose politicians think Florida can never have too many sleazy strip malls, cheap hotels, or paved-and-gated communities ... and who remain in either ignorant or feigned denial about global warming and sea level rise in the very state that will suffer most from it.

You’ve heard that our governor told state employees they can’t use the term “global warming.” I can tell you that I’ve heard similar stories - and worse - from wildlife biologists and other environmentalists here. For example, environmental professionals have been told not to use the word “environmental monitoring” because, according to our governor, “monitoring kills jobs.” They have to use words like “research” instead of “conservation” because our governor and his allies, in spite of the fact that they love to wave the “conservative” flag and appear on "conservative" cable TV, seem to care little about conserving Florida's environmental treasures.

Judging by what I see here in Florida, "conservative" actually means "exploitive." It seems to me that spokespeople of the dominant political narrative here have never met a long-term natural public asset that they don’t want to convert into some rich donor’s short-term cash asset.

This breaks the hearts of those of us who believe in values that transcend cash value.

As a committed Christian, former pastor, and faith-based activist, I agree with St. Paul who said, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” My faith teaches me that the Creator deemed creation “good” and “very good.” That means all creation has an inherent spiritual value that matters more than monetary value. Each time I see an osprey circling or a dolphin leaping or an old-growth cypress towering into the Florida sky, their inherent value inspires me with awe, wonder, worship, and gratitude … and their transcendent value motivates me to speak from my heart on their behalf.

So thank you, Mr. President, for coming to the Everglades on Earth Day to celebrate the value and beauty of my neighborhood. Thank you for all you can do to save this beautiful and fragile part of the world that is suffering because of human greed, ignorance, and political cowardice.

With gratitude and respect,

Brian D. McLaren



Theologian Thomas Oord takes you outside ...


How America Became "Christian" -

Fascinating and disturbing interview with Terry Gross and Kevin Kruse here:

To adapt a quote, we might say, "In the Soviet Union and China, capitalism conquered socialism and communism. In the USA, capitalism conquered democracy and Christianity."


Wisdom about communication ... from Wm. Paul Young



Hypocrisy indeed: David Cortright gets it right


President Obama has said the United States supports the goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons, but some in his administration seem not to have gotten the memo. The Washington Post article has a stunningly cynical yet honest quote from the former White House Coordinator for Arms Control Gary Samore, replying to South Africa’s nuclear negotiator:

“Nuclear disarmament is not going to happen…It’s a fantasy. We need our weapons for our safety, and we’re not going to give them up.”

This from the person responsible for managing the President’s supposed commitment to disarmament. Hypocrisy indeed.

More here.


Will I see you in Fort Worth this weekend?

I hope so! More here.


Q & R: Starting a group?

Here's the Q:

Hi I live in the Hamilton, On, Canada and would love to start a group or join a group already Walking on the Road. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Here's the R:
I worked hard in designing the book to make it super-easy for groups to use. You'll find lots of resources here … and you'll see posts from some other groups using the book here.


A resource for bishops, executive presbyters, DS's, priests, pastors, Bible study leaders, and others ...

Many brave souls stepped out to try We Make the Road by Walking for some or all of the 2014-2015 church year. Reports have been so encouraging. I just learned that the book will come out in softcover in June, which will be an advantage for using the book in groups for 2015-2016. Here's a note I received recently:

I want to let you know that we have had several covenant groups read your Lenten section together. The group I facilitate is such a gift, and I wanted to share about it quickly with you: it seems to me that this group embodies your hope for the book.

We are only 8-10 or so depending on the week. We are from a wide range on the socio-economic spectrum, of 3 different ethnicities, in different places (in our abilities and limitations physically and educationally) not to mention theologically. Half come from the church, half come from the neighborhood.

One just received their first housing through a voucher program; one is a single dad; one has cerebral palsy; all are beautiful creatures of God.

Your book decentralizes leadership so everyone feels welcome, despite their education or literacy level. Those that feel comfortable read a paragraph and pass the book around the circle. Our discussions are lively and spirited (we never finish in our timeframe!) and the participants are engaged and ALIVE! …which was your hope in writing, I believe, and I wanted you to know that it has come to be in this little corner of [Texas]! Thanks be to God!


Dean Gregory Jones gets it right ...

on Institutions. Here.
We need a richer Christian account of vibrant institutions that is cognizant of personal as well as institutional sin and redemption. For, as Heclo notes, “institutional thinking has to do with living committed to the ends for which organization occurs rather than to an organization as such.” And Christians should have a clear sense of the end for which we live and move and have our being. We are well-equipped to narrate the vices and virtues that are intrinsic to thinking institutionally.

In this time of cultural turmoil, when economic challenges are troubling even strong institutions, we cannot afford any longer to be cynical about or hate institutions. It is time to develop a robust Christian theological imagination for, and understanding of, them. Indeed, we need to learn, by God, to love the institutions we need.


I love these photos ...

and they seem especially fitting for Easter.


Easter Sunday

This is an excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 33: The Uprising Begins (Easter Sunday)

Ezekiel 37:1–14
Luke 24:1–32
Colossians 1:9–29

Let’s imagine ourselves with the disciples on the first Easter Sunday.

Here’s what we heard. At dawn, before the sun has risen, some women who are part of our movement went to the tomb to properly wash Jesus’ corpse and prepare it for burial. When they arrived, they had a vision involving angels. One of the women claimed that Jesus appeared to her. The rest of us think it was just the gardener.

The gardener! What a place to be buried—a grave in a garden! A bed of death in a bed of life!

The women came and told the disciples. Peter went running back and found the tomb empty. Empty! And the burial cloths were still there, neatly folded. Who would take a naked corpse and leave the bloody cloths that it was wrapped in? Peter wondered what was going on—but he didn’t have any clear theory.

We all speculated, but none of us knew what to think. We decided to go back home. That’s where we are now—walking on the road back home. It’s about a seven-mile walk to our little town of Emmaus. It takes a couple hours. Along the way we’ve been talking about all this, trying to come up with some kind of interpretation of the events that have transpired. Now we notice this other fellow walking toward us, a stranger. We lower our voices. He comes a little closer.

“What are you folks talking about?” he asks.

One of us replies, “Are you kidding? Are you the only person in this whole region who doesn’t know all that’s been happening around Jerusalem recently?”

“Like what?” he asks.

We tell him about Jesus, that he was clearly a prophet who said and did amazing things. We tell him how the religious and political leaders came together to arrest him. We go into some detail about the crucifixion on Friday. “We had hoped,” one of us says, and pauses. “We had hoped…that this Jesus was the one who was going to turn things around for Israel, that he would set us free from the Roman occupation.”

We walk on a few steps, and he adds, “And this morning was the third day since his death, and some women from our group told us that they had a vision of angels who said he was alive.” It’s pretty clear from the tone of his voice that none of us take the report of the women very seriously.

That’s when the stranger interrupts. “You just don’t get it, do you?” he says. “This is exactly what the prophets said would happen. They have been telling us all along that the Liberator would have to suffer and die like this before entering his glory.” As we continue walking, he starts explaining things to us from the Scriptures. He begins with Moses, and step by step he shows us the pattern of God’s work in history, culminating in what happened in Jerusalem in recent days. God calls someone to proclaim God’s will.

Resistance and rejection follow, often culminating in an expulsion or murder to silence the speaker. But this isn’t a sign of defeat. This is the only way God’s most important messages are ever heard—through someone on the verge of being rejected. God’s word doesn’t come in dominating, crushing force. It comes only in vulnerability, in weakness, in gentleness…just as we have seen over this last week.

At this point, we realize we’ve reached home already, and as we slow down, the stranger just keeps walking. We plead with him to stay here with us, since it’s getting late and will soon be dark. So he comes in and we sit down at our little table for a meal. He reaches to the center of the table and takes a loaf of bread and gives thanks for it. He breaks it and hands a piece of it to each of us and…

It hits us at the same instant. This isn’t a stranger…this is…it couldn’t be—yes, this is Jesus! We each look down at the fragment of bread in our hands, and when we look back up to the stranger…he is gone!

And we start talking, one interrupting the other. “When he spoke about Moses and the prophets, did you feel—?” “—Inspired? Yes. It felt like my heart was glowing, hotter and hotter, until it was ready to ignite.” “Did this really happen, or was it just a vision?” “Just a vision? Maybe a vision means seeing into what’s more real than anything else.” “But it wasn’t just me, right? You saw him too, right? You felt it too, right?” “What do we do now? Shouldn’t we…tell the others?” “Yes, let’s do it. Let’s go back to Jerusalem, even though it’s late. I could never sleep after experiencing this!”

So we pack our gear and rush back to the city, excited and breathless. On our earlier journey, we were filled with one kind of perplexity—disappointment, confusion, sadness. Now we feel another kind of perplexity—wonder, awe, amazement, almost-too-good-to-be-true-ness. “Do you realize what this means?” one of us asks, and then answers his own question: “Jesus was right after all! Everything he stood for has been vindicated!”
“Yes. And something else. We never have to fear death again.”

“And if that’s true,” another answers, “we never need to fear Caesar and his forces again, either. Their only real weapon is fear, and if we lose our fear, what power do they have left? Ha! Death has lost its sting! That means we can stand tall and speak the truth, just like Jesus did.” “We never need to fear anyone again.” “This changes everything.” “It’s not just that Jesus was resurrected. It feels like we have arisen too. We were in a tomb of defeat and despair. But now—look at us! We’re truly alive again!”

We talk as fast as we walk. We recall Jesus’ words from Thursday night about his body and blood. We remember what happened on Friday when his body and his blood were separated from one another on the cross. That’s what crucifixion was, we realize: the slow, excruciating, public separation of body and blood. So, we wonder, could it be that in the holy meal, when we remember Jesus, we are making space for his body and blood to be reunited and reconstituted in us? Could our remembering him actually re-member and resurrect him in our hearts, our bodies, our lives? Could his body and blood be reunited in us, so that we become his new embodiment? Is that why we saw him and then didn’t see him—because the place he most wants to be seen is in our bodies, among us, in us?

It’s dark when we reach Jerusalem. Between this day’s sunrise and today’s sunset, our world has been changed forever. Everything is new. From now on, whenever we break the bread and drink the wine, we will know that we are not alone. The risen Christ is with us, among us, and within us—just as he was today, even though we didn’t recognize him. Resurrection has begun. We are part of something rare, something precious, something utterly revolutionary.

It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the “someday” we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present, rising up among us and within us. It’s so different from what we expected—so much better. This is what it means to be alive, truly alive. This is what it means to be en route, walking the road to a new and better day. Let’s tell the others: the Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!


Holy Saturday

This is an excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 32C: Doubt. Darkness. Despair (Holy Saturday)

Psalm 77
Psalm 88
Ecclesiastes 1:1–11
Job 10:1–22
Let us imagine ourselves with the disciples on that Saturday after the crucifixion. We are hiding together in a home, engaged in sober, somber conversation.
Perhaps our descendants, the disciples of the future, will call this a day of waiting. But we are not waiting. For us, there is nothing to wait for. All we know is what was lost yesterday as Jesus died on the cross. For us, it’s all over. This is a day of doubt, despair, disillusionment, devastation.

Certain details of the killing yesterday are hard to shake. Jesus, carrying his cross on the road to Golgotha, surrounded by women who were weeping for him. Jesus telling them, “Don’t weep for me. Weep for yourselves and your children.” What did he mean? Was he telling them that the violence spilling out on him was only a trickle of the reservoir that waited behind the scenes to flood the whole region?

Then there was Peter…so full of bluster at dinner on Thursday, such a coward later that night, and invisible all of yesterday. And Judas—to think we trusted him as our treasurer! At least the women stayed true…the women, and John, who was entrusted with Mary’s care as her surrogate son. None of us can imagine what yesterday must have been like for Mary. She has carried so much in her heart for so long, and now this.

Then there was that strange darkness, as if the whole world were being uncreated, and there was that strange rumor about the veil in the Temple being torn from top to bottom. Was that an image for God in agony, like a man tearing his clothes in fury over the injustice that was happening. Or was it a rejection of the priesthood for their complicity in the crime—a way of saying that God was done with the priests and the Temple, that God would welcome people into the Holiest Place without their assistance? Or maybe it could mean that God is on the loose—that God is through with being contained in a stone structure and behind a thick curtain and wants to run free through the world like the wind? That’s a nice sentiment, but not likely from today’s vantage point. Today it best symbolizes that no place is holy any more. If a murder like this can take place in the so-called Holy City, supported by the so-called Holy Priesthood, then holiness is nothing but a sham. It’s a torn curtain, and behind it only emptiness lies.

On top of it all, we have to come to terms with the fact that Jesus seemed to know all this was coming. True, at the last minute, just before the betrayal and arrest, he prayed that the cup might pass from him. But he had been telling us that something terrible was coming—telling us since back in Caesarea Philippi, when Peter confessed him as the Liberating King and the true Leader, telling us in many ways, even in his parables.

He loved life. Yet he did not cling to it. He loved life. Yet he was not controlled by the fear of death. In the garden Thursday night, it seemed as if to him, the fear of death was more dangerous than death itself, so he needed to deal with the fear once and for all. But look where that got him. Maybe it would have been better for him to flee back to Galilee. Lots of other people are living in communes out in the desert, waiting for Jerusalem and all it represents to crumble under its own weight. Maybe that was what we should have done.

But it’s too late now.

That one Roman soldier was impressed by him, but the others—all they cared about was seeing who would win a dead man’s garment with a roll of the dice. True to form—playing games and obsessed with clothes and money to the very end!

Then came that moment when one of the rebels who was being crucified with Jesus started mocking him. When the other rebel spoke up to defend Jesus, Jesus said those kind words to him about being with him in Paradise. Even then he had compassion for someone else. Even in death he was kind to a neighbor. And finally there was that haunting moment when he spoke of forgiveness…for those who were crucifying him, and for us all.

Normal, sane people would have said, “God, damn them to hell forever for what they have done!” But not Jesus.“They don’t understand what they’re doing,” he said.

What did our leaders think they were doing? Protecting law and order? Preserving the status quo? Conserving what little peace and security we have left? Silencing a heretic or blasphemer? Shutting down a rabble-rouser and his burgeoning movement?

Right up to the last minute we dared hope that God would send in some angels, stop the whole charade, and let everyone see how wrong they were and how right Jesus was. But no last-minute rescue came. Only death came. Bloody, sweaty, filthy, ugly death. Just before he died, it seemed that even he had lost faith. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried. Maybe some shred of hope remained, though, because his last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Now. Now, he is dead. Does that mean this uprising is dead, too? We feel a chill as we realize that possibility. What do we do now? Do we leave, go back home, pick up our lives where we left them before all this started for us? Do we try to carry on the teaching of a…dead, defeated, failed, and discredited leader? Do we turn cynical, disillusioned, dark, bitter? Fishing and tax collecting will seem meaningless compared to the memories of these last three years. But that’s all we have left…fishing, tax collecting, and memories. The adventure of Jesus is dead and done.

Maybe we have all been fools. Maybe Pontius Pilate was right when he told Jesus that truth didn’t matter, only power matters—the power of swords and spears, chariots and crosses, whips and nails. Or maybe the Sadducees and their rich friends in Jerusalem are right: life is short, and then you die, so amass all the money you can, by any means you can. And while you can, eat the best food and drink the best wine, because that’s all there is.
Wine. That brings us back to Thursday night there, around the table. “Remember me. Remember me. I will not eat of this until…” Until?

Did Jesus really believe that death wasn’t the last word? Did he really believe that there was any hope of…

That’s too much to believe today. Today, we sink in our doubt. Today we drown in our despair. Today we are pulled down, down, down, in our pain and disappointment. Today we allow ourselves to question everything about the story we have been told.

Creation? Maybe God made this world, or maybe it’s all a cruel, meaningless joke.
Crisis? Maybe violence and hate are just the way of the world. Maybe they’re not an intrusion or anomaly; maybe they’re the way things are and will always, always be.
Calling? Forget about being blessed to be a blessing. Today we lie low and nurse our wounds. It is a dangerous world out there. We would be wise to stay inside and lock all doors.
Captivity? Who cares if Moses succeeded in getting our ancestors out of slavery in Egypt? Jesus failed, and there’s no Moses for us now. We’re still captives, worse off than we were before that crazy Galilean came and raised our hopes.
Conquest? If the most violent win and the nonviolent are killed, what kind of world is it?
Conversation? Today it seems that the skeptics and doubters were right. There’s nothing to say except, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!” Today’s lament feels like the only sure truth in all the sacred Scriptures!
Christ? What Christ? He lies in a grave, cold and dead, and with him, all our hopes for a better way to be alive.



Good Friday

This is an excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 32B: Everything Must Change (Good Friday)
Psalm 22
Luke 22:39–23:56
Let’s imagine ourselves with the disciples just before three o’clock on this Friday afternoon. A few of us have come together to talk about what has happened over the last twenty-four hours.

It all started falling apart late last night when Judas, accompanied by a little band of soldiers, came for Jesus. All we could think about was saving ourselves. Only Peter and John had the courage to stay with Jesus for a while. But by the time dawn came, Peter was having an emotional breakdown and John had run away, too. The next thing we knew, about nine this morning, Jesus was carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem. It was obvious he had been beaten, scourged mercilessly, mocked, and tortured. He was hardly recognizable.

By noon, he was hanging on the cross.

During the last three hours, some of us have gathered at a distance to watch. We’ve been silent, lost in our own thoughts, but no doubt all our thoughts have been running the same circuit through the same shared memories.

We’ve been remembering last evening in the Garden, before Judas showed up. We kept falling asleep as Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not what I want but what you want.” With tears and in great distress, he prayed a second and third time. But the thrust of his prayer shifted from what might be possible to what might not be possible: “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.” In the second and third prayers, he was clearly preparing to die.

But why? Why was there no other way? Why did this good man—the best we have ever known, the best we have ever imagined—have to face torture and execution as if he were some evil monster?

As the hours drag on from noon to nearly three o’clock, we imagine many reasons. Some are political. The Pharisees were right to be concerned last Sunday when Jesus came marching into the capital. First our little parade—the Romans would have called it a rebellious mob—proclaimed Jesus as king. From there, he marched into the Temple and called it a hideout for crooks, turning over the tables and upsetting the religious economy. Only a fool would do things like these without expecting consequences. Jesus was no fool.

We think about more spiritual reasons for this to happen. Jesus has told us again and again that God is different from our assumptions. We’ve assumed that God was righteous and pure in a way that makes God hate the unrighteous and impure. But Jesus has told us that God is pure love, so overflowing in goodness that God pours out compassion on the pure and impure alike. He not only has told us of God’s unbounded compassion—he has embodied it every day as we have walked this road with him. In the way he has sat at table with everyone, in the way he has never been afraid to be called a “friend of sinners,” in the way he has touched untouchables and refused to condemn even the most notorious of sinners, he has embodied for us a very different vision of what God is like.

At dinner last night, when he knelt down and washed our feet, and later when he called us his friends, what was that supposed to mean? Was he trying to show us that God isn’t a dictator high in the sky eager for us to cower in fear at his feet? Was he inviting us to think of God as the one who is down here with us, who stoops low and touches our feet—as a servant would? Was he telling us that God would rather cleanse us than condemn us? If that was the case last night, what could this horrible day be trying to show us? Could there be any meaning in this catastrophe playing out before us now?

And then we think: if Jesus is showing us something so radical about God, what is he telling us about ourselves—about human beings and our social and religious institutions? What does it mean when our political leaders and our religious leaders come together to mock and torture and kill God’s messenger, God’s beloved child, God’s best and brightest? How misguided can our nation be? Is this the only way religions and governments maintain order—by threatening us with pain, shame, and death if we don’t comply? And is this how they unify us—by turning us into a mob that comes together in its shared hatred of the latest failure, loser, rebel, criminal, outcast…or prophet? The Romans boast of their peace, and our priests boast of their holiness and justice, but today it all looks like a sham, a fraud, a con game. What kind of world have we made? What kind of people have we become?

One minute the crowds were flocking to Jesus hoping for free bread and healing. The next minute they were shouting, “Crucify him!” And we, his so-called disciples, we are no better. One minute we were eating a meal with him and he was calling us his friends. Now here we stand at a distance, unwilling to identify ourselves with him and so risk what we is going through.

It has grown strangely dark now, in the middle of the afternoon, and in the darkness, even from this distance, we can hear Jesus. “Father, forgive them,” he shouts. “For they don’t know what they are doing.”

Forgive them? Forgive us?

Our thoughts bring us again to the garden last night, when Jesus asked if there could be any other way. And now it seems clear. There could be no other way to show us what God is truly like. God is not revealed in killing and conquest…in violence and hate. God is revealed in this crucified man—giving of himself to the very last breath, giving and forgiving.

And there could be no other way to show us what we are truly like. We do not know what we are doing, indeed.

If God is like this, and if we are like this…everything must change. Everything must change.


Maundy Thursday …

This is an excerpt from We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 32 A: A Table, a Basin, Some Food, Some Friends …
Let’s imagine ourselves near Jerusalem. It’s Thursday night, and we are walking the road with Jesus’ disciples on Thursday of this climactic week. What a week it has been! It all started last Sunday as Jesus led us in that unforgettable parade into Jerusalem. And then there was that scene at the Temple. That sure stirred things up! Every night we have slept outside the city and returned the next morning for more drama. One day there were confrontations with the religious scholars and Pharisees; the next day, more controversy with the Sadducees. Jesus has issued lots of dire warnings about the fate of the Temple, which upsets many people because it’s the center of their whole world. And earlier today, just as Jesus sent two of us to find that donkey for our parade last Sunday, he sent Peter and John to find a man carrying a water jar so they could prepare the Passover meal at his guest room tonight.

Every Passover all Jews remember the night before our ancestors were liberated from slavery in Egypt. We celebrate a night of great anticipation. We associate each element of the meal—bitter herbs, unleavened bread, a lamb, fruit, and more—with different meanings from the liberation story. But tonight, at this special Passover, the focus isn’t on the distant past. It’s on the present and what will soon happen. Jesus draws our attention not to the lamb, but to a simple loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Near the end of the meal, Jesus lifts the bread and gives thanks for it. He says, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he lifts a cup of wine and says, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” He adds, “Whenever you take this bread and drink from this cup, do so in memory of me.”
Our first reaction is shock. To ask us to remember him suggests he will soon die. We know he has mentioned this several times, but now it hits us: he really means it, and it’s coming soon. Our second reaction? To speak of his body and blood this way sounds repulsive—like cannibalism! Why would we want to eat human flesh or drink human blood! That’s unkosher in our religion, and downright uncivilized! What could Jesus possibly mean by these strange words?

But before we can ponder the meaning of Jesus’ strange words any more, he adds to our shock by speaking about one of us being his betrayer. That quickly gets us arguing about which one of us would do such a terrible thing. Soon, we’ve moved on from arguing about which of us is the worst disciple to arguing about which of us is the greatest. It’s pretty pathetic, when you think about it. It says a lot about us disciples, and a lot about human nature, too. Jesus is trying to tell us he’s about to suffer and die, and all we can do is think about ourselves, our egos, our status in the pecking order!

Even this becomes a teaching opportunity for Jesus. Gentiles, meaning the Romans who occupy our land and seek to dominate us in every way, play these kinds of status games, he says. They cover up their status games with all kinds of language games. “That’s not the way it will be with you,” Jesus says. “Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant.”

Years from now, when the Fourth Gospel will tell the story, it will make this theme of service the focal point of this whole evening. It won’t even include the bread and the wine and Jesus’ solemn words about them. It will put center stage the dramatic moment when Jesus strips off his normal clothing and puts a towel around his waist. He pours water in a basin, stoops as a servant would, and washes the dust from our feet, one by one. When he finishes, he explains that he has set an example—of humble service, not domination—and he means us to imitate his example. Later, after the meal, he will expand “Serve one another as I have served you” to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Both ways of telling the story of this night lead us to the same meaning. The original Passover recalled one kind of liberation—liberation from slavery in Egypt. This meal suggests another kind of liberation—liberation from playing the shame games of rivalry, pecking order, domination, and competition to reach the top of the pyramid of pride. If the first Passover gets people out from under the heel of the slave master, this holy meal leads people out from the desire to be slave masters in the first place. This meal celebrates a new model of aliveness—a model of service, of self-giving, of being blessed, broken, and given for the well-being of others.

It’s pretty predictable, I guess: to see how we disciples completely miss the point and turn that holy supper into an argument, a contest for who will be the greatest, who will have the most status at the table, who will be excluded. But in spite of our anxiety and rivalry…

Jesus, the patient teacher…
Jesus, the humble leader…
Jesus, the king of self-giving sets an example of service. And in that context, he asks us to remember him—not primarily for his great miracles, not primarily for his brilliant teaching, but primarily, essentially, for this: that he gives himself like food for us, and for the whole world.


Start Your Week with This

Another great song from Rob Leveridge:


Paul Harder gets it right ...

on Christian values here.

God does not require us to make a list of things that others are not permitted to do. Rather, he wants us to follow a fairly simple list of what we, ourselves, should do.

Those who focus on thou-shalt-not pronouncements about the behavior of others, ignoring the thou-shalts that Jesus actually spoke, are not trying to uphold Christian values.


It's Monday, but Good Friday's coming ...

Lots of pastors and priests will be preaching on the meaning of the crucifixion this week. If you haven't downloaded or purchased Did God Kill Jesus? yet, this is a great week to do so. Here's what I wrote in my endorsement: “An extended exploration of one of Christian theology’s oldest, most vexing, intriguing, and important questions… You’ll be grateful for a chance to think alongside a passionate, inspiring theologian who writes with clarity, intensity, and relentless curiosity.”


President Carter gets it right ...


Ultimately, only a peace agreement that grants freedom to self-governed Palestinians can bring the security that both the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve. As long as Palestinians remain divided, it will be difficult for any leader to sell to the Palestinian people a peace agreement with Israel. Absent such an agreement, lifting the closure and jump-starting Gaza’s reconstruction can do much to avert the next war.


Thirty lines below "All men are created equal …"

in the Declaration of Independence, you'll find a shock. Mark Charles tells you about it here:


You've heard "Let it Go" a million times. But have you heard "Let Go?"


Water. It's beautiful. It's life-giving.

Here are two of my pieces about world water day …

Water as a Symbol Across Faith Traditions

5 Ways you Can Save Lives on World Water Day


A reader writes … easily accessible to our youth

A reader writes:

I've been doing an internship at a small Presbyterian church since last summer. In addition to my intern duties, I have been offered a position as Christian Education Administrator as they decide how to reorganize after losing their long time DCE.

Our youth group has dwindled over the years. They were wanting something that would create excitement and help the youth think about their faith. A few weeks ago, we introduced WMTRBW. We used John Stonecypher's videos and worked with the material to make it easily accessible to our youth. The response has been great.

Your book has made a new way of approaching scripture easily understood by congregations who are wanting to move forward but are not sure of how to do so.

It's great to hear how the book is being employed in congregations like yours. I'm so glad to be in partnership with you and John Stonecypher and many others.


God becomes real to us ...

when incarnated in the kindness and love of others. This beautiful video from Rob Leveridge offers a beautiful insight into incarnation … and eucharist. So worth your next 3 minutes and 55 seconds!


Banking With a Conscience: George Bailey or Mr. Potter?


George Bailey or Mr. Potter?

This article points to a trend I think we all should be paying attention to … using moral influence upon corporations, beginning with banks, to move people toward the common good. More here. Quotable:

Last week, with little fanfare, PNC Financial, the nation’s seventh-largest bank, disclosed a significant strategic shift. The bank said it would no longer finance coal-mining companies that pursue mountaintop removal of coal in Appalachia, an environmentally devastating practice that has long drawn opposition.

It was a big decision for PNC, which has been one of the largest financiers of companies that engage in the mountaintop mining of coal, which involves blasting off the summits of mountains to expose the coal beneath them and dumping the debris into valleys and rivers, which the environmental law organization Earthjustice described as “strip mining on steroids.”

For more on related matters, see Everything Must Change.


Hell: Jesus is Against It

by my friend Roy Terry.

More about Cornerstone UMC here.
More about the curriculum they're following this year here.


Are you wiser than a 9 year old?


You need to be FLIPPED.

Here's why.


If you liked Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress ...

or if you didn't, these insights from Navajo Christian activist Mark Charles deserve your attention:


Did anyone else catch this statement made last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his address to a joint session of Congress?

He said (to applause):
"Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope..."

The belief that the lands of North America are a "promised land" to the colonizing nations of Europe is rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery and requires an acceptance of at least 2 extra-Biblical components.

1. Christian empires are ordained and established by God..
2. God gave the lands of North America to colonists in order to plant the United States, a new nation with a God-given destiny

Both Jesus and Paul rejected the notion that Christ came to establish a worldly "Christian" empire.

The belief that the United States is a Christian Empire that has a land covenant with God is a self-serving fabrication that has no moral or spiritual basis. Whether or not the United States is a Christian nation has absolutely no bearing on the salvation of any follower of Christ. Yet many American Christians embrace this national identity with such devotion that one would think our eternal destiny depended upon our citizenship in a Christian Empire.

I was shocked by the Prime Minister's words. Not only because they were extremely inaccurate, both historically and theologically. But also because one does not need to read very far into the Old Testament book of Joshua to discovery the God ordained fate of any nations or peoples that pre-exist in "Promised Lands". His words, before a joint session of Congress, implied Biblical justification for 5 centuries of incredible injustice, racism and dehumanization towards the indigenous peoples of North America.


If you're a parent, educator, youth worker, teacher, or pastor - check out this awesomeness

by geek-dad John Stonecypher. Here.

Check this out by Catherine Maresca - here.

And if you want to hang around fascinating kindred spirits - who care about fresh ways of teaching kids and youth about God, faith, Jesus, the cross, and life - don't miss Faith Forward in Chicago, April 20-23. I'll be there. I hope you will too!


A reader writes: For your inner geek ...

My wife Karen and I are working through "we make the road…" which, with some of your other books, advocates using candles during spiritual exercises.

Alan Alda, the actor, has an inner geek too. He funded a contest a few years ago to answer the question "what makes a flame?" in a way a 10-12 year old could understand.

Here is winning entry, https://vimeo.com/40271657. I think your blog readers might enjoy it too.


I love the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

If you're anywhere near Tampa, FL, on 21 March, you should be part of this.
In the meantime, you can learn more about CIW here.



Wisdom from Mark Longhurst ...

at the Emerging Voices blog.


A beautiful post from Christine Sine

Stay Close to the Cracks ...
Christine's poem and Leonard Cohen's song are a great way to start this new week.


Here's a Song to Lift Your Spirits ...

From Tag:



Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 7, 2015


Edmund Pettus Bridge
Selma, Alabama

Continue reading this....


New Zealanders -

I'll be in your beautiful country August 1 - 10. Details coming soon!


Good Friday Resource ...

Five Sundays until Good Friday - and my friend Richard Bruxvoort Colligan has created a beautiful liturgy for that day. It is creative, meaningful, and needed. You can learn more here.


Stephen Colbert on Faith


Seven Ways to Live a Faithful Life ...

Here's my most recent Sojourners post ...


Morning Prayer with Prayerful Movement

It's great to hear reports like this one about Twelve Simple Words, which yoga/tai chi/chi gong instructor Suzanne Jackson and I produced together:

… I used the Twelve Simple Words program two days a week during Advent as part of an experiment to see how Morning Prayer with prayerful movement would do at our parish. It has been so successful that two to three parishioners are now offering it at 7 a.m. daily!

Learn more (and order) here.


In tortoise news ...

Some progress in the Galapagos.


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.


Breaking Up With Slavery Is Hard to Do ...

I mentioned an idea here, and John Stonecypher did it here:



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.


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.


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.


You can watch this for a few more days for free ...

My interview with Michael Dowd is available here.

The whole series is amazing. You really should check it out.


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.


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.)


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)


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 …


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?


"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.

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.


an open letter to katy perry

Reba Riley reaches out to a fellow survivor of PTCS ...


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!


A Texas pastor writes to Sen. Ted Cruz ...



A Reader Writes: not wanting to be like that

A reader writes:

This is an encouragement for Brian.

Many years ago I was one of several leaders in an evangelical church, which had many good points. But I was disturbed at how several people were hurt, in part due to what came out of theology and how some folk were treated in pastoral care. It gave me a personal crisis - not wanting to be like that but still wanting to minister in a hopeful church.

I came across several of Brian's books, first from 'a generous orthodoxy' later to 'a new kind of Christianity ' and the trilogy. Brian's thinking and practice, read alongside Tom Wright gave me a new exhilaration.

I know Brian has had a hard time from some evangelical groups. This is meant to redress that in a small way.

In one of his books, Brian cautioned care in bringing this to churches. He was wise. Once I preached along the lines of what he has to say about new creation and genesis, but avoiding his phrasing. One of the leaders, a strong critic of Brian's theology really liked it. I told him I had just reworded Brian's thoughts - which then caused that leader to think more deeply too.

Thank you Brian.

Thanks for this encouraging note. The process of change is slow, painful, slow, painful, slow, painful … and then breakthroughs occur. I think it was Gandhi who said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you … and then you win." I think that in the kingdom/commonwealth of God, "winning" is different, because there is no desire to make others losers. I think we're reaching a moment where many of us who have been calling for change for a long time, often suffering in the process, need to start acting like gracious winners and finding a way to help those who have opposed us to become allies for greater and higher purposes. Again, thanks for your encouragement.


Parents (and youth workers) … this is really amazing.

John Stonecypher has been creating a phenomenal set of resources for kids and teenagers using my book We Make the Road by Walking as a template. To get an idea of what he's up to, check out this week's entry, based on Chapter 25 of the book.

You can subscribe to get the weekly entries by email too.

Thanks, John. Amazing work!


Q & R: Books for a bright daughter

Here's the Q:

I am a pastor in [a Bible Belt state]. A couple in our church (same sex - I performed their ceremony) came to me about their bright daughter who was wanting to follow Jesus and be baptized. We are part of an interdenominational church and see this happen often. This couple asked me if I could recommend a good book their daughter could read before she meets with me to talk further. Uh oh! I have seen Focus on the Family type material but that is not where they are nor where we as a church are. I have been on a search for the last week but am coming up empty. Do you have any ideas here? On a side not, I was introduced to your work by Tony Campolo who was and is a huge hero of mine. Later my oldest son discovered your books when he graduated from Columbia University. Reading your books has hugely shaped his thinking about God and is having a huge influence in our church. I am a Southern Baptist raised and SBC seminary trained pastor and I want to say thank you for doing what you do.

Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. I'm struck by your story … about how much diversity there is among folks raised in the Southern Baptist Convention … And I'm also struck by how quickly churches everywhere, even in the Bible Belt, are having to face the reality of gay marriage in very practical terms. Even churches that won't perform or acknowledge same-sex marriages then have to decide if they will accept children from those unions … for baptism, membership, etc. Which raises additional questions … Will the children be required to deny the validity of their parents' marriage to fit in? The job of pastors is already hard, and these questions won't go away.

Because I don't know the age of this young woman, I can't make a specific recommendation about a general introduction to Christian faith. If she is a teenager, of my books, probably Secret Message of Jesus would be best. A selection of chapters from We Make the Road by Walking could also be helpful. If she is younger, I need to ask around. This is an area of huge need. That's why I'm so glad for Faith Forward … you can learn more about them here.

I'll post a link to this at my Facebook page, and perhaps people will have some recommendations to post in the comments section there.


Inequality: simple brilliance from Archbishop Justin Welby


Q. Why is income inequality a religious issue?

A. It tends to result in the development of overmighty areas within society, and at the same time of people who are excluded and forgotten. Therefore it becomes an issue about the nature of the value of the human being, the dignity of the human being, which is a religious issue. The human being for whom Christ died is of equal value, whoever they are.

More here.


Where you should be April 20-23 ...

I'm such a big fan of Faith Forward and the work they're doing to innovate ministry with kids and youth. I've been at every one of their gatherings and I'll be speaking at the opening session at their 2015 gathering in Chicago, April 20-23. If you're looking for a community of creative and forward-thinking leaders in children's and youth ministry, there's no better place to be that Faith Forward 2015. Learn more here.

Check out this 2-minute highlights reel from last year's Faith Forward gathering:


Really positive signs …

From New Wave Emergent Voices here.
Also - some great news about Richard Rohr appearing on OWN February 8.

This new wave, as I see it, moves beyond woundedness. It honors and acknowledges sacred wounds, but it promises the potential for healing on the other side of hurt and the capacity for transformation in every human life — because being hurt is not the point. God wants us to be whole. Healing is the process, and wholeness is the point. And we are made to heal. The power of contemporary science is that it validates everything the universe and its inhabitants, on our best of days, have intuitively known to be true — that we all have the capacity to heal. We all have the right, as autonomous beings, to live in hurt and rage in perpetuity, if we so choose. But we do so consciously, eyes-open, with the knowledge that there is transformation beyond hurt. We don’t heal in lieu of justice but because the most transformed version of justice — for abuse, trauma, racism, sexism, homophobia — only comes from the transformed heart.

...New-wavers are not just thinking or intellectualizing in a postmodern framework, they are striving to practice and adopt postmodern behaviors, an orientation that seeks to destabilize and disrupt systems that are death-bringing. New-wavers are less interested in arguing on Facebook than sitting in respectful dialogue where opposing dualities are both honored and heard. New-wavers are about seeking to move beyond the oppositionality of “liberal” and “conservative” to help bring about a truly radical community of liberation for all.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2015/02/a-conversation-on-new-wave-emergence/#ixzz3QYHlt7XN


Thoughts on Reformation ...

Worth reading. Here.


Jesus the Teacher

In Chapter 22 of We Make the Road by Walking, I explore seven ways Jesus taught:
1. Signs and wonders
2. Public lectures
3. Impromptu moments
4. Private retreats and field trips
5. Public demonstrations
6. Parables
7. The Cross

When I was in England a few months ago, wise scholar and teacher Paula Gooder gently asked me why I didn't include an eighth: Asking questions.

Of course! She's right. In future editions, that's a change I want to make. (By the way, did you notice how she taught me - by using a question?)

So, here's how I plan to revise that list for a future edition:
1. Signs and wonders
2. Public lectures
3. Impromptu moments
4. Private retreats and field trips
5. Public demonstrations
6. Parables
7. Questions
8. The Cross

Here's a rough draft of a short paragraph I'd like to add on p. 102 (in the US edition):

[Regarding parables]… They could ask questions, stay curious, and seek something deeper than agreement or disagreement - namely, understanding.

Speaking of questions, one of Jesus' master-teaching strategies involved asking lots of them. People who count these sorts of things say Jesus asks over 300 questions in the four gospels, and of the 183 questions he is asked, he directly answers only 3. He routinely refuses to answer questions that are badly framed, often responding to a misguided question with a probing question.

If you've never read through the gospels noting Jesus' brilliant use of questions, it's worth doing. Conrad Gempf wrote a whole book on the subject some years ago, which I highly recommend.

One of my mentors used to say, "We must teach what Jesus taught in the manner Jesus taught it." If that rings true, you'll enjoy Chapter 22 … but be sure to add #7 (above) to the list of (now) 8.


Next week ...

I'll send out my first email newsletter of the year. Each month I'll be including at least one free gift with the newsletter - it might be music or a poem or a discount or a video. If you haven't signed up for my almost-monthly newsletter, I hope you will today -
Right here.


One big reason you should read my two most recent books:

[Chris Kyle] and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to f*** with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherf***.”

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

...He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental.

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

- from Chris Hedges' article about the movie and book American Sniper, which you can read here:

My two most recent books directly address the toxic cocktail of religion and hostility:
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road confronts the twisted theocratic thinking of the book and film's protagonist, Chris Kyle.

We Make the Road by Walking presents a way of reading the Bible that produces peacemakers, not snipers.


Q & R: Your 4+ stages and Fowler's 6+

Here's the Q:
I've been fascinated with your four stages of faith in Naked Spirituality. Have you ever correlated them with Fowler's stages?

Here's the R:
Yes. When I developed my schema, I surveyed all the schema I could find, from Fowler to William Blake to Kierkegaard to Perry (my favorite) to Graves to Wilber to Piaget, etc. Here's a rough approximation:

My Stage 0 (SECURITY) corresponds to Fowler's Stage 0 which he calls "Primal/Undifferentiated," which I also call Foundational.

My Stage 1 (SIMPLICITY) corresponds to Fowler's Stage 1 (Intuitive/Projective/Imitative) and Stage 2 (Mythic/Literal/Affiliative).

My Stage 2 (COMPLEXITY) corresponds to Fowler's Stage 3 (Synthetic/Conventional/Personal) and early Stage 4 (Individuative/Reflective).

My Stage 3 (PERPLEXITY) corresponds to Fowler's late-Stage 4 and early Stage 5 (Conjunctive/Harmonizing)

My Stage 4 (HARMONY) corresponds to Fowler's late Stage 5 and Stage 6 (Universalizing).

A friend recently told me how much he hates stages like these. I suggested that their best use is to help us not be judgmental of others for not being where we are … and understand where they are and why. They've been very helpful to me in this way.


Grateful ...

All of us at times get a little overwhelmed, discouraged, fatigued … but then come those moments when we realized how blessed we are. Such was the case last week for me in Phoenix. I was part of Christianity 21, a gathering where 21 speakers gave 21-minute talks on Christianity in the 21st century. It was breathtaking. It's hard to name a highlight because every segment was a true and deep delight … but I'll mention just 3:

1. Hearing and seeing my old friend Dieter Zander. This extraordinary man's message: Play with God. Everything is holy. I will never forget it.

2. Hearing Navajo Christian activist Mark Charles talk about the tragic Doctrine of Discovery and talk about the possibility of a truth and reconciliation commission in the US.

3. Watching Ted Schwartz's indescribably beautiful and powerful play, Listening for Grace. It was 58 minutes of holding back tears.

These were highlights of highlights … but every speaker and every informal conversation was a delight.

Sometimes, when I see how many people are doing destructive things in the world, often thinking they are doing good, it's easy to get discouraged. But when I think of how many people are doing wonderful things in the world, it's really hard to stay discouraged.


Something amazing happened yesterday ...

Please watch this video.

Yesterday, pastor Ryan Meeks addressed the issue of LGBT equality in the church in a way that I find deeply moving and compelling. I think that thousands of pastors in the future can simply say, "What Ryan Meeks said … that's my experience too," and thousands of churches in the future can say, "What Eastlake Community Church did … we want to do too." Ryan's talk begins at about minute 20. To me, this is one of the most beautiful examples of Christian leadership I have seen in my life.

If you want to help your congregation engage with this issue, I know Ryan's talk will be helpful. Another amazing resource - last week at Christianity 21, I saw Ted Schwartz present a one-act play called Listening for Grace. About a minute in, I had tears in my eyes, and for the next 58 minutes or so, I was wiping my eyes and feeling powerfully how wonderful this play is. I wish every church and community theatre in North America could present this play. It is unparalleled in its ability to expose people to the full range of emotions connected to this issue. And the acting and music are unforgettable.


Starting Today - an educational extravaganza, for free!

I'm absolutely amazed at the lineup of people my colleague Michael Dowd pulled together for interviews over the last couple years. Now he's making them available for free, starting today!

If you want to learn about climate and sustainability-oriented issues, please take advantage of “The Future Is Calling Us to Greatness”. The 55 pre-recorded Skype interviews that make up this series can all be freely accessed for two weeks, beginning January 26, or you can purchase the entire set of 55 audios, videos, and transcripts for $25. (Scholarships are available for those anywhere in the world for whom even this is a hardship.)

Participants include James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken, Paul Gilding, Larry Rasmussen, Richard Heinberg, U. S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Joe Romm, James Howard Kunstler, Philip Clayton, Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams, Ken Wilber, Michael Lerner, Matthew Fox, and dozens more … including yours truly.

Sign up here to receive the daily schedule and access all the audios, videos, and transcripts. Tools to help spread the word via email, Facebook, Twitter, or blog posts can be found here.

Thanks for sharing this inspiring vision of love-in-action for our children and grandchildren.


Q & R: Chapter 21?

Here's the Q:

We are in chapter 21 in We Make the Road by Walking and I was wondering what direction you were going when selecting 2 Samuel 11:26-12:15. Significant & Wonderful is the title and I'm just trying to dig deep into how the fall of David and prophetic word of Nathan connect with the overall theme.

Here's the R:
Thanks for asking about the 2 Samuel passage. The paragraph that made the connection between that text and the theme got edited out - a glitch that needs to be corrected in a future edition. Here's the connection - whether Nathan's story about a rich man stealing a poor man's lamb actually happened or not, its meaning has a real-world application.

Similarly, whether or not a person believes this or that miracle happened, the story still offers rich meaning. Some of us find it easy to believe in miracles, and others don't, but that doesn't mean we can't sit down and search for meaning together.

Here's how I'd like to change a paragraph on p. 98 to clarify the connection:

Questions like these show us a way of engaging with the miracle stories as signs and wonders, without reducing them to the level of "mere facts" on the one hand or "mere superstition" on the other. The parables of Nathan in 2 Samuel or of Jesus in the Gospels told the actual truth whether or not they were factually true. In the same way, miracle stories stir us to imagine new ways of seeing, leading to new ways of acting, leading to new ways of being alive.


A photo from the panel I mentioned yesterday ...

Diana Butler Bass sent this photograph that was taken the day I described in yesterday's post about Marcus Borg.


An amazing resource - free

Imagine having a one-on-one conversation about humanity’s biggest challenges with some of the world’s most inspiring and knowledgable thinkers and activists. Well, that’s precisely what Michael Dowd had the privilege of doing over the past year. You can freely watch or listen to these 55 amazing conversations:

The Future Is Calling Us to Greatness — 55 pre-recorded podcast interviews:

At the link above, you can access all 55 audios, videos, and transcripts. This is an amazing resource. I had the privilege of being one of Michael's conversation partners.


In honor of Marcus Borg

What a pleasure to have known Marcus Borg. What a kind and beautiful human being. What a loss to us all.

I originally heard of Marcus through his association with the Jesus Seminar, which, in the Evangelical circles I hail from, was not a good thing. My first direct encounter with his writing came through a dialogue book he did with N. T. Wright. Again, my background predisposed me to disagree with him and dislike him, but he made it hard to do either, especially the latter. Hardly the hard-bitten “liberal theologian” out to eviscerate Christianity of any actual faith, he impressed me as a fellow Christian seeking an honest, thoughtful, and vital faith, ready to dialogue respectfully with people who see things differently.

We were featured speakers together on several occasions, and from our first contact to our most recent email exchange a few months ago, Marcus was a gracious gentleman, a Christian brother, and a genuinely friendly colleague. He never asked to what degree I agreed or disagreed with him; he made it clear that his acceptance of me was not dependent on agreement and that his heart and hand were equally open in similarity and difference.

Some friends of mine wrote about Marcus somewhat uncharitably on a few occasions. I remember a dinner where he asked me many questions about them, utterly non-defensive, sincerely trying to understand where they were coming from and how he could still seek common ground with them, something I wish his critics had done more earnestly with him.

Once several years ago, Marcus, Diana Butler Bass, and I spoke together for a few days at Harvard. Two memories stand out.

First, on one Q & A panel, nearly all the questions about theology and Christology were directed to Marcus, the questions about church history and trends went to Diana, and the questions about pastoral work and spirituality went to me. Near the end of the panel, a question on prayer was directed - predictably - to me. After I responded, Marcus spoke up. “I pray too!” he interjected, and shared some tender and meaningful reflections on his own prayer practice. I was deeply touched that Marcus didn’t want to stay in the zone of theory, as important as that is, but wanted to talk spiritual practice as well.

Immediately after that panel, lines formed with people asking Diana, Marcus, and me to sign their books. My line, being the least popular, left me standing there somewhat awkwardly for long periods, but it also gave me the chance to eavesdrop on what people were saying to Marcus. Person after person said almost the same words, “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be a Christian today ... I dropped out of church but came back after I read one of your books ... I’m still a Christian because of you ... I became a Christian because of your books.”

Their effusive comments brought me back to the Evangelical revival meetings of my childhood where people “testify” to how they were “saved,” how they once were blind but now see, how they saw the light and were born again. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, it turns out that Marcus Borg is an evangelist too, just in another way and to another community of people.”

In a recent email, understanding the severity of his illness, Marcus wrote, “I have always known that we are all on death row. Never would have gotten that wrong on a true-false test. But it’s different to know it.” Still, he said, “in the midst of all this ... I am unreasonably happy. Not all the time. But more than I might have expected.”

My prayers and thoughts go out to all Marcus’ family and to his wide circle of friends. May those of us who remain carry on his good work of helping people seek an honest, thoughtful, and vital Christian faith.

Marcus Borg did justice, loved kindness, and walked humbly with God. I miss him deeply, honor him warmly, and will always remember him with great respect and gratitude.


Q & R: Translated into French?

Here's the Q:

> Have any of your books been translated into French? I am particularly
> interested in Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammad Cross the
> Road?
If this is available in French, please send a link to someone
> who sells it.

Strange as it may seem, an author is often the last to know when his or her books have been translated. But I don't think JMBM has yet been translated into French. My first book was translated. You'll find information here.


Q & R: Dying for our sins?

Here's the Q:

I loved the book "The Secret Message of Jesus", it answered so many questions I have been pondering. I have been stuck though on Jesus' death. Did he really have to "die for our sins" to "save" us? The idea just doesn't make sense to me.
> Thank You!

Here's the R:
This is a really important question. I have addressed it from several different angles in a few of my books:
A New Kind of Christianity
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road
The Story We Find Ourselves In

And I offer an account of the meaning of Jesus death that you may find helpful and refreshing in my new book, We Make the Road by Walking.

Several important books have been written by theologians on this subject in recent years, and I just read the manuscript for a new one coming out in 2015 by Tony Jones, called Did God Kill Jesus. You'll have to wait until March 15, but I think you'll find it well written and helpful.


The Great Moral Work of the 21st Century

More and more of us are convinced that just as overcoming slavery was a primary moral work of the 19th century, and seeking equality for women and minorities (racial, religious, medical, sexual) was a major moral work of the 20th century, creating an ecological civilization will be the major moral work of the 21st.

That's why I'm honored to be part of this conference in June, which I hope you'll be part of too. I think it will be one of the most important things I do this year.


Dr. King said ...

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and postive action.”


A reader writes: the best Christian book I have ever read.

A reader writes:

> I just read Naked Spirituality. It is the best Christian book I have ever read. And I have read hundreds
> That you for teaching me more about God and living the Christian life

Wow! That's encouraging! It's great to see how one book is just what one person needs, and another book is just what another person needs. I'm really glad Naked Spirituality helped you. It was a joy to write!


A reader writes: The title itself ...

A reader writes ...

I'm writing you to say thank you for the title of your new book - "We Make the Road by Walking". I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the comfort I'm finding in the title itself has been immensely helpful as I try to make sense of how to move forward after my father's suicide. (3 days ago). I keep asking myself "How do I move on?" and the words - "We Make the Road by Walking" keep coming to mind.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks for this note. My heart goes out to you about your father's suicide. If you haven't seen the first episode of Rob Bell's new TV show on the OWN network, I highly recommend it. I think you will find it deeply healing and helpful. I think many readers of this blog will join me in praying for you and your family today.


Q & R: Event in Wyoming?

Here's the Q:

My husband and I are a clergy couple who are interested in attending a Brian McLaren event in 2015 as part of our Continuing Education. I thought I saw an even in Wyoming listed a month ago, but now as I look at the 2015 calendar, I am not finding it.

Has that event been cancelled? Or was I mistaken?
Is there an open event with Brian speaking that we could attend?

Here's the R:
I'm so excited about this event - two weeks in a gorgeous setting, team-teaching with Diana Butler Bass. Exciting to look forward to! Here's the information:
And I think my schedule is more or less updated. Sometimes we get a little behind, so your question is appreciated.


Joerg Rieger gets it right … on peace, false peace, and fighting for peace


When workers start to organize, for instance, they are usually accused of waging class warfare, even though the struggle originates when pressures on workers increase and salaries and benefits are slashed while profits continue to grow. There can be no true peace without bringing to light the divisions that false peace seeks to cover up.


John and Dalia get it right - about responding to terrorism.


The first 48 hours following the attacks saw printing and reprinting of illustrated anti-Muslim racial slurs, Islamophobic media hysteria, accompanied by 15 separate anti-Muslim attacks across France alone.

But are we beholden to follow this script?

Terrorism stripped of symbolism is violent crime by murders -- without "martyrs," without the rhetoric and romance of ancient religious or civilizational rivalries. The perpetrators would then be remembered, if at all, as common criminals and murderers, and not be allowed to don the mantle of Islam and the "defender of oppressed Muslims."


What if instead we isolated the criminals as criminals rather than anointing them as representatives of a faith community of more than a billion? What if their actions were stripped of their symbolism and seen as crimes by terrorists deliberately aimed at provoking hatred and division that we as free people would not fall for?


I'm planning to invest 45 minutes in this free online course - maybe you should too?

December 29, 2014
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Contact: Chris Yaw

Cornel West to Teach Free, Online Course

Open to anyone in the world between January 11-21

December 29, 2014, BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – Cornel West, prominent intellectual, author, and cultural critic, will teach an online course on economic inequality that is open to all, from January 11-21.  This is an opportunity to learn about one of the most pervasive problems in the U.S. from one of the most thought-provoking teachers of our time.
The online course derives from the Trinity Institute’s 2015 “Creating Common Good” conference on economic inequality and is offered through ChurchNext, a leader in online Christian education. The class, a series of video lectures and discussions, can be taken anytime between January 11-21. No special software is required. It will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete. Registration is free and open worldwide beginning today. (Click here for more information or to register.)

Dr. Cornel West has often spoken out for justice and equality, specifically what American Christians are called to do about it; the Trinity Institute, a program of Trinity Wall Street, is an annual conference, now in its 44th year, aimed at gathering clerics and intellectuals to discuss matters of deep significance. The upcoming 2015 conference focuses on the often-overwhelming issue of economic inequality. (Click here for more information on the Trinity Institute.)

Throughout Called to Common Good, participants are encouraged to think about and discuss economic injustice and moral responsibility. Dr. West explores the problem of inequality, notions of public and private justice, and how communities can effect change. He contends that “no matter how extreme inequalities are, we’ve always got a common humanity,” which is why, he adds, “I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” During the class, representatives from Trinity Institute will be on hand to respond to discussions.
Online learning hub ChurchNext has partnered with Trinity Institute to present Dr. West’s course as well as four other previously-released courses taught by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, educational advocate Nicole Baker Fulgham, evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans, and Julio Murray, Episcopal bishop of Panama.

Called to Common Good is a worldwide online learning course for all who are interested in social justice and the Christian faith and is free, thanks to the support of Trinity Institute, The Episcopal Church, and Forward Movement.
Trinity Institute is an annual conference, now in its 44th year, that equips clergy and laypersons for imaginative and catalytic leadership. The conference is sponsored by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in New York City. Trinity Institute takes place at Trinity Church in New York City and is streamed at Partner Sites (which are often churches and seminaries) throughout the world. For more information, visit https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/trinity-institute/2015/what’s-ti2015

ChurchNext creates online Christian learning experiences that shape disciples. Along with our partners we are devoted to helping people grow in their Christian faith, improve their lives, and better the world. Learn more at http://churchnext.tv

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church, which grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to "reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work." Forward Movement offers publications to inspire Christian discipleship, personal and communal prayer, meditation, and theological reflection, and is best known for the popular daily devotional Forward Day by Day, which provides daily meditations based on Bible scripture readings appointed by the lectionary and Daily Office. For more information, visit http://www.forwardmovement.org


An Open Letter to the New Congress

My friend Cameron Trimble and I have a letter in The Hill today. You can read it here, or it is included below.

Please share it widely …

Continue reading An Open Letter to the New Congress...


If you're looking for an "open minded church" - here's a needed resource!



What People Are Saying ...

We Make the Road by Walking has been out for about six months now. Here are some recent comments that I especially appreciated:
From Amazon.com:

I am on chapter 8 of this book. At one chapter a week, it will take 52 weeks to finish. This is not a read it straight through type book; it's a read and reflect book.

So far it has made me rethink my view of God and my beliefs about my responsibility to others. Not bad for being only 1/6 into the book. Can't imagine where it will take me in the coming year.

Christian educators will do well if they read it now devotionally and then design a curriculum for adult learners to begin at the beginning of September.
With his usual almost poetic clarity, Brian offers a weekly companion for walking with Jesus 52 weeks a year. Easy to use with small groups or for personal study, he continually reminds us of the profoundness of a God who loves us more than we could possibly imagine and who desires the best for each of us. When that truth sinks in, it revolutionizes your life! Our humanity seems to make it way too easy to forget that and fall backward in old patterns of thinking and living, but books like this help revitalize and revolutionize our lives daily. Thanks for another great book, Brian!

A reader posted on Twitter:

One chapter in to @brianmclaren's "We Make The Road By Walking" and I'm already breathing deeper. So excited to spend a year with this book.

Another Twitterer tweeted:

me too. This week I'm trying to listen to God's first language...the wind, water, plants and animals, sky.

I think you'll enjoy the book. More here.


Q & R: Turtles and Salvation

Here's the Q:

As I was browsing your slideshares, which I love by the way, I occasionally see a slide of a turtle distorted in its shell by a piece of plastic. What is narrative that goes with the slide? Environmental destruction made visible? The distorted nature of the way we read the scriptures? Something else?

This has been like one of the Lord's parables. I wonder, "What does this mean?"

Here's the R:
I'm so glad you enjoy the slides. I told this story in Chapter 4 of A Generous Orthodoxy as a reflection on the concept of salvation:
Some people I know of once found a snapping turtle crossing a road in New Jersey. Snapping turtles are normally ugly: grey, often sporting a slimy coating of green algae, trailing a long, serrated tail and fronted by massive and sharp jaws that can damage if not sever a careless finger or two. This turtle was even uglier than most: it was grossly deformed due to a plastic bottle top, a ring about and inch-and-a-half in diameter that it had accidentally acquired as a hatchling when it too was about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. The ring had fit around its midsection like a belt back then, but now, nearly a foot long, weighing about 9 pounds, the animal was corseted by the ring so that it looked like a figure 8.

My friends realized that if they left the turtle in its current state, it would die. The deformity was survivable at 9 pounds, but a full-grown snapper can weigh 30; at that size, the constriction would not be survivable. So, they snipped the ring. And nothing happened. Nothing.

Except for one thing: at that moment, the turtle had a future. It was rescued. It was saved. It would take years for the animal to grow into more normal proportions, maybe decades. Perhaps even in old age, it would still be somewhat guitar-shaped. But it would survive.

Our species has been similarly been deformed by a ring of selfishness, greed, lust, injustice, fear, prejudice, arrogance, apathy, chauvinism, and ignorance. When I say that Jesus is savior, I believe he snipped the ring by judging, forgiving, teaching, suffering, dying, rising, and more. And he’s still working to restore us, to lead us, to heal us. Jesus is still in the process of saving us. Because I have confidence in Jesus as savior, I’m seeking to be part of his ongoing saving work, sharing his saving love for our world.

Like Vincent Donovan, I used to believe that Jesus’ primary focus was on saving me as an individual, and on saving other “me’s” as individuals. For that reason, I often spoke of Jesus as my “personal savior,” and I urged others to believe in Jesus in the same way. I still believe that Jesus is vitally interested in saving me and you by individually judging us (exposing and naming our wrong and hypocrisy, so we can turn away from – or repent of - them), by forgiving us of our wrongs (so we don’t feel defeated and alienated by them, and so we won’t be trapped in their ugly consequences), and teaching us to live in a better way (so that we can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem). But I fear that for too many Christians, “personal salvation” has become another personal consumer product (like personal computers, personal deodorants, personal toothpaste, etc.) and Christianity has become its marketing program. If so, then in the end, salvation is “all about me,” and like Vincent Donovan, I think we need another song.

I also use the slide to illustrate the "plastic rings" of assumptions or notions that limit us. We can survive with them for a long time … and sometimes even "grow" and "reproduce," but eventually, they will be lethal if we don't have the courage to snip them. Often a deep change in viewpoint doesn't have immediate consequences. But longer term, such changes can be matters of survival. Not a bad insight with which to face the new year!



Jesus said that people often reject the new wine because they say the old is good enough. Similarly, many people are completely satisfied with traditional approaches to reading the Bible. But for those who aren’t satisfied, the good news is that your choice isn’t between the conventional way or nothing at all. My hope is that people can now be exposed to an approach that celebrates the Bible as something that is better than infallible.

More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


Making Mistakes when Reading the Bible?

‘What will keep us from making mistakes?’ people often ask, nervous about abandoning the incorrigibility of the old approach [to reading the Bible].

‘Nothing,’ I answer. ‘But at least if we admit we are likely to be wrong, we will be more humble, more teachable, more guidable.’

After all, it’s not as if our traditional approaches have kept us from making mistakes. They didn’t work out so well if you were a woman, a non-white or non-European, or someone who dared to challenge conventional understandings. Think of Galileo, the abolitionists, or those that worked for women’s equality.

More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


More Americans need to know about this:

H.R. 3326 (111th): Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010

apology to native peoples of the united states

Sec. 8113. (a) Acknowledgment and Apology- The United States, acting through Congress--

(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;

(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;

(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;

(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;

(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;

(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and

(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(b) Disclaimer- Nothing in this section--

(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or

(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

When President Obama was elected to his first term, I wrote a lengthy letter to a friend who would be working in the White House. I encouraged him to encourage the President to begin his term with an apology for elements of American history that no previous president had acknowledged - especially regarding our nation's treatment of Native Americans. I never heard back from my friend on this. But I just learned from Mark Charles that such an apology was actually made (thanks in large part to the efforts of Republican then-Senator Sam Brownback) … but downplayed and largely hidden. I think it's time to get this apology out in the open. Learn more here:


More on the Bible ...

Scripture, then, offers us something far better than mere infallibility or inerrancy. It offers a record of ongoing learning, growth and corrigibility, leading us to Christ, who in turn entrusts us to the Holy Spirit who will, Jesus promised, guide us into more and more truth, as we are ready to bear it.

More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


More on reading the Bible ...

Paul is no less bold in following Jesus’ approach to scripture. When he says in Galatians 5:6 that ‘circumcision counts for nothing; the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’, he is not tweaking Levitical laws, where circumcision is absolutely important. He is correcting them.

Jesus and Paul model a new way – a Christian way – of approaching the scriptures. Our first 2,000 years of Christian history have seen us steer shy of actually following that way. We seem to have preferred ‘the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees’, even though Jesus called us to surpass their approach.

More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


Reading the Bible … cont'd.

Jesus not only saves us from sin; he saves us from unhelpful ways of reading scripture. He inserts himself into the ongoing arguments among his people, discerns God’s intent in their trajectory and extends the conversation into the future, often turning in new directions. When he says, ‘You have heard it said...but I say to you’ in Matthew 5:21-22, and when he challenges traditional Sabbath restrictions in Luke 14, he is challenging traditional understandings of the Bible and introduces what we might call ‘a new hermeneutical principle’: namely compassion.

Interpretations that lack basic human compassion, he suggests, are faulty interpretations. He is not merely tweaking conventional understandings, he is correcting them.

More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


Special Opportunities to connect in 2015:

Several events will provide special in-depth opportunities to connect in 2015:

For pastors and other leaders who are or want to be part of the Cana Initiative/Convergence Network, we'll have a special "gathering by the sea" in March. Information here.

I'll be part of a unique two-week conference/retreat at Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming in August. Diana Butler Bass and I will speak each day … with plenty of time for gathered and informal conversation. Check it out here.

My friend Joe Stabile and I will lead a small retreat in Colorado in October for pastors and theologians who enjoy fly fishing. Check it out here.

Also, I don't often get to New Zealand, but will speak at several cities on North and South islands in July and August. We'll post details soon.


Reading the Bible ...

One of the great benefits of this approach to the Bible is that it elevates Jesus. Jesus isn’t submerged into the text as merely one voice among many; a voice that carries no more authority than, say, the texts of Leviticus or Deuteronomy. In this approach, Jesus emerges as the ultimate word of God to whom all the scriptures point. As we read in John and Colossians, the invisible God is made visible not in words on a page but in a man on a cross: word made flesh.
More here: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/January-2015/The-Progressive-Jesus-didn-t-treat-Scripture-as-infallible-nor-should-we

If you want to see how this approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


Progressive AND Evangelical: What's in a Title?

Something to keep in mind when reading an article, interview, or blog post: authors and interviewees often don't choose the title. In fact, they often don't like the title!

That was the case with a piece I recently contributed to Premier Radio and a UK magazine called Christianity.

The title that was given to the article was, "Jesus Didn't Treat the Scripture as Infallible; Nor Should We." That's not a title I would have chosen. I've been involved in religious dialogue long enough to know that misunderstanding is pretty common, so it's important to avoid needless misunderstanding. That title, I think, invites misunderstanding for a number of reasons.

For example, the word "infallible" as used today is often a stand-in for "inerrant," and both words fill a special function in modernist thought (i.e. though derived from the rational methodology of Rene Descartes). Since Jesus wasn't a modernist and didn't borrow his method from Descartes, it's highly likely that even if he had used those words, he wouldn't have had the same meanings in mind as modernist readers today would. But many contemporary religious readers won't be aware of these nuances, and they'll think the title means something that simply isn't true: that I believe Jesus believed the Bible was errant or fallible.

When I abstain from using the terms inerrant and infallible, it's not because I think the Scriptures fall short of those terms: it's because I think they transcend those terms. I tried to explain this a bit in the article:

When I speak on the subject of infallibility, I often say that it was necessary in the modern era for an ultimate authority to claim that it is never wrong. Predictably, modern-era Protestants claimed an infallible Bible and Catholics claimed an infallible pope.

But in the postmodern era, claims of inerrancy and infallibility are a liability. In the aftermath of colonialism, environmental exploitation, the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid and other exploits of the last few centuries, we have seen where excessive confidence leads.

Conservative Protestants and Catholics mistakenly double down on infallibility or inerrancy – whether of the Bible or the Pope – because they fear that if they abandon absolute confidence they will be left with no confidence at all.

Along similar lines, I thought it was unfortunate that the editors set up the debate as "The Progressive" (represented by me) versus "The Evangelical" (represented by Andrew Wilson). The implication is that progressive and evangelical are mutually exclusive categories. I very much enjoyed getting to know Andrew, and I felt that although we differed in many important ways, we enjoyed and modeled brotherly respect and affinity … something that I would hope could be true of Evangelicals in general,with progressive and conservative Evangelicals holding tension and difference in respect and affinity.

If you want to see how this "progressive & evangelical" approach to the Bible works out in practice, check out We Make the Road by Walking, which is available as a book, an e-book, and an audio book.


Here's where I'll be speaking in 2015 ...

January: Phoenix

February: Barrington, Edina, Richmond

March: Iowa City, Alexandria VA

April: Fort Worth, Fayetteville AR, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati

May: Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago

June: Claremont, Ireland

July: Hot Springs NC, New Zealand

August: New Zealand, DuBois WY,

Sep: Asheville, Charlotte, Baltimore, Columbus, Toronto, Manhattan,

October: South Fork CO, Montreat, Naples, Minneapolis, Nashville

Nov. Los Angeles

You can learn more here.


A Prayer of Hope for 2015

For ourselves: Living God, lead us, by your Spirit, deeper into life. Help us love you, ourselves, our family and neighbors, all people including our enemies, and this beautiful earth ... being filled more and more with the love that is who you are. Help us not surrender to the temptations that could easily harm us and others. Instead, help us face our challenges and come through them stronger than ever in the year ahead.

Help us set wise goals, solve solvable problems, and engage wisely with predicaments that cannot be solved. Help us learn with curiosity and live reverently with mystery. Help us work wholeheartedly and contribute in our own ways to the common good.

Grant that a year from now, we will be more of all that is good and true to who we can be, and less of all that diminishes the potential of our lives.

For our world: Living God, strengthen those in power who seek to do what is right and good for all - in the arenas of government, religion, media, culture, education, business, science, healthcare, ecology, and all other areas of human endeavor. And challenge the many leaders in our world who lead in ways that harm rather than heal. May Your Spirit empower us all to speak truth to power, and may Your Spirit humble us with our leaders so we all turn toward the justice, joy, and peace of your kingdom.

We pray that this year, the people of our world will more deeply face and repent of the racism that has shaped this world.

We pray that this year, the people of our world will more deeply face and repent of the environmental irresponsibility and economic injustice that threaten our future.

We pray that this year, our churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, and other faith communities will not put tradition above the call of your Spirit, and will open their hearts to the way of life to which you call all people, which is the way of love.

In the name of Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and to your glory, living God, we pray.


A Prayer of Gratitude for 2014:

For each breath, for each heartbeat, for each moment of life in the year behind us, we thank you, living God.

For the precious gift of friends and family, for the blessing of colleagues and neighbors, for passersby and strangers with whom we shared even a brief moment of life this year, we thank you, living God.

For our friends and family members whose days among us ended this year, for each memory of times shared with them, for the blessing of their presence and the legacy they leave with us, we thank you, living God.

For the opportunities for growth that came to us this year disguised as struggles and difficulties, for failures that humbled us and for successes that encouraged us, for grace that picked us up each time we fell down, we thank you, living God.

For each meal we enjoyed this year, for each day's nourishment and flavor, for the soil and sunlight, for the air and rainfall upon which we all depend, for all to whom our food connects us, from field to farm, and store to table, we thank you, living God.

For the rest of each night and the new hope of each sunrise, for homes where we have enjoyed rest and safety, and for work that has filled each day with challenge and opportunity, we thank you, living God.

For peace, health, and safety which we often take for granted, for all the dimensions of our daily lives that go so well we hardly notice them, we thank you, living God.

As we look back upon this year with gratitude, may our thirst for peace be strengthened, and our hunger for justice deepened, so that in the year ahead, we will, empowered by your Spirit, work in love to build a world where all can enjoy the blessings we now share, we ask you, living God.

May the giver of all good gifts fill us not only with joy and celebration, but also with deep gratitude and a sense of the precious wonder of the gift of life. We thank you, living God.

(adapted from WMTRBW)


Q & R: WMTRBW and Learning Circles

My wife and I have been enjoying We Make The Road By Walking and are hoping to start a learning circle. I wondered if Brian could recommend any further reading on the idea of learning circles? I know there is an appendix, but I'm just interested in understanding the concept more. Thanks
You'll find a lot of downloadable resources here.

You'll also find helpful resources from Parker Palmer's website, drawing from his "circles of trust" and "clearness committees," which in turn draw from the Quaker tradition.

Thanks for you interest! I know you'll enjoy the book in the new year.


A religious orthodox Jewish reader living in Jerusalem writes ...

A reader writes:

I hope this e-mail finds you well.

My name is xxx and I am a religious Orthodox Jew who was born in South Africa but currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel.

I have recently completed your book "Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?" I feel obligated to express the positive effect your book had on my religious life. I admire your courage and bravery to take a real critical view of your religion and to try bring your religion back to its roots, its essence. I wish we had a Rabbi courageous enough to try and bring Judaism back to its essence...

I don't know if you are aware but this morning there was a terrible incident where four Jews were murdered while praying. The past couple weeks have been very intense and hard for both Jews and Arabs...

I noticed in your book that you are very critical about Israel, but putting that aside, I remember that in your book you talked about how after 9/11 you coordinated an inter-faith meeting. I feel that something like this is needed now in Israel!!

I am very active in various community organizations and non-profits and I would like to organize a meeting between young Jews and young Arabs, a healthy forum where we will be able to meet each other and have a open and healthy discussion. I don't believe we will come out agreeing with each other, that is not the point. I do hope that both sides would be able to come out being more understanding and caring...

The reason I write to you, is that I wanted to know if you know a Imam, non-profit, community or any organization of Arabs living in Israel, who would be prepared to participate in such a meeting?

It goes without saying that the setting of the meeting would need to be in a matter where both parties feel comfortable. I am prepared to take this project on, it is the true Jewish response!

Thank you very much and hoping you will be able to help me improve the Israel Arab conflict, even just a bit…

Thanks so much for writing. I am critical of both Israeli and Palestinian voices for violence and injustice - and I am deeply supportive of people like you who want to do the hard and good work of peacemaking and reconciliation. You're right - it is the true Jewish response, and I applaud you for it.

Each act of hate, violence, or revenge - whether the victims are Israelis or Arabs, whether they're Jews, Muslims, or Christians - violates the essence of each religion, and causes people of compassion to mourn. With each report of new atrocities, some step closer to resignation and despair, while others draw new determination to work for peace. It is clear you are among the latter, thanks be to God!

I have met many Israeli Jews, Christian Palestinians, and Muslim Palestinians who share your desire to work for peace. Perhaps Palestinians Christians (with the right spirit and attitude) can be good brokers to bring together Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims. Two groups that I would encourage you to contact in this regard would be

I know they would share your desire to build relationships, and that they have good relationships with many groups of Arabs living both in Palestine and Israel …

You should also know the work of my American Jewish friend Mark Braverman, and another outspoken Jewish friend in England who blogs at Micah's Paradigm Shift. They represent the kind of courage you are calling for.

Do let me know what transpires, OK? I'm praying for you, your beautiful land, and a year of fruitful peacemaking in 2015!


A reader writes: the LGBT debate, sola scripture, not convinced but open

A reader writes ...

I wanted to make an observation about the argument over LGBT debate in the Church, in particular the way in which its opponents have been framing the argument.

The evangelical tradition has relied on interpreting the Bible with the doctrine of sola scriptura as foundational to their approach, in contrast to some established authority or council. The debate itself takes place on the grounds of biblical interpretation; that is, we sit down together and argue over the meaning of the texts in question or the validity of the hermeneutics employed.

What I've observed, quite ironically, is this: now that solid scholarship has offered compelling and plausible alternatives to the traditional interpretation of the various texts related to this issue, the typical response, "So you're saying the Church has been wrong all this time?" is unwittingly an abandonment of reliance on sola scriptura!

In the face of new and compelling evidence (even if that evidence is wrong, which I'm sure you'd agree is possible), they jump ship on interpretation and appeal to extra-biblical authority. This seems to me to undermine their entire project of reliance on sola scriptura because it exposes the fact that anyone can, as Brian Zahnd said, "make the Bible stand up and dance a jig" if they need it to.

I'm not sure how relevant the point is, and there are notable books being written about the texts themselves, but on a popular level, the "we've always believed it this way" claim seems to have more staying power.

P.S. - I'm still unconvinced to your perspective on this, but I'm still open.

Thanks for your note. It is curious, as you say, to see Evangelicals "jumping ship" from sola scripture to the appeal to authority and tradition. The vulnerability of the "we've always believed it this way" argument is that, once you know a bit of history, you realize how many things "we" used to believe but no longer do, and how many things we now believe but didn't used to. It's fascinating to note, as I mentioned in a recent Reform Magazine interview, how different the current Evangelical mainstream position is today from five, ten, and twenty years ago.

Fifteen or 20 years ago it was: “If you’re gay, it’s a choice, it’s a sin, you should repent and change.” Five or 10 years ago it was: “If you’re gay, you have a psychological problem and you can be healed.” Fewer and fewer evangelicals are saying that; they’re saying: “If you’re gay this is your sign that you should be celibate.” ... it’s interesting how those answers change.

I imagine that there will be more small steps in the right direction in the years ahead. Reality has a way of modifying our theories - in religion as well as science.


Pope Francis, right again. Conservative Evangelicals and Catholics, not so much.

[Pope] Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion.
More here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing

Q & R: Handling Criticism (with enneagram background)

Here's the Q:

My best friend- a student of the enneagram and my long-time teacher of it, returned from … a retreat where she met you and told me, "You need to meet Brian McLaren, he's the male you."

She then went on to tell me about you and her statement, "He's at peace with himself and handles the people that disagree with him with such grace and love. He's the most redeemed 4 I've ever met."

Her comment brought encouragement and curiosity. I went on to 'meet' you in your written work and I wanted what she said about you- 'peace with himself, handling others with grace and love' - I was a teaching leader [in an Evangelical Bible study] at the time and a part time writer- now I'm a full time writer and a part time Bible teacher/speaker- both require me to put myself out there and that is an open door to feedback.

A lot of the time I'm not at peace with myself or my work- the 1 side of me is a constant critic. If my inner voice isn't keeping me up at night then my sensitivity to the criticism of others is keeping my mind spinning during the day if I get a bad review or email from a reader. Sometimes it can be paralyzing to my work, I want to pull everything in, cave dwell, throw up my hands and say I quit and it takes me a lot of soul work to find courage over the fear and the perseverance to move on. I'm getting better at it as I 'practice' with each new negative opportunity that arises, but it still hurts.

… I'm a long way from a redeemed 4, in heaven I might be a little closer to the 'male you' and I work daily to fight the shame 4s get entangled with along with living in balance and not in emotions and just doing the work without thinking in circles and realigning/compromising myself/people pleasing in stress like a 2 after criticism.

All that being said I wanted to link the history with the reason I came to you with the question-
How do you handle-and by that I mean work through it or process- criticism or attacks- most often from Christians against your teaching/work?
How have you grown to be sensitive in spirit to others but not over sensitive to their criticism?
How can I learn to say and really mean "I see it differently than you" and gird up my faith in my purpose and calling when it comes under attack knowing who I am/whose I am/why I'm called and not fall into the traps of people pleasing or cave dwelling but stand where I am called?

I know you are an incredibly busy man with kingdom demands and commands to carry out so thank you for having your email address available for people to connect with you. May God continue to bless the work of your hands as you serve Him & His people.

Here's the R:
For people unfamiliar with the enneagram, it's an instrument (like and unlike the Myers Briggs and similar instruments) to help people understand themselves and others by understanding their similarities, differences, and internal dynamics.

As a "4," my tendency is to agree with my critics and join them in their critique. The results of that process are not good. The language that has helped me is "learning to be a friend to myself." I know how I want to treat others … and so I strive to treat myself with the same grace and kindness.

Some people (probably 6's, 7's, and 8?) would be more prone to reject needed criticism and maybe launch a counter-attack … but some of us have the opposite problem, and we're prone, as you say, to crawl into a cave.

So your struggle is mine, and as a fellow struggler, I can offer three suggestions.
1. It really helps to have some friends to whom you can go with criticism and say, "I want you to read (or listen to) this and help me process it." It's especially helpful if they "get" how criticism works on some of us … I remember doing this once and the friend said, "Brian, believe me. This isn't about you. This is about the critic's insecurity, fear, and stress, and his need to find someone to blame and scapegoat. Don't let your ego get sucked into his personal drama." That helped me a lot.

2. Always it makes sense to learn from criticism. Could I have said this in a way that would have gotten the message through but caused less offense? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no.

3. And there is a prayer that has helped me as no other. I'll copy it below (after the jump):

Continue reading Q & R: Handling Criticism (with enneagram background)...


Good News from Nigeria

There's been lots of bad news from the West African nation this year … but "around every evil, there gathers love," as Bruce Cockburn says. Read some good news here.

This is what prompted more than 200 Muslim youth volunteers to have singled themselves out to protect Christians during this year’s Christmas celebration. The church services which was organised to celebrate this year’s Christmas in Kaduna, was protected by 200 Muslim Youths.
According to Vanguard, a pastor, Pastor Yohanna Buru who is a cleric of Christ Evangelical Church, Sabon Tasha, Kaduna South, disclosed this in an interview with pressmen in Kaduna. Buru confirmed that over 200 Muslims were at his church to help protect the faithful from any attack during the church service.

READ MORE: http://www.naij.com/350157-muslim-youths-protect-christians-in-kaduna-yesterday.html?pk_campaign=ush


Watch This:

This documentary is deeply important for what it says about race … and for what it says about prophetic courage among Christian leaders … and for what it says about the power of listening.

Available on Netflix ...


A special Christmas gift ...

Grace and I, along with several other family members, had the joy of attending the Christmas Eve service at Cedar Ridge Community Church, which was our church home for 24 years. What a wonderful experience! The music was amazing, the message strong, and the spirit was beautiful. If you're looking for a church home in the Washington-Baltimore area, you really should check out this beautiful community of faith.


Christmas Joy

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing!

Thoughts from philosophers and theologians ...

A merry and meaningful Christmas to all …
You are loved!


Love Movies?

My friend Gareth Higgins is doing something wonderful and I'm eager to tell you about it - it's a film festival-peacemaking-all singing, all dancing-extravaganza next May, and I think it's going to be amazing. Here's Gareth to tell you about it:

"Movies and Meaning: A Dream Space is a new kind of festival for everyone who loves stories and light.

Part of the growing global movement for nonviolent transformation, Movies and Meaning is a long weekend away in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, featuring films, workshops, very special guests, dancing, magic and YOU.

From May 28th-31st, 2015, we’ll gather in Albuquerque, NM, building a temporary community dedicated to experiencing how the ideas and images we project can make everything better or worse, for ourselves, our communities, and the planet. We’ll watch some of the most transcendent films ever made - old and new - on a magnificent silver screen with fantastic sound. Films will be curated by Gareth Higgins, founding director of the Wild Goose Festival; most of the films will be surprises until we screen them, but we can tell you that the restored version of 2001: A Space Odyssey will be screened in all its glory, as well as a special preview of an unreleased film.

We’ll participate in conversations at the intersection of contemplation and activism with the internationally renowned spiritual teacher Richard Rohr. We’ll explore how cinema can help increase or reduce real-world violence, take a field trip in the wonderful New Mexican landscape, honor local and indigenous traditions, and, because it’s not your typical film festival, every night we will DANCE. Our aim is nothing less than transcending the myth of redemptive violence. So we’ll create a dream space of new friends, extraordinary food, and the joy of story and light combining to create something we haven’t known before.

Want to be part of creating something amazing with this inaugural experience of bringing together lovers of cinema, life, and the pursuit of a better world? Then we want you to join us."

Tickets for the four day event are $299, BUT the first ten are available for only $99, and after they sell out, until December 24th they are discounted to $149. More information and tickets available at www.moviesandmeaning.com

If you love cinema, life, and want to be part of a transformative community at the intersection of art and peace, we think this festival might just be your new home.


Last Minute Shopping?

Several of my friends have produced gifts that you would be happy to give … and others would be happy to receive … Most are downloadable:

For young adults, especially horse-lovers, check this out:

For a beautiful devotional by Steve Bell, and for amazing music, plus an excellent video about Steve's life and music, check this out.

For an important theological read, this by Derek Flood and this by Peter Enns.

If you have yoga practitioners in your life, check out this DVD project I was involved in with Suzanne Jackson.

If you have a friend or relative who is unemployed, this should be a great gift:
Here's the blurb and link--

Life doesn’t stop when you’re unemployed. But what do the days look like in between leaving and finding a job? How do you keep your spirits up? And could it be that this time might actually be an opportunity for growth? WORKING WHEN YOU’RE NOT considers these questions and more with a series of short chapters that speak to those who are in between as well as their friends and family. Written by someone who’s been there and done that, WWYN explores this 'in between' space with humor, faith, and compassion.

Also ...

If you have people on your list who would rather listen than read, you'll find lots of resources here.

And, of course, I think friends and relatives would benefit by my books, especially We Make the Road by Walking, which could be their companion all through 2015.


Marriage in Florida

"Marriage is important enough and strong enough to include gay couples as well as straight couples." - More here:


a Christmas season sermon ...

from Cornerstone UMC, Naples, FL


Good-Bye Stephen ...

So many good memories …


Q & R: Persians and Judaism, afterlife?

Here's the Q:

Hello Brian,I will make this quick to honor your time and hopefully incite a response :-) Do you have any suggested reading for how the Persians influenced Judaism, specifically related to the after life and resurrection? Thanks!

Here's the R:
Here are some of the texts I've found helpful:






Q & R: Finding fellow thinkers, strugglers

Here's the Q:

I appreciate the work that you and others in the emergent movement are doing. You're helping to fill a hole that has been present in the church for a long time. I often wonder if my faith would still stand if not for you and others who are willing to struggle with the hard questions, showing me that it's OK to have them.

My problem is that I live in the Bible belt, and I'm finding that as I become more open in my theology, I feel more alienated from my faith community. I have a wonderful small group that for the most part shows love, but anytime I hint at questioning some traditional Scriptural interpretations, multiple people seem to jump in to play defense. I've experienced this with some of my pastors as well -- they want to provide easy answers rather than being present with me in my struggle. I feel alone and need someone to come alongside me as I wrestle with my questions. I am usually one to encourage others to find a community where they fit in, but I'm at a loss to know where to find this for myself this time. I am also a professional in the area, and I'm afraid to advertise some of my more "liberal" theology, knowing that it would be likely to hurt my business. Any thoughts on how to find people to partner with me in my journey?

Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. Your words remind me of Parker Palmer's term "divided no more," which you can read about here.

In movement theory, groups that gather to ask, struggle, and think freely are called "critical communities." They are critical in both sense of the word!

When such circles don't exist, I think people like you can form them. It really just takes two or three … a convener and a friend or two. I would hope my books and others like them could provide a good framework for needed conversation. I offer some "guidelines for learning circles" in my new book which are available for free download here.

I hope you will create for others what you need for yourself … In doing so, I think you'll discover it's even more blessed to give than receive!


Q & R: Schedule … in California?

Here's the Q:

Hello, I live in Arroyo Grande, California, and was wondering if you could tell me California events Brian McLaren is participating in. I looked online, but his schedule was blank for 2015. Thank you for your help.

Here's the R:
Sorry for the delay. The 2015 schedule is now available here.


Food Chains - if you eat, see this documentary!

You can rent or buy it from iTunes.
I'm honored to be a volunteer with and ally of the group (CIW) profiled in this documentary. Highly, highly recommended.


Thoughts on American Racism ...

from some white folks.

Melanie. Quotable:

One white girlfriend calls in tears, partly hopeful because there are people demonstrating in the streets all over the country, and partly distraught because of “what has happened to our country.” She has made a sign for her window that says simply, ERIC.

Another white friend who teaches at an elite private school struggles “to justify teaching the structure of a sonnet when there seems to be no structure in the world —or when it seems that the structures that do exist appall and offend you.” I wish more people had his soft heart, where “simply falling asleep in secure comfort feels viciously calloused, knowing there are people dying wrongfully at the hands of others while the world looks on and declares No harm, No foul.”

Tony B. Quotable:

The U.S. runs on violence. Best guesses of how many guns there are in private ownership is one for every man, woman and child. Roughly 350 million. The US has been continually at war from year one of the 21st century, on top of the ongoing trauma from the 20th century’s two world wars, plus Korea and Vietnam, and prior to that the prolonged war against the Native American peoples across the continent. There are well over 200 U.S. military bases in foreign countries across the world, to say nothing of those on home soil. There are fabulously wealthy people in this country who do not feel they have any responsibility to the poor and marginal, unless perhaps it comes as largesse not justice. (See estimate of the Economist, that 160, 000 families, 0.1 % of the nation, own 22% of the wealth, an average of $73 million each, almost equal to the bottom 90% entire, the disparity between rich and poor a little shy of the all-time gulf immediately before the 1929 crash.) The central narrative of our time is controlled by a media which cannot step back an instant from the constant back-answering of argument and hostility between polarized commentators. The despairing assertion that the truth somehow lies in the middle is itself an illusion: the resolution of the antagonisms displayed between so-called right and left is so off the charts of the existential reality of either side, on whatever issue, as to be another kind of world altogether. It is the antagonism itself which motivates our news cycle of information and meaning, and it is this condition which is now the specific character of the 21st century. If “the war to end all wars” kicked off the 20th, permanent war grips the 21st.


Joke of the Day

A pastor who was badly overworked went to the local medical center and was able to have a clone made.

The clone was like the pastor in every respect-- except the clone used extraordinarily foul language.

The cloned pastor was exceptionally gifted in so many other areas of pastoral work, but finally the complaints about the dirty language were too much.

The pastor was not too sure how to get rid of the clone so that it didn’t look like murder. The best thing, it seemed, was to make the clone’s death look like an accident. So the pastor lured the clone onto a bridge in the middle of the night and pushed the clone off the bridge.

Unfortunately there was a police officer who happened by at that very moment and arrested the pastor for (after the jump) ...

Continue reading Joke of the Day...


Torture. The CIA. The USA.

Here are some things I've written on these important subjects in recent years:

On torture in America.

On my work with NRCAT.

An imaginary Post-9/11 speech.

Torture is not right.

From back in the Bush presidency.


Have we made an idol of the Bible (part 2)

From Premier Radio in the UK


The Future is Calling Us to Greatness

I was invited by my friend Michael Dowd to be one of several dozen presenters/participants in an important online Symposium entitled, “The Future Is Calling Us to Greatness”. The 55 Skype interviews that make up this series can be freely viewed or listened to for two weeks, beginning January 26, or you can purchase the entire set of 55 audios, videos, and transcripts for $25. (Scholarships are available for those anywhere in the world for whom this is a hardship.) Sign up here to receive the full schedule, or for more information. I think you'll find these presentations stimulating - the differences interesting, and the common themes deeply inspiring. I'm looking forward to taking these in myself ...


Enuma Okoro on Cultures Colliding


Have we made an idol of the Bible (part 1)

From Premier Radio in the UK:


Small churches that can't afford a pastor ...

have two great resources to choose from. My book, We Make the Road by Walking, provides a year's worth of sermons, readings, and conversation starters.

And A Sermon for Every Sunday (in which I am honored to participate) provides sermons via video for a nominal fee. More here.


Your group could be next!


Learn more here.


A really creative Christmas gift would be ...

to subscribe someone you love to Geez Magazine.
Learn more here.


Process and Open/Relational Theology

Theological conversations worth understanding and learning from ...


The Bible Debate

Yesterday I posted about an important new book on the Bible by Derek Flood. Not long ago I posted about another important book on the Bible by Peter Enns, and before that, an important article by Steve Chalke.

Over in the UK, Premier Radio has been hosting some debates about the Bible involving Steve Chalke, Andrew Wilson, and me. You can watch them here:


Cyber-Monday at brianmclaren.net

If you're interested in giving some of my work as a gift this Christmas, here are some excellent options:

We Make the Road by Walking - you'll find lots of ordering options here.
And you can download an audio version here. (GREAT FOR LONG CAR RIDES!)

And here's ordering information for all my other books.

A Bible Overview Course that I taught is available via CD here.
-Old Testament
-New Testament

And a series of 20 minute podcasts giving a Bible overview is also available here.

Finally, if you know someone interested in yoga, tai chi, body prayer, or contemplative prayer, this resource, created in partnership with Suzanne Jackson, could enrich their whole year.


An important new book ...

Derek Flood's new book Disarming Scripture has just been released this week, and has already received endorsements and accolades from some pretty big names: Walter Brueggemann, Jim Wallis, Peter Enns, and Steve Chalke to name a few.

Disarming Scripture deals with the problem of violence in Scripture, tackling a wide range of troubling passages--from commands to commit genocide and infanticide in the Old Testament to passages in the New Testament that have been used to justify slavery, child abuse, and state violence.

Moving beyond typical conservative and liberal approaches, which seek to either defend or whitewash over violence in the Bible, Disarming Scripture takes a surprising yet compelling approach: Learning to read the Bible like Jesus did.
Learn more here.

The following is my foreword from the book:


You need Derek Flood. You need his intelligence. You need his faithfulness. You need his courage. You need his insight. You need his message in this book. So do I.

Here’s why.
(after the jump)

Continue reading An important new book ......


Seattle. Church. A Warm Welcome.

Welcome To EastLake Community Church from EastLake Community Church Media on Vimeo.


Q & R: Complete Silence! No Breathing!

Here's the Q:

In our small group we are going through ... "We Make the Road."

Here's the challenge: For the last three weeks, I come to the end [of reading the chapter] and am greeted with complete silence. I mean like I can't even hear anyone breathing, it is that palpable! I think this may be because everyone (or almost everyone?) is finding it difficult to find the meaning you are expressing, because they are pretty much literalists to some degree. So, I continue on to the discussion questions. We have had some "good" discussions" but I have this overwhelming feeling that they just cannot seem to accept this way of reading and interpreting the Bible. I suggested to them that this is an "and" - not an "either/or" situation. If you want to keep your literal interpretation, fine, but that doesn't negate this way of looking at it.

But it is, as you put it, the difference between FACTUAL truth and ACTUAL truth. And I;m not so sure this can be an "AND" situation. Someone questioned: "If these are just stories passed down from one generation to the next, and they evolved along the way, where is the TRUTH in that?" We didn't get very far in that discussion.

I guess maybe an unspoken question goes something like, "We understand the Bible is GOD'S WORD." So how can just stories made up and changed through verbal telling also be God's Word? Aren't they just stories?"

Here's the R:
The chapters dealing with violence, contrary voices, and historicity are probably the most difficult in the book for what I call "innocent literal" readers. As you say, I try to create space BOTH for literal readers - AND for non-literal ones.

The best short answer I can give to your question is this: Consider Jesus' parables. Nobody thinks they are factual or historical; the whole point of a parable is that it tells the truth through a work of short fiction.

Would someone say the parables of the prodigal son and good samaritan are worthless because there never was such a father with two sons or a man mugged on the Jericho Road as the stories describe?

The stories weren't "just made up" - they were carefully crafted to convey a point, and for those of us who believe Jesus, we believe their meaning is profoundly true. The factuality of the stories is irrelevant; their meaning is what matters.

If we believe Jesus really is "the Word made flesh," and if Jesus told lots of fictional stories to convey true meaning … then we should understand God to be an author of both non-fiction and fiction, always guiding us into truth, but doing so in many wonderful, beautiful, and creative ways.


The Real Fire of Furgeson

"I watched Fox News and CNN spread images of flaming buildings and smashed windows all across the nation in light of the grand jury’s decision on the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Yet Fox and CNN missed the real story and the real fire in Ferguson. The true fire is burning in the hearts of a movement that has emerged in the wake of the destruction of Michael Brown’s precious life.

It’s a prophetic fire in our hearts that is finished with a nation that ignores the legacy of treating black and brown people as property, while obsessing over the property destruction that is the understandable outcome of human anguish and moral outrage." - Cornel West


Green Friday

Today, savor this poem by Wendell Berry:

Work Song, Part 2, A Vision By Wendell Berry

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear as we will never know it,
and over it birdsong, like a canopy.
On the level of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting over its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this place will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility.


A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Peter Heltzel and Cornel West:

As we gather at tables, grieving the state of our nation, may we gain spiritual strength for the journey ahead, drawing on the deepest wells of wisdom from those on whose shoulders we stand and the various faith traditions that have fueled their freedom march and continue to energize ours.

In the spirit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. King, may the pioneers of the civil rights movement collaborate with the young leaders in Ferguson, New York City and other cities, and may they impart their knowledge and understanding of nonviolent resistance that is not passive, but is spiritually active with an abiding faith that the universe is on the side of justice, and that, in the end, love will triumph over evil.

May this spiritual strength, fueled by prophetic fire and love, reveal to us our neighbors’ humanity, our own complicity in their suffering and liberate us once and for all from the history that continues to enslave us.

More here:


What I'm Grateful for Today ...



A Thanksgiving Prayer

If you are leading a prayer at your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, this simple thanks might be helpful. (It comes from We Make the Road by Walking.)

You can signal for the response by pausing and raising a hand or your glass:

Let us give thanks for this meal, saying, “We thank you, Living God.”

For this breath, for this heartbeat, for the gift of these companions,
We thank you, Living God

For this nourishment and flavor, for soil and sunlight, air and rainfall,
We thank you, Living God

For all to whom this food connects us, from field to farm and store to table,
We thank you, Living God

As we share this meal together, may our thirst for peace be strengthened and our hunger for justice deepened, until all are fed, and safe, and well.
We thank you, Living God. Amen.


Yes. There's a lot of bad news out there. But there's also some good news. Like this.



Get schooled on Political Islam

Here. Quotable:

We must strip the phenomena of "political Islam" of the mystical aura shrouding them, which results from a tendency to equate them with "fundamentalism": a mass of angry irrational impulses wholly motivated by religious aspirations and incentives, and instead situate them within the conditions of their time and space. Only through historical socio political context can we hope to cure researchers, journalists and observers of the malady of oversimplification, generalization and reductionism that currently deforms the bulk of analyses of the subject.

They must free themselves of their mystical outlook and of culturally essentialist interpretations of political parties with an Islamic background. In open democratic settings, these are likely to move closer towards the model of Christian democratic parties in Europe. Ennahdha party of Tunisia may, in fact, serve as a laboratory for the possible evolution of political Islam in this direction. The question is: when will "Western" journalists and experts rid themselves of their ideological biases and start to see reality as it is, with all its complexities, shades and nuances?

A Documentary You Should See



Are you saying the entire Christian faith has been wrong?

Quite often when I'm speaking to conservative Christian groups, whether the subject is evolution, the meaning of John 14:6, equality for women or LGBT people, the doctrine of inerrancy (papal or biblical), or related topics, people will say it is arrogant of me to suggest that the mainstream of the Christian church has been so wrong for so long.

Certainly that could be the case. I wish I were a greater stranger to arrogance than I am.

But to refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a tradition has been seriously, consistently, and tragically wrong can also reflect another kind of arrogance, as a recent speech by David Gushee makes clear.

The unchristlike teaching of contempt for Jews has been discredited. No mainstream Christian leader that I know of teaches it anymore, at least not here in this country. The Bible didn’t change. What the Bible was understood to mean changed a great deal.

The unchristlike teaching of contempt for LGBT people is, in my view, in the process of being discredited, of breaking down, even as we speak. Every year elements of it lose ground. I am now confident that Christianity is undergoing the same repudiation of an unchristlike body of tradition today, in regards to LGBT people, as happened 50 years ago in regards to antisemitism.

So this is the point of my comparison—I am comparing two different unchristlike bodies of Christian teaching tradition, one of which has been discredited and abandoned, the other of which needs to be and is in the process of being discredited and abandoned. We must celebrate the progress being made in repudiating the teaching of contempt against that 1/20th of the human family who are LGBT. And we must finish the job as soon as we can.

More here:


A Difficult but Necessary Conversation ...

Voice A:

And we must ask you, 'Why are you picking on Israel?' Why not criticise countries like Syria or North Korea where they treat their people with contempt and barbarity. Why aren't you criticising Hamas who want to wipe Israel off the map and murder all of its Jews - haven't you read their charter! Why aren't you condemning Islamic State and Boko Haram? Surely they deserve your wrath more than Israel does.
Israel treats women with respect and complete equality, and you can live an openly gay life without fear. How many Middle East countries can say that?

Why are you attempting to delegitimise the existence of the only Jewish state in the world? There are 20 Arab States by the way. We only have the one place that we can truly call home.

You are forgetting that it takes 'two to tango' and there is no partner for peace on their side. Until they renounce terrorism how can we trust them? You must have seen the stabbings and car driver murders of the last few weeks? This is what Israel is up against every day.

And we are utterly dismayed that you think to boycott Jews. Have you really forgotten the Holocaust so quickly? The Nazis started with boycotts too. And we all know where it ended.

You may mean well but you really don't understand and your naivety fills us with horror.

Voice B:

You are right too that there are other states and other regimes that behave in far worse ways. But they do not claim to be democracies. They do not wish to be perceived as aligned politically, economically and culturally with Europe and North America. The world imposes sanctions and boycotts against North Korea. Our airforce is currently bombing Islamic State. When Russia backs Ukrainian separatists attempting to take over the Crimea, there is an international crisis.

We are not comparing Israel with Islamic State or North Korea. Neither do we think Israel is to blame for all the problems that beset the Middle-East today. However, the Palestinians' long call for their rights to be recognised is clearly a powerful recruiting tool for Islamic State. And should we really make Boko Haram or President Assad the only benchmark for unacceptable behaviour?

We are not picking on Israel unfairly. What is unfair is how much Israel is allowed to get away with.We hear plenty of stern words of rebuke from America, Britain and the EU but never see any real political or economic pressure. We would love to see Israelis and Palestinians sitting down to negotiate. You are right 'it takes two to tango' but we would ask you to consider which side is refusing to dance.

… We want to work with our Jewish neighbours and our Muslim neighbours to bring a just and peaceful solution to all the people of Israel and Palestine. They deserve nothing less. Together we should be emboldening the leadership of each of our communities to speak out against injustice in the name of the traditions that we each claim to honour.

Read the whole dialogue here.


Q & R: Research "emergent church"

Here's the Q:

I am a pastor in an evangelical church…. I love what has been happening in the emergent church and often feel like I am hiding in the evangelical world as I have experienced persecution for my searching heart and questioning the status quo of evangelicalism for some time.

Anyways, the reason for my contacting you, is that I am writing a theological research paper on the theology of the Emergent Church. I was wondering if you could suggest some theological/scholarly texts that would aid me in the writing of this paper, both sources that would affirm and challenge the theology of the Emergent Church.

Thanking you in advance for any authors or titles you can suggest.

Here's the R:
I'd begin with two sources:
The Great Emergence
The New Christians

Then I'd follow their bibliographies, footnotes, and Amazon.com links … you'll find plenty. There are also a number of interesting theses and dissertations being written. It's a fascinating subject, and I don't even think the real revolution has yet begun.

You might be interested in my post of a few days ago offering my perspective on what's developing in the US.


Q & R: Membership

Here's the Q:

I am the pastor of a little church which is really struggling with the issues of church membership. We are recognizing more and more the aversion many people have to church membership. Most of us understand that aversion, having experienced spiritual abuse of one form or another, and therefore, we try to be supportive and compassionate and resist the temptation to be “heavy handed.” But after three weeks and two congregational meetings which almost were rendered ineffective because of the lack of a quorum … we also realize that, sometimes, we need to define a “corporate body.”

I know that consensus is a way to go … and in fact, we were forced to do something vaguely anti-Roberts’ Rules in order to change the bylaws just so that we could make some decisions. It was fine; nobody died. But I also know that there is something to be said for constitutions, bylaws, policies etc … if for no other reason than to establish general principles and practices so that there is some notion of consistency and identity. We have members who attend other places but cannot transfer their membership because there is nothing to transfer their membership to. We have people who refuse membership but may as well be members for the amount of time and energy they afford to us. We also have members who dare not darken the doors for all the damage that they have done … people who have decided to hold on to their membership literally until this person or that person is gone or deceased so that they might regain power and control (yeah, no kidding). We don’t want to be exclusive here (allowing a handful of people to make decisions for everyone) … nor classist (ie; base everything on what people give) … and I as the pastor would like to be able to acknowledge the hundreds of people we include in our little community through our mission and outreach.

I am searching for a new way to organize membership – maybe a broader, inclusive category of “disciples” and then a corporate distinction of “members”? Shall we do away with the corporate body idea completely? Sigh. The more I think about this, the more my head hurts. Brian, is there anyone or anything out there that can help me think about this in a fresh new way?

Here's the R:
Important questions!
Here are a few observations, but your post deserves a much more careful and lengthy response at some point, by me or by others.

First, I think we need to distinguish between ministry and mission on the one hand, and governance on the other. Boards and votes and bylaws, in my view, are matters of governance. Governance is terribly important, but most people today seem to be saying something like this: "I'm trusting you leaders to work out governance in ways that are ethical, transparent, and accountable. Invite us to be involved, but don't burden us. We would rather be involved with ministry and mission."

Second, those words "ethical, transparent, and accountable" matter. If a smaller number of people are involved in governance, they need to seek input through transparent channels and communicate what they're up to.

Third, we need to pay attention to self-organizing trends, like DIY, Sharing Economy, and Crowdsourcing. I think governance will be more and more about creating and preserving safe and productive space in which people "play" freely. That means less control, more encouragement, along with some simple guidelines to keep the space sustainable, free, and fruitful.


More on the emergent conversation

I was asked recently for my view of what's happening in the emergent/emergence conversation in North America. Here's a very short overview, from my perspective.

The conversation continues to grow, not by creating a new slice of the pie, but by seasoning nearly all sectors of the pie. Even where the word "emergent" is not used, ideas from emergence leaders are being considered and adopted, leading to new experimentation and openness.

Influence in the Roman Catholic world is still relatively small, but growing numbers of Catholic scholars and leaders are listening, reading, and engaging, from lay people to (yes) the Vatican. Catholic influence on the emergence community continues to be strong, especially through the spiritual practices of the monastic and contemplative traditions.

Much of the Mainline Protestant world has opened its arms wide to the emergent conversation, from bishops to parachurch organizations to denominational leaders to local pastors to grass-roots activists. A few years down the road, I think Mainline engagement will become even more overt and significant, but already most Mainline Protestant denominations are experimenting with creative new approaches to church planting and worship/liturgy renewal. Key next steps may include the creation of a national, trans-denominational campus ministry, collaborative and transdenominational church planting and "branding," new approaches to theological and ministry education, and the development of a new genre of progressive Christian worship music.

The Evangelical community has, by and large, decided to double down against LGBT inclusion and equality, and because many emergence leaders see equality as a natural and unavoidable expression of the gospel, their voices have been marginalized by prominent gatekeepers. But beneath the surface, influence continues to expand, especially among young Evangelicals and those uncomfortable with the marriage between American Evangelicalism and the Religious Right. Along with LGBT equality, surprising numbers of Evangelicals are quietly but consistently moving towards greater concern for the full equality for women, the environment, racial and interfaith reconciliation, the elimination of torture, peacemaking, poverty reduction, and related issues. And theologically, they are eager to engage with questions that have been suppressed - including rethinking penal substitutionary atonement theory, biblical inerrancy and interpretation, and the violence of God. For practical reasons, it will often be best, in the short run at least, for these conversations to happen without association with the term "emergence."

I am pleased to see how the center of gravity for emergence continues to be among reflective practitioners … not among theorists divorced from the local church, and not among pragmatists uninterested in theology, but among people who see theology and praxis as inextricably connected. With that center, there is room for a wide range of people - from those exploring the outer reaches of process theology and radical theology, to those concentrating on urban farming and community/parish missionality.

As the first wave of emergence leaders move through their forties and fifties, it's exciting to see a new wave of 20-something and 30-something emergence leaders arise. They are coming of age when emergence thinking is not some radical fringe phenomenon, but rather an option and resource that is a natural part of the Christian landscape. They are fiercely committed to expanding the racial and gender diversity of the conversation, to emphasizing the skills of community organizing and movement building, and to making room for Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, and others to work together for the common good.

My hope is that in the US and globally, the emergence conversation will continue in its current path - a both/and approach of collaborating with existing institutions while at the same time creating new spaces and structures when necessary to nurture and support what is trying to be born in and among us.

I am pleased to see that a set of shared, long-term commitments is coalescing - along the lines of those expressed in the Mesa Document.

❖ We believe in Jesus and the good news of the reign, commonwealth, or ecosystem of God, and we seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven by focusing on love - love for God and neighbor, for outsider and enemy.
❖ We seek to know, serve, and join the poor in the struggle for justice and freedom ... through advocacy, relationships, and action.
❖ We seek to honor, interpret, and apply the Bible in fresh and healing ways, aware of the damaging ways the Bible has been used in the past.
❖ We seek to reconnect with the earth, understand the harm human beings are doing to it, and discover more responsible, regenerative ways of life in it.
❖ We seek the common good, locally and globally, through churches of many diverse forms, contexts, and traditions, and we imagine fresh ways for churches to form Christlike people and join God in the healing of the world.
❖ We build inclusive partnerships across gaps between the powerful and vulnerable - including disparities based on wealth, gender, race and ethnic identity, education, religion, sexuality, age, politics, and physical ability.
❖ We engage conflict at all levels of human society with the creative and nonviolent wisdom of peacemaking.
❖ We propose new ways of encountering the other in today’s pluralistic world and we collaborate with other religious and secular groups in alliances for the common good.
❖ We host safe space for constructive theological conversation, seeking to root our practice in theological reflection and seeking to express our reflection in practical action.
❖ We value the arts for their unique role in nurturing, challenging, and transforming our humanity.
❖ We emphasize spiritual and relational practices to strengthen our inner life with God and our relationships with one another.


Again, this overview is from my perspective, which is limited but based on a lot of travel, correspondence, and relationships. I'll be interested to see where others would add, subtract, or differ.


Changing the Game


Thoughts on Poverty ...

from David Peck, here:

Elizabeth Babcock in Rethinking Poverty writes, “In recent years, scientists have discovered that the stresses of poverty often overwhelm the critical-thinking skills that people need to chart and follow a pathway out of their condition.” That’s everywhere.What do you think?

The Phnom Penh Post also quoted a Credit Suisse report that said that while Global Wealth had increased by 263 trillion dollars in 2013, and yet disparity had swelled in "developing" economies. Not a big surprise really. So where was the massive surge? 34.7 percent of the growth occurred in North America. Europe accounted for 32.4 percent.


Lord, Have Mercy ...



Preparing for Christmas ...

It's just over 40 days away, and Christine Sine offers beautiful wisdom in preparing for the season. Be sure to read her post and follow the links she provides.


Congratulations, Rachel (Held Evans)!

Rachel - I'm always glad to be mentioned in the same breath with you, as in this note:

Thank you, you make my job so much easier. I lead a small house group and this year we are using your book, 'We make the Road by Walking'. We all came to your talk in Bristol last night and have come away even more inspired.

Last year we studied Rachael's 'Year of Biblical Womanhood' which was a real success for our group. Previous to this, we had struggled to find material that really worked for us as group. Rachael's book inspired, intrigued and engaged. As the year was drawing to a close the pressure was on to find some new material that would work as well for us. Rachael had reviewed your book on he blog and sang its praises so I thought it was worth a go.

The book has blown us away and we are only on Chapter 10! THe group are engaged and inspired and when we meet the first this everyone says is 'I love this book'.

So thank you for making my life easier, and I like the rest of the group Love the book.

It's fun to see that you're in the same league with Madonna, Bono, and Cher … your first name identifies you! I don't know if you can sing … but you sure can write. Thanks for all you do, Rachel!

(And thanks to our shared readers from Bristol who came and said hi last week!)


Ireland trip/retreat - a few spaces left

I just heard from Gareth Higgins that there are a few spaces left for the Ireland trip we'll be leading June 15-23. Folks who have registered should be hearing back from Gareth in the next week or so … and folks who wish to register shouldn't delay. Information here:


Q & R: Journaling?

Here's the Q:

I've been recently devouring your book A Generous Orthodoxy. It's opened up my mind to many things. One question: what do you think about "spiritual journaling"? Do you keep a spiritual journal/diary (or any kind of journal)?

Here's the R:
I'm so glad you're enjoying AGO.
About journaling - yes! I was introduced to journaling when I was about 18. It has been one of the most important spiritual disciplines of my life. I wrote prayers, reflections on Scripture, poetry, etc. in personal journals for decades. In recent years, the more I've made a living as a writer, the less fruitful journaling has been for me (for reasons that are easy to imagine), which has prompted me to explore other forms of prayer that aren't as connected to writing (body prayer, contemplative prayer, "simple word prayer" as I described in Naked Spirituality). But even so, I still keep a journal, but just use it less frequently, and I highly, highly, highly recommend it for everyone.


Emergent, liberalism, diversity ...

"Just when you thought emergent was dead, scholars are showing that it’s very much alive and kicking." - More here ...

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/10/24/study-shows-emergent-is-not-as-liberal-as-you-thought/#ixzz3HTZw9aAx


Rumours of Glory: Bruce Cockburn biography

I love music, and I follow several musicians closely. But Bruce Cockburn's songs have been my musical soundtrack since the early 70's. I've seen him in concert more than any other musician, and I've quoted him often in my books. So I was thrilled when I was sent a pre-release copy of his new autobiography, Rumours of Glory.

For me, the book has been a kind of extended liner notes to the songs … filling in backstory, connecting the dots between lyrics and events in Bruce's life. In the days after reading the book, I felt as one does after viewing a powerful movie … a little disoriented, like I had been sucked into another reality, into someone else's world. "Knocked sideways," as Bruce might say.

If you're not a fan, get the book and download/listen to the songs as you encounter them in its pages. If you are fan, do the same. A wind will come out of nowhere and knock you sideways.

More on the book, and Bruce, here.


Honored and moved ...

Each week I wait with anticipation to see what John Stonecypher has done with the next chapter of my book We Make the Road by Walking. This week's installment (Chapter 11) is especially powerful and honest - and open-ended; it engages with one of the chapters that was hardest for me to write, on the subject of divinely-sanctioned violence. Read it - and take in the videos too, here.

If we want to stick around another 3 million years, it depends on whether we're able to learn the ways of peace. It will be hard, but our teacher is Jesus, and he happens to be very good at it.


If you need a sermon today ...

Here's one from a friend of mine.


subversive meals ...

If you are interested in the eucharist, the church, and the church's relation to power, violence, empire, and peacemaking … you should see Alan Street's amazing book. More here. It's well-written, well-researched, and well worth reading.


President Obama and Islam

I have great respect for Dalia Mogahed. You'll see why in this interview on Obama and Islam.


A reader writes: Energizing my curacy

Just wanted to say thank you for your writing and insights God has given you. Your book, Generous Orthodoxy, was a breath of fresh air and articulated much of how I had seeing the Christian faith since my teenage years, but could not find in the Churches I attended or could understand why not. This book was instrumental in drawing me back to church and on to ordained ministry in the Church of England.

I am currently reading your book, A New Kind of Christianity, and all I can say is yes, yes , yes. Having grown up within a conservative evangelical household and church, you have said everything I have know within for years. Having just completed theology in Cambridge, UK, the number of heated discussions I have go had with both my conservative, liberal and Anglo-catholic brothers and sisters (including my learned tutors) on precisely these issues has worn me out. We are so invested in what you call the six lines. It is so wonderful to know that I am not on my own in seeking the non dualistic understanding of the Christian faith. This book is helping me to articulate this within my relationships with those of Christian faith and those not. It's a great help in energising my curacy.

Sorry for all the gushing, but thank you. Never allow your critics to get you down!

Thanks for these encouraging words. God bless you in your ministry!


This is a big deal: a key Evangelical leader switches sides on the LGBT issue

Jonathan Merritt writes:

It is difficult to overstate the potential impact of Gushee’s defection. His Christian ethics textbook, “Kingdom Ethics,” co-authored with the late Glen Stassen, is widely respected and was named a 2004 Christianity Today book of the year. He serves as theologian-in-residence for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a coalition of 15 theological schools, 150 ministries, and 1,800 Baptist churches nationwide.
(more here)
I have grown to respect David Gushee deeply in recent years. Even before he took a stand on LGBT issues, he stood boldly against torture and for environmental protection. Now he has taken an additional step that some will condemn, but I applaud. I was honored to be invited to write a foreword to David's new book, which you can purchase here.

If you are one of the many good Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, or Catholic leaders who has secretly thought, "I'm probably going to change on this issue someday," I would say the time is probably sooner than you thought. David's new book could really help.


A reader writes: as I am weeping

I just wanted to write ( as I am weeping) as I start reading your new book. I just read the first couple of pages and the emotions started.

I have had a really challenging spiritual awakening over the past seven years. Long story. It has been difficult following how the Holy Spirit led me and living within a community of conservative, evangelicals, including my spouse. Challenging on every level of my being.

Having a devotion to Christ … I have been struggling to find a way to be authentic, and reconcile my walk in faith within my community and family. I think I have found a way with your book, I hope. I asked my husband to look at it with me, hopefully he will be open to it. We had an intense discussion about it last night, and today I found your book.

Being a yoga teacher, I am excited to see body prayer on your website! So excited about that.

Thanks for the work you do and your vision. Together we can be Christ's hands and feet to create God's King/ Queendom here as is meant to be.

I'm so glad you found the book, and I hope it can be of help to you in many ways. Thanks for writing!


Christianity, Islam, and Hate

John Esposito's responses to Michael Coren are a model of clarity, wisdom, and civility in the context of profound disagreement … worth reading both for content and style.

"Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, thinks Coren is correct to speak of Jesus as a man of peace, "but he conveniently overlooks the practice of some popes, and other Christian leaders in terms of religious persecution, violence and wars," he says.

"Moreover, I presume Coren accepts the Old Testament as part of the Bible and the Christian tradition. If so, then he must be aware of Old Testament passages and the instances of not only violence but even passages calling for genocide.

"Similarly when he writes of Muhammad he has surely not forgotten the military role of prophets like Joshua, Samuel and David."

Esposito says Coren should also take note of the "anti-Muslim racism" of hardline Christian leaders like Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and John Hagee.

"I (and others) as both a scholar and a Christian would disagree with the brush-stroking and collective guilt associated with that kind of reductionism."


Need some good music?

If you haven't been enjoying the music of Steve Bell for years and years as I have, you can catch up (kind of like watching a few seasons of a great TV series on Netflix) with his new 25-year retrospective, Pilgrmage.
You can listen to clips and order the CD here:
It's beautiful.


A reader writes: violence is all we know because it is all we see

A reader writes:

While I know this framing story doesn’t have a chance in the world. Hell, we can’t even get the poor out to vote on election day, and we are hoping someday they will stop thinking of themselves and start living for the sake of the community? I live in a condo complex and serve on the HOA board, and we can’t get enough people to serve to make a full board. It certainly isn’t the framing story I would choose, except I love God and this is the story I believe God chooses and I feel God chooses me to learn it and live it. I found your book Everything Must Change in the library and am about 2/3rds the way through, but I skimmed ahead to see if you touch on the Greatest commandment. While you dance around it and almost refer to it, it isn’t the foundation the framing story is built on. My favorite story is found in Mark 12: 28 where Jesus tells the teacher of the law that for believing the 2 commandments are the prime directive that he is not far from the kingdom of God (yeah my own words there), but the message is clear that Loving God and neighbor is to enter the kingdom of God. While you say in your book that “kingdom” is a kind of old fashioned word that may not have any use in today’s world, I believe it is perfect and can be re-engineered to mean a whole new type of society, one that is not capitalism and one that is not a dictatorship.
Another idea I think you dance around that I would like to comment on is your encouraging to us to try to picture what living in the kingdom of God would be like. Wonderful idea! I wish I was a better writer and had the foresight to write a screen play titled “The kingdom of God” . First scene: year 33CE, Just outside the Temple, and Mark 12:28 through 34 plays out and maybe we could throw in some more teachings about what justice would look like in the kingdom of God. Scene two: jump ahead 1800 years and the world is living the kingdom of God. The movie shows how the community works together to solve problems, work through disagreements, shows what the economy could look like, where there is no unemployment because the government has a right to work law and if you need a job you go to the employment office and you have a right to a job, one that pays well enough to live, and how those in the community work towards the good of the community, and it is that mindset that keeps those who would attempt to oppress or cheat the community from making the attempt. Perhaps the movie would show our community what it would look like and get them on the road toward the kingdom of God. The movie would reinforce acts of loving kindness, a very rare thing, if you would look at what is in the theaters year after year. Violence is all we know because it is all we see.
Thank you again for your wonderful book, I am very much enjoying the lessons you teach in it.

Thanks for the encouraging words. I think you are so right … the stories we ingest via movies teach us ways of seeing the world … My friend Gareth Higgins and I, along with the good people of the Raven Foundation, have been talking about how to get more screenplay writers to take the use of violence more seriously. That, by the way, is a major theme of my newest book, We Make the Road by Walking … grappling with violence in the Bible.


A reader writes: theological musings ...

A reader writes:

Brian, my wife and I just returned from a trip (my first) to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe these places. To be sure, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

I just wanted to share some thoughts with you.

While we were there, one of the places we went was to the Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration. While I sat in the darkness looking at that view, I thought “We have something all wrong”. When someone asks us to “prove” the existence of “God”, we trot out the old “watch and watchmaker” schpiel. I think this misses the mark by infinity.

Several weeks ago I heard a comment by singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier in which she said that artists were people who attempted to make sense out of chaos.

If you recall, in the opening verses of Genesis, that’s precisely what God does.

Maybe we need to start thinking of God not as a mere watchmaker, but as a great Artist. Maybe being made in the image and likeness of God means we can see creation through the eyes of the Artist.

I thought, If I were to bring my weeniedog Daphne to that place and asked her to comprehend the wonder of it all, she would probably be wondering if it involved food or chasing a squirrel!

Amen! In the modern era, where the machine was the pinnacle of human achievement, I can see why people were enamored with the watchmaker analogy. But it indeed falls short in so many ways. Creativity is the first action in the Bible - and it's one of the last too ("Behold, I create all things new!") That's one of the themes I trace from Genesis to Revelation in my new book, btw.

It's interesting to ponder what the human versions of chasing a squirrel would be!


A reader writes: using your book in Northern Ireland

A reader writes:

I just thought I would let you know we have a group reading We Make the Road by Walking in Whitehead, Northern Ireland. Do hope you can visit Ireland soon!!

So glad to know you're using the book. I will be in Ireland, co-leading a private retreat, next June. We will probably have one public event while I'm there (not yet scheduled, details TBA). More information here.


Thanks, David Wilcox.

I needed this.


A listener writes: overwhelming, underwhelming

A listener writes:

I was recently spiritually prompted to one of your interviews, on Premier Christian Radio, and just wanted to follow that up with an introduction.

My name is ccc; I am a [middle aged] Christian of 17 years, and I live in East London, England. I have been a Christian all of my life, but consciously reaffirmed my faith in 1997. Since then I have enjoyed (and endured) the most amazing relationship and walk with God.

I had little taught expectations (or limitations) on God, I believed he would respond to me much as he did to our Biblical forefathers - and he did, and then some. I had always assumed this was how ever Christian experienced God, in a very real and present way, guiding the big and small, trivial and significant decisions. From where to live – to what to eat, more importantly how he desires to see me grow in spiritual maturity.

Conversely, whilst my knowledge and experience of God has been extraordinary, my experience of life in the church has been underwhelming. Even this experience God used to teach and mature me – though I don’t pretend to be spiritually matured just yet.

Eventually I determined that God allowed me to experience him in such a real way because he knew I would not be able to keep it to myself. I believe my story might help and encourage other Christians struggling with faith and church life, so I wrote about it.

Essentially I try to encourage and challenge us all (as individuals and bodies) to go back to basics, to re-examine our commitment to God and our relationship with him. To take a long, hard and honest look at whether the Christians we are today reflect, honour and glorify God. Are we growing in spiritual maturity and if not, why not.

The most important lesson I learned, and it took the best part of ten years, is that I’m not in control, I can’t change me, I can’t make myself Christ like no matter how committed I am to God and how hard I try. After ten years God stopped me, showed me that he hadn’t asked for my plethora of well intended good deeds, he had only asked that I be honest and sincere with him and those around me, even if that meant confessing some very ugly truths.

That was a key turning point in my spiritual journey, try less – pray more, allowing God to lead on your transformation is the only way to ensure that change is sincere and lasting.

I had spent ten years trying to make myself better and all God really wanted was for me to get real with him, surrender to him and let him transform me into whatever he created me to become.

After hearing your interview I felt a deep resonance with your story, but also a small spiritual butt kicking to finish the book.

If I’m entirely honest I’m not sure why I’m contacting you, perhaps the encouragement to finish the book was all God intended. But it can’t hurt to say hello and let you know that I have been encouraged by your story. And, if there is any guidance you can offer to a first time author that will of course be greatly appreciated.

May God bless you and keep you.

Thanks for your encouragement. As for advice for first-time writers, here are a few things I've posted in the past:



Q & R: Reaching across the cultural & religious divide

Here's the Q:

Brian, I have a thought about your blog response
You emphasize, rightly, that progress toward peace with Islam or any
other group must include making the effort to better understand them
and why they take the positions that they take. But that's difficult
with Islam in ways not shared by other groups of "other". As you
doubtless know, there are no translations of the Quran into any
language. There are some sort-of translations that Muslims allow to be
used as a crutch by people who want to learn Arabic. But they take it
as a cardinal principle that the words of the Prophet cannot be
translated and yet remain the words of the Prophet. While nearly
anybody, anywhere, can pick up a Bible in a familiar language, only
Arabic speakers can read the Quran.

The result is that anything an American may "know" about Islam has
been filtered through a great many layers of interpretation,
misinterpretation, bias, hatred, tradition, unrecognized cultural
references, etc.

I like languages, but I have little inclination to learn Arabic. Yet
we must come to a better understanding of Muslims. For that, we need a
strategy. A number of things you've written suggest that your strategy
for better understanding Muslims has been to meet as many as possible
and have long talks, taking a nonjudgmental attitude so that neither
party gets mad and storms out. Great. But that strategy doesn't work
for many Americans.

Any suggestions?

Here's the R:
Thanks for this question. The fact is, you could also say that to some degree, 'anything an American may "know" about Christianity or Juadism has also been filtered through a great many layers of interpretation, misinterpretation, bias, hatred, tradition, unrecognized cultural references, etc.' Fortunately, there are many translation of the Quran into English and other languages. Since avid readers of the Bible will already know that there is always an element of interpretation in any translation, people sensitive to the issues and complexities of biblical translation and interpretation are well placed to read the Quran responsibly in translation … not in a way that would satisfy all Muslim scholars, but in a way that will replace complete ignorance with a responsible knowledge base.

In addition, there are excellent introductions to Islam, written by both Muslims and Christians. Here are three resources I would especially recommend:
1. John Esposito's works, beginning with Islam: The Straight Path.

2. Who Speaks for Islam summarizes a monumental demographic study and dispels many myths. It's short, readable, and research based.

3. Reza Aslan's No God but God is also highly readable and helpful.

As for building relationships between Christian and Muslim congregations, people like my friend Jeff Burns and organizations like Peace Catalyst are going important and needed work, among many others.

And here's another great resource:

Excerpts from "The Jesus Fatwah" by Living the Questions from Living the Questions on Vimeo.


Really. You should know this ...

Theories/understandings of the sun change … as do theories and understandings of everything, including God. That's a theme of my book We Make the Road by Walking, and John Stonecypher captures it amazingly in his weekly multi-media commentary. Check it out here.
And here:


Making Plans for 2015?

Here are a few special events I'll be involved in - you might want to come along!

June: Ireland Tour with Gareth Higgins

August: Ring Lake Ranch


A reader writes … "I'm the classic kid who grew up Evangelical"

A reader writes ...

Dear Brian,
I know you are very busy and maybe won't even read this but thank you so much for your brave writing, I'm sure you get quite a lot of grief over it but I wanted to encourage and thank you. I am the classic 'kid who grew up in the evangelical church'. My dad was a pastor and my whole life was church and the evangelical bubble ( including being a missionary) until my late 20's when all my understandings of God started to fall apart. At the risk of making this too long let's just say that huge career disappointment, long term unemployment after coming out of full time christian ministry, having a disabled child and university study that raised many questions made my 30s the time of getting rid of all the paradigms and christian culture I had grown up with. I just read Rachel Held Evans memoir and we could be spiritual twins in many ways.

I read 'Generous orthodoxy' this year and it was so good. So good to hear I was not the only one with big questions about the evangelical way of church. So good to hear a bit about how other Christian traditions view such things as the cross and the kingdom of God. This has led me to reading writers from Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox streams, which has basically saved my Christianity because I can now see that it is possible to experience God organically without having to 'know'a whole lot about him, it's been awesome. I am starting my Masters degree in Anthropology next year and my thesis topic is the new trend in evangelical Christian missions of moving from 'soul saving' to justice based 'incarnational service work, and if this is a result of emerging theology, I quote you and N T Wright in my thesis proposal. My university is secular, but they find the topic fascinating. Keep writing, looking forward to reading your new book.

Thanks for writing … and thanks for your encouragement. It's an exciting time to study anthropology, and especially the intersection of anthropology and religion. In your studies, be sure to explore Rene Girard. You'll find amazing insights there.


Religion. Secularism. Violence.

Many secular thinkers now regard “religion” as inherently belligerent and intolerant, and an irrational, backward and violent “other” to the peaceable and humane liberal state – an attitude with an unfortunate echo of the colonialist view of indigenous peoples as hopelessly “primitive”, mired in their benighted religious beliefs.
- Karen Armstrong More here.

Q & R: Muslims, Isis, and benevolence

Here's the Q:

Our study group recently started a discussion of Islam, having read your book Why Did JMBM Cross the Road? as background. … In the case of Islam more than other faiths — the challenge in practical terms seems far more complex than you made it seem in your book.

I would be interested in your response to this multi-part question:
In the case of Islam — recognizing that extremists are a minority group within Islam — do you believe a strong/benevolent attitude can be effective in relation to Islamic extremists?

Can we realistically expect that if we listen and communicate with strong/benevolent Muslims, they will be able to rein in the extremists of their faith?

If so, how do we get this movement started (besides promoting your book and/or this video), in the face of what the media is showing about ISIS etc.?

Thanks for considering my questions.

Here's the R:
I'm glad your study group has read JMBM and found it helpful. You're certainly right - the challenge in practical terms is huge, especially if we expect that long-term problems can be solved with short-term solutions.

You might say it like this: I believe God gave us a major shot of life-saving medicine through Jesus. For 2000 years, which is, say, 400 generations (roughly speaking), some people have been taking this medicine. Slowly, a new way of dealing with violence and hatred is replacing the old. Since then, others have come along to administer "booster shots" - reiterating and clarifying Jesus' message when it gets sidelined or distorted - people like St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Francis, St. Claire, Dorothy Day, Dr. King, Jon Sobrino, Desmond Tutu, Richard Twiss, Shane Claiborne, Tony and Peggy Campolo, and many more.

Meanwhile, the old habits of hate and violence are still normative for billions.

Our situation is not unlike someone who has smoked for 30 of their 50 years. If they quit smoking tomorrow, immediate health benefits will begin to manifest. But it will take many years for lungs, skin, vocal chords, blood pressure, etc., to return to normal. Consequences are "in the system" so to speak.

So … each of us does all we can to live the way of Jesus, the way of the beatitudes, the way of the kingdom of God. In so doing, we spread health. We try to teach our children to do the same so they will spread health. We move toward our enemies - not to destroy, but to "preach the good news" and to invite them into the way of peace too. That requires learning and understanding why they see and respond as they do … and building relationships so that they may at least see an option of a better way. That may seem impractical and slow-moving … but I can't think of a better way, try as I might.

"There is no way to peace," the old saying (from A. J. Muste) goes, "for peace itself is the way."

As for your question, "Can we realistically expect that if we listen and communicate with strong/benevolent Muslims, they will be able to rein in the extremists of their faith?" - I have to ask two questions. First, "Can we realistically expect that if we don't listen listen and communicate with strong/benevolent Muslims, they will be able to rein in the extremists of their faith?" … and "Can we realistically expect that if we listen and communicate with strong/benevolent Christians, they will be able to rein in the extremists of their faith?"

It's not easy reigning in the bad behavior of others under any circumstances. I think there are two essential first steps:
1. Don't imitate extremists - in thought, language, or behavior.
2. Provide an alternative example.

I don't doubt that there will be military responses, police actions, etc., etc. These may contain evil; they may also unintentionally set more evil in motion. But they won't overcome it with good. That is the work of all of us … and that was the focus of my book.

And that cause, I hope, will be advanced today in thousands of congregations around the world … gathering around a table that dares to proclaim the kingdom of God is like a wedding banquet, not like a culture war or battle zone.


A beautiful sermon from a Reconstructionist Rabbi ...



We Make the Road - Kids' Curriculum, 4 of 4

Churches around the world (literally) are using We Make the Road by Walking - in groups, in classes, and many, for a whole year of integrated programming. Here's one more example of how Dominique Nash of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL, is adapting the material for her kids' ministry:

We Make the Road by Walking for Kids
By Dominique Nash

Week 4- The Drama of Desire
Introduction with Children
You will need a small bag full of lollipops and a volunteer who holds one big, lollipop
You: I’m so excited because my dad, who loves me very much, gave me all of these lollipops and they are so good and special. He told me I could have all of them and enjoy them. I can even share them with others to enjoy. I’m so thankful for the things my dad gives me…..wait (look over at volunteer across the room) what’s that? What do you have behind your back? I want to see.
(Volunteer pulls big lollipop out)
You: Oh wow! That’s a cool and gigantic lollipop. (Look at bag of lollipops)- I don’t want these, I want that one.
Volunteer: But you said your dad gave you those to enjoy. You have so many, now you want this one?
You: Yes, I’ll give you all of these lollipops for that one. That one looks better than these and I think I’ll like it better.
Volunteer: No, your dad gave you those, you can even share them. I don’t think you’ll be happy with your choice.
You: I don’t want these anymore I want the one you have, it’s better……….. (hastily put them aside).
Has something like this ever happened to you? You have something and you really like it, until you see someone might have something better or something you want more and then all of sudden you don’t like what you have? Maybe it’s a toy, a phone, a video game, or their house? Allow kids to answer. What that’s called is DESIRES. Who knows what it means to desire something? Allow children to answer. It’s simple, it’s to want something. Sometimes we want what others have and we compete with others to get it. Not in a good way though. We become mean, angry, and jealous. Sometimes we become sad. We even start to judge others and blame others. We pretty much make ourselves miserable. Does that sound like who God is? If we’re made in his image and he says to follow him, or to imitate him, shouldn’t we desire the same things he does? We need to have the right kind of desires, we have to have God’s generous desires…to create, bless, help, serve, care for, save, and listen to this one…..ENJOY!
Imagine what we could do for God and the world, if we all had God’s desires and worked together.
Read Genesis 3:1-13 (Act it Out): Use a stuffed animal snake, a fake tree, or human tree, and two volunteers to play Adam and Eve.
Prayer (have them repeat after you): Dear Lord, thank you for all that we have. Thank you for loving us and taking care of us. Please help be like you and want the same things you do. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Discussion Questions:
1) What did Adam and Eve do when God asked them what happened? (They blamed each other)
2) Has there been a time when you wanted something and didn’t go about the right way of trying to get it?
3) What do you think it’s like when we desire the same things God desires? What does that look like in our lives?

Activity/ Game
Younger Children (Toddlers and Preschoolers): Have children build a tower of blocks taking turns and working together. Praise them for sharing, waiting, helping, etc.
All Children: Have the children stand in a line. Make sure they’re not lined up according to height.. Make a rectangle around them with tape. Tell them they have to get in a line from shortest to tallest without talking or stepping outside of the box.
After the game: How did it feel to work together? Did you desire, or want for all of you to do well?
Older Children: Supply a large blanket or sheet. Have all of the kids stand on it together. The goal is to turn the blanket over without anyone getting off.
After the game: Follow up with the questions above.
Option 1 (For younger children): Picture of Adam and Eve
Using people shaped sponges or cookie cutters, dip them in washable paint and make two prints on a piece of construction paper (Adam and Eve) Use a strip of brown paper to make a tree trunk. Dip the child’s hand in green paint to make the top of the tree. Let them add red, yellow, and/or green circles for apples. Talk about desires and choices. Keep it simple and relatable. Things like taking turns, nice hands, kind words, good helpers, kindness to animals and plants, etc.
Option 2: “Edible Art.” Put all of the children’s names in a basket. Have each child draw a name out of the basket. Explain to them that they are going to make a snack for that child and serve it to them.
Snack- Happy Faces
1 rice cake
Cream cheese
Raisins, blueberries, or any small fruit.

Have children wash their hands hen prepare the snack. Supply each child with the ingredients. Some may have more or less fruit than someone else. Have them work that out together. They will have to share and help. Using a craft stick, have them spread the cream cheese onto the rice cake. Take the fruit and make a happy face. If you offer several different choices, have them ask the child they’re making it for what they would like.

After everyone is finished, allow them to serve. Tell them with this craft, we desired, like God, to create, sere, and enjoy. We desired to make someone happy.

Option 3: Word Collage-
Grab a big stack of magazines and flip through each one. Cut out create, bless, help, serve, care for, save, and enjoy. Cut out several of each one. If you can’t find many, combine letters and words to make the words you need.
Use cardstock and lay your favorite clippings out and make them the focal points of your collage, and then trim the pictures down as closely as possible so that you can fit them all together.
Lay out your collage, fitting the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. Overlap pieces and just keep rearranging them until every inch of your surface is covered.
Remove each piece starting with background pictures and glue them down. Don't worry of the pictures don't end up exactly where they started. Fill in any gaps with smaller images and words. Trim the edges when you're done gluing.
Cut a piece of clear contact paper that is about 1.5 inches bigger that the surface of the collage.
Peel the backing off of the contact paper carefully and slowly lay it over the collage. Start in one corner and work your way across. Be sure to leave excess contact paper around all the edges. Smooth out the contact paper to avoid air bubbles.
Fold the extra contact paper edges around the back of the surface like you're wrapping a gift and trim any excess.

Activities to Do at Home:
1) Read Psalm 32:8 as a family. Discuss what it says about God helping us?
2) Cook dinner together and serve each other.
3) Play a board game and talk about winning and losing. How does it feel to win or lose? What should we do?


We Make the Road - Kids' Curriculum, 3 of 4

Churches around the world (literally) are using We Make the Road by Walking - in groups, in classes, and many, for a whole year of integrated programming. Here's an example of how Dominique Nash of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL, is adapting the material for her kids' ministry. More tomorrow:
We Make the Road by Walking for Kids
By Dominique Nash

Week 3- A World of Meaning
Introduction with Children
When we talk about loving God and living out that love by loving others and we set out to do that, sometimes we find love to be a hard thing to do. Who has seen a river, a creek or a stream? Tell me about it. Did it go straight?
Pretend this mountain I’m building, this foundation, is your life. God created you and here you are! (Grab rocks with words written on them) These rocks represent the hard things in life, the tough stuff. Feelings we may have, things that happen, or maybe choices we make. (Place rocks on “mountain” one at a time). Things like, ANGER, SADNESS, UNFORGIVENESS, DIVORCE, SICKNESS, DEATH, just to name some of the things that can happen in our lives. Now I have water. This water represents our love for God and his love flowing out of us to others. Watch what happens when I pour it and let it flow (Pour water on top of mountain. After kids watch, ask them what they observed). The water kept flowing even when these things tried to stop it. No matter what may happen in our lives, our love for God and others has to keep flowing. We still choose to love in every way, every day and know that everything is an opportunity to grow closer to God and each other. Just go with the flow!
Read Psalm 145:1-16 in a dramatic way.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for your love and the opportunities you give us to love others. Please help us know you more and live like you want us to no matter what happens. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
For Discussion
1) What does Psalm 145 say about God?
2) What does loving God and every day in every way, look like? (have them give real life examples, even simple things)
3) What are some things in your lives that make that hard? What should we do when it’s hard? (pray and read our bible-spend time with God)

Younger Children: Hug a Friend or Give a High FiveFreeze Dance. Every time the music stops, they have to hug a different friend.
**Special Note- “Let Your Love Flow” by the Bellamy Brothers is a good song for Freeze Dance.
All Children: Ping Pong Ball Race. Have 2 to 4 children racing at the same time. Each child will have a spray bottle and have to spray their ping pong ball across the finish line. Talk about if the ball went straight or not. Did it go the way they had planned? Relate that to the lesson and living a life of love.
Another option for the ping pong ball race is to write words that express ways to love on index cards. Laminate them and tape them to the table or floor for the ping pong balls to roll over.
Option 1(for younger children): Make a river and rocks out of paper.
Cut rock shapes out of grey and brown paper. Write words that show love on each rock. Thing like- “nice hands,” kind words,” “share,” “hug,” “give,” “help,” etc.

Have each child make a river on a piece of construction paper.

River Options: Use blue watercolor paint
Have children tear blue construction paper into small pieces and glue on a sheet of paper to form a river.
Glue blue tissue squares on a piece of paper to form a river

Glue paper rocks along river

Option 2: Provide small or medium river rocks and metallic permanent markers. Allow the children to decorate the rocks (if time allows, you can use paint). When they’re finished talk about their struggles in life whether they’re events, feelings, or things they do that aren’t good choices. Have them take a black permanent marker and write one thing on each rock.
If there’s time, have them partner up and build a small mountain out of sand. Supply water in cups. Have them place the rocks on the sand and when they’re finished, they pour the water down from the top.
For younger children- have them write words that show love, as listed above.

Activities to Do At Home
1) Talk about every day ways you choose to love each other. How about others? Could you live out God’s love more?
2) Make a mountain and rocks together. Pray for each other that you will love God and others more no matter what happens.


We Make the Road by Walking - Kids' Curriculum, 2 of 4

Churches around the world (literally) are using We Make the Road by Walking - in groups, in classes, and many, for a whole year of integrated programming. Here's an example of how Dominique Nash of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL, is adapting the material for her kids' ministry. More tomorrow:
We Make the Road by Walking for Kids
By Dominique Nash

Week 2- Being Human
Introduction with Children
Say: We are made in God’s image which means we are made like him, to be like him. This means to love like him and care about the same things he does. He made us to be creative and giving. But, we have a choice. Think about your hands. Stretch them out in front of you. What is something kind and creative you can do with your hands? What is something mean and harmful you can do with your hands? How can the same hands do both kind and mean things?
Read Genesis 2:4-25- Use a picture book or a short video clip.
After the story say: We all have choices to make every day. We choose to join God and be like him, or we choose not to. We make these choices everywhere we go, in everything we do, and with everyone we meet.
Prayer (have them repeat after you): Father God, help us use our lives to show others what you are like. Help us to be more like you in every way. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
For Discussion
1) Who has shown you what God is like? How did they show you?
2) In what ways do you show others what God is like?
Younger Children: Use puppets to act out scenarios. What choices should be made for each one? Allow children to offer solutions.
All Children: Act it out. Have children act out the scenarios included in this lesson. Ask them what choice they should make. What would be the best way to show others what God is like in each situation?
Option 1: Handprint Decoration. At the top of a piece of paper write, “I will use my hands to______(fill in child’s response). Have children trace their hands (or help them trace). Provide stickers, glitter, sequins, markers, etc. to decorate them.
Option 2: Classroom Covenant Banner. At the top of the banner write, “We promise to help each other and to bear the image of God.” Tell them to bear the image of God, means to be like God. Ask them in what ways they are going to be like God in their lives. Write their responses in different areas on the banner. Allow each child to choose a paint color, paint their hand, and place their handprint on the banner. After each child has put their handprint on the banner, gather them in a circle for prayer. Allow them to offer up a prayers for one another
Option 3: (For older children) Hand Chain. Have children fold a piece of construction paper in half vertically and then again horizontally. It should be a small square, but big enough for a hand. Have them trace their hands on the paper making sure their thumb is on the fold. Next, cut the handprint out, but be careful not to cut around the tip of the thumb so that the handprints stay connected. On the first hand, have them write one way they will use their physical strength for good and for God. On the second hand, have them write one way they will use their money for good and for God. On the third hand, have them write one way they will use their time for good and for God. On the fourth hand have them write how they will use their talents for good and for God. Allow them to decorate them when they’re finished.

Activities to Do at Home
1) Discuss ways you, as a family, can be more generous and kind to one another.
2) Read Psalm 8 together. Share your praise reports with each other and thank and praise God for those things.


We Make the Road by Walking: Curriculum for Kids (1 of 4)

Churches around the world (literally) are using We Make the Road by Walking - in groups, in classes, and many, for a whole year of integrated programming. Here's an example of how Dominique Nash of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, FL, is adapting the material for her kids' ministry. More tomorrow:

We Make the Road by Walking
Week 1- Awe and Wonder
Introduction with children
Say: God created everything. As we look around and we take the time to see the things around us, we see what great works God has done and is doing. With all that he created, God also created you and me. He created all of us, on purpose, for a reason. God said, “Let there be ___(child’s name)______. And God saw that is was good. (repeat with other children). Out of everything in the whole world, God has chosen all of us, yes even you and me, to show the world who God is and has invited us to live in and enjoy all of his amazing creation.

Read Genesis 1:1-2:3- Use a felt board or a picture book for kids. Interactive option: Print out several copies of pictures of each day of creation. Assign one day to seven groups of children. Have them hold up the picture of their day as you’re reading about it. Have the group say, “And it was good” as a group, after you read each day.
After the story is told say, God created all things. He created us and he loves us. Pay attention to and enjoy the world around you, the things and the people. Know you are here on purpose.
Prayer (have them repeat after you): Dear God, thank you for all you have made. Thank you for my life. Help me take the time to enjoy all you have given us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

For Discussion
1) What are some things God has created that you already enjoy?
2) What is something God created that you want to know more about?

For younger children: Sit down on the floor in a circle and have them roll the ball to each other. When they roll the ball to a friend have them say, God made_____(friend’s name)_________ . Then the group says. “And saw that it was good!” Repeat until everyone has had a turn.
For older children: Write CREATION on the board. Starting on one side of the room have the first child think of something they’re thankful God made that starts with a C. They’ll say. “I’m thankful God made __________.”The next child will think of something that starts with an R. Keep going until all the letters of CREATION have been used. Repeat if there are more children, but they can’t say the same thing.

Option 1: Make binoculars out of toilet paper rolls. Allow the children to decorate using stickers, coloring them, etc. Take a walk outside and talk about what they see.
Option 2: Use nature stickers (you can find these at a craft store) and create a scene. Have the child draw a picture of themselves in the middle of creation. At the top write: God Made ____(child’s name)____. At the bottom write: And saw that it was good.
Option 3: Make a creation journal. Make copies of the page that is provided. Use a hole punch on the left side and tie together with yarn or ribbon. On the first page, have them draw themselves. Go outside and allow them time to walk, sit, and observe the things they see. Tell them to take the time and look closely, paying attention to details. Have them draw the things they see that interest them. Encourage them to continue this activity at home.

Activities to Do At Home
1) This week take the time to learn about one thing in creation that you want to know more about.
2) As a family, think about God’s creation; think about how He made us, human beings, to show the world what he is like. Read Psalm 19:14. What do you think it means? How does it help you in your life?


I thank God for pastors.

Pastors know things that are painful to know. Pastors keep confidences even though doing so leaves others to assume the worst. Pastors are routinely insulted, cussed out, lied about, or lied to. Pastors face expectations that range from challenging to oppressive to depressing to maddening to ridiculous. Pastors have to make tough choices balancing the needs of individuals and the needs of the community, needs of the congregation and needs of the staff, not to mention their own needs and those of their families. Pastors are called in to deal with life’s toughest realities - death, divorce, illness, prison, domestic violence, drugs, racism. Pastors have to keep congregations of diverse people together - even when political campaigns and culture wars try to divide them. And I haven’t even mentioned the challenges and responsibilities of preaching.

Pastors live in a web of complex relationships. If they become close friends with members, problems can arise. If they don’t, problems can arise. If they are open about their doubts, mistakes, and struggles, problems can arise. If they aren’t, problems can arise. If their only income comes from the church, problems can arise. If they have multiple sources of income, problems can arise. If they address or engage with political issues they care about, problems can arise. If they don’t ... You see the pattern.

Meanwhile, when unethical or unwell pastors do terrible things, all the good and honest pastors also become the subject of increased scrutiny, even cynicism.

No wonder pastors get worn down.

And they’re often so busy helping others that they don’t even hear a little voice inside them crying for help.

I was a pastor for over twenty years, and nothing I have ever done before or since has been more difficult.

If you have a pastor who is doing a good job, be good to them. Let them know. When others lob grenades of criticism at them, speak up. Write a note. Say a good word of encouragement.

If you are a pastor/priest/minister/whatever, doing good work for God, your congregation, and the common good - I don’t care whether you’re liberal or conservative, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox, gay or straight, man or woman, single or married, denominational or nondenominational: thank you, God bless you, and please, take care of yourself because the church needs you and the world needs you. Your life and work deeply, truly matter.


Want to join me in Ireland in June, 2015?

I'm really excited to let you all know about a trip to northern Ireland that Gareth Higgins and I are leading next summer. I hope you'll consider joining us.

About two dozen of us will stay first in a lovely old country house by the sea outside Belfast (that's Belfast below), and then in 400 year old thatched cottages in Mourne country (that's Mourne country above - really), with a group of friends old and new, enjoying the landscape on amazing walks, hearing music and story, meeting locals, experiencing the peace process in meeting people directly involved in activism and change, and getting to know the culture of northern Ireland, immersed in Celtic culture ancient and new. Great food, inspiring art, and beautiful journeys on foot will form the heart of this soulfully unique and transforming experience. This will be a nine day experience that might just last for the rest of your life.


My friend Gareth grew up in northern Ireland, was the founding director of the Wild Goose Festival, and was privileged to become friends with John O'Donohue in the few years before his death in 2008. Here's Gareth on the upcoming trip:


John used to host what he called 'tours', based in County Clare, for pilgrims who wanted to experience Ireland in authenticity rather than the more antiseptic/corporate tourist trip where feet don't touch the ground and souls might as well have stayed on the plane. I was lucky enough to be involved in facilitating what turned out to be the last tour John led in Ireland. This upcoming trip is very much inspired by the kinds of things John led people into on his trips: mornings will be gathered conversations, afternoons we will walk the landscape, and in the evenings there will be music, storytelling, and certainly firewater magic. You'll meet friends and colleagues with whom I have been honored to walk some of the journey, peacemakers and poets and politicians, you'll walk by the sea and on mountains, and there'll be plenty of time to take by yourself for whatever you need.'

Here are some endorsements from guests on the Summer 2014 Ireland retreat:

Before this retreat I hadn't realized how much wonder and freedom had been missing from my life. We walked each day without quite knowing exactly where we were gong, except that we would be meeting someone to talk about something! I now approach each day like a walk in Northern Ireland, filled with expectation about the wonderful people I'll meet and the things I'll learn.

Under gentle and inspiring guidance, a diverse group of strangers seeking direction in their spiritual lives became a tribe, with a sense of community and belonging for which all of us had longed.

An exceptional experience. You leave this trip with each of your senses saturated and nourished. "Refreshing", "Life-changing" - these words are over-used but, even in their sincerest definition they still serve as understatements. This trip is many beautiful things but, what I'd say overall is that a trip like this is a necessity for those who seek to go deeper and live more authentically.

The trip takes place June 15th-23rd 2014 - eight months from now. If you're interested, and want more details, please send an email at this link, and we'll send you the information and application form in the next few days. Places really are strictly limited - we can accommodate 20 guests, and expect the trip to be over-subscribed. So if you know this is for you, or if you're asking maybe, let us know. There are payment plans and may be part-scholarships available, so don't hesitate to be in touch if you're interested. Gareth and I can't wait to welcome you to Belfast in June - we'll even visit the fish below together!

Once more: here's the link to explore this possibility:


Q & R: John 14:6

Here's the Q:

I trust your journey back from Greenbelt was reasonably straightforward?

I'm just writing to try and catch up with a remark you made during your talk 'What will become of religion?' about the text in John not being suitable as one to 'greet' folk from a different faith. You mentioned you may comment on your re-reading of it at the end of the talk, however, I was pretty sure I didn't hear it at the time and I've checked the download too ;-) but to no avail.

If it is a topic in one of your recent books then please advise and I will duly purchase!

Here's the R:
It's such an important passage. You'll find where I've addressed it here:
And you'll find references to places I've addressed it in my books. One of the challenges in interpreting any verse is the pre-critical assumptions we bring to the text. That's why I hope my new book can be especially helpful. It offers an overview of the Bible that constructs a different set of assumptions than we normally bring. I hope that will be helpful. And long live Greenbelt!


A reader writes: using your book for an ecumenical study

A Catholic priest writes:

I just thought you might be interested in knowing that we will be conducting
an ecumenical book study of your book WHY DID JESUS, MOSES, THE BUDDAH AND
We begin this Thursday and have about 60-70 people signed up to participate! We are very excited to start this dialogue. If
you think of it, please keep us in prayer. And thanks for the inspiration!

That's great to hear. In these times of religious violence and hostility, I know this will be an important conversation to have. And you're in my prayers today!


Q & R: Blood of the covenant

Here's the Q:

You mention that you don’t agree with Paul on the definition of the Gospel but in Jesus’ own words he defines the Gospel of redemption---not a an example to follow, although that is important but is secondary to his ultimate mission for mankind.----comment?

28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Here's the R:
This is a great question.

First, I need to clarify: I've never said I don't agree with Paul on the definition of the Gospel. Not at all! I think Paul agrees with Jesus, and I agree with them both! What I have said is that I think many Christians (I was among them for most of my life) derive a definition of the Gospel from Paul by which they disregard Jesus' teaching and definition of the gospel. Jesus defines the Gospel as "the kingdom of God is at hand." When Paul speaks of "the righteousness of God" in his definition/explication of the Gospel, I think, broadly speaking, "righteousness" means "restorative justice," and I think that's another way of getting at the meaning of "kingdom of God." I see a close relationship between several phrases:

good news, kingdom of God, restorative justice (righteousness) of God, God's will being done on earth as in heaven

I also would differ that when Jesus refers to "blood of the covenant," he is not defining the gospel, but the meaning of what we call the eucharist. And I'm glad for the opportunity to offer a few thoughts on this passage.

Jesus does not say, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out to appease God's wrath against human sin." Perhaps that is what he means (I used to think so), but it isn't what he says. If he did mean that, then it wasn't actually a new covenant. It was simply another and perhaps final sacrifice in the Old Covenant.

I now lean toward interpreting Jesus' statement like this: The New Covenant is not about sinners bringing sacrifices to God to appease an angry God. It is about God demonstrating God's love for sinners in self-giving - even to the point of death. People don't make a sacrifice to God. God, in Christ, demonstrates that God needs no sacrifices and instead is a God of self-giving love. I write about this in more detail in A New Kind of Christianity, in Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, and in We Make the Road by Walking.

Thanks for your question and the opportunity to clarify a possible misconception.


Summer Camp

I'm a huge fan of summer camp, especially camps with a goal of spiritual formation and enrichment. I gained so much from camp experiences in my childhood and youth, and it breaks my heart to think that too few kids get to enjoy the beauty of creation that camps often provide. I plan to write further in coming months about some of the reasons I am such a firm believer in summer camps, but first, I wanted to share (with permission) this story that friend shared with me:

When I was 11 years old, I went away to church camp in the mountains. To this day, it stands out in my memory as one of the most meaningful weeks of my childhood. It was an "evangelical" church camp, so there was memorization of Bible verses, praise songs around the campfire, and an emphasis on building community. It wasn't like the "Jesus Camp" movie, but it had an agenda of getting the kids to "ask Jesus into their hearts" by the end of the week. The most impactful moment for me was when we slept outside under the stars one night. As a city girl, this was my first experience of sleeping under the night sky and it pierced me to the core. I felt so vulnerable and so very connected to God in a way that has never left me.

And so it makes sense that 30 years later, I made the choice to send my own daughter to a similar camp. I was excited for her to experience the same connection to God in nature and in community that I had experienced at her age. I knew that I'd be exposing her to theology I didn't believe in anymore, but I trusted that she would meet God in a new way and I hoped that that would trump the more conservative theology. After all, that had been my experience. Or had it? Perhaps my memory is selective and I am just not aware of the ways messages have stuck with me for better or for worse.

This summer, we were driving home after camp. My daughter was radiant. I sensed a groundedness and joy I hadn't seen recently in her "tween" self. She told me that she had never felt so close go God; that she felt close to herself. I asked her what it was that had made her feel that way, and she spoke of the music and the beauty of the nature. Yes. But when I probed a bit more, she told me about the last night of camp. Candles were lit outdoors and small groups gathered for a long night of sharing and storytelling. The camp counselors were talking to the kids about hearing and following God's call. Wonderful! Then my daughter told me that her counselor shared a personal example of following God's call in her own life. She had gone [overseas] earlier in the summer on a mission trip, but she felt sad because she had failed. My curiosity was now piqued. "What did she fail at?" I asked my daughter. "She said that she failed because she couldn't get the the Muslim teenagers to convert to Christianity. They didn't believe in Jesus." "And why is that a failure?" I continued to probe. "Because they are going to go to hell."

I was stunned. And yet, why should I have been shocked? I should have known that this focus on "saving souls" for the afterlife would be present. Why was I so upset upon hearing these words from my daughter?

Then my mind raced. WHY was I intentionally sending my daughter to a camp where she'd learn theology she'd have to unlearn later? Why was I spending quite a bit of money for my child to inherit a belief system that promotes the idea of other religions being less-than and hell-bound?

And yet, it did create this opportunity to have an amazing conversation. I was able to share with my daughter (hopefully humbly) why I didn't agree with this. I was able to ask her if she thought those Muslim teenagers believed in God and how they were trying to live their lives. And we talked about Jesus and whether his emphasis was on where we go when we die or who we are becoming in this life on earth. None of these words would have flowed between us if she hadn't gone to this camp.

And let's be honest. Evangelicals do terrific summer camps for kids. They've got it down. It's a great mix of a ton of fun and great relationships that really open kids' hearts.

But at what cost? And is it fair to send an 11 year-old to be opened up to powerful messages about the nature of God and Christianity, only to be told by her mother on the drive home that those messages are wrong? That's a kind of ambiguity that isn't really fair to impose on an 11 year-old. Are there ways for me to open my child to this connection to God in other ways? Of course. Does she desperately hope she can go back next summer? Of course. Am I still torn even after this heart-wrenching conversation? Yes. I just can't shake how formative those summers were in my own life. They charted a life-long course of seeking and finding a deep relationship with God. Yes, I've had to "unlearn" some stuff, but isn't that a wonderful journey, too? Even if I didn't send her to this place, she'd still have to unlearn stuff. She's going to have to unlearn a lot of stuff just having me as her mom! Like we all have to.

So I am in a quandary. What is harmful (or at least unhelpful) perpetuation of a theology that teaches that the "other" must be changed into "us?" A theology that teaches that God picks favorites and requires us to ask Jesus-into-our-heart or else. And that is only one issue I had. There is also the way they spoke to the kids about sexuality and purity, not to mention the authority of scripture and its interpretation. I am someone who is able to see the gifts in all the different "flavors" of this thing we call Christianity. It is my hope that the healthy aspects of this particular flavor are the ones that will stick with my daughter. But I can't control that and I'm just not sure...


Peter Enns interview, Part 3

Peter Enns (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/) and I (http://www.brianmclaren.net) both released important books about the Bible this year. Peter's book is called The Bible Tells Me So (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/books/), and mine is called We Make the Road by Walking (http://brianmclaren.net/archives/books/brians-books/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2.html) We decided to interview each other about our books and what they say about the Bible. This is Part 3 of 3.

Brian: What is your biggest hope for the book? What would success look like?

Peter: Besides getting me interviewed by Brian McLaren and the book having a bright canary yellow cover I can use as a night-light, my biggest hope for the book is to help people see that their faith does not rest in “holding on” to the kind of Bible that they know deep down they simply can’t hold on to.

I want to give them permission to decouple the viability of their faith from the perceived need to base that faith on a problem-free Bible. I hope my book offers a different set of expectations about what the Bible is and what it is there to do for us that makes sense to them on their own Christian pilgrimage.

I hope those who read the book will be challenged and/or encouraged to feel the freedom to think about God and their lives in communion with God in ways they might not have expected. I can’t define what that is, of course.

For those for whom the Bible has become an obstacle to faith rather than a source of faith, I hope they will be able to take a deep breath and know there is no need to keep staring over the cliff’s edge and consider jumping. Get back on the path and keep walking.

I hope for those who have left the faith to see that maybe the faith they left was a false faith, a parody, a form of Christianity where the Bible was loaded with false expectations of scientific or historical accuracy and absolute moral mandates, and they walked away from the faith because they rightly couldn’t reconcile that non-negotiable expectation with their own reason and experience.

I want people to honor and respect Scripture as a God-sanctioned companion on their faith journey, but without thinking of the Bible as an owner’s manual or complete how-to book. I want them to see that honoring and loving the Bible does not mean living with the constant pressure of having to “get the Bible right” or suffer the consequences of a touchy, nit-picky God if they don’t.

Rather, I want them to look on their faith in God as source of joy, love, contentment, comfort, and hope, and the Bible as book that, in its own ancient and sometimes odd ways, informs and models that faith for them.

Peter: With three 20-something offspring, I have had all sorts of occasions to reflect on how “dominant evangelical culture” has not supplied them with a compelling story, one that connects with and helps them make sense of the world they live in. In a word, the almost exclusive focus on maintaining orthodoxies ("being faithful to the past") has come at the expense of delivering a viable faith for them on their life journey ("being faithful to the future"). In your traveling and speaking, I'm sure you engage a lot of people with similar perceptions. I'd love to hear you comment a bit on what you think it means for the church to take responsibility to be "faithful to the future" and not just the past.

Brian: Wow. That is a truly important question. I often tell the story about a conversation with a parent whose son had come out as gay shortly after one of my adult kids came out. "If I accept my son as a gay man," he said with tears, "I feel I am rejecting my father, who will never be willing to accept my son. If I accept my son as a gay man, I feel I am rejecting my father." In being faithful to our ancestors, we can betray our descendants.

That's one reason I love Jesus so much. As I try to explain in WMTRBW, his statement, "I have not come to abolish the Law and Prophets, but fulfill them," addresses this problem powerfully. The ancient tradition was a path, a way of dealing with realities in the time and place where it arose. It set people on a trajectory whose intent their descendants had to discern. Jesus understood that sometimes overturning the tradition was necessary to fulfill its intent.

So, focusing on food taboos might have been essential at one point in their history. But now, he said, it's time to realize that what goes into a person isn't what matters; it's what comes out of a person that matters. Similarly, sacrifice and a temple to house it had their social and spiritual function in the past, but the time had come to realize that neither temple nor sacrifice really mattered. What God desired was compassion, not sacrifice … and the Spirit was available everywhere, not just on this or that temple on this or that mountain.

Religions and people that don't understand and fulfill the intent of tradition become brittle and reactionary, backward-looking and fearful of the present and future. Religions and people that understand what Jesus meant by fulfilling the tradition become creative and wise guides into the future. I think that's what people like you and I are trying to do, Peter - understand our tradition, understand its highest and best intent, and seek to live out and extend that intent into our own present and future.


A reader writes: not alone

A reader writes:

I am a lifetime believer, with a constantly evolving relationship with God. I picked up your book [Secret Message of Jesus] nearly by accident in the public library. I was shocked to read your interpretation of Jesus, His message, and the church, since it mirrors my beliefs so perfectly. I constantly struggle with what I have come to believe and what I see being preached and practiced in many churches. Thank you so much sharing your journey. It's nice to know I am not alone.

I'm always grateful for encouraging words like these. And glad to hear the book was available in your library too! So many people feel alone … if we all found each other, we'd be surprised!



“Who among us has not suddenly looked into his child's face, in the midst of the toils and troubles of everyday life, and at that moment "seen" that everything which is good, is loved and lovable, loved by God! Such certainties all mean, at bottom, one and the same thing: that the world is plumb and sound; that everything comes to its appointed goal; that in spite of all appearances, underlying all things is - peace, salvation, gloria; that nothing and no one is lost; that "God holds in his hand the beginning, middle, and end of all that is." Such nonrational, intuitive certainties of the divine base of all that is can be vouchsafed to our gaze even when it is turned toward the most insignificant-looking things, if only it is a gaze inspired by love. That, in the precise sense, is contemplation...

Out of this kind of contemplation of the created world arise in never-ending wealth all true poetry and all real art, for it is the nature of poetry and art to be paean and praise heard above all the wails of lamentation. No one who is not capable of such contemplation can grasp poetry in a poetic fashion, that is to say, in the only meaningful fashion. The indispensability, the vital function of the arts in man's life, consists above all in this: that through them contemplation of the created world is kept alive and active.”
― Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation


Fostering Empathic Capacity and Ethical Reasoning



Absolutely amazing study in how religious scholars can make a difference ...

A diverse group of Sunni Muslim scholars sent this message to the self-proclaimed leader of ISIS/ISIL:

Executive Summary
1- It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts. It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry- pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.
2- It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.
3- It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.
4- It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.
5- It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.
6- It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.
7- It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to
kill journalists and aid workers.
8- Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose
and without the right rules of conduct.
9- It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares
10- It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the
11- It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.
12- The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.
13- It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.
14- It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
15- It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.
16- It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct
procedures that ensure justice and mercy.
17- It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.
18- It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.
19- It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God .
20- It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.
21- Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler
and not allowing people to pray.
22- It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.
23- Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.
24- After the death of the Prophet , Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

Learn more here:
And here:



“... the greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul.”
― Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation



“The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refused to have anything as a gift.”
― Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis Of Culture


Peter Enns interview, Part 2

Peter Enns (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/) and I (http://www.brianmclaren.net) both released important books about the Bible this year. Peter's book is called The Bible Tells Me So (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/books/), and mine is called We Make the Road by Walking (http://brianmclaren.net/archives/books/brians-books/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2.html) We decided to interview each other about our books and what they say about the Bible. This is Part 2 of 3.

Brian: I often say that for 500 years Protestants have been trying to prove to Catholics that a religion can exist with an infallible book rather than an infallible pope. But now the question remains - can a religion exist without an infallible book? How do you think Christians will answer the authority question 25 years from now - those, I mean, who are no longer appealing to an infallible pope or book?

Peter: I think that’s a good way of presenting part of the Protestant predicament. It’s certainly the case that biblical authority, however conceived in the early Protestant reaction to Roman Catholicism, has taken on a life of its own—a “paper pope,” as it were. I have knowledgeable friends who would call that a bit of a low blow, because the role of the Bible—including in Roman Catholicism—has always been central to faith and life. Still, particularly in America, I can’t help but think that what conservative Protestantism expects the Bible to do for them—an inerrant guide to all matters of faith and life--is not what the Bible is meant to do (which is one of the central themes of The Bible Tells Me So).

I know, Brian, that you’ve written about how the Bible functions uniquely in America as a “constitution”—authorities interpreting the sacred, binding text to define law for the rest of us, and which correlates to the rejection of monarchy by the colonists. I agree with this comparison and I have found it a helpful way of explaining how Protestant expectations of the Bible have a significant cultural dimension.

The Bible, however, is a problem—and I’m sure you agree. All Christians should want to engage knowledgably and humbly the Bible as we walk the path of Christian faith. But the problem that you’re touching on is one of faulty expectations about what the Bible can actually do.

Seeing the Bible as a source of binding information for all matters touching on our faith and accessible by exegesis runs into well known recurring problems—namely Christians rarely agree on a lot of things about how the Bible is to be understood and listened too, which bring us back to the “paper pope” or “constitution” metaphor. The Bible is too diverse to function that way. What sounds like a good idea in the abstract becomes a problem when you actually start going to the Bible to provide answers to all our questions.

In a word, you find that the Bible has to be interpreted. And if the history of Christians and Jewish interpretation of the Bible has shown us anything, it is that interpretation and the interpreter’s context can never be severed. We read Scripture from our own cultural vantage point, much of which is below the level of the surface of the conscious mind.

What happened in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, where Scripture’s plain and authoritative voice was called upon to settle all sorts of issues? Interpretive diversity. Do you baptize infants or adults? Do you sprinkle or immerse? What does it mean when Jesus says, “This is my body?” Is Jesus really “there” in the Eucharist? In what sense is Jesus “present” in the bread and wine?

There’s a reason thousands of Christian denominations and sub-denominations exist, especially in Protestantism: the Bible requires interpretation in order to be the final court of theological appeal. But the Bible itself is notoriously difficult to nail down on many matters. There’s enough flexibility there to allow for multiple legitimate interpretations. Related to this is the concept of “inerrancy.” It’s not a helpful term for guiding our use of the Bible. Functionally, what the Bible is inerrant about and how it is inerrant varies among Christians.

Anyway, despite all this, and now finally getting to your question, I’m not sure “can a religion exist without an infallible book?” is the best question to ask. I suppose religions can in general. Whether Christianity can is another question, and I suppose we’ll never be able to test the hypothesis, because the Bible is never going to leave the life of the church. The Christian faith is too biblically engaged and defined to contemplate a life without the Bible.

Scripture—in all its diversity, complexity, and messiness—presents the Christian story. It always has, it always will. It’s not going anywhere, and we shouldn’t wish it to. So the more pressing question, as I seed it, is: what kind of “Bible” is the church going to engage in faith and life in the coming decades, generations, etc.? A “paper pope” or constitution?” Or something else?

In other words, what expectations of the Bible will we have as we try to follow Jesus here and now. What is the Bible there for? How will that question be answered differently today and tomorrow than how it’s been answered over the last century or so in conservative contexts?

Again, I‘ve tried to make very clear in The Bible Tells Me So that the Bible isn't the problem. The problems begin when we place our own expectations for the Bible onto the Bible and that the Bible simply can’t bear without a lot of fudging. In that respect, not only can but I think Christianity must learn to exist without an “infallible book” as it has been operating for at least western conservative Christians. The question needs to be asked more deliberately, “infallible for what?” That, I think, is a very important question to keep asking ourselves.

My brief answer to that question is that the Bible models for the faithful and humble our own diverse spiritual journey of faith in God and Christ, moving us toward greater love of God and love of others. “Knowing Scripture” is not the end goal. Knowing God in Christ is. The Bible doesn’t say “Look at me!” but “Look at me so you can look through me, past me, to God.” Rather than being the “center” of our faith, the Bible decenters itself and puts Christ in the center where he belongs.

Peter: When I was in graduate school, a question--actually, a two-part question--began to surface for me: "What is the Bible, really, and what do we do with it?" Realizing that I had never asked myself these questions before was a moment of profound self-awareness, but having my preconceptions challenged through a serious academic study of the Bible raised them and they have stuck with me ever since. So, I know this is totally unfair, but how would you answer a curious person who knows little to no Christianese and really wants to know what you think? What is your elevator pitch answer to those questions?

Brian: So I'd say the Bible is a library - a collection of literary artifacts. The first and larger part of it is from the Jewish people, spanning several centuries of their history. It includes poetry, a bit of philosophy, a fascinating genre called prophecy (which is something like ethical social commentary today), and a whole lot of storytelling.

The second part collects literature from the early years of a movement that arose within Judaism, centered in the life and teaching of Jesus. This collection begins with four gospels - another unique genre, not to be confused with simple biography or historical account. It is followed by a kind of gospel-appendix or sequel called Acts of the Apostles.

Then there are a series of epistles or formal letters that circulated among early centers of this movement. Finally there is an enigmatic text called Revelation or Apocalypse, which is an example of a genre called Jewish Apocalyptic literature.

Together these documents are tremendously important, because they help us reconstruct a vital conversation over many centuries about God and life. In that conversation, millions of people have found meaning and purpose for their lives; in fact, by entering that conversation, they have experienced an encounter and engagement with God. (Final installment next week …)



“Patience is not the indiscriminate acceptance of any sort of evil: "It is not the one who does not flee from evil who is patient but rather the one who does not let himself thereby be drawn into disordered sadness." To be patient means not to allow the serenity and discernmet of one's soul to be taken away. Patience, then, is not the tear-streaked mirror of a "broken" life (as one might almost think, to judge from what is frequently shown and praised under this term) but rather is the radiant essence of final freedom from harm. Patience is, as Hildegard of Bingen states, "the pillar that is weakened by nothing.”
― Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart



“No one can obtain felicity by pursuit. This explains why one of the elements of being happy is the feeling that a debt of gratitude is owed, a debt impossible to pay. Now, we do not owe gratitude to ourselves. To be conscious of gratitude is to acknowledge a gift.”
― Josef Pieper, Happiness and Contemplation

Years ago, a friend introduced me to the writings of Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper. One of Pieper's themes was the relationship between happiness, gratitude, and contemplation. This week I'd like to share some of my favorite quotes from Pieper on these and related subjects.


A good conversation gains momentum ...

I wrote a note recently to Andrew Walker, the Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was gracious enough to reply. Here are a few thoughts in response to his letter:

First, Andrew, I know you're very busy and I appreciate you taking the time to reply. A few things you said invite a response from me. I'm sorry this isn't more brief, and I don't expect you to respond.

You said:

Unfortunately, though, “conversation” as you often construe it, is simply a pretext and power play designed for endless speculation that never reaches an answer—unless it’s an answer that you find acceptable on your terms (which, more often than not, is an answer that rejects historic Christianity).

Hmmm. No, I am not for endless speculation that never reaches an answer. But I am for re-opening questions that deserve to be re-opened. I believe making room for gay marriage is one of those questions. You still do not. I explained, very briefly, why I think it deserves to be re-opened. You were not convinced. We have achieved disagreement.

No, I do not reject history Christianity. I embrace it and hope to learn all I can from it. I do probably define historic Christianity somewhat differently from you. In my view, Christian history is full of passionate disagreement. It is a history of ongoing learning, heroic successes, tragic failures, and repentance. In my view, it is less of a static position and more of an evolving quest to faithfully follow Jesus in changing times and circumstances. Sadly, too much of our history has been violent and hateful, and I hope we can do better than that in the future!

You said:

To be entirely candid in the spirit of “human to human conversation,” I’m not convinced that you’re actually writing as an evangelical on matters such as these. You may think that you are, but the evidence you’ve provided in your many writings over the years lead me to believe that you have rejected what history has long considered orthodox Christianity. Now, I don’t say that joyfully; and I know you’ll reply in such a manner that subjects all aspects of “orthodoxy” to the unending regression of perspectivalism. You’re a terrific writer, but a writer whose views I couldn’t more strongly reject. So, admittedly, I’m reluctant to accept the scriptural presuppositions that you would use to make your argument.

If I understand you clearly, you would prefer to be in conversation with people who a) share your presuppositions about Scripture, and b) will not question anything "history has long considered to be orthodox Christianity." Since you don't think I share those presuppositions, and since you think I reject what you see as historic Christianity, then clearly I am not a trustworthy or appropriate conversation partner in your mind. I could try to argue with you based on your presuppositions, since I am familiar with them and once agreed with them fully, but I think others would be better conversation partners for you than I am. More on that in a minute.

I would only point out that for the church's first 1500+ years, it was unthinkable to the vast majority of Christians that historic orthodox Christianity could exist without authoritative leaders who held the role of apostle or bishop, established through apostolic succession. Baptists came along and had the audacity to question that previously unquestioned characteristic of orthodoxy. To Baptists today, of course, apostolic succession seems like a misguided minor tradition of the past, but not so to Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and others, and not so to "history" before 1500.

To their credit, Baptists and Catholics today treat one another, by and large, with civility, in spite of their disagreement on this very important matter, and I hope Christians like you and me can do the same even though we disagree on other matters.

You said:

Laws make distinctions. What matters, however, is that they not make arbitrary distinctions.

An arbitrary distinction, for example, were [sic] the awful and racist anti-miscegenation laws that prevented different races from marrying one another marry [sic]. That debate was about who could marry, not what marriage is.

I'm a bit older than you, and I remember hearing "awful and racist anti-miscengenation laws" defended as biblical truth in my Plymouth Brethren assembly when I was a boy, just as I know they were passionately defended in many Southern Baptist churches in my lifetime as well. So our ancestors had a vigorous argument about whether distinctions based on race were arbitrary or not. Many of our white ancestors believed they were not at all arbitrary, but were rooted in creation, in biblical curses, and in clear biblical teaching. You and I now agree our ancestors were wrong in their understanding and application of the Bible on these matters.

The question today is whether distinctions based on sexual orientation are arbitrary. Everyone, including me, used to agree with you that they are not arbitrary. But now many of us are coming to believe that gay and straight are differences within the realm of normal human characteristics - like skin color, left-handedness, or personality type. As such, they should not be reasons for discrimination. We believe that just as we have dared to differ from our ancestors on interracial marriage - which was considered unbiblical as recently as our grandparents' generation, we must now dare to differ on gay marriage.

You're right: that's no small thing, and no change of conviction should occur without sober, prayerful, and intense thought and conversation, which is why EME is trying to encourage that conversation: not for "endless speculation that never reaches an answer," but for careful consideration so that wrong answers are, to the greatest degree possible, left behind.

You said:

When we protect “traditional marriage” or “biblical marriage,” we’re simply being deferential to the undeniable reality that children need mothers and fathers. Marriage connects men, women, and children. All of human history has recognized this truth, until it became politically unpopular in the West less than two decades ago. (For decrying Western colonization as you do, it seems odd that you’d kowtow to a position promoted and mainstreamed exclusively by Western countries.) When government and society decide to redefine marriage, it doesn’t just expand who can marry, it alters, fundamentally, what marriage is.

There's a lot I could say about your line of thinking here, but will only respond to two things. First, regarding the word "kowtow," I don't find it odd to appreciate some things about Western culture and disapprove of other things. You do the same, I'm sure. And I should add that many non-Western cultures showed respect for gay people long before civil rights for gay people became an issue in the West. Where I live, for example, the Calusa Indians had a respected role for gay men.

Second, when you say, "When government and society decide to redefine marriage … it alters, fundamentally, what marriage is" - well, yes. To redefine marriage is indeed to redefine marriage. But to return to your earlier example, traditional American marriage outlawed interracial marriage. Redefining marriage to include interracial marriage, in the minds of the defenders of miscegenation laws, would alter marriage from what God intended. (They used the "after their kind" clause from Genesis 1 to prove their point.)

To outlaw polygamy, which certainly has a long history in the Bible and was, in fact, a requirement of biblical law, also altered marriage in significant ways, as did extending equal property and voting rights to women, as did allowing young people to choose their partners instead of the more traditional way of having parents arrange their children's weddings. Allowing wives to call their husbands by their first name (rather than "Mr. Jones," which was traditional in many societies in the past) altered marriage. So did talking openly about woman's sexual satisfaction, something a Southern Baptist couple, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, played a big role in through their then ground-breaking book The Act of Marriage.

To have churches without a pope or governments without a king certainly redefined church and government in a way as well. All changes are not equal, and to advocate for one change is not to advocate for any and all changes. That's why EME has a very limited message. EME is not advocating that Southern Baptist churches should marry gay couples. Instead, EME is not trying to redefine marriage between a man and a goat or between six people or anything like that. EME is simply making a case for Evangelical Christians to be able to affirm civil marriage for gay couples. We hope Evangelicals can speak freely and openly about that possibility.

You said:

When we make marriage fungible, we make it unintelligible. We render its persuasiveness null and void, since any relationship can supposedly exhibit marital qualities.

To say that marriage should be extended to two LGBT adults who make a lifelong commitment of fidelity and mutual care is not to say that "any relationship can exhibit marital qualities." Adults, commitment, lifelong, two, mutual care,, and fidelity are significant qualifiers. Again, you may not agree they are sufficient qualifiers, but it would be good not to misrepresent EME's position as meaningless fungibility. As I said, EME isn't even arguing for churches to recognize gay marriage; EME's position is that even if Evangelical Christians refuse gay marriage in their churches, Evangelical Christians can support civil marriage in society for two LGBT adults who make a lifelong commitment of fidelity and mutual care.

By the way - nobody should assume that EME agrees with all of my views, or that all of its advisors agree with one another on every detail. I know there is diversity of opinion on the Board of Advisors on many matters. We are on the Board of Advisors because we agree with this primary message of EME:

Given the diversity of thought among evangelicals, disagreements on the finer points of this issue are inevitable. What we should be able to agree on is this: You can be a faithful evangelical Christian and at the same time support civil marriage equality for same-sex couples.

You said:

Because of this, I think it’s disingenuous when you write “If such a dialogue is warranted, people should not be silenced, excluded, condemned, or excommunicated simply for opening up this discussion.” I agree! The problem here, though, is that you cannot, in the same statement, ask for a conversation where no one is condemned, but also place a biblical view of marriage alongside practices like slavery. This “guilt by association” argument is merely subtle condemnation.

First, it's good to know you agree with my statement!

Second, I sincerely didn't intend bringing up slavery to create "guilt by association." I could have used anti-miscegination laws (as you did) or support for segregation and apartheid or anti-Semitism to make the same point. I know people forget, but it wasn't that long ago that "orthodox Christians" - including many, many Baptists, well into the 20th century - supported these things and did not consider them minor matters. They weren't ashamed of them; in fact, they stood proudly for these things. I don't say these people weren't Christians, weren't Evangelicals, weren't Baptists, or should be condemned. I do say I think they were mistaken and we should distance ourselves from both their views and the faulty logic that made those views so important to them.

Putting guilt by association aside, the issue of slavery can't simply be disqualified from polite discourse. We both know that that our white 19th century ancestors held their faulty logic (which they called "the biblical [or Scriptural] view" on slavery) so passionately that they were willing to divide their denominations (and nation!) over the issue - and today on the issue of LGBT equality, similar logic can lead to similar choices. Whether or not LGBT equality is legitimate, we should at least have a public discussion on how our ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries, people who held the "highest" view of Scripture possible, could be so wrong. Where was their logic faulty? How can we avoid making the same mistakes today and in the future? (I address this question in some detail in my book A New Kind of Christianity.)

You said:

Moving forward, I’d suggest that Evangelicals for Marriage Equality make actual arguments, because principle is the fruit of honest debate and right now, the principles of EME are quite non-existent.

You have tweeted this and repeated it, so I realize this is important - you want to actually hear and understand EME's principles and arguments. Whether or not you statement was an overstatement (the principles of EME are non-existent?), I hope EME will take it as an invitation to make their principles and arguments clear and understandable. I will not try to take the lead in this since I already seem to be disqualified from being an acceptable conversation partner, which I understand and accept. Thankfully, there are others who can more fully meet your criteria, and I hope they will speak up in the coming days, for your benefit and for the benefit of others.

Thanks again for the candid, civil, and respectful tone of your response. I hope you feel nothing less in what I've written here.


Q & R: insiders and outsiders in 1 Thessalonians

Here's the Q:

I recently read A New Kind of Christianity, and was quite impressed. God has been gradually changing my understanding of much of the Christian message, and it's been exciting for someone brought up as a fairly traditional Wesleyan. I had already moved somewhat away from my roots when I became part of the Charismatic stream of things. For several years we have been attending an Assembly of God church and I have been teaching the adult Sunday School class. Because of my Wesleyan background and the more adventurous ways God is leading me in recent years with regards to salvation and who God is (let's face it... I'm not really a true dyed in the wool Pentecostal), I have sometimes found it difficult to teach the standard lessons that come from the denominational headquarters. Still, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I have always managed to find something positive to teach, even in the lessons I'm not altogether sure I agree with. I have made it a practice to try to only say things I really believe and not just parrot the party line. I could do that since I know it very well. I'm 67 and I've been a Christian all of my life, pretty much.

I do have a question about this week's lesson. The scripture is 1 Thessalonians 4, and in this scripture, it sounds to me like there are some who are included and some who are not. I've been trying to get away from that idea, but there it is... v. 13 "...the rest of mankind who have no hope" and v. 16 "the dead in Christ will rise first." That sounds like a clear distinction is being made. I'm okay with not being totally literal when it comes to end times events, but this scripture sounds like it refers to actual events that will happen. What do you think about eschatology and end time events? It's always been an area I don't enjoy studying, mainly because I think there's too much speculation about events, and most people seem to think that they are correct, even if they disagree with other good people who also think themselves correct.

Anyway, I appreciate the fact that you continue to love Jesus and the Bible even as you speak for a "new kind of Christianity."

Here's the R:
Thanks for your encouraging words. As for your question, I've just spent some time re-reading 1 Thessalonians 4. One of the sources I go to for help on difficult texts is the Girardian Lectionary (here). The language might seem technical, but it's worth the effort. There's a helpful quote included from James Alison:

If we take the notion of the 'end' understood as vengeance, just as it is found in 1 Thessalonians, it is a vengeful end which depends exactly on there being insiders and outsiders, so that the afflicted are vindicated, and the persecutors punished. But in the degree to which the perception of God changes, becoming, as we have seen, shorn of violence, two realities are altered simultaneously: the separation between goodies and baddies, insiders and outsiders, enters into a process of continuous collapse and subversion, and at the same time the 'end' cannot remain as a vengeance if there is no longer any clarity about who's an insider and who an outsider, and under these circumstances the notion of the end itself changes towards what we see in 2 Peter: it becomes a principle of revelation of what had really been going on during the time that has been left for the changing of hearts... In this way the End, rather than being a vengeful conclusion to time, comes to be a principle, operative in time, by means of which we may live out the arrival of the Son of Man, the being alert for the thief in the night, the whole time. (p. 127)


Israelis and Palestinians working for peace ...

Learn about the power of attention, distraction, and nonviolence here:


Brilliance from Katharine Hayhoe ...

I love this:

I mean, imagine a world where, you know, the highways are made of solar panels that charge our cars as we drive. Where every house is just made out of shingles of solar panels with a little wind turbine in the corner. Where we have no air pollution anymore, you know, killing children with asthma and people with respiratory disease. I mean, I know this sounds like utopia.

BILL MOYERS: Sounds to me like it could be a new gospel.

KATHARINE HAYHOE: It may be. A gospel that builds on the resources that God has given us. We have more than enough abundant energy to power our society from wind, from solar, from tides. All the things that we believe, as Christians, God created and has given to us as a free gift. So I think that there is the ability to have a better future, one that is built on the goodness that God has given us here in this world.

More here:


A (not-yet) reader writes: condemnation, apology, recommendation

A not-yet reader writes:

I felt it on my heart to send you this note. It is not a note of condemnation but a note asking for your forgiveness.
I know it may seem strange, as I have never met you or have spoken to you. The only contact I ever had was one comment I posted on your blog.
It was a message that summarizing the commonly held doctrines and dogmas of modern day religion. Looking back, it was very inappropriate and very self- righteous of me to post such a comment. In the last year the Lord, in his mercy, has answered a prayer of mine. That prayer was a deep desire in which I have asked Him to allow me to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. This was the only desire of my heart. This has resulted in my eyes being opened to the ways and means of modern religion and the goings on within the denominations. I am now in the process of being taught by Him through his word and I am unlearning what I have been “told” all of these years. Every day is filled with a new revelation. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. J

To summarize, I wanted to tell you that I apologize to you for any condemnation I may have felt about your work in my heart, as uninformed as I was. I now empathize with your walk and what you must go through on a day to day basis. My walk on this path is just beginning but I am thankful for it each and every day. I wish you the best Brian and was wondering if you have a recommendation, from your body of work, which book would be a good starting point.

Thanks for your note. I seldom receive apologies like this, and when I do, they touch me deeply and are not forgotten. Thank you. As for a recommendation, since you're paying special attention to the Bible and how it challenges "modern religion" and its "goings on," I'd highly recommend my new book, We Make the Road by Walking. If you wanted a shorter recommendation, it would be Secret Message of Jesus. If you wanted something more theological, it would be A New Kind of Christianity. And if you want some encouragement on your own search, I'd recommend my New Kind of Christian trilogy, all of which you can read about here. I hope we meet in person some day soon. Thanks again for writing. Of course, all is forgiven.


Where I would be this weekend if I could be two places at once ...

This weekend, I'll be in Birmingham, AL, speaking to the good people of the SPAFER center. I'm really looking forward to it!

But if I weren't going to be in Birmingham, I'd be in New York City, participating in the People's Climate March on Sunday. If you're anywhere near New York City, I hope you'll be part of it. My brilliant friend Stephen Phelps explains why in this brief article - perhaps the best single explanation of why so many of us care so deeply about global warming. Quotable:

The fact of climate change makes real conservatives of all who are not blind. Like thoughtless children, we stormed downstairs and, in a single century, burst open all the packages of the sun's energy so compactly wrapped and stored beneath the forests for three billion years. No wonder it's getting hot as hell! True, we had no idea what we were doing -- but that is the thing so basic to human nature of which the old conservatives were so sensible: our will is blind and cannot be trusted lightly. Now, as we pull our heads out of the sand of self-interest and look squarely at what we have done, we consider the whole Earth -- how everything is connected to everything.

That means liberal and conservative, too. We share one reality, one earth, each touching a core truth, a core beauty, and God knows, the eagle needs two wings to fly.


A friendly note to Andrew T. Walker

Dear Andrew,
I'm not young, and some of my Evangelical friends are convinced my status as a bona fide Evangelical left me along with my youth and my hair.

But I thought I'd respond to your comment on the EME launch, as reported in a recent Christian Post article:

"I eagerly await the young evangelical that finally convinces me that the Bible and human history are wrong on marriage and that justice requires that both Christianity and society bestow marriage on same-sex relationships," wrote Andrew T. Walker, director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

First, a few clarifications.
1. We (I say "we" because I'm on the advisory board of EME) are not interested in convincing you that the Bible is wrong. We are interested in convincing you that certain interpretations of the Bible are wrong, or at least not the only valid and intelligent options.

2. History - by which, I think, you mean the shared view of most people in the past - has been right on many things and wrong on many things, including many things I'm sure you now believe. Respectfully questioning tradition is part of any living tradition, including our own tradition as Evangelicals.

3. Before we could convince you or anyone that justice requires you or anyone to "bestow" marriage on same-sex relationships, we would need to convince you that a reasonable and open-minded public conversation on the subject should be allowed - in Evangelical and even Southern Baptist settings. Such free and open conversation rarely if ever takes place in Evangelical and Southern Baptist settings. Instead, conclusions are typically pronounced before the conversation begins and people who raise questions and reach differing conclusions are frequently labelled and expelled. For that reason, it would be premature and unwise for EME to try to convince anyone of anything without first helping create space for open, respectful, and reasonable conversation.

So, a more modest and appropriate goal would simply be to convince you that it is good and wise to open up space for intelligent conversation. Here is a simple argument toward that end:

1. Simple quotations from the Bible have been used to justify many things, including Anti-Semitism, colonization, elimination and enslavement of non-Christian or non-European peoples, racism and segregation/apartheid, an earth-centered universe, a young earth, the inappropriateness of rock and roll in church, the subordination of women, and the divine right of kings.

2. Those who quoted the Bible to justify these things claimed that their views were Scriptural or biblical, and their opponents were "unbiblical." Many still did not change their views when a preponderance of evidence made their views untenable; however, younger generations arose who left those views behind.

3. To continue to resist equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons may or may not be in the same category as those historic mistakes. The possibility of repeating an egregious mistake yet again warrants humble and serious reflection and openness to dialogue, so that if our traditional interpretations are wrong, we can amend them sooner rather than later, without inflicting more harm.

4. For that reason, there should at least be a reasonable dialogue about the issue among Evangelicals - including honest discussion about how the Bible has been used in the past in harmful and misguided ways, and how its current use to disallow homosexual marriage could be similar to those abuses in the past.

5. If such a dialogue is warranted, people should not be silenced, excluded, condemned, or excommunicated simply for opening up this discussion … or for reaching different conclusions, if those conclusions have warrant.

This doesn't prove that marriage equality is justifiable, but I think it makes a good case that the kind of conversation called for by EME is reasonable. That's EME's main point: "It's time for a new Evangelical conversation about marriage equality."

By the way, one way or another , conversation is happening. For example, recently at Azusa Pacific University recently, signs like these were posted:
Here's how one student on campus responded:

You said that because you are a Christian, you follow God's way and truth, but never through cursing or name calling, just by sharing the Word with us, "sinful homosexuals/homosexual supporters" … but posting this anonymous letter is extremely hurtful…. Regardless of how your letter made us feel, I would love to have a conversation with you in person, and delve into these scriptures you referenced. I am a Biblical Studies major, who considers myself a Christian, and I do not believe I am giving into sinful desires as a queer LGBTQIA friendly Christian, if anything I feel that I have modeled my life after Jesus.

… I know you don't agree with me, or my friends, but we are reading the book [the Bible] and we are believing in the same God. So let's get coffee or something, and talk about this. Human to human.

Human to human conversation is what we need, as this college student wisely said. That's what EME is asking for.


As a Floridian, a big thanks to Rev. Mitch ...

Read about his message to Florida Gov. Rick Scott here.


Peter Enns, Part 1

Peter Enns (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/) and I (http://www.brianmclaren.net) both released important books about the Bible this year. Peter's book is called The Bible Tells Me So (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/books/), and mine is called We Make the Road by Walking (http://brianmclaren.net/archives/books/brians-books/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2.html) We decided to interview each other about our books and what they say about the Bible. This is Part 1 of 3.

By the way, please join Peter in a Reddit AMA this Wednesday (tomorrow), September 17th at 3pm EST in the Christianity subreddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity)

Brian: Peter, I loved your book. I don't know many if any theologians who can make serious points with as much humor as you. You theologize like a stand-up comic, which, in light of the seriousness of your subject matter, is a good thing. Much humor, I think arises from pain and anger. I'm reminded that Soren Kierkegaard said, "The essence of all true preaching is malice," by which he meant that unless the preacher is mad about something, he has no passion. So … is that true for you with this book? If so, what pain or anger is behind it?

Peter: Thanks, Brian. I loved my book, too.

I’ve actually thought a lot about your question, but I’m not sure I can come up with a final answer. All I know is that I’ve loved to joke and laugh ever since I can remember (and it landed me in trouble now and then as a kid in school). Of course, this begs the question why it is part of my personality. I don’t think, though, that anger or pain are necessarily behind it. I know that many comedians have suffered emotionally, and I would venture to guess that their comedy was a form of pain-management.

But for me, I just like seeing the absurd in things. Humor can disarm and put people in a position of seeing the same old thing in a different light. I’m reminded of something George Carlin said (paraphrasing), that comedy is what happens everyday, you just need someone to point it out to you. For me, humor is a very natural-feeling mode of catching people off guard to see something deeper or from a different angle than they might be accustomed to. Maybe that’s my schtick.

I like how you refer to preaching in your question. I used to tell my seminary students that preaching is like Carlin’s definition of comedy: God-moments are all around us, we just need to be reminded of them.

In The Bible Tells Me So, I describe some people’s perceptions of God as a drunken father you don’t want to disturb from his nap lest he become angry. I’m not describing God but trying to get at the absurdity of how some perceive God—as one who will lash out ate you with only the slightest provocation. Some say I’m “mocking” God but that is to miss the point entirely.

I hope, though, that preachers don't have to be “mad” to be passionate, as Kierkegaard puts it (though I get his rhetorical overstatement in the context of the complacent church he was critiquing). Anger is fine when it is well placed, directed at things worthy of anger. But I’ve seen too many preachers who are angry about everything, as if the only way they know how to speak of God is to be majorly hacked off about something. That’s not good preaching or good pastoring.

Peter: On my blog I've been running a series I call "aha moments"--that point where you began to see how the model of Scripture you had no longer makes sense to you and you know you have to move on. What is your "aha" moment with the Bible? What happened that started you on your journey, that made you realize "I need to find another way of thinking about how the Bible informs my faith"?

Brian: For me, there have been so many aha's. One came when I was in elementary school. I'm just old enough to remember the days of segregation. We attended a white church that was proud to call itself fundamentalist because it stood for the fundamentals of the faith.

One Sunday, my Sunday School teachers (it was a husband and wife co-teaching) told us that we should never date a person of another race because we might fall in love, and if we fell in love, we might get married, and if we got married, it would be a terrible sin because God "created them according to their kind" and there was this thing called "the curse of Ham" (which was about race, not pork products, I realized).

I remember thinking this was bonkers and evil, even though I was only maybe in fifth grade at the time. My parents weren't racists at all … but I realized that the Bible could easily be "an accessory to the crime" - if not wisely interpreted.

I encountered the same kind of racist attitudes, sad to say, in some missionaries I heard speak.

A couple years later, in middle school. I was super interested in science. One Sunday, my Sunday School teacher, a good-hearted and simple man, said, "You have to choose. You can either believe in God or evolution." I remember thinking, "OK. I'm 13 years old. Five years from now and I'm outta here."

To me, evolution was one of the most beautiful and elegant things I'd ever come across, and to put it in opposition to God made no sense. I probably would have been "outta here" if I hadn't had a very powerful spiritual experience a couple years later, accompanied by some spiritual mentors who didn't have such closed-minded approaches to Scripture and faith.

Those early conflicts were like a wound that kept getting opened again … when I realized that my church considered women as subordinate to men (in church, anyway), or when I found myself caught in the cross-fire between charismatics and non-charismatics, or caught in the cross-fire between traditional and contemporary worship, or caught in the cross-fire between Calvinists and Arminians - or - here was a huge theological debate in my setting: between jeans, beards, and long hair in church versus anti-jeans, beards, and long hair.

More aha moments came when I went to college and then graduate school, where I studied English. Studying literature involves studying the ways we read literature - which means studying theories of interpretation.

What was almost always implicit and unacknowledged in church because explicit and open to critique in lit classes - that we all have theories and assumptions and perspectives and biases we bring to the text. That's one of the reasons I wish that your book had been available to me back when I was in high school and college. I would have eaten it up. (More next week)


Readers write: We're using the book!

Readers write:

We were part of the Life in Trinity - We Make the Road by Walking experience in June. We’re excited to let you know that we are using the book in two ways at our church. We’re starting a new Sunday School class for those who have not been attending. We’ll probably adjust a little in order to have conversation time. Then on Monday night we’re having folks to our home for another group. At this point we have 7 on Sunday morning and 10 on Monday night. I’m praying for God to lead us to young adults to form a third group. We’re looking forward to what God will do in the midst of our journey! Thanks for sharing your gifts of leading, writing, and speaking faithfully in our time.

Thanks for this encouraging news. Really, an author's voice goes nowhere unless readers like you join it with their own voices. So we're all in this together. Thanks for letting me know. If people want to learn more about using the book, they should check out the books' page, and Facebook community.


Q & R: Jesus' scars?

Here's the Q:

I have recently been wrestling with this question and would love to hear you speak to it: What does it mean that the resurrected Jesus still has scars? I am not satisfied (and I suspect you would not be either) with the simple answer of 'proof for the disciples'.

Thank you so much for your thoughts.

Here's the R:
Nobody has ever asked me this question before, and I've found it fascinating and meaningful to ponder it for a few days. Thanks for asking.

One of the most audacious claims of the Christian faith is this: God suffers with us. God is not above suffering. God is not removed from it. In Christ, we come to believe that God is with us … in our suffering as human beings. So Jesus' scars tell us that human pain - all of it, every tear ever cried, I believe - has left its mark on God. God empathizes. Our pain is God's pain. With that as background, the beautiful image in Revelation comes to mind … God wipes the tears from our eyes, not as someone who isn't touched by our pain, or as someone who only understands from a distance. God comforts us as a fellow sufferer … we might even say as a fellow survivor.


Q & R: God acting badly

Here's the Q:

Some friends and I (all middle age guys!) are using "We make the road by walking". It's proving helpful as we are seeking a new way to view scripture. One issue that keeps returning is the issue of God not being violent, but apparently acting that way in the Old Testament. The Exodus story of plagues and the ultimate infanticide of the Egyptian firstborn is a case in point. You compare Herod to pharaoh and liken their crimes. How can we view this Exodus story and is this too a mix of fact and fiction?

Thankyou for your courage and insight, it gives us confidence to pursue God and not be afraid to challenge the rhetoric we are sometimes fed from evangelical circles.

Here's the R:
As you continue reading, you'll find a lot of help in dealing with this question, especially in Chapter 11, but also 21 and 25. You'll also love Peter Enns' great new book, which just came out recently: The Bible Tells Me So.


Jim Wallis gets it right

"Ultimately, we won’t see an end to our “war on terrorism” without dealing with the underlying causes, and not just targeting the consequences of growing terrorism. We must address the world of oil that the West has created, that has literally defined nations, changed geography, and institutionalized the injustices and hypocrisies that breeds the grievances of terrorism. Having justified the unjust structure of that oil world to accommodate our addiction to fossil fuels has produced both a profound threat to our planet and the rise of an angry terrorism that threatens our own children. We must address the fact that 60 percent of the Middle East population is under 30 years of age, and many of them are unemployed, uneducated, aggrieved, and angry young men — too easily drawn to the rhetoric of revenge. To overcome terrorism we must address the grievances that give rise to it and are exploited by hateful extremists.

Again, we must address all of these causes. War and more war will not be able to solve any of it." - Jim Wallis, Sojo.net


Q & R: Salvation as liberation?

Here's the Q:

I'm a UK citizen and daily reader of your blog. I find many of your posts inspiring and transforming; and you have started me on a journey relooking at my faith (or lack of it), which had led to me start questioning a lot of what I thought I knew.

To come to my question - In your interview with Red Letter Christians (linked on your blog) you describe salvation as:

'"Salvation” for many people is the good news of how souls can escape the curse of original sin and go to heaven after death. But that definition would never flow from the Hebrew Scriptures. There, salvation means liberation. It’s meaning comes from God saving – or liberating – the slaves of Egypt.'

Would you be able to enlarge on this further? I am struggling with the concept of Salvation as liberation. To me it feels like a Western worldview. How can people who live in other parts of the world, who do not have a democracy / an enshrined set of human rights etc access a 'liberation'. Particularly, how in light of the Christian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Harem and other atrocities committed by other extremists groups; how do these Christians work for / achieve their own liberation, when their rights and ability to make changes is controlled by others 'in this life'.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Here's the R:
For a really good answer to this excellent question, can I suggest my new book, We Make the Road by Walking? It's an overview of the Bible, and it puts the word "salvation" in its full biblical context.

The term "salvation" gets its meaning in the Bible from what God did for the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. God saved them from slavery - which means they were set free or liberated. But it didn't stop there … God guided them to a new home, and God gave them moral guidance as well. In that case, it didn't involve democracy at all; it involved a good and courageous leader (Moses) confronting a selfish and unjust leader (Pharaoh) with the liberating truth and power of God. His courageous leadership inspired the people to "make a road by walking" through the wilderness. The tragic situation in Nigeria will require similar leadership, inspiration, and collaboration. Each of us - through our example, through our daily advocacy in simply speaking our best truth, empowered by God's Spirit of liberation - plays a role in this kind of joyful, life-giving change.


A reader writes: an outpouring of sadness and joy from a charismatic evangelical

A reader writes:

I am reading my way through your books and want to thank you for affirming much of what I have come to believe in the last 20 years. As a charismatic evangelical I had a very "In/Out" way of viewing the world. Then God led me to work in a Christian 12 Step Rehab. I was there for 10 years and watched women (it was a female project) who barely acknowledged the existence of God be transformed into the beautiful women God had created and my heart was enlarged to encompass the fullness of God's love and consequent mercy.

As I worked through that time God led me into ordained ministry where I have been in full-time service for the last 10 years. During this time, slowly, I have learned some language to express my wider understanding of God's love. But as I delve more deeply into the mystery of God I find myself even less and less able to articulate clearly what I mean. Your work has increased my language and articulation. But most of the time all I want to say is "God loves you - love him back".

I have three parishes with falling electoral rolls (I am in Norfolk UK, three rural parishes) and falling Sunday attendance though I work my socks off from Monday through Saturday and can easily become discouraged and sad. It seems that though people love to hear that God loves them, they do not want to worship him. Whereas my old Charismatic/ evangelical persona would have been preaching salvation is through the blood and the cross - Get Saved!!!! Mind you, I'm not sure that would fill my churches today either!

However, I pray that the seeds I am planting with this gentler and more inclusive understanding will one day produce a harvest for God's Kingdom that we can see this side of heaven! In the meantime I think [my denomination] will expire and God will do a new thing.

Many thanks for reading this outpouring of sadness and joy and many thanks for your books which have fed and affirmed my tired soul.

Thanks for your note. Many forms of church life will, no doubt, expire, as they have done in the past. But as you say, God keeps doing a new thing. Death isn't the end; just the precursor to resurrection and new beginnings.


Q & R: Coexist?

Here's the Q:

I was a virtual participant during the NCLI this past weekend, and was able to watch the recordings of your three talks. I loved what you said about movements and each of us doing our different part. I am currently a UMC elder, however, I'm in the process of transferring my credentials to UCC. I've been working on a proposal and plan for a new church/faith community start and would love your input on two areas. My dream is that this community would be intentional with partnering with other faith traditions in the area of mission. I love the idea of working to paint a bigger picture of God, and build bridges of acceptance and understanding. I'd love to do this by demonstrating that because of the God that is within us all, we can work together to take the love that is within us all and pour that love into the lives of those around us. I created a "mock" church website as a way to better visualize all the ideas swirling around in my brain. For this specific area, I labeled the tab "Coexisting." Then your book came along, blowing my mind at how I might really be onto something here! After reading Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? I'm not sure that's the best word to use. Do you have any thoughts on that?

And finally, do you have any advice on how I, as a mid 30's white female, can best navigate my approach and dialogue with those of other faiths? Many if not all such leaders will most likely be men who are not used to seeing women in such roles? Thank you so much for your time. Here's the link to my website that I'm working on so you can have a better idea of what I'm talking about. Again, thank you for all your work and wisdom!

Here's the R:
I checked out your website and thought it was very good. One suggestion - any new venture like this will involve people trusting you. So I'd be sure to add a lot about you on the website. I know that might sound egotistical, but it's not for ego's sake; it's to help people feel they know you enough to trust connecting with you.

The language under Coexisting felt kind of "old school." As you know from reading Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, I think that it's a misdiagnosis to think that our problems are because of religious differences. (In the book, I suggest that our hostilities come not from differences but from something we all hold in common.) So I'd speak more of celebrating and understanding both our similarities and differences so that we can collaborate for the common good.

By the intelligence of your inquiry and your website, I know you'll "get" that.

On the question of you being a woman, I would encourage you to be confident and non-defensive. I think you'll find leaders from other religions will be respectful of you as a woman Christian leader - it's easier, probably, to accept differences in other religions than in one's own sometimes!

One final suggestion: Don't minimize the wonderful contributions of Christian faith in your attempt to be hospitable to others. The best partnerships don't reduce participants to the least common denominator. Rather, they call for what is best and most unique in each participant so they can share their treasures with one another.


Dear Charisma Media …


Dear Steve Strang, Jennifer LeClaire, Shawn Akers, and Lee Grady,

We all make mistakes. As editors of Charisma Media, you may agree that you made one by posting a vicious Islamophobic article last week. It was good of you to take the post down. [For people who want to read it, it is available here.]

Now, many are calling for you to apologize. (For example, here's one petition that's being circulated, asking for you to do so.) I'm sure a lot of your customer base loved the article and would be dismayed if you apologize. (I've been told the comments section made this clear.)

You may be tempted to play to your base by refusing to apologize. Or you might even try to use this outcry against your magazine as many religious and political leaders typically do - as an attempt to raise money and portray yourselves as victims of some left-wing, liberal, pluralist, or Satanic attack.

You may avoid responsibility by saying the views expressed were those of the Rev. Gary Cass, president and CEO of DefendChristians.org, and that "Unless otherwise specified, the opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Charisma Media." You may simply hope this blows over and do or say nothing.

I hope you will apologize. But not simply as a way to get yourselves out of a public relations fiasco. I hope the four of you will use this opportunity to really learn something - so that you can in turn help your readers. This is a teachable moment for them as well as for you.

I don't normally read your magazines, but today as I scanned the headlines, it seemed clear that many of your articles lean in the direction of Gary Cass, and few if any offer a different perspective. (As examples of a different perspective, I'd recommend responses by Sarah Bessey and Brian Zahnd.)

How Christians relate to people of other religions is deeply important on many levels. I wrote a book on the subject, called Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? In light of the firestorm your magazine has entered on this subject, I hope you'll take some time to read it and maybe discuss it among yourselves in the weeks to come. I would be happy to be in conversation in person or by phone to offer whatever help I could offer as a fellow Christian who found the piece, and your decision to post it, deeply disturbing.

Editors such as yourselves can no longer afford to be ignorant or uninformed about the subject of Christian identity in a multi-faith world. The consequences are much more serious than the success or failure of your media company.

We all make mistakes. And we all can learn from them.

Warmly, in Christ,
Brian McLaren


Really good reports … from a park

Good reports keep rolling in about groups using We Make the Road by Walking. Here's one:

Awe and Wonder: Chapter One
We had Worship in the Park on September 7th as we began our journey with We Make the Road by Walking. Salem has had worship/church at a local park for the past three years since I've been here. … Last year, we gathered near the Nolichucky River and centered our worship around Luke 15. This year, we set up in the same place with similar weather- in the 80s, a beautiful day with birds singing, the water flowing, the sun warming, and we gathered by the river. (we failed to sing any 'gathering by the river' songs-- that was my mistake...)

We did sing about creation... Morning Has Broken and All Creatures of Our God and King. I used Brian's words to create a Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession, and Invitation to the Table. I used his ideas from chapter one text and commentary for a short Homily. I focused more on the suggested texts as a Proclamation of the Word. We hear the Creation story, but how many times have we heard it proclaimed/read aloud outside, in the midst of a beautiful park, near a river bank?

We used a tree stump as our communion table, green fabric covered the stump, the white cloth covering the elements kept the flies away and a mason jar complete with wild flowers finished our 'altar'. I reused the bulletins I kept from last year and glued new ones on top of the old. I used Lowes paint stirs and stapled card stock and then paper bulletins onto the wood stirs to create a bulletin 'fan' like you might see at a wedding or church in the deep south in the dead of summer. These are easy to hold, keep the flies away, and do provide a little relief from the hot sun. I kept the bulletins black & white, but added color with stamps. Yes...the "Pastor" stamped her congregation's bulletins. These are the joys and benefits of a small congregation!

We had a great service and the only thing I would change is that next year, I've vowed to use less liturgy so the congregation doesn't have to look down as much but can enjoy the view more so.

Below is what we used. As I mentioned, I used Brian Mclaren's words-- this chapter was written so beautifully and so writing liturgy for worship was fun. I have a feeling it won't be this easy as we journey further. For now, here is what I compiled:
(continued after the jump)

Continue reading Really good reports … from a park...


N. T. Wright, progressives, conservatives, and eschatology ...

A helpful assessment here. Quotable:

On eschatology, Wright argues for an entirely different approach, one he says is rooted in scripture and early Christian tradition:

But the most important thing to say…is that heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about. This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope. The whole point of my argument so far is that the question of what happens to me after death is not the major, central, framing question that centuries of theological tradition have supposed. The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central framing question is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos. (184)

A "charismatic" "Christian" calls for genocide

This isn't from the Onion, this is from Charisma News: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/45300-why-i-am-absolutely-islamaphobic

Quotable (in a most disgusting way):
"ISIS has done us all a favor. The true face of Islam is on full display even as Muhammad is burning in hell. We will have to face the harsh truth that radical Islam has no place in civilized society. Militant Muslims cannot live in a society based on Christian ideals of equality and liberty. They will always seek to harm us.

Now the only question is how many more dead bodies will have to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus' Name? The Good News is Jesus, and His indestructible church, will prevail, but there will be pain and heartache along the way to victory. May we be willing to take the lesser pains now so our children won't have to take greater pains later." - Gary Cass

Gary Cass has done us all a favor: the true face of Christian extremism is on full display: like all violent extremism, that face is a mirror image of what it condemns.

In contrast, I say, "I love my Muslim neighbors and wholeheartedly reject the version of Christianity promoted by Gary Cass and those who stand with him."


Q & R: Permission?

Here's the Q:

I am reading We Make the Road by Walking. Good stuff. I am interested in the confession that are in the book and on the web site, and use for Sunday worship. How does one get permission?

Here's the R:
You're welcome to use anything in the book. If you include a link to the book, that's wonderful too, but not if doing so would be distracting or inappropriate.


A reader writes: More on prayer … part of maturity

A reader writes:

Brian, your response to the man who wonders why we pray is probably a lot better than mine…. [but here it is]

When you know what your son needs, do you give it to him immediately, without waiting for him to realize that he needs it? Always? Will you continue doing that for his entire life? If you do, he will surely become an incompetent adult, unable to deal with any of life's big questions. The first thing a competent adult does, when faced with a need, is to realize that there is a need. Your son appears to be getting no training in that skill. After a competent adult realizes a need, he or she figures out what to do in order to satisfy that need. In most cases, it's an action that can be performed and the need is satisfied. Sometimes it isn't. Then, this competent adult must ask somebody for assistance.

One of the purposes of prayer is asking for assistance when all of your resources are insufficient to satisfy a need. And somehow, the need gets satisfied. Did a personal God satisfy that need? Or maybe did the random oscillations of particles and forces in the universe just happen to line up together to satisfy the need? I can't prove one theory or the other. To me, the former is preferable.

Once, when i was a young adult, I needed to make my car payment, but I had no idea where the $126 was going to come from. I was in the armed forces at the time. Out of the blue, the service gave me a $100 uniform allowance. I had already bought my uniforms, so the money just went back into the family coffers. Then a friend turned to me and said, "I feel the Lord telling me to give you this". And he handed me $25. I had not mentioned any financial need. Later that day, walking toward my apartment, I found a $1 bill lying on the ground -- in windy Oklahoma, just lying there. $100 + $25 + $1 = $126, the exact amount I needed. I paid my car payment. I cannot prove that this was the action of a loving, personal God. But I have exactly zero difficulty believing it.

You've given us two really helpful additions to the discussion - first, pointing out (reminiscent of the film Bruce Almighty?) how automatic "yes" answers-before-they-pray would be harmful to humans in need, and second, sharing an experience that sure felt like a divine response to a felt need. Both additions are important! Thanks.


A reader writes: Naked Spirituality and Native American Spirituality

A reader writes:

I just listened to the Beyond The Box Podcast yesterday on Naked Spirituality and was struck by how similar your model of spiritual development is to that of The Medicine Wheel practiced by many Western North American indigenous nations.

Several years ago I was on a solo wilderness trip to the north shore of Lake Superior and found myself invited into the sweat lodge by a traditional group of Anishenabe (Ojibway/Chippewa) people who were completing 48 hour fasts. I spent several hours with them having their symbols and framing story explained and sharing common concepts. The sweat was transformative for me in that I realized for the first time how all encompassing Anishenabe views of Creation and it's sacredness are. A day later I was canoeing on Lake Superior and saw the first vision of my life in the clouds. My rational mind was nicely kicking back in afterwards, when a golden eagle (symbol of The Creator's presence) flew in and circled overhead. It was quite a defining moment for me. That week began a process for me of discovering new symbols and concepts which I began to appreciate as expressions of my own beliefs as a Follower of Christ.

One of those symbols is the Medicine Wheel, which expresses a contemplative approach to understanding life. You may already be aware of it's symbolism which in a general way has been described very well in a book called "The Sacred Tree." A few concepts about the medicine wheel resonated with me in your conversation with Rayburn:

First, the Anishenabe are taught to begin their contemplations on the Medicine Wheel with the East which represents childhood, the dawn, etc. The word that Ojibway author Richard Wagamese uses to describe this direction in terms of contemplation is "Innocence." I offer tobacco when beginning the cycle, which is standard Anishenabe practice as well. Tobacco is used in many indigenous rituals for thanksgiving. The Anishenabe work "the way of the Sun" and so move clockwise around the wheel. South represents Adolescence, Wagamese's word is "Humility" and the sacred herb is cedar (used in ceremony for purification). West represents Adulthood, Wagamese's word is "Honesty" and the sacred herb is sage (used for prayer and for purification). North is for elders, Wagamese's word is "Wisdom" and sacred herb is sweet grass (used in prayer). There are various understandings of each direction even amongst the Anishenabe but the nuances of what I've shared are common concepts.

Second, the general belief about the medicine wheel is that an individual should attempt to remain in the centre (hub of the wheel) and to meditatively view their lives from there. The sense is that getting stuck in any stage will cause problems. Coordinating with your words in the podcast about "cycling through the stages on higher levels" is the belief that wisdom must always lead back to innocence because without that vital step a person will become cold and bitter like a northern winter.

I use the medicine wheel approach often when I pray these days. I also offer tobacco and smudge with a stick made from the other 3 herbs while contemplating the concepts of the wheel and what The Creator is doing in my life. Each time I follow this way is different, but I often sense a deep peace, completeness and fullness by the time I finish the circuit back to innocence.

Although there's no question that I'm asking specifically, I wonder if you might comment in general on the similarities between The Medicine Wheel as I presented it above or from your experience and the concepts you expressed in Naked Spirituality.

Thanks so much for this note. I am so grateful. I wasn't aware of this resonance at all. Quite amazing.

Your note makes me miss my friend Richard Twiss. Richard was a Lakota Sioux who was doing important work on the resonances between indigenous spirituality and a deeper (nonWestern) Christian faith. He passed away last year and is so greatly missed. Thankfully, his work is being carried on by NAIITS … by good people like Terry and Bev LeBlanc, Randy and Edith Woodley, Andrea Smith, Ray Aldred, and many others. Again, thanks for sharing this with me. It's wonderful when resonances like these happen!


Q & R: Why Pray?

Here's the Q:

I often think about why we pray. Greg Boyd on his ReKnew Blog says:

Prayer does certainly change us, but that’s not why we’re told to engage in it. We’re commanded to engage in prayer because it is a God-ordained means of impacting him and changing the world. Jesus didn’t say if we have faith and pray our attitude toward mountains would change. He said the mountain would move! Prayer changes what happens in world. Did you know that there are more “if…then” clauses associated with prayer in the Bible than any other single human activity? For example, the Lord says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” He then goes on to add, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2 Chron. 7:14-15). The Lord is in effect saying, “I want to heal and forgive you, but I’m waiting on you to humble yourselves and pray.”

Do we pray to move God to action, or is prayer more about motivating us to take action?

I never could figure out if God is all knowing why do we need to petition "Him" to take action? I have a son, and if I know there is something that would be of benefit to him, protect him, keep him safe and there is something I can do about it, I would not need my son to remind me to take action. He's my son. I would do what I could to help him.

For those who believe God is a deity with powers to supersede the laws of nature I suppose it makes sense to try and get his attention through prayer to take action. I no longer believe God is a deity with super natural powers. That saves me a lot of trouble trying to figure out why God would save some people on one side of the street in a tornado, and permit people on the other side of the street to be killed. For me God exists in my conscious mind.

I would be interested in your thoughts on why we pray?

Here's the R:
Books have been written, and more need to be written, on this question. (A few books down the road, I plan to address this as part or a larger book on "what we mean when we say 'God.'")

The underlying issue - that you address in your note - is called "the agency of God." One way I often address the issue is to ask, "What kind of relationship do we think the Creator wants to have with creation?"

1. One option is "the outsider with intervention privileges." This is the traditional option that so many people - you and I included - find massive problems with. Prayer is our way of begging for intervention.

2. Another option is "the outsider with absolute control." This is the option of predestinarian determinism (i.e. neo-calvinism).

3. A third option is "the outsider with no intervention privileges." This is the option of deism. It solves some problems of the previous views, but leaves other problems unaddressed.

4. Another option is "the insider with no influence." I sense that some people end up here as a way of escaping 1-3 above.

5. Another option is "an insider with influence." This is in keeping with God revealed in Jesus … incarnational, suffering and rejoicing with creation, recruiting us to join with God in the healing of the world. Prayer in this sense is, in essence, aligning our wills/desires with God's will/desires. That's a different kind of relationships than 1-4, and it means that prayer is significant … but it's not a matter of outside intervention.

That certainly doesn't solve the problem or answer every question, but I hope it at least stimulates your thinking and proves helpful in some way.


A reader writes: not a slow path to atheism

A reader writes:

Thanks for inspiring us in your books, blog, and guidance; encouraging the will to continue in faithful even if uncharted Christian territory.
I felt compelled to comment but have found it difficult to say what I wanted regarding the post at Rachel’s blog on "progressive Christianity being a slow path to atheism “. I see why your response was so long. Here goes mine.

I found myself, quite unexpectedly, falling off that cliff a few years back. Ironically, I had just started reading Naked Spirituality. Difficult because it was a dark, painful time, even if fairly brief, and hard to revisit without angst. But, I want to offer encouragement for those walking that path.
What I learned:

Rhetoric, logic, philosophy, theology, evangelicalism, and atheism not longer make any sense to me from a traditional standpoint (even though I participate in a relatively conservative faith community weekly and find joy in it,).
Do not try climb back up the metaphorical cliff- I just surrendered to the process.
As the panic subsided, I realized that I still went to sleep with God every night.
At the end of what I thought, at the exhaustion of what I knew, past the edge of what I believed here is always the “something”, always a sense of “something’, presence close as my breath; “something" just beyond me.
I love "it “ and I know I love “it”.
I no longer claim to understanding God. “God" does not seem to be the right word any longer - it is not personal enough.
I like theory and theology as hobbies but its pursuit is now always hollow in the end.
The old speculation about how it all works whether it pertains to the Bible and Christianity (or some other religion) and the other faith of science and secular humanism is just tired and inadequate.
I favor peace over clarity and am fine with that.
I accept life in paradox- the less I know the more insight comes (and then goes); the less sure I am of what I believe the more I believe and I am OK with what I believe (at that moment); the less I see the Bible as “a constitution" the more I respect its counsel and truth.
Without rules or preconceptions, the ancient ways of faith seem to ring more authentic to me.
Now I see how most religions as they are practiced as idolatry but not the “something” behind it.
As in Naked Spirituality, I am “ behold”ing. With my evangelical friends and family I use a different language to say the same thing- God is real for me and I do not seek to control it.
But, Jesus is real to me, too (I’m just saying’.) and crucial for a host reasons not necessary for this discourse.
The Mystery is real and it is good and I am bound to it.

I hope this will help when typical rhetoric does not.
Blessings & prayers to you, your family and to those who listen to you.
Thanks again.

Thank you for writing. Helpful and well-put descriptions - resonant with what I call "Stage 4" in Naked Spirituality.

A frivolous aside - I love it that Rachel Held Evans can now be identified by first name only. Rachel - you're kind of like Beyonce, Bono, Sting, and Cher!


A Poem that Struck a Nerve

Last month I posted a poem a day over at my Facebook page. (If you don't follow it, I hope you will …) I included one poem of my own which has been quite popular, with over 245,000 views at this point. Several people have asked if they can have permission to use it. The answer is that you are welcome to use anything I post here or on my Facebook page, as long as you pass it along for free and include attribution. (It's nice if you can include a link to this site too.)

Here's the poem …


"Please de-baptize me," she said.
The priest's face crumpled.
"My parents tell me you did it," she said.
"But I was not consulted. So
Now, undo it."
The priest's eyes asked why.
"If it were just about belonging to
This religion and being forgiven,
Then I would stay. If it were just
About believing
This list of doctrines and upholding
This list of rituals,
I'd be OK. But
Your sermon Sunday made
It clear it's
About more. More
Than I bargained for. So, please,
De-baptize me."
The priest looked down, said
Nothing. She continued:
"You said baptism sends
Me into the
World to
Love enemies. I don't. Nor
Do I plan to. You said it means
Being willing to stand
Against the flow. I like the flow.
You described it like rethinking
Everything, like joining a
Movement. But
I'm not rethinking or moving anywhere.
So un-baptize me. Please."
The priest began to weep. Soon
Great sobs rose from his deepest heart.
He took off his glasses, blew his nose, took
Three tissues to dry his eyes.
"These are tears of joy," he said.
"I think you
Are the first person who ever
Truly listened or understood."
"So," she said,
"Will you? Please?"

- Brian McLaren

For more on baptism, see Chapter 19 of We Make the Road by Walking.



We Make the Road by Walking - AUDIO VERSION - is on sale for $18.74 (25% off) here: http://amblingbooks.com/books/view/we_make_the_road_by_walking#.VAR1qkvCWKw


Readers write: joyous tears, set free, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, getting naked

A reader writes:

I finished "The Secret Message of Jesus" and just began "Naked Spirituality" Learning so much and THANK YOU for writing! I've only been on my journey of faith for 5 years and never a dull moment. I was at a stuck point-feeling nothing new to learn-my pastor recommended you as an author and I'm realizing there will ALWAYS be more to discover about God! My relationship with Him, with Him in me just gets brighter! Broke down in joyous tears as I was reading today…

Another reader writes:
I realize that you must get hundreds of these types of emails but I still feel compelled to write. I realize that it is not possible for Brian to read each of these individually but because of the impact on my life, I feel I must try, so here it is, as succinctly as possible.

Brian: I am a 55 year old male and have been a Christian for over thirty years, ever since a dramatic conversion in my college years. For the next several decades my wife and I raised five kids, fully immersed in very conservative, Pentecostal churches. Several years ago I started being honest with myself about inconsistencies in our theology, huge gaps between what I believed was the character of God versus the actions of the church and the tremendous inward focus of the church culture. Quite honestly, I simply could not stand being part of this church culture any longer and had to escape, all the while, trying to figure out how to hold onto a personal faith that was a very real and important part of me. While finding many other people with similar frustrations I started trying to find my own path, holding onto those things that were true and good and ignoring and distancing myself from all the things that seemed contrary to the loving nature of God. Finding your books recently was life-giving to me. Your teaching aligns exactly with where I believe God has been leading me and confirms and validates this new spiritual direction in my life. I told my wife yesterday that it feels like I have now been set free to pursue a love relationship with God, that I don’t have to feel embarrassed or stupid to have my theology aligned in this new way. I am once again excited to be a pilgrim on this journey. I just needed to say thank you for your courage, leadership and desire to help others. May God bless you tremendously in your ministry.

Another reader writes:
I wanted to let you know that we are using the cycle of readings from We Make the Road by Walking starting in September instead of the lectionary for this coming year. …after 28 years of preaching the lectionary nearly non-stop… You can add one more PC(USA) church to your list!

Another reader writes ...
Just started reading Naked Spirituality.
Decided to (in the privacy of my backyard) in the presence of my Naked Lord, take off the top.
Not just clothing wise.
But the cork that was holding in an identity formed by my church, my youth group, my community.
Getting back to the roots.
Sitting with God.
Spending time with Jesus.
Thank you Brian McLaren.
Don't even know what else to say but thank you brother.

Thanks, all, for these notes of encouragement.


A reader writes: a response to yesterday's post:

A reader writes (slightly edited):

Ouch! What you quoted was, of course, nothing really new or surprising, but extremely well said. But look what happens if you replace key words here and there. The result is not perfectly true, but it's strongly suggestive:

While religion/Christianity, a particularly harsh and distorted version, does play a role to legitimate, recruit, and motivate, studies of most militias and hate groups show that the primary drivers are to be found elsewhere….

Drivers of radicalization include moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging. For many it is the experience or perception of living in a 'hostile' society, disenfranchisement and heightened political consciousness, anti-[socialism] and social justice, emancipation and the personal search to be a good Christian or [private schools] as liberation, bringing together a constellation of narratives. The vast majority of the Christian populations of America are also becoming members of a visible ethnic minority of Whites. Their experiences are therefore likely to be shaped by experiences such as xenophobia, lower employment and educational levels and, more recently, the War on Christmas, as reported by Fox News.

If, as I suspect, a great many of the people who energetically want the U.S. to do something about ISIS/ISIL/IS are highly conservative Christians, then I wonder whether it will ever occur to anybody that we have two sides of the same coin trying to erase the other from existence.

Since writing Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? a few years ago, I've been paying more attention to the problems, not just of Christianity, but to religion as a whole … and to the problems of human identity formation, not just within Christianity, but among human groups of any kind. So many times when we're pointing out the splinters in others' eyes, we have planks in our own - because the problems we're facing are problems "common to humanity." They're anthropological problems, not simply the problems of this or that subgroup of humanity.

One of the fundamental insights of mimetic theory is that groups often enter dances of imitation. If we focus on our enemies and rivals, we become like our enemies and rivals. This, to me, suggests one of the most stunning dimensions Jesus and his idea of discipleship. He teaches those with eyes to see and ears to hear how to break the cycle of offense/retaliation/counter-offense/counter-retaliation (e.g. if someone strikes you on one cheek … DON'T strike him back). He offers an alternative model to imitate, helping us break out of our dances of death.

We have some peculiarly seductive dances of death begging us to join in right now. May others of us offer a better alternative.


John Esposito on Isis

Well worth reading, here.


While religion/Islam, a particularly harsh and distorted version, does play a role to legitimate, recruit, and motivate, studies of most jihadists and movements, like ISIS, show that the primary drivers are to be found elsewhere….

Drivers of radicalization include moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging. For many it is the experience or perception of living in a 'hostile' society, disenfranchisement and heightened political consciousness, anti- imperialism and social justice, emancipation and the personal search to be a good Muslim or the headscarf as liberation, bringing together a constellation of narratives. The vast majority of the Muslim populations of Europe are also members of a visible ethnic minority. Their experiences are therefore likely to be shaped by experiences such as xenophobia, lower employment and educational levels and, more recently, Islamophobia.

If you're interested in exploring more about how religious identity can be a force for peace in the world - especially for Christians - check out my book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road.


A reader writes: the church game

A reader writes ...

Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you. Though I have to play the church game for the sake of inspiring a larger group of people to bless their neighbors... your wisdom and intellect in your books allows me to feel ok with how opposite my mind/heart works from the traditional evangelical hearts/minds I spend time with. I appreciate you Brian! I admire your tenacity for what matters most!

I just got back from a wonderful long weekend in England at the Greenbelt Festival, an amazing time which further inspires me to dream big things for the "daughter of Greenbelt" festival here in the US, Wild Goose. While there, I had so many people come and express similar feelings … that they are hanging in there with traditional churches, doing what good they can, but their hearts have moved on to a new vision. I know that "playing the game" will sound disingenuous to some, but I think this writer expresses his deeper desire well: "for the sake of inspiring a larger group of people to bless their neighbors."

This situation of inner division is not sustainable, of course. Eventually, something within us cries out to be "divided no more," as Parker Palmer puts it. The frustration of "playing the game" or "living divided lives" will eventually give birth to a movement. It is already doing so … as Greenbelt, Wild Goose, the Cana Initiative (now the Convergence Network) and many other movement-building collaboratives demonstrate.

So a word to all those who feel like this writer … get ready for your frustration and weariness to give birth to something beautiful, creative, productive. Here's how Parker Palmer describes it:

The first stage in a movement can be described with some precision, I think. It happens when isolated individuals make an inner choice to stop leading “divided lives.” Most of us know from experience what a divided life is. Inwardly we feel one sort of imperative for our lives, but outwardly we respond to quite another. This is the human condition, of course; our inner and outer worlds will never be in perfect harmony. But there are extremes of dividedness that become intolerable, and when the tension snaps inside of this person, then that person, and then another, a movement may be underway.

The decision to stop leading a divided life, made by enough people over a period of time, may eventually have political impact. But at the outset, it is a deeply personal decision, taken for the sake of personal integrity and wholeness. I call it the “Rosa Parks decision” in honor of the woman who decided, one hot Alabama day in 1955, that she finally would sit at the front of the bus.

Rosa Parks’ decision was neither random nor taken in isolation. She served as secretary for the local NAACP, had studied social change at the Highlander Folk School, and was aware of others’ hopes to organize a bus boycott. But her motive that day in Montgomery was not to spark the modern civil rights movement. Years later, she explained her decision with a simple but powerful image of personal wholeness: “I sat down because my feet were tired.”

I suspect we can say even more: Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus because her soul was tired of the vast, demoralizing gap between knowing herself as fully human and collaborating with a system that denied her humanity. The decision to stop leading a divided life is less a strategy for altering other people’s values than an uprising of the elemental need for one’s own values to come to the fore. The power of a movement lies less in attacking some enemy’s untruth than in naming and claiming a truth of one’s own.

There is immense energy for change in such inward decisions as they leap from one person to another and outward to the society. With these decisions, individuals may set in motion a process that creates change from the inside out. There is an irony here: We often think of movements as “confrontational,” as hammering away at social structures until the sinners inside repent and we contrast them (often invidiously) with the “slow, steady, faithful” process of working for change from within the organization. In truth, people who take an organizational approach to problems often become obsessed with their unyielding “enemies,” while people who adopt a movement approach must begin by changing themselves.


Q & R: Guidance? Dating? Discipleship?

Here's the Q:

Hi! My name is YYY and I am a 25 year-old, who has avoided the church experience of my childhood (church of Christ), which never felt congruent with what my spirit intuitively knew as truth and love. Through volunteering with a mission team abroad I came in contact with one of your books and a couple who was tentatively sharing their reimagining of faith and God as a part of their journey. Then, I recently moved to a metro area where I visited a church and for the first time in my entire life, heard a sermon that was truly a fulfillment of speaking the truth in love.

In that sermon, the pastor spoke about deconstructing the beliefs we hold as one might deconstruct a wall, and inspect each piece. But my question is, after doing that, how is it built back? What does being a modern disciple really look like? I truly feel like such an infant in this, but have no idea where to look for guidance other than books by you and other leaders like you.

To compound this, I am dating someone who is also searching, but from an even different perspective than me. Do you have a recommendation of a book or a study we could work through together?

I realize there are some loaded questions here, but I thought I'd try to ask you because I don't know who else to ask. Thanks for being the kind of person that I feel I can ask!

Here's the R:
Thanks for writing. I'm so glad you're finding some "light at the end of the tunnel." As the pastor you heard recently said, there is an important deconstruction process that many of us - especially those from more fundamentalist/absolutist backgrounds - must go through. Some end up with fragments and don't ask the important question you are asking - how do we rebuild?

If I could recommend three of my books that focus on that reconstruction, here's what I'd recommend:
1. We Make the Road by Walking - I especially think you and the person you're dating would enjoy reading and talking about this together. It's set up for a whole year of weekly meetings, but of course you could discuss it all at once, over four dates, whatever.

2. The Secret Message of Jesus - This book focuses on the center of Christian faith, not a doctrine or system or "wall" of beliefs, but a person.

3. Naked Spirituality - This is a book about postures of the heart, and the heart is so important in this sometimes overly-heady process.

You're on a good path! Keep moving forward.


Q & R: Unforgivable?

Here's the Q:

I am curious what you believe about the "unforgivable sin" mentioned in Matthew and Mark of blaspheming and rejecting the Holy Spirit. Has the traditional church and modern translations completely misunderstood the text, or is this really what Jesus taught?

Here's the R:
This is a really big question, but I hope this short and simple answer will help.
First, we need to remember that Jesus wasn't a "Christian." In other words, he wasn't working within the Calvinist or Thomist or Pentecostal or Eastern Orthodox or Fundamentalist theological assumptions that frame Christian faith today. Jesus was a Jew.

For a Jew in Jesus' day, sin was not understood primarily as something that, in its mortal variety, could send your soul to hell because of total depravity or original sin. It was something that would result in people missing God's blessing - which for an oppressed people, meant missing liberation from their occupying oppressors.

So I think in those passages, Jesus was warning his peers that if they didn't hear the voice of the Spirit and respond to it, they faced a set of natural consequences that would be tragic. Specifically, he foresaw that his countrymen could easily stage a violent revolution against Rome which would be crushed brutally. The Spirit was calling people, Jesus knew, to a different path to liberation - a nonviolent path, a creative path, a path of courage without hostility. If they rejected the Spirit's leading, they wouldn't get an exemption from consequences.

I think we face a similar reality today. The Spirit is calling us to turn from racism, ecological destruction, greed, carelessness toward our poor and vulnerable neighbors, dependence on weapons for peace, and abdication of personal responsibility. If we don't, we can't expect to avoid the natural consequences of our actions - explosions of conflict, rising seas and destabilized climate, fear, bombs, economic tumult, insecurity. Another way to say the same thing: there is no way to peace apart from the Spirit of peace. There is no way to a regenerative economy apart from the Spirit of regeneration. There is no way to prosperity apart from the Spirit of generosity and concern for the common good. Reject, mock, belittle, turn from that Spirit … and predictable natural consequences will follow.


An interview at Red Letter Christians

Check it out here:


A reader writes: You missed a better way to respond

A reader writes:

Brian, I saw your response to the reader asking about Jesus’ views of a violent God. There is a better way to respond to this. First, acknowledge the violent deity is there and is prominent all through the New Testament. Paul was very clear on the “wrath of God” and the punishing conclusion of that violent wrath. See his Thessalonian comments on that angry god “destroying” sinners. And much more. Revelation makes no effort to hide the angry God and the Lake of fire awaiting. The New Testament is full of such comment.
A proper response will first deal with the issue of Biblicism- the belief the Bible is somehow inspired by God and so people are obligated to accept all its contents as truth and honor such. We know better today that there are profound “dissimilarities” in, for instance, the accounts of Jesus (gospels). These are differences that no exercise of common sense can reconcile. Jesus could not have told people to love their enemies and then a few chapters later damn them to perdition for refusing his message. This is simply irreconcilable difference.
And then take Jesus seriously. Take his central theme (Matt.5:38-48) seriously, that we are not to retaliate, exclude, repay or punish others because God does not. This is a radical new view of God as non-retaliatory, non-punishing. It turns everything upside down. This is authentic unconditional love and this new theology was completely rejected by Paul, who returned to a retaliatory God (Rom.12, Vengeance is mine, I will repay). Jesus was consistently on the unconditional treatment of others because this is what God is really like. A new ethic based on a new theology.

Thanks for writing. There are several ways people like you and me are seeking to address the incompatibility of God and violence. Each approach is deemed better or worse than others depending on who is doing the deeming, I suppose. I understand your approach, even though I take a somewhat different one.

I agree that Biblicism is a problem, and in my books (especially A New Kind of Christianity and We Make the Road by Walking) I try to articulate and demonstrate an approach to the Bible that is a faithful and responsible alternative to biblicism. Once we move beyond what I call an "innocent literal" way of reading the Bible, I think a lot of problems are solved.

I honestly don't see Paul as rejecting Jesus' approach as you do. I see him as a strong and privileged man struggling - as we do today - to live into Jesus' way of life. He was in process as are we all. But sadly, Biblicism allows Paul's interpreters today to extract quotes from Paul apart from the overall message, mission, and trajectory of his life - and in so doing, they effectively do reject so much of Jesus' life and teaching, often resembling Paul's pre-conversion life of religious hostility and violence rather than his post-conversion pursuit of "justice, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit."

So, even though we may differ on details, we both seek a new ethic based on a new (and primal) theology, rooted in Jesus and his way. I remain open to improving my way of doing so, and I appreciate your input.


A Muslim reader writes ...

Hello I just read your book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddah, and Muhammed Cross the Road. It was an excellent book, it actually made me cry. I am Muslim and I was touched by your Christianity, so please keep the faith perfect. I'm a blind muslim arab and I really enjoyed your book and it really made cry.
Thanks so much for writing. I think God is pleased when people of different traditions recognize one another as fellow human beings, beloved by God, sharing the same small planet, seeking the common good. I hope we meet one another in person someday soon. God bless you.

Three informed perspectives on the Islamic State (IS)



Q & R: Marrying a universalist?

Here's the Q:

Hi Brian. You have changed my life. Your books have opened me up to the beautiful message of Jesus. I feel a mix of secure and totally shaken. This isn't quite a question about your book-but I ask hoping so much that you'll answer because I revere your opinion. How do you feel about two people getting married-say one a Christian and one a universalist insistent that there are many, many roads to God? Thank you thank you thank you for your time.

Here's the R:
If you search my site on the word "universalist," you'll see that I've written quite a bit on the subject. As for the subject of marriage, my strongest suggestion would be to find a pastor or counselor or spiritual director you trust who can guide you through pre-marriage or (even better) pre-engagement counseling. Working with a skilled pastor, counselor, or spiritual director, you and your partner can explore your commonalities and differences and come to understand whether and how a marriage like yours could work. You might even come into greater alignment spiritually through the process. I think it's very important for a couple to share a common direction in life - a shared sense of purpose and values. Otherwise they'll be pulling in opposing directions which is good for neither party. Some differences are of a less significant nature - and they can be opportunities for a couple to learn to respect one another's uniqueness. A good counselor can help in that discernment process at close range - far better than a writer/blogger can from a distance.


Going to Greenbelt ...

Folks in the US are learning about the Wild Goose Festival (if you don't, check it out here). It was modeled largely on Greenbelt, a huge and wonderful festival in the UK. That's where I'll be for the next several days. Looking forward to seeing many of my UK (and US, and other) friends there!


A "spiritual but not religious" reader writes … I don't consider myself a Christian, but I love Jesus

A reader writes:

I recently finished your book "The Secret Message of Jesus" and I wanted to send you a short "thank you" note.

I really enjoyed this book. As a "spiritual but not religious" person it was really refreshing to hear a pastor look a little deeper at the life of Jesus.

Although I don't consider myself religious or Christian I have loved Jesus since I met him in Sunday School as a child. There's something wonderfully intriguing about him and his teaching.
And I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about his teaching style being intentionally vague. He wants to draw you in slowly. He wants you to work.
As a former philosophy/religious studies major I have always felt the need to look deeper and you have helped me with your book.
Additionally, it's just refreshing to hear a Christian (and a pastor) elucidate the teaching beyond the Beatitudes. There are still so many that can't and won't settle on believing, they need to see!
And those with eyes to see do see your work as pushing God's dream for Creation forward.

Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven!
Thank you,

Thanks so much for writing. I would rather be a "spiritual but not religious" person who loves Jesus than a religious person who doesn't … Your encouragement means a lot to me. I hope we'll meet in person some day soon.


This month -

over on my Facebook page, I've been posting a poem a day. Yesterday, lots of readers posted their favorite poems, or an original poem. It's really worth checking out:


A Reader Writes: Not all of us hate and condemn

A reader writes:

I am sorry that the convictions of many whom you love as brothers and sisters in Christ demean your love for your son and the love he has for his partner. There are Christ followers outside your circle who care about the pain the LGTB community endures at our hands. I am sure you receive an overwhelming number of emails so I hesitated sending this one, but thought maybe you needed an encouraging email. Not all of us hate and condemn.

Thanks so much. I take this encouraging email to heart.

Many of the people who oppose LGBT equality do not do so because of hate. They simply are trying to be faithful to what they were taught and what they believe God requires. Many of them are grieved by the hateful tone of some people who agree with them.

This doesn't decrease the hurt they cause others. But it helps me remember that not all who disagree do so from the same motives. Again, thanks for your kind words.


Bible wrapped in a flag? You've got to be kidding?

OK. You'll think I'm making this up. But I'm not. I got this email recently:

I am Cristy from BreakinThru, the publisher of God’s Glory™ Bible - a beautiful, heirloom-quality, a limited First Edition King James Version Holy Bible that is wrapped in stars and stripes. After six years and an incredible response on social media – we have over 500k fans just this last year - it is released and ready for delivery. We did quite a bit of research looking for bloggers to partner with, and not only did we enjoy your blog Brian McLaren, we feel like you are a great fit. We would love to send you a Bible to review and give away to your audience – and we will of course direct our social media community to your blog and review. We additionally have an affiliate program available, should you be interested in placing an ad on your blog – or using an affiliate link for your visitors. You can learn more about God’s Glory™ Bible at www.GodsGloryBible.com or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GodsGloryBible. You can reach me at xxxyyy – I look forward to hearing from you, and of course getting God’s Glory™ Bible to you for review!

I'm impressed that they did "quite a bit" of research and that they determined this blog was a great fit for their product. Huh?

In contrast - I recently read this from the brilliant theologian Joerg Rieger:

We can reclaim the authority of the Bible when we realize, for instance, that not even the most powerful empires, including current forms of capitalism, have the last word. Here, alternative biblical visions finally get a chance to transform us, from the visions of liberation promoted in the Jubilee Year in Leviticus 25; to accounts of the communities that Jesus organized where the last were indeed the first and the first were the last. Or, if we realize that the status quo of the concentration of wealth, privilege, and power in the hands of a few does not need to have the last word, alternative biblical visions of power that organizes itself in adverse situations (even on a cross) might make a real difference.

In conclusion, a truly progressive position brings together both a deeper awareness of how the powers that be hold us back and a more astute sense for possible alternatives (see Rieger, Christ and Empire, 2007). In these progressive efforts we need all the help we can get. There is little hope that we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and so the ancient wisdom of the Bible is a most welcome guide, especially where it was honed in similar conflicts with empires and the status quo. To be sure: this is not just wishful thinking or a pious dream. Despite much misuse, the Bible has demonstrated its authority in the ability to make a difference in movements of liberation through the ages. As Latin American Liberation Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez once put it: "We indeed read the Bible, but we can also say that the Bible 'reads us.'"

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/Topics/2014-Religious-Trends/Progressive-Christian/Whos-Got-the-Power-Joerg-Rieger-08062014.html#ixzz3AHVuifkv


Circles are forming ...



Q & R: Is the tide turning?

Here's the Q:

I wrote to you several years ago and you very kindly replied to my questions about Jesus and the "propitiation for sin." Your answer and your books validated my journey as I was simply trying to figure out how to love like Jesus loved and live my life dedicated to "reconciliation, understanding, solidarity, and peace-making" as you say in your recent blog.

I admit I haven't read your recent books, although they are on my "gotta get these" list, and so I've spent the morning re-reading sections of A New Kind of Christianity and particularly the chapter on Living the Questions in Community.

My battle is not with theology per se, or with reshaping the Church. My battle is in the area of science, and specifically science education. I am an ex-academic with over 20 years of bench under my belt and I realized when I started homeschooling my own children that science is not taught in a way that promotes real understanding. So I now write science books for kids. My gift is simply that I can take a college level text or upper level science concepts and sift the material for the basic building blocks that kids need to learn. Learning science really isn't any different than learning a language, or music, or math. There are fundamental concepts that any child can learn and once they do they have a foundation they can build upon so that they really understand science, what is can answer, and what it can't.

I have also been deeply involved in the Creation/ Evolution/ Intelligent Design battles and spent significant time speaking to Christian homeschoolers about why it's important to teach kids evolution, what it means, what it can answer, and what it can't answer.

But I have to say I have moved past these wars and see them as much more destructive than generative. The Creationists are circling their wagons and so are the Darwinists (which is a mix of hard-core "there is no god" materialists and theistic evolutionists with some other smaller philosophical hues). The ID community make some good points but they are hated by both and therefore marginalized. As a result there are several isolated camps each calling the other "the enemy," fighting over what kind of science gets taught to which kids. The kids are the ones caught in the crossfire and the kids are the collateral damage. If a child grows up as a mainstream Christian homeschooler, or goes to certain Christian schools they only hear about Creationism and that evolution is from the devil. They emerge lacking some basic building blocks for science. If a child grows up in a secular family and goes to any public school, they get a false sense of the "authority" of science and are never exposed to any of the gaps in neo-Darwinism and lack a basic understanding of how science really works.

So I have been trying to create a path for both Creationists and non-Creationists of various flavors to find some common ground. We need kids who have all the basic building blocks for science, including a good understanding of evolution, but who can also think outside the neo-Darwinian materialist box and be comfortable exploring even a vitalist paradigm as way to view some aspects of science.

The Christian homeschool market has been my main market and ministry for 15 years because, well, I have a heart for this group and I think Christian kids who can already think beyond "matter and energy" have the better tools for solving real-world problems, if they just learned all the science. In other words, I thought it would be easier to just teach the science and not try to change the philosophy.

But today I am discouraged, feeling defeated, and reconsidering my whole strategy. I recently had a top staff member suddenly quit because of a post I liked ... and a radio interview I gave … about my journey and what matters to me today. This staff member was, as far as I could tell, a solid Christian open to new ways of living as Jesus would have us live, but did a sudden about-face and quit, leaving a significant hole in my team and personally attacking me as someone who doesn't "live for Christ." I can repair the hole, but I am confused, angry, disappointed and ready to just throw in the towel on reaching Christians.

I realize, however, that my experiences are isolated and I am intersecting with a fairly narrow Christian segment, so I was wondering if you feel like the tide is turning at all. Are you finding more and more Christians open to your ideas? Is your movement growing? Are you getting more positive email or more hate mail? I'm just curious what your experience has been as you pave this path for the Christian faith and grow your ministry.

Thank you and warm regards,

Here's the R:
First, my heart goes out to you. It is so hard to have people you trust suddenly leave. It feels like rejection and a kick in the gut. As you say - you can fill the hole, but it is truly discouraging.

I think the tide is turning - in some places. In others, people are doubling down. And I think they will do so harder and harder. The toughest place will be will be exactly where you are - in the middle, trying to help people open up. You've heard the saying, "The hard thing about being a bridge is that people walk on you from both ends."

I hope you'll stay with this important bridge-building work as long as you can. But when the more restrictive people realize that you're a bridge-builder and not a wall-builder, they will try to blow up the bridge from their side. They don't want anyone leaving to "the other side" - they want to wall people in behind a barrier of fear and ignorance.

At that point, believe me, your life will get much easier, even though it will hurt a lot. You will still help people from that world, but as an outsider (not by your choice). Some people will stay behind the wall for generations, but others will begin to feel the unfreedom and fear of it, and at that point, your work will be more important than ever …

Please know that you're in my prayers today, and I'm sure that many reading this post will join me. You are a good person, with a good heart, doing good work, and it's not your fault that many can't appreciate it. That's how it almost always is with innovators and pioneers.


Readers write: We're using WMTRBW this year

A reader writes:

At first glance, We Make the Road by Walking can look like another new adult study program for the fall. But a few of us see it as a vehicle for understanding who we are and how we can be better used to help fulfill God's Dream for all.

We're a small-ish UMC congregation. In our 150 year history, our community has gone from rural farms to a lively , upper middle class suburb, complete with malls, restaurants and two mega-churches. We've been coping with all this change by trying to do more of what we've done in the past, but we're down to 50 or so for Sunday worship.

Instead of "just another adult Sunday School program", we are excited about using WMTRBW as the central church-wide focus for a year. It will be an opportunity for the church to know better whose it is and where it needs to go. Through this commitment, the future can be derived from the bottom up instead the top down. But at this stage, to some it looks scary and risky. It may be a step too far from our familiar words and traditions. It is considered by a few already to be too "progressive"

Another reader writes:

In the July 19 blog posting, Q & R: Church Recommendation?, I was excited to read the following:

“In the last 24 hours or so, I've learned of two churches that will be using We Make the Road by Walking for their 2014-2015 curriculum, a "learning circle" forming in the DC area, a college class that will be going through the book this semester, and some groups for incarcerated people. It's exciting to see!”


We also intend to use We Make the Road by Walking over the coming year at our church. The plan is to purchase a copy for each family to use at home throughout the week, as well as during Sunday worship. We are just starting to set out definite plans, but we intend to use the book with families, with small groups, and with the congregation as a whole (yes, intergenerationally!).

We would absolutely love to hear from other churches that are using We Make the Road by Walking as their 2014-2015 curriculum! Is there a way of getting in contact with them?

If it turns out that other congregations would be interested in joining us on this exciting adventure, please feel free to pass on my contact information.

I am a lay volunteer with special interests in worship design, music leadership, and youth ministry.

Thanks for these encouraging notes. The list of churches I'm aware of that are using the book keeps growing … and I know there are lots I've not heard about.

It's not too late to jump in and use the book for 2014-2015. You can start at Chapter 1 either August 31 or in early September, or you can start at Chapter 14 at the beginning of Advent (November 30).

I recently created a Facebook community page to help people share ideas and experiences using the book. You'll find it here:

I hope you'll post your questions and experiences there!


Q & R: A, B, or C? (solving a marital dispute!)

Here's the Q:

I know this is a long shot in ever getting this answered, but my wife and I have just had a spirited "discussion" for an hour and are not able to come to an agreement, and so I am writing to you for your opinion. My wife and I both respect your opinion, and have several of your books, in fact, I just picked up "You Make the Road by Walking" earlier today at Barnes and Noble. So I'm not just a fan, I'm a paying reader too.

Anyway, here goes; first, some background to my question:

My wife and I are both former members of a very large mega-church headquartered in Seattle, WA. While at this church, my wife and I suffered from what could be described as a form of spiritual abuse: very heavy-handed authoritarian leadership, a performance based approach to understanding Christianity, a consumer-minded approach to consuming Christian branded "products" put out by the church; and I could go on. We left almost 4 years ago, and have been processing our time there. I think I suffered more than my wife did, as I took more of what I absorbed to heart, whereas my wife filtered out much of the content she received as clearly crazy, and not worthy of consideration.

Lately, this church has been getting a lot of negative press, and many people have been coming forward criticizing the church on several fronts, from the way it handles money, to its perspective on gender roles, to an abusive culture of fear within the church leadership. Today, there is an organized protest at the church headquarters, people holding signs and placards and such. The protest intends to be peaceful, to gently engage churchgoers and encourage them to ask questions, but not to obstruct anyone who might want to worship, and not to break the law. The media has picked up on the protest and will likely be featured in the news, which is also part of the aim of the protest, namely, to get the media to look closer at money trails and such.

My wife and I agree that much of the negative aspects of this church are outworking of theological ideas the church holds to that should be questioned, we just disagree about the proper mode of questioning.

Now, for my question:

Would you say that if one's goal is to get the broader evangelical community to question and reconsider theology, the best method is:

a. To write books, such as yours, that engage theological ideas
b. To protest specific abuses that may be the result of the outworking of theological ideas, even if that protest is aimed at a local church, and not, say, a civil rights or legal abuse that occurs more in the public sphere
c. Both A and B
d. neither a, b, or c.

I say c, my wife says a.

If you read this (I know you are a busy guy) I thank you for your patience, and would appreciate a response on your thoughts on the matter, whenever you have a mind to.

Thanks for the work you are doing, my wife and I both think that it is extremely important to have your voice engaged with the Christian conversation during these interesting times. So I guess, that we can both agree on!

Here's the R:
OK, get ready …
I agree with your wife.
And with you.

I don't think people should thoughtlessly stage protests in front of churches. Which is why I agree with your wife. But sometimes, a church is getting away with something harmful, and after many attempts to deal with the issue privately, it may become necessary to deal with it publicly through a direct demonstration.

I'm actually involved with a group of people planning a demonstration like this right now. First, an impressive group of people has come together to request a time to talk with the pastor and leadership of a church that has a lot of power and is using this power to harm people we know and love. If the leaders are willing to meet, we'll report on the outcome of the meeting. I hope and pray there will be a good outcome.

If they're not willing to meet or if the outcome is negative, because the church in question is causing so much harm to so many people, we will then plan a public protest, which you should hear about next year.

So, in general, I think your wife is right. But in extreme circumstances, I think you're right. I hope that's helpful ...


Please stand and applaud ...

1. The organizers of #NMOS14 and especially the Faith Leaders of Ferguson who "prayed with their feet" … read about them here:

2. Vicky Beeching - read about her here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/vicky-beeching-star-of-the-christian-rock-scene-im-gay-god-loves-me-just-the-way-i-am-9667566.html

3. Paul Rauschenbusch - read his important piece on Ferguson and racism here:

4. Michael Gungor - read about his bold and gracious response to recent criticism here:


Q & R: Are we ready for it?

Here's the Q:

I just finished reading Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, and am interested in doing this book as a small group study at a Methodist congregration. The study group has been ongoing for about 18 months, and each attendee seems pretty secure in their faith. The studies we have done in the past were more simplistic, and the questions didn't help us dig deeper. Basically, we looked up a question with a scripture reference in the Bible, and the answer was a direct quote from the scripture. It drove me crazy. But it turns out, everyone in the group desires a study that makes us think more, and dig deeper- which your book certainly does. I really want to help the Christian community have the conversations you propose in your book. Before reading your book, I struggled/ wrestled with each of the items you bring up in my own faith journey, and my family is interfaith- my brother and sister in law are Muslim. Ultimately, I reached many of the same conclusions after examining the very things you discuss in the book. I want to help Christians see the "others" in their lives- whether they are a different religion or not. I'm just not sure my small group is ready for your book yet or not. I'm afraid they may find it too shocking, or be turned off too early, and I'm a little nervous to stick my neck out. I would appreciate any suggestions for a small group, or if you have recommendations for other book titles to do instead that still discuss many of the doctrinal, liturgical, and missional questions.

Thank you for your time, and your commitment to interfaith dialogue.

Here's the R:
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. Here's a thought. Why don't you explain the book - which would involve sticking your neck out. Tell them that you enjoyed it, and why, and then tell them you're worried that it might be too controversial for the group. You could then let them decide if they're ready for it. Maybe they are?

Another option would be to do some background work on how people read the Bible. Two options would be my new book - We Make the Road by Walking, or an older book, A New Kind of Christianity. The latter addresses the question of how we read the Bible very directly … and the former simply introduces people to a better way of reading the Bible than proof-texting (which I blogged about recently.)


For folks who care about green and clean energy ...

Here's some encouraging news.


Faith and Science in Evangelical Colleges

A recent article details the ongoing struggle of Evangelical colleges over the theory of evolution:

Beneath this struggle is biblical literalism, which was the conceptual womb of many Evangelical colleges. In the commentary to my most recent book We Make the Road by Walking, I call this the "innocent literal" approach. It is diametrically opposed to what I call "critical literal" approach. (I propose a different alternative altogether - a critical literary approach.)

Innocent (or naive) Biblical literalism lies behind several other struggles too, including:
- Inability or unwillingness to rethink sexual orientation in light of new biological, psychological, and sociological science, resulting in ongoing stigmatization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, including their own sons and daughters.

- Inability or unwillingness to address the science of global warming, which has staggering consequences for life on our planet.

- Inability or unwillingness to see beyond a facile good-guy/bad-guy typology of the Israel-Palestine situation, which results in a prolongation (even an apocalpyt-ization) of a conflict that needs to be resolved.

- Inability or unwillingness to grapple with full equality for women as well as men, nonChristians as well as Christians, people of all races and nationalities, etc.

Among Evangelicals, innocent literalism is typically called "a high view of Scripture." It is time for Evangelicals to realize that this is actually an immature view of Scripture. A critical literary approach takes the text in all its granularity more seriously and seeks meaning and truth in all the facets of the text. It is unafraid to ask any question or face any evidence. It takes seriously all dimensions of the text, including the evidence for how the compositions of Scripture evolved over time. It is, in this sense, a much "higher view."

It is time for Evangelical parents to realize that spending $50,000-100,000+ in lower forms of higher education for their daughters and sons is a bad investment. We need Christian colleges to defect from the innocent-literal approach and dare to actually educate. And we need a new nationwide campus ministry that will also dare to defect from that unhelpful approach. (More on that soon.)

Church leaders, college and university leaders, campus ministry leaders alike - higher education demands a higher view of Scripture than the innocent-literalism that currently holds the purse-strings and pulls the puppet-strings.


Free stuff and discounts

If you're not on my email list, please sign up ASAP. This weekend I'll be sending out an email with some promo codes for free stuff and discounts. Sign up here: http://a.pgtb.me/cGMg


Q & R: Does God desire losers?

Here's the Q:

I hope this email finds you well.

I recently read your book "Cross The Road" with great delight. It gave me hope that there are other people out there that feel similarly about religion.

I've been following your blog regarding the current conflict in the middle-east. I'm confused about something. How can you as a Christian talk about a win-win situation when that is not the will of God? I've been struggling to understand your concept. On one side we have the word of God:

Genesis 17:7-8 states: "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

On the other side you seem to support rabbi Siegman (a brave man!) who questions Israel's morality in this conflict. But isn't Israel simply claiming and defending what God promised? It seems clear to me that the bible leaves no doubt about the rightful owners of that land.

We can't have it both ways. My personal opinion/morality is in stark contrast with God's will in the OT, because I'm a firm believer that Palestinians also have the right to live there. How do you reconcile something that is mutually exclusive? I don't see how we can have a win-win situation given God's word.

I know you must be getting hundreds of emails each day, but I hope you may find 2 minutes to reply.

Here's the R:
What an important question!

I need to tell you something terribly important - and scary and unsettling for many: that way of reading the Bible - quoting a Bible verse in isolation to respond to a contemporary situation - has caused a lot of damage in the world. It is an irresponsible way to use the Bible, especially for an American. In our history, that way of using the Bible justified the slaughter and land theft of Native Americans, justified enslavement of kidnapped black Africans, justified segregation/apartheid and white privilege, justified the subjugation of women, justified the exploitation of the earth, and many other horrible things. It's called "proof-texting" - and it is a methodology that needs to be rejected once and for all, especially by people who love the Bible.

It's an abuse of the Bible and it needs to be left in the past, along with the injustices it was used to perpetuate.

That doesn't mean rejecting the Bible; it means rejecting one discredited way of using/abusing the Bible. I offer a better way of reading the Bible in my new book, We Make the Road by Walking.

You're right - Genesis 17 says what you say. But it doesn't necessarily mean what you've been told it means. For starters, consider how you would interpret Genesis 17 in light of Deuteronomy 10 and Leviticus 19 and 26 … I wrote about those Scriptures here.

If you're a Christian, more importantly, how would you square using those verses to justify oppression of the Palestinians in light of Jesus' teaching - say, to do unto others as you would have them do to you, or to love your enemies, or to seek first God's restorative justice?

So - we may not be able to find a win-win solution if we only quote one verse - in isolation from the rest of the Bible. But if allow God to speak, not through one disconnected, out-of-context verse, but through the whole of Scripture, centered in the life and teaching of Christ … I think win-win solutions are possible.

If some of our ancestors didn't seek that alternative approach, we would still be quoting verses to justify slavery, apartheid, suppression of women, exploitation of the environment, and much more. (Oops. I guess some people still are using the Bible in these sad ways!) So - good news! You can still love the Bible without using it as a source for proof-texts.


The list keeps growing ...

AS of today I've heard from Mennonite, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Foursquare, Quaker, Baptist, Episcopal, Vineyard, UCC, and non-denominational churches that are planning to use We Make the Road by Walking for 2014-2015. There are also home groups, seminary classes, prison fellowships, campus ministries, lunch-hour groups at non-profits, campus ministries, and neighborhood reading groups planning to begin in a week or two. There is an amazing online resource showing how one family is using the book around the dinner table.

To explore what the book/curriculum could do for your group or congregation, check this out:

Also - there's a new Facebook page for readers and leaders working with the book. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/wemaketheroadbywalking/timeline

PS. You may have heard that Amazon and my publisher are in a spat, which means Amazon isn't being very helpful about selling the book or offering discounts. But you can get bulk orders at a discount from other booksellers here.


This week I'm in the Sierras in California ...

It's beautiful here - the setting, the spiritual retreat that I'm part of, the mountains, the people. But there's no escaping what's going on in the outside world.

The other day on a long drive in a rental car, I did something I seldom do: tuned into to AM talk radio. I heard a man named Michael Savage pontificate in ridiculous and threatening ways, using rhetoric that reminded me so much of George Wallace in my childhood ...

Then this morning I saw those same words from Wallace referenced in a piece on Gaza by my Jewish friend Mark Braverman, available here. He quotes Israeli historian Ilan Pappe's message to the family of the 1000 civilian victim in Gaza:

“I feel the urge today to make a pledge to you, which none of the Germans my father knew during the time of the Nazi regime was willing to make to him when the thugs committed genocide against his family. This is not much of a pledge at your moment of grief, but it is the best I can offer and saying nothing is not an option. And doing nothing is even less than an option.”

The whole article is worth reading, including the links, especially this very disturbing one, where this question is asked: "What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?" The article was pulled down, but like the rhetoric of George Wallace and Michael Savage, it indicates something desperate brewing beneath the surface. Another reason you should read Mark Braverman's piece and encourage others to do so.

PS. I later received this email from a South African friend, widow of a white leader who stood in the struggle against apartheid. Again, the links are worth following:

Joshua Bloomberg and his friends make me think back many years to when Beyers Naude - and my children - stood up against the injustice of their time.... as we should do against all injustice where-ever it may be.

Please join this campaign: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/humanity-retain-joshua-broomberg-as-deputy-head-boy-of-king-david-high-school-do-not-punish-him-because-he-stood-up-for-human-rights-in-palestine-as-petitioned-by-concerned-zionist?recruiter=17312153&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition


An Open Letter from Farid Esack

Turning the wall into a message board.


Want to understand the global economy?

This chart shows one dimension … GDP. But there are other important dimensions. More on them soon.


Q & R: False teachers?

Here's the Q:

Thank you Brian for all of your books, especially most important to me have been a generous orthodoxy and a new kind of christianity. Really looking forward to getting into WMTRBW as the year goes on.

I am wondering what you think false teachers are? There are several references in the letters in the NT warning about false teachers - what are they talking about? Does it apply in any way to us today? Thank you!

Here's the R:
Thanks for the kind words. Of course there are false teachers, and the warnings of the NT on the subject are as important today as ever.

Who are they? That depends on whom you ask. One group's prophet is another group's false prophet - one group's teacher is another group's false teacher.

In one sense, all teachers are false - in that nobody is perfectly right about everything. That's why one of the most important qualities in a trustworthy teacher is corrigibility - the willingness to learn, admit mistakes, think again … in a spirit of humility and teachability.

It's not just what a teacher says that matters: it's how they say it and how they live.

Jesus repeatedly taught that "by their fruits you shall know them," and James gave this sage advice about the qualities of a wise and trustworthy teacher:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes…. Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for* those who make peace.

I've noticed in recent years that those who spend the most time identifying and attacking those they call "false teachers" often have a deficit of the qualities James commends … No wonder Jesus said, "Take heed how you hear."


Q & R: And?

Here's the Q:

I just finished reading A Generous Orthodoxy and was wondering if you were intentionally following Mark's example in ending your book on a conjunction. The work of building the Kingdom, after the shaky start in Mark 16:8, has only just begun.

Here's the R:
Yes. The idea was to emphasize the unfinished nature of "a generous orthodoxy." As you say, the great work has only just begun. Today's headlines remind us that there is much to do. We will make the road not by whining, worrying, talking, criticizing, or complaining … but only by walking forward in faith together. So ...


A New Facebook Page

for "We Make the Road by Walking" -


Please check it out and "like" it!


Q & R: Racial Reconciliation

Here's the Q:

I'd love to see you address racial reconciliation, particularly in the US; the civil rights movement started in a culture that was still steeped in modernism - so now what about racial reconciliation in a postmodern world? I think it needs a fresh look. And at the role of Christians as peacemakers and reconcilers - how best to fulfill that role in the case of the racial/socioeconomic/cultural divide. It is extraordinarily complex, of course, but it's also one of our primary callings as Christ followers.

Here's the R:
This is a truly important subject. I agree with my friend Frank Schaeffer - that on many levels, we are seeing a resurgence of (or exposure of latent) racism in these years with an African American president - Frank calls it "the slow-motion lynching of Barack Obama."

I recently read this article with lots of interesting (and significant) charts on the subject of race and equality:
You can draw several conclusions from the data:

1) Affluent blacks and Hispanics still live in poorer neighborhoods than whites with working class incomes.

2) There's a big disparity in wealth between white Americans and non-white Americans.

3) The racial wealth gap kept widening well after the Civil Rights era.

4) The Great Recession didn't hit everyone equally.

5) In the years before the financial crisis, people of color were much more likely to be targeted for subprime loans than their white counterparts, even when they had similar credit scores.

6) Minority borrowers are still more likely to get turned down for conventional mortgage loans than white people with similar credit scores.

7) Black and Latino students are more likely to attend poorly funded schools.

8) School segregation is still widespread.

9) As early as preschool, black students are punished more frequently, and more harshly, for misbehaving than their white counterparts.

10) Perceptions of the innocence of children are still often racially skewed.

11) White Americans use drugs more than black Americans, but black people are arrested for drug possession more than three times as often as whites.

12) Black men receive prison sentences 19.5 percent longer than those of white men who committed similar crimes, a 2013 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.

13) A clean record doesn't protect young black men from discrimination when they're looking for work.

14) Black job seekers are often turned away by U.S. companies on the assumption that they do drugs.

15) Employers are more likely to turn away job seekers if they have African-American-sounding names.

Your comment about modern versus postmodern ways of grappling with race and equality is indeed fascinating. I will give this more thought, but here's one consideration.

As a modernist project, the Civil Rights movement worked "by the book" - i.e. it appealed to the nation's "sacred texts" and to the "unpaid note" they promised:

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This was and is a powerful line of argument - appealing to sacred authoritative texts, to the rationality of an economic transaction, etc. I would say that Dr. King also had some very "postmodern" lines of argument that were less transactional and more narrative. Referring to the Exodus narrative, for example, pressing on through the wilderness of prejudice towards the promised land of equality, has this ancient and postmodern feel.

To the degree that modernity appealed to "timeless truths" and postmodernity leans on evolutionary processes, today's civil rights message might ask questions like these:
What kind of future do we want?
Do we want a world where race, politics, and religion align to reinforce and inflame mutual fears and hostilities? Or do we dream of a world where differences are seen as advantages, where we learn from past mistakes, and where we strive for the common good?
Are human beings evolving/learning/maturing/growing beyond the racial prejudices of the past?

There is huge work for Christian theologians and preachers to do in this regard, since so many of our theologies and denominations were born or came of age in the age of colonialism, enslavement, and segregation/apartheid - and did little or nothing to oppose them. That's a big part of my instinct in writing We Make the Road by Walking - to help people read the Bible in a way that leads to reconciliation, mutual respect, diversity with equality, and more.


Q & R: Little Rock?

Here's the Q:

When and where will you be speaking in Little Rock, AR?

Here's the R:
September 26-28. You'll find info here:
Several of my favorite people will be there - it should be a splendid weekend!


Q & R: Where to Start?

Here's the Q:

Your response on Rachel's blog concerning progressive Christianity being a slow path the atheism struck a chord in me.

Not in the sense that I have stopped believing in God, but in that I have been in the middle of deconstructing the "God of the establishment" for a couple of years now and just feel confused and unsure about where to go from here.

It was simply a relief (after reading your response) to know that I wasn't the only one experiencing this.

I grew up in a conservative church and I am studying Bible at a conservative Christian college. None of my peers seemed to be experiencing what I was.

It started with deconstructing the God who punishes people for eternity and has gone all of the way through a deconstruction of the anti science God, and the inerrantist God, the penal substitution God (still working on that one), and a handful of other cluttered topics.

And I feel like I've lost all of the ways that were meaningful to me in the beginning of my faith of relating to God and understanding purpose and what it means to be human in God's world.

Having always planned on doing ministry, and with two years of school left, there's quite a bit of anxiety about how my faith is going to be formed and molded from here and what that means about my future (relationships, the rest of my time in school, career).

Could you possibly offer some words of encouragement and maybe some more resources from people who have experienced similar things….

I would like to read your work, but don't really know where to start. Would you recommend a particular order of your books that might be helpful for someone in my spot?

Rachel and people like Rob Bell, N.T. Wright, and Peter Enns have been particularly formative so far.

Thank you for your time,

Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. I'm so glad Rachel Held Evans is doing her good work out there - she is a lifeline for so many people. And of course the same is true for Rob Bell, N. T. Wright, Peter Enns, and many others.

I just read a manuscript for a new book that will be out soon by Kathy Escobar. I think you will find Faith Shift super helpful.

Of my works, here's what I'd recommend:
1. Secret Message of Jesus and/or A New Kind of Christian
2. A New Kind of Christianity (this is more theological in tone)
3. We Make the Road by Walking (my newest - especially relevant to "relating to God and understanding purpose and what it means to be human in God's world")

Be assured - you are not alone, and better days are ahead!


The greatest threat to Christianity is ...

misguided Christians, just as the greatest threat to Islam is misguided Muslims and the greatest threat to Judaism is misguided Jews. Religious insiders can do harm to their religion in ways that outsiders never could. This is especially true in a pluralistic world, where religions are credible to the degree they bring benefits to outsiders.

My friend Rabbi Michael Lerner explains why, in poignant reflections on the current situation in Israel-Palestine, here:


Turtle Island

As we watch the heartbreak of Israelis and Palestinians struggling over land, security, freedom, the past, and the future … it's a good time to remember that similar struggles happened in North America - or Turtle Island. So much of the story of struggle here has been suppressed or forgotten, which is why this video is so worth your time.


A Lamentation for Gaza and Israel

I posted this over on my Facebook page:

A lamentation for Gaza from Rabbi Brant Rosen: http://rabbibrant.com/2014/08/01/for-tisha-bav-a-lamentation-for-gaza/

In the comments, my Jewish friend Mark Braverman (jewishconscience) responds with this excerpt from his powerful book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Fatal Embrace:
In response I also want to share a passage from my book, Fatal Embrace. This recounts my Tisha B’av of 8 years ago, the summer I went to the West Bank.
“My last night in Palestine that summer fell on the ninth of Av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning, the traditional date of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon and the beginning of the exile of the Jews two thousand years ago. The book of Lamentations, a source text for our liturgy of mourning, attributed by tradition to the prophet Jeremiah, is chanted that night. It is a harrowing description of a people fallen and traumatized.
Jerusalem has greatly sinned
Therefore has she been made a mockery. All who admired her despise her
For they have seen her disgraced.
Panic and pitfall are our lot,
Death and destruction.
My eyes shed streams of water
Over the brokenness of my poor people. (Lam. 1:8, 4:46–48; author’s translation)
On that night, I sat on a hill overlooking the Old City, in the company of congregations of praying Jews, mostly American émigrés worshiping, I felt, at the shrine of their Jerusalem—a Jerusalem “reclaimed” at the expense of the Palestinian people; a Jerusalem that for Palestinians is also a spiritual and political center; a Jerusalem that is being taken from them street by street, farm by farm, village by village. I stood on that hill and chanted the words as I had every year on this day, descriptions of starvation, rape, slaughter, destruction of homes, and banishment from the land, and, for the life of me, I could apply the words only to the Palestinians. In these words, I now felt their suffering. And my eyes shed streams of water for them, my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and yes, for the brokenness of my own people.”
Hamakom y’nachem otanu b’toch sh’ar avlei Zion v’Yerushalim.

In contrast to these empathetic and humane Jewish voices of lamentation, there other voices calling for something very close to genocide, mirroring the horrible extremist rhetoric of their opponents in Hamas. See this …
and this:

Words from my 2012 release come to mind: "We are increasingly faced with a choice, I believe, not between kindness and hostility, but between kindness and nonexistence" (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? p. 12). Those words might be paraphrased as follows: Human hostilities tend to accelerate and intensify until we are faced with the ultimate choice between reconciliation and genocide.

Or this: Human hostilities tend to accelerate and intensify until we must choose between reconciliation and mutually-assured destruction, which is a form of mutual self-destruction, or joint suicide. The words "Choose life" take on new meaning.


Teaching Kids to Walk

A reader writes (regarding using my new book, We Make the Road by Walking, as a curriculum for VBS) ...

I am so excited! Last Sunday, I tested the Walking VBS curriculum with a group of children [from our church]. The group was small and all of the children were under 8-which scared me at first. I had thought the curriculum would work best with children in 5th grade and above. I was blown away by their reaction.

We did a modified version of Chapter One. The kids loved the response prayers and I added a movement prayer to help with the wiggles. The children read the scripture. (I will admit that I modified it a little for ease of reading. Not my most scholarly move but in the interest of storytelling I did it.) They enjoyed that. The teaching part was more than they could listen to in the hour time. I think given a longer time period, they would have no trouble listening. The problem was not having enough time to process between scripture and lesson. I did modify the lesson for them. (I found that only slightly less intimidating than changing scripture :) )

The parents and their teacher were so impressed that they have been calling all week to prepare for Sunday's lesson. In the full VBS flow, we start with week 1 and then jump to chapter 27, 30, and 31. Day 5 is set aside as a mission in action day. The church will chose a mission where the children will be active participants. For tomorrow, we will be doing chapter 30. I streamlined it considerably because I want the children to have time to serve communion to one another. We got special permission for this from their church.

This has been a wonderful experiment so far. And, just so you know, there are two other churches who are interested in helping with field testing.

I'm very excited to hear about this as well … I'll keep folks informed via this website as this project develops.


Israel, Gaza, Sanity, and Insanity (Part 3)

"When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we’re watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis — and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success." - Rabbi Henry Siegman

It's easy to get depressed reading some of the comments (over on my Facebook page) to my previous two postings on this subject. They make the above quote from a leading American rabbi all the more impressive. I encourage readers to listen to his entire interview, here.

In any win-lose scenario, neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a chance for what they both truly want and need - which is peace, security, freedom, and the chance to build sustainable prosperity for themselves and their descendants, in peace with their neighbors. In other words, short-term win-lose scenarios are long-term lose-lose scenarios. The long-term well-being of each is bound up with the well-being of the other.

That is true for all of us, which is an insight captured both in the African term "ubuntu" and in the central image of Jesus' message, "the kingdom/commonwealth of God."

More from Rabbi Siegman:

And I have always asked myself, and this has a great deal to do with my own changing views about the policies of governments, not about the Jewish state qua Jewish state, but of the policies pursued by Israeli governments and supported—you know, they say Israel is a model democracy in the Middle East, so you must assume—the public has to assume some responsibility for what the government does, because they put governments in place. So, the question I ask myself: What if the situation were reversed? You know, there is a Talmudic saying in Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of the Fathers: "Al tadin et chavercha ad shetagiah lemekomo," "Don’t judge your neighbor until you can imagine yourself in his place." So, my first question when I deal with any issue related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue: What if we were in their place?
What if the situation were reversed, and the Jewish population were locked into, were told, "Here, you have less than 2 percent of Palestine, so now behave. No more resistance. And let us deal with the rest"? Is there any Jew who would have said this is a reasonable proposition, that we cease our resistance, we cease our effort to establish a Jewish state, at least on one-half of Palestine, which is authorized by the U.N.? Nobody would agree to that. They would say this is absurd. So the expectations that Palestinians—and I’m speaking now about the resistance as a concept; I’m not talking about rockets, whether they were justified or not. They’re not. I think that sending rockets that are going to kill civilians is a crime. But for Palestinians to try, in any way they can, to end this state of affair—and to expect of them to end their struggle and just focus on less than 2 percent to build a country is absurd. That is part of—that’s propaganda, but it’s not a discussion of either politics or morality.


And now for something amazing …

The Stonecypher family has been working through We Make the Road by Walking - and John is making his amazing playlists and videos available with commentary … here:


Israel, Gaza, Sanity, and Insanity (Part 2)

In a previous post, I tried to address an important issue: that we need to address our precritical approaches to the conflict. If our line of approach is misguided, we will find it easier to be unhelpful. If we repeat conventional polarized/paralyzed rhetoric about the conflict, we will intensify misunderstanding and contribute to the descending spiral of violence … violence that escalates in nightmarish ways.

People on each side of the conflict tend to see their counterpart as intellectually inferior (using words like "insane" or "irrational") and morally flawed. Religious people frequently use the Bible to justify this kind of pre-judgment. (In my most recent book, We Make the Road by Walking, I offer a way of reading the Biblical story that undermines prejudice and leads towards peacemaking.) Thus God is brought in to accuse one side and protect the other.

Any conflict that is addressed from such premises has little chance of being resolved.

Is there another alternative - to consider at least - in the pursuit of a resolution that doesn't involve mass killing?

If we begin with this starting point:
Israel and Palestine are acting more or less sanely if one understands their respective goals.

And if we proceed to ask this question:
In the pursuit of what goals would the actions of both Israel and Palestine make the most sense?

I think we could consider two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Israel is traumatized and determined. The Jewish people have suffered so much oppression at the hands of anti-Semitic Christians and others through the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust, that they are determined to create a lasting homeland where the Jewish people will be safe forever. In order to achieve that goal, they must accomplish two objectives:
A. To continue the occupation long enough so that settlements can continue to spread, thus rendering impossible any hopes of a Palestinian state that has refused to accept their existence.

B. To preserve their status - in their own eyes, and in the eyes of their main benefactor, the US - as a morally-superior nation. Doing so requires justifying the occupation and the expansion of settlements, minimizing any errors that are made in doing so, launching campaigns to overcome threats, and maximizing the impression that the Palestinians deserve what they're getting.

Hypothesis 2. Palestine is desperate and determined. They have lived under varying degrees of occupation, oppression, invasion, surveillance, and un-freedom for decades. They are utterly out-gunned by Israel, and well-funded Israeli lobbies out-spend them in molding public opinion in the US as well. Their prospects for freedom, dignity, and an improvement in their basic life conditions are slim even if they pretend that the taking of their homeland never happened. The international community is likely to tacitly allow their situation to continue to deteriorate.

Faced with such bleak prospects, the Hamas party routinely launches rocket attacks. The objective of these attacks is not to "win" in a military conflict. The objective is two-fold:

A. To be sure the world doesn't simply forget them and normalize their oppression, which tends to occur whenever they are not firing rockets.

B. To tempt Israel to over-react, so that Israel's moral superiority would then be questioned, thus opening the possibility that world public opinion will shift and their situation may change.

In light of those two hypotheses, the actions of both nations seem to follow a certain kind of logic, rendering each side sane and moral in its own eyes, and insane and immoral in the eyes of the other.

By that logic, every action of each party is paradoxical. On the one hand, the rockets fired from Gaza help Hamas be sure that the Palestinian occupation won't be normalized and their suffering forgotten. But those same rockets help Israelis defend the occupation, justify the expansion of settlements, and demonstrate the moral inferiority of their opponents.

Similarly, the killing of civilians by the Israeli military can be used by Israelis to display the moral inferiority of those who use their wives and children as human shields, while helping the Gazans by demonstrating Palestinian victimhood and undermining the claim of Israeli moral superiority.

Where will this lead? Nowhere good, I would say, unless and until some other logic - the creative logic of nonviolent peacemaking and conflict transformation - enters the equation.

That is why those of us outside the region should defect from the predictable, conventional logic and rhetoric that sustain the status quo of violence, hostility, and death and seek another approach … a higher logic of shalom/salaam/peace and justice, which a Palestinian Jewish teacher named Jesus called "the reign of God." Seek it first, he said, and everything else will fall into place. (Part 3 will follow in a day or two.)


Q & R: Why not Hinduism?

Here's the Q:

Thank you for writing "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?" In it I think you address one of the most important issues of our day. Why did you not include Hinduism, the other of the five major living religions?

Here's the R:
You're right. Christianity in its many diverse forms accounts for about 33% of the world's population, Islam for about 21-24%, and Hinduism comes in next with about 17%. (It is about "tied" with secular or nonreligious at this point in history.) So it is truly important, and I wasn't intending to snub the religion in any way by not including it in the title.

The main reason it's not included is a practical one: there isn't one single historical figure who can be associated with Hinduism as Moses, Jesus, the Buddha, or Muhammed can be associated with Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.

Second, the main focus of the book, as you know, is Christian identity. It's not an attempt to explain other religions or even assess the state of Christian dialogue with other religions - both of which are topics I'm very interested in. The book's focus is on exploring the roots of religious hostility and violence - both of which are terribly live issues in today's world, as evidenced by this week's headlines.

I'm always grateful for opportunities to interact with Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and other religious believers, as well as nonbelievers, over issues of justice, peace, sustainability, and conviviality. At the same time, I'm generally focused on helping Christians deal with the planks in our own eyes, not the splinters in the eyes of others.

So thanks for your question, and for the chance to affirm that no slight was intended. (I had a similar issue with my book A Generous Orthodoxy. Lutherans wondered why they didn't get a chapter like the Methodists, Reformed, Episcopalians, and others did. Similarly - no slight intended!)

By the way, I just learned that the kindle version of "Cross the Road" is on sale at Amazon for $1.99. More information here:


Israel, Gaza, Insanity and Sanity (Part 1)

This is not a post about who is right and wrong in Israel-Palestine.

This is a post about how the rest of us talk about who is right and wrong in Israel-Palestine.

Conventional discourse on the subject goes like this:

X is right, good, values life, wants peace, is a victim, and is sane. Y is wrong, bad, doesn't value life, doesn't want peace, is a villain, and is insane.

Then, data is selected and presented (and other data ignored or discredited) to prove the proposition.

I suppose the goal is to prove that whichever is deemed the right, good, life-valuing, peace-loving, victimized and sane party has the right to continue killing the other.

Which seems ridiculous and tragic, when you think about it.

Another approach to the issue would say:

Both X and Y are a mix of right and wrong, good and bad, valuing some life more than others, acting sometimes as victims and sometimes as villains, and a mixture of sanity and insanity. They aren't necessarily morally equivalent, but neither is to exempted from moral assessment."

What would be the advantages of starting from this alternative perspective rather than the conventional one?

A further possibility would be to say:

X and Y are acting more or less sanely if one understands their respective goals.

That third possibility would raise this question:

In the pursuit of what goals would the actions of both Israel and Palestine make sense?

I'd like to offer a few thoughts on that question in a day or two. But for now, I hope people will at least consider defecting from the prevailing good-guys/bad-guys mode of discourse. It gets us nowhere we want to be.


Q & R: Incremental or ???

Here's the Q:

I read your article on homophobic zones and was wondering your thoughts on extending that idea to other theological issues. I attend a chuch that believes (in no particular order):

-Penal Substitutionary atonement
-The six-line narrative soul-sort
-premillenial dispensationalism
-women should be excluded from serving as elders.

So if you were trying to order those from 1-4, how would you order them? In other words, if I say I think all of those are wrong-headed, folks like me get dismissed all at once, but if someone were to question say the six-line narrative in the context of PSA, ("Sure Jesus died to appease the angry father, but he paid the penalty for *everyone's* sin.") we could help folks move out of the six-line narrative zone, even if they stay in the PSA zone.

Do you see what I'm trying to ask here?

Here's the R:
In many spheres of life, there is a debate between gradualism/incrementalism and more radical, sudden, decisive change. If you're asking whether or not I'm for gradualism in general, I'd actually say no. I'm for all the positive, constructive change toward justice, peace, and compassion that anyone or any group can handle, as fast as they can sustainably handle it.

But the truth is that few people seem to be ready to handle a lot of change fast … even when they need to. "People only change when the pain of not changing surpasses the pain of changing," the old saying goes, and sadly, it usually seems to be the case.

As with many things, when the choice is between gradualism and radical change, I think the answer is both/and. Here's why.

Most if not all of our ideas are held in systems or paradigms. People seldom abandon a paradigm quickly or easily. What most often happens is that they accept minor tweaks or adjustments to the paradigm, trying to save it as long as possible.

Eventually, they end up with so many amendments that they decide the whole constitution needs to be rewritten, so to speak. They stop trying to patch the old leaky boat and try to construct a new one. (The "Ship of Theseus" parable comes to mind.) At that point, more radical new alternatives come into view.

So … people may question literal 6-day creation without questioning the 6-line narrative I've written about. Or they may revise their view on women in ministry (or homosexuality) without rethinking the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. I'm for gradual or incremental rethinking that leads people into more just, compassionate, or peaceful ways of life.

But ultimately, I think the changes we need in the Christian community (and many Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, Capitalists, Communists, and others would say something similar about their various communities) are ultimately on the paradigmatic level. That's the "new wineskin" that is demanded, ultimately, by "new wine."

It's interesting to think of the four gospels as proposing a radical new paradigm, and then to read the Epistles as various attempts to grapple with what that will mean in relation to any number of individual issues.

Of the issues you mentioned, the narrative question is the most paradigmatic one. If people rethink that issue (as I tried to explain in A New Kind of Christianity), all the other issues will necessarily be reconsidered.

My new book, We Make the Road by Walking, proposes a whole new paradigm, rooted in the Bible and flowing out into a fresh vision of just about everything.


On Gaza, Israel, Netanyahu, Moral Superiority, and Being Human

"And what shall we do, we ordinary people? I pray we can listen to our hearts. My heart tells me that “never again” is not a tribal slogan, that the murder of my grandparents in Auschwitz does not justify the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, that justice, truth, peace are not tribal prerogatives. That Israel’s “right to defend itself,” unarguable in principle, does not validate mass killing."
- Gabor Mate, Jewish survivor of Nazi genocide

Mate says:

I have visited Gaza and the West Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us — Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work, education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.
One could debate details, historical and current, back and forth. Since my days as a young Zionist and, later, as a member of Jews for a Just Peace, I have often done so. I used to believe that if people knew the facts, they would open to the truth. That, too, was naïve. This issue is far too charged with emotion. As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has pointed out, the accumulated mutual pain in the Middle East is so acute, “a significant part of the population finds itself forced to act it out in an endless cycle of perpetration and retribution.”
“People’s leaders have been misleaders, so they that are led have been confused,” in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. The voices of justice and sanity are not heeded.

More here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/07/22/beautiful_dream_of_israel_has_become_a_nightmare.html


A death, the theoretic, and a poem ...

My friend Jason Derr sent me this:

Over the weekend liberation theologian Rubem Alves - founder of the theopoetic - passed away. He was 80. His book 'The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet' is a beautiful study on language, imagination and religion. I like to say that it is would have happened if Allen Ginsberg (beat poet, writer of 'Howl') were to write theology.

Here is Alves' poem "Tomorrow’s Children"

What is hope? It is a presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks. It is a hunch that the overwhelming brutality of facts that oppress and repress is not the last word. It is a suspicion that reality is more complex than realism wants us to believe and that the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual and that in a miraculous and unexpected way life is preparing the creative events which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…. The two, suffering and hope, live from each other. Suffering without hope produces resentment and despair, hope without suffering creates illusions, naivete, and drunkenness…. Let us plant dates even though those who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. This is the secret discipline. It is a refusal to let the creative act be dissolved in immediate sense experience and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined love is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints the courage to die for the future they envisaged. They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.

Source: “Tomorrow’s Children” from Hijos de Maoana, by Rubem Alves.
Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Sigueme, 1976.


Q & R: How do you respond to N. T. Wright?

Here's the Q:

First, let me say how instrumental your work has been for me personally. Books like The Secret Message of Jesus and A New Kind of Christianity have forever shaped my life and ministry, and I'm exceedingly grateful for that.

Second, I feel "stuck in conservative Christianity" as I watch and listen to you and others like Rob Bell and Adam Hamilton embrace a Christian position that embraces faithful, monogamous homosexual lifestyles. I consider myself fairly open to those biblical arguments that push to legitimatize faithful and love-filled homosexuality. In fact, I even offer to some of my friends better arguments than they have that push in that direction. But alas, I still find myself unconvinced.

I believe and hope I'm that person that truly loves and values those who are homosexual, wanting always to seek their good. I even know and have family members who embrace this lifestyle, and I truly think they know that I am for them and for God's best in their lives. But still, in the end, I'm one of those Christians that can't seem yet to accept any line of argument that endorses such behavior as God's best or desire for humanity. I really wish I could.

Like you, I'm hugely influenced by N. T. Wright, who, as you know, also has yet to allow space for God-condoned homosexual behavior. I know your admiration for him remains, but I wonder how you would articulate such respect. On one level, I feel deeply connected with those of the "Brian McLaren ilk"—if I could put it hat way—but on another level, I feel disconnected due to this issue. What would you say to someone like me or Wright on this particular issue knowing there's disagreement but a large degree of affinity? How would you encourage our continued camaraderie as fellow Christians who share so much in common and yet diverge on this particular point?

Thank you in advance for whatever insights you offer here.

Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. I know that many people feel exactly as you do. In terms of a four-zone schema I've written about, you are articulating Zone 3, and you're uncomfortable about Zone 4.

You're right - I've expressed a lot of admiration for Tom Wright. His work played a big role in helping me see the New Testament and the gospel in a new, brighter, bolder, more expansive light. I'll always be grateful to him for that. I've not paid a lot of attention to his writings or statements on LGBT issues recently, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see these issues differently. That's fine with me. We're in different contexts, prioritizing different goals, balancing and negotiating different limitations and concerns and constituencies. None of us agree on everything, none of us can excel and do everything, and I think we all appreciate others for helping us in some ways, even if we don't agree the others.

Some of my friends differ with me on this, but I'm glad that Zone 2 people provide a more humane alternative to Zone 1 people, and I'm glad Zone 3 people provide a more humane alternative to Zone 2 people, and of course I'm glad Zone 4 people provide a more human alternative to Zone 3 people.

One more thing. I want to respond to this statement:

I even know and have family members who embrace this lifestyle, and I truly think they know that I am for them and for God's best in their lives. But still, in the end, I'm one of those Christians that can't seem yet to accept any line of argument that endorses such behavior as God's best or desire for humanity. I really wish I could.

First, when you speak of people "who embrace this lifestyle," you are making assumptions that I would encourage you to question. For example, I don't think people "embrace the left-handed lifestyle," nor do I think people "embrace the extraverted lifestyle," nor do I think people "embrace the homosexual lifestyle." I think left-handers, extraverts, and LGBT people can hide who they are - "in the closet." But being who they are isn't "embracing a lifestyle." The fact is, there is no single LGBT lifestyle. I hope you'll give that matter a second thought.

Second, the idea of "God's best for their lives" is a more problematic concept than you may have considered. When men tell women "what's God's best for their lives," when whites tell people of color "what's God's best for their lives," when married people tell singles "what's God's best for their lives" and so on, I think we should be very cautious. Same when straight people tell LGBT people "what's God's best for their lives." These things don't often turn out well. I'm not trying to be critical - just to respond to your request for feedback. I hope it's helpful.


How (parts of) the Church Will Change on Homosexuality

I was invited to be part of a panel on LGBT human rights recently. I shared a four-zone schema for understanding religious responses to the reality that something like 3-6% of human beings turn out to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.

1. Promote violence against and stigmatization of LGBT people in the name of God and religion.
2. Oppose violence but uphold stigmatization of LGBT people in the name of God and religion.
3. Oppose violence and seek to reduce stigmatization of LGBT people in the name of God and religion.
4. Oppose violence and replace stigmatization with equality and dignity in the name of God and religion.

I was remembering in recent days something a little less clinical and a little more personal. For many years I was an Evangelical pastor firmly in Zone 3 on the question of LGBT identity and equality. I didn't know that some members of my immediate family were gay. I hadn't taken any kind of public stand (either way) on the issue. I recall some barely-articulated thoughts and feelings from that time. I'm not proud of these memories, but I hope other pastors and Christian leaders might be helped if I try to articulate them roughly in their order of appearance:

1. It's fine if gay people want equal rights in the secular world, but why do they have to disturb the church? Why can't gay people just be satisfied with being "out" and accepted in society? Why can't they just be satisfied with civil unions? Why do they keep pushing? Don't they know how hard this is for religious communities? Can't they be more patient? Ministry is hard enough without having to deal with this on top of everything else.

2. Oh no. This issue isn't going away. My congregation is going to have to deal with it. Let's see … if we stay the same, we'll lose maybe 4% of our people who are fired up about this issue. If we change, we'll lose maybe 40% of the people…. Maybe someday, but we can't change yet. The cost is too high.

3. The way I've been thinking about this (see #1 and #2) sounds a lot like the way the previous generation dealt - or failed to deal - with race and desegregation. Isn't that why Dr. King wrote "Why We Can't Wait" in 1964? Am I like a segregationist in 1964? In my seemingly daring compromises - "accepting but not affirming," members but not leaders, civil unions not marriages - am I simply creating Jim Crow laws for LGBT people? If discrimination is wrong, and if it's been going on for millennia, and if 3+% of the population is suffering, why wouldn't I be willing to take some risks and take some heat? Instead of asking, "Why can't gay people be more patient?" - I should be asking, "Why can't church leaders like me be more courageous?"

4. I've changed my view. I now support LGBT equality. But if I go public with that change, my colleagues will simply think I've capitulated to "the world" or "the culture." They'll accuse me of compromise, liberalism, and all that. I'll be completely written off by the people of my heritage. I wonder how long I can stay incognito and quietly work for change from the inside?

5. Oh well. It was bound to happen. I've been "outed" as someone whose view has changed. Now I'll have to deal with the consequences. But thank God, my conscience hasn't felt this clean and clear for a long time! Why did it take me so long?

My guess is that thousands of Catholic and Evangelical priests and pastors are thinking thoughts like these. Sadly, self-interest and institutional ego can easily trump humane compassion for LGBT people and their families. Perhaps these words from Dr. King will help stir the conscience of my fellow Christians who share the same background and world view in which I was raised …

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim…when you see the vast majority of twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky…when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you…when…your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs.’…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

I'm not trying to say that the struggle for gay equality is exactly the same as the struggle for civil rights or that all who experience discrimination experience the same degree of pain. It's never wise to compare the suffering of one group to another.

But I am saying there is a common struggle within priests and pastors to acknowledge reality and respond appropriately when they and their congregations are on the wrong side of justice … whether regarding women's equality, gay equality, equality for Palestinians, the atrocities of colonialism, latent racism and white privilege, silence over environmental destruction, carelessness about the poor and systemic economic injustice, and a host of other issues. It's not easy to adjudicate wisely between concerns for personal or professional comfort, the needs of others, institutional survival and health, and justice … whichever side of this issue one is on.


To brighten your outlook for the week ahead ...

Wisdom and beauty and joy from my friend Bob Jackson:


Q & R: Church recommendation?

Here's the Q;

For the last 9 years, my husband and I have been working as youth pastors at a large evangelical church in the Northeast. But as we've spent the last 3 years diving together into the thoughts and writings of a number of progressive and emergent Christian leaders, such as yourself (thank you, by the way!), we've been increasingly interested in experiencing new ways of doing church and thinking about the church's mission. However, as youth pastors, there really hasn't been a way for us to do that. We don't even get to attend our own church on Sunday mornings, let alone experiment with others. :)

This summer, we are moving to [a new city] to take new jobs in a nonprofit organization. For the first time in our marriage, we won't be working at a local church... which means we have some freedom to explore new expressions of the church. We're really excited about it.

So. My question. Do you know of any progressive or emergent churches in this area you would recommend for a young couple with no kids? Or do you know of anyone in the area who might? We are coming from a fairly typical nondenominational evangelical church. We're not sure exactly what we're looking for in a church, but we'd love to explore and try new things. :)

Any ideas? Thanks so much for your time and for your voice!

PS: I've been mentoring a crew of college-aged girls since they were 10 years old, and they talked with you for a while back in April when you spoke here. Maybe you remember them? They loved your talk and conversation afterward. We'll be diving into WMTRBW together starting in a couple of weeks. :)

Here's the R:
First, thanks for the encouraging words. I'm so glad my books have been helpful.

Your question about finding a church is one I hear often. As more and more Evangelical (and Catholic) churches hold firm or double down with a kind of fierce conservatism, more and more moderate and progressive Evangelicals (and Catholics) feel they don't fit.

Often they end up in Mainline Protestant churches - Episcopal, UCC, DoC, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, etc. In addition, some Evangelical and charismatic churches are changing - becoming less fearful and more accepting of science (relating to evolution and global warming and sexual orientation), more committed to social justice, more reflective and less rigid theologically. There are websites that help people locate churches that are committed to LGBT equality, for example … Some of these groups, like The Fellowship, are forming networks that make them easier to find.

But I think we're all still waiting for a multi-dimensional church locator site that brings together a number of qualifications - welcoming and affirming, committed to peace-making, poverty-reduction, and planet-care, and committed to vibrant spirituality and worship, for example. (Some friends of mine are working on this right now - stay tuned.)

I hope that general guidance will help you in your search.

Thanks also for telling me about the group of college students you've been mentoring. Yes, I remember this enthusiastic and energetic bunch … and I'm thrilled they'll be using the new book.

In the last 24 hours or so, I've learned of two churches that will be using We Make the Road by Walking for their 2014-2015 curriculum, a "learning circle" forming in the DC area, a college class that will be going through the book this semester, and some groups for incarcerated people. It's exciting to see!


Today. Tomorrow.

Today I read this, about yesterday.
(My son-in-law is in the picture - part of the AIDs organization to which the victims were traveling.)

And today I received this, about tomorrow.

It was accompanied by this:

Joel the Aussie Red head poet here. Just thought I'd flick you this new film clip of mine as I thought you might be interested and also because it was really you who was able to put into words for me the concept of the coming new creation when I had no words for it. I had grown up in a conservative, evangelical church and the idea of God's holistic redemption was totally foreign. But 'The Story We Find Ourselves In' was the first time, as a late teen, that I really began to see how holistic God's dream for his world is. Anyways- just wanted to thankyou! Hope you enjoy....

This is where we walk … between yesterday and tomorrow.


A Reformed elder writes ...

A reader writes:

I just read book 3 of the NKOC-trilogy.
The first and second instalment of the trilogy did appeal to me, but more in an intellectual way. Somehow I couldn't connect to the more personal/emotional level within the narratives.

In the 3rd book, the character Pat wrote some poems that struck me, like lightning. Like a total surprise I was in tears, while not being able to grasp their cause. The poems comforted me, made me pray after a very long time. Asking questions to the one I call God.

Can I love God again. Can I trust him. Can I truly believe He loves me? Loves my children? Can I really trust Him the life of my children? With all the worries I have about their social and emotional development?

No answers came, but comfort did.

I grew up in a strict calvinist/reformed ilk of dutch christianity. My family and I are still part of a reformed church. Allthough I feel a connection to my local church, especially the people. Somehow I seem to have questions about everything we stand for. I'm not able to share them. Everyone seems to get annoyed and/or uneasy when I try to express them. I'm even an elder, so I should confirm everything we stand for. But no brother or sister seems to understand why I find it so hard to pray. Why I'm not on fire for Jesus. It's like I'm always on the road towards answers, never resting.

Thanks for meeting me 'on the road'.

Thanks for writing. I felt the character Pat was very important in that book, and you're one of the first readers who have written me about Pat or Pat's poems. It means a lot to me that you noticed this element of the book - and that you felt it helpful. Again, thanks. May you find the Spirit of Christ walking with you on the road.


A 71 year-old reader writes about the Trinity

A reader writes:

I just read the post from the young Irish man who said how you have stretched his imagination. I want to give a hearty “second” to that and share something how, beginning with “A New Kind of Christianity” you have stretched my imagination and helped me get out of my “Spiritual Rut”.

I am 71 years old and grew up Roman Catholic. Having just celebrated Trinity Sunday, my mind went back to the days when I was an altar boy (yes, I had to learn the prayers in Latin). There was a little pamphlet in the magazine rack in back of the church titled “Between Heaven and Earth”. On the front was an illustration. Hovering in the clouds were God the Father (stereotypical – old, long white beard), Jesus on his right side (instantly recognizable because it looked just like the statue of the Sacred Heart), and hovering between them and the dome of St. Peters Basilica was the dove of the Holy Spirit.

For many years, my idea of “Trinity” was that it was something existing “out there” and totally academic thought up by theologians long ago and far away.

Upon reflection, I am coming to the realization that our belief in a triune God is a lot more than an intellectual construct, and a lot closer to my everyday life.

I have started grappling with the notion that God is indeed three – God totally transcendent, totally “other”, totally unknowable; God incarnate, fully revealed in Jesus to be sure, but also incarnate in all of Creation (including you and me); and God relational between transcendence and incarnational – the Holy Spirit. I can’t understand it, I just “know” it. It works for me. I am not sure if I’m onto something or if I’m in a blind alley constructed of my own ignorance, but I did want to share the insight with someone I trust and respect.

Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I remember as I was writing my new book, We Make the Road by Walking, that I wondered how and where I would address the Trinity. The book is an overview of the Bible, and since the word "trinity" never occurs in the Bible, I could have passed the subject by. But the book is also a "catechesis" for Christian faith, and Trinity is deeply important to Christian history and faith. True, the doctrine has been abused in many ways - not the least of which was to animate hostility to Jews and Muslims who do not believe in the Trinity. And as your pamphlet illustrated, it is often explained or depicted in ways that create more misunderstanding and confusion than awe and worship.

But like you, I believe there is a deep truth and beauty in the healing teaching of the Trinity. I tried to capture some facets of that truth and beauty in Chapter 45, Spirit of Unity and Diversity, in the new book. Here's a quote from the chapter:

This all sounds highly speculative but it was a sincere attempt to put into words the radical way they were rethinking and freshly experiencing God in the aftermath of their experience of Jesus. By God's parental love, through Christ's beautiful life, death, and resurrection, and through the Holy Spirit, they felt that they had been caught up into this divine communion themselves. God could never again be for them a distant, isolated One to whom they were "the other." Now they knew God as a dynamic and hospitable one-another in whom they lived, moved, and had their being. The Trinity described how they experienced God "from the inside."

… This healing teaching began unleashing a revolution that is still unfolding today in at least five distinct but related ways.

Those five transformations make up the heart of the chapter. Again, thanks for writing.


Q & R: Niebuhr's famous quote - Part 2

Here's the Q:

Hi Brian. I continue to appreciate your facebook postings. They are always thought provoking. I also appreciate your efforts to build bridges between different points of view. As I look at theological trends, especially of mainline protestantism, I am reminded of a quote from H Richard Niebuhr, descibing his assessment of liberal theology. He writes, "a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a ministry of a Christ without a cross." I would like to hear your response to this. From what you have seen, do Niebuhr's concerns apply to today?

(Continued from last week)
Niebuhr, as I understand him, was trying to forge a middle way between the kind of soft and shallow liberalism exemplified in the quote and the kind of religious conservatism of which he was no friend. He saw Barth, among others, as a trailblazer of that third path.

I think my work and that of many of my friends has a lot of resonance with this desire for a new path. There are important differences too. Like them, right wing Christianity isn't an option for us, but we also see strengths and values there. Like them, we see that traditional Protestantism suffers from a lack of clarity and energy. Unlike them, we would probably see institutional apathy more the problem in the Mainline Protestant (MLP) world than an excessive commitment to "the social gospel."

The MLP world has changed a lot since 1937, its "social gospel" leanings being modified by WWII and the postwar suburbanization of America, by women's rights and civil rights, and over the last 40 years, by severe retention problems with younger generations and the rise of the religious right and megachurch.

So let me respond personally to each of Niebuhr's "withouts":

1. a God without wrath - The word "wrath" raises two questions.

First, what kind of wrath? Wrath that leads to eternal conscious torment? Vengeful wrath? Zeus-like wrath - or Christ-like wrath? Many of us believe that among the many conventional understandings Christ came to overturn were conventional conceptions of God's wrath. Which leads to a second question ...

Wrath at what? Women in leadership? Gay people accepted as equals? Laws to protect the environment from human greed? Immigrants?

Christ's anger, in contrast, focused on hypocrisy, a lack of compassion, greed, exclusion, and an inability to distinguish "weighty" matters of morality from insignificant matters.

2. men without sin - Of course, this raises questions about how we define sin. Is sin reducible to law-breaking, or does the New Testament expand and intensify the definition of sin to mean "love-breaking?" Is sin only personal, or only social - or it is an integrated system that includes both personal and social dimensions? Is the primary danger of sin that it elicits God's retributive punishment, or is the primary danger of sin that it is ultimately destructive? Is it something that insults God so God wants retaliation against us, or something that threatens us so God wants to rescue (save) us?

3. a kingdom without judgment - What is judgment? Is it primarily retributive - punishing wrong, or is it primarily restorative - setting things right? Does it involve God making a list and checking it twice, storing up eternal torment for those who have not been nice? Or does it involve humans reaping the consequences of foolish and hostile behavior that is out of harmony with God's holy melody and rhythm?

At whom is the spotlight of God's examination primarily directed - at gay people, undocumented immigrants, people on welfare … or at corporate plunderers, war-makers, self-interested politicians, and complicit publics? Is the social purpose of judgment to divide the world into clean and unclean, saved and damned, insiders and outsiders? Or is that tendency to divide humanity in these ways one of the dimensions of sin that are under God's judgment?

Does our imperfection render God against us? Or is God against what is against us? Is condemnation the last word in God's universe, or does grace get the final word?

4. a Christ without a cross - Is the cross a reinforcement of conventional notions of wrath, sin, and judgment, with Christ appeasing an angry Father by submitting to the Father's infinite wrath? Or does the cross reveal God as one who identifies with victims of oppression, who suffers with humanity, who forgives when others insult and reject?

Perhaps I could put it like this: You have heard it said that a God full of wrath condemns men full of sin to a hell full of judgment, unless they avail themselves of penal substitutionary atonement purchased by Christ upon a cross. And you have heard it said that a God without wrath brings men without sin to a kingdom without judgment through the ministry of Christ without a cross. I think both options miss the mark.

I believe a God full of love calls for radical repentance among human beings who are oppressed (and oppress) externally and internally by destructive systems of sin, so they can increasingly experience the gracious liberation of God's will being done on earth as in heaven, through Christ and his peace-making cross.

So, those who have read my books know that I believe Jesus came to radically alter our understandings of God, wrath, sin, kingdom, judgment, and the cross. For people who are interested in more … check out my new book, We Make the Road by Walking.


Hatred: Us and Them

In a disturbing NYT piece yesterday, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explores a popular website that promotes the kind of strong-hostile identity I described in Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

It seems that certain parts of the human psyche - and human society - are like petri dishes waiting for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, and other forms of scapegoating and hostile-identity-formation to "culture" and infect. If there isn't something even stronger present - an identity strongly and passionately dedicated to reconciliation, understanding, solidarity, and peace-making - then hostility will dominate.

And we know where that leads.

This line of thinking was intensified for me over the weekend while watching the new Planet of the Apes film. "I used to think," one of the main characters mused, "that all of 'us' were good, and only 'they' were evil. Now I see there are both good and bad among 'us' and 'them'" (loosely paraphrased).

That's the beginning of a new way of living … the way, I believe, that Jesus came to teach. Maybe we're almost desperate enough to actually consider that he was right?


Why I'll be fasting tomorrow -

I'll be part of a multi-faith fast tomorrow, an expression of solidarity with innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are suffering under foolish, misguided, and heartless leadership on both sides. I hope you'll join the fast too. After the jump, I'll include in its entirety a letter from Rabbi MIchael Lerner, a friend whose perspective I trust and respect greatly. I encourage you to support Michael's organization Tikkun and use it as a source for trustworthy, morally-informed news and comment.

Nothing is going to change in the Middle East until we can change the way the struggles are understood both in the media and in the larger publics that have increasingly moved toward extremist perceptions of one side or the other. The extremists who killed three Israeli teens must be celebrating at the moment--because Netanyahu rewarded them by giving them precisely what they wanted, the kind of violent repression in the West Bank of Hamas sympathizers that would push Hamas into feeling the need to retaliate with a resurgence of missile strikes on Israel, thereby precipitating the predictable scenario: the ultra-nationalist Netanyahu has to show his toughness by escalating attacks on Gaza while Hamas in Gaza has to show its toughness by escalating attacks on Israel.

...What can you do?
Challenge the public discourse everywhere you can.

Here's Rabbi Lerner's full letter …

Continue reading Why I'll be fasting tomorrow - ...


Little communities ...

"We gather frequently in little communities that we call ecclesia. We borrowed this term from the Roman empire, just as we "borrowed" the cross and reversed its meaning. For the Romans, an ecclesia is an exclusive gathering that brings local citizens together to discuss the affairs of the empire. Our ecclesia brings common people together around the affairs of the kingdom of God. Whenever and wherever the Roman ecclesia gather, they honor and worship the emperor and the pantheon of gods that support him. Whenever and wherever we gather, we honor and worship the living God, revealed to us in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit." - We Make the Road by Walking (182-183)


Reminder - memorial service for my dad in 2 weeks in MD

We'll be having a memorial service for all our friends in the DC area on 27 July at 7 pm at Cedar Ridge Community Church. From 7-8 pm there will be an informal celebration of "Doc's" life, so bring some stories and memories of Ian to share, and plan to stay for a reception from 8-9 pm to renew relationships with old friends and meet new ones who share a connection because of my dad.
More info here:
In lieu of flowers, please bring a financial gift for the Cedar Ridge outreach fund.


Wise words for Methodists - and other Christians -

from Mike Slaughter:
84% of Americans now live in or around urban areas. But I’m United Methodist, so I speak out of the context of what I know best. 74% of our capital resources (that’s our buildings) are where only 16% of the American population lives. The Methodist Church flourished in the 1800’s and early 1900’s in small towns and rural areas. But now we continue to send pastors to church buildings instead of populations. And if we’re really going to reach people, we’re going to have to radically rethink our paradigms of what it’s going to mean to be missional.
What would happen if Mainline Protestants deployed their resources to where the people are?


Q & R: Is it ACTUALLY a Christian book?

Here's the Q:

Is it possible to get a listing of the Chapter NAMES for 'The Secret Message of Jesus' prior to my purchasing the Audio Book? I just want to ensure that this IS a "Christian" book ... and NOT actually book with an "alternate view" of Christianity. (I apologize if this sounds like a silly question, but I do NOT want to purchase some "New Age" book.)

Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. You can read the table of contents here:

It's not a New Age book, but it's also not simply a restatement of conventional teachings. It engages deeply with the Bible and presents a fresh understanding of Jesus and his message, drawn from the four gospels, and it explores Jesus' deep relevance for our lives and our world today.


A reader writes: It's working.

A reader writes:

We experimented with chapters 1 – 3 and found the same things that you listed. As a closing ritual we formed a circle and joined hands facing outward then recited the Lord’s Prayer. The meaning of the circle and joined hands is fairly well known , the outward facing reminds us that we are to take our faith into the world. Everyone loved the sessions.

Beautiful. I think this is a great suggestion for groups using We Make the Road by Walking. I'm hearing about schools, churches, experimental faith communities, college groups, and families using the new book … great conversations are happening, and people are getting a fresh sense of vision and purpose for their lives. Thanks be to God.


Q & R: Famous Niebuhr quote - what do you think? (Part 1)

Here's the Q:

Hi Brian. I continue to appreciate your facebook postings. They are always thought provoking. I also appreciate your efforts to build bridges between different points of view. As I look at theological trends, especially of mainline protestantism, I am reminded of a quote from H Richard Niebuhr, descibing his assessment of liberal theology. He writes, "a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a ministry of a Christ without a cross." I would like to hear your response to this. From what you have seen, do Niebuhr's concerns apply to today?

Here's the R:
Because I grew up in conservative Evangelicalism, I heard this quote quite a lot. It was our way of stereotyping our nemesis, liberal Mainline Protestants (MLPs) - who were essential to our self-definition, since we identified ourselves in opposition to them. From time to time people send me the quote via Facebook or my website, suggesting, I think, that it characterizes me. So let me respond in two ways, first with a reflection on MLP's (today), and then with more personal reflections (next week).

As for context, the quote comes from 1937. By that time, turn-of-the-century "social gospel" liberalism had achieved many if not most of its immediate aims. (For more on this, see Paul Rauschenbusch's new edition of Christianity and the Social Crisis …) Great progress had been made in worker safety, urban housing, and labor organizing. Any movement that achieves its aims either sets new goals or declines, and by Niebuhr's time, the social gospel's new goals were not clear. MLP's settled into being the chaplains of the American century.

Niebuhr stood with Barth as an advocate of Neo-orthodoxy - a middle way between what he saw as a bland social-gospel liberalism on the one hand and a bold but reactionary fundamentalism on the other (the Scopes trial had occurred just 12 years earlier).

The essence of the critique was that liberal theology was like decaf coffee or warm Coke sans fizz. Boring and pointless. If divine wrath, human sin, and divine judgment aren't the problem, what good is Christianity? What does it solve?

Based on my experience, I think Niebuhr's negative diagnosis does describe some MLP congregations today. Words like "nice, pleasant," and "calm" describe them. Words like "exciting, robust, dynamic, effective" don't. Often, they are led by pastors who are nearing retirement; one has the sense that the goal is to hang on for another year or two and let somebody else face the problems of "shrinking and wrinkling" - declining numbers and advancing age. These churches feel like cradles or rocking chairs … comforting, familiar, safe … gently rocking their members to sleep with a lullaby and a prayer. There are fewer and fewer of these churches around, I think. Post-christendom, people don't feel a great need for national religious chaplaincy.

At the other extreme, many people don't realize how many MLP churches are opposed to all things liberal. (Many of these congregations are leaving their denominations for this reason.) People in these congregations may prefer organ music over "contemporary worship," traditional liturgy over the sing-sermon-sing format, charitable acts over hard-sell evangelism, and books of order/discipline over charismatic personality-pastors. But apart from those cosmetic differences, they could be Southern Baptist or Assemblies of God. (I remember a Methodist minister in the deep South telling me that many Methodists in the South were actually "shallow water Southern Baptists.")

These churches have a God with much wrath who brings men (sic) with much sin into a heaven after death* through much judgment that is effectively managed through the penal/substitutionary atoning work of Christ upon a cross. (*Going to heaven after death is the focus, not the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth so God's will is done "on earth as in heaven." In this way, these churches have little in common with the original social gospel as articulated by Walter Rauschenbusch and others.) In spite of these churches' denominational labels, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Mike Huckabee have more practical influence on their values and behaviors than John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther, or Thomas Cranmer.

Often, the clergy in these congregations are quite different from their members. Politically and theologically less conservative, they do their best to stretch their congregations without breaking trust. But many ministers are severely disheartened by the gap between the way of seeing God, the Bible, the gospel, and the world that they learned in seminary and the viewpoint their congregations learn from religious and secular media. An hour or two of songs and sermons on Sunday mornings is no match for five days of religious-right-radio during drive time and Fox News at night. Tension simmers.

In between these two groups, I think most MLP's are trying to find their way forward.

The phrase that describes most MLP churches in my experience is "confused but open." They are coming to realize that what they're doing isn't sustainable. They know that the future will be different from the past and present. They're organized on a denominational level to do much good (e.g. Methodists organizing to eliminate malaria). But on a congregational level, it's not sufficiently clear what purposes their committees and polities are intended to achieve beyond maintenance … and for many, they're even losing ground in that regard.

They think they've left some things behind, but they aren't so sure exactly which ones, and they're less sure what has replaced those things. They dislike the certainty and culture-wars polemics of more conservative churches to their right, and as a result, are more clear on what they're against than what they're for. They're open for new possibilities … more than even a few years ago. But they're going to have to make some bold and courageous choices to turn their statistics around and seize the imagination of younger generations.

In Part II, I'll offer some personal responses to Niebuhr's famous quote.


Q & R: Using We Make the Road in Middle/High School

Here's the Q:

I’m the Upper School chaplain to about 550 teenagers, 7th-12th grade. I’m considering using your new book, We Make the Road by Walking as our chapel lectionary this year. A little background, because I’d like to know if you think it might work:

We have a 15-minute chapel three times a week, usually on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Chapel is mandatory for all students and for teachers. While we are an Episcopal school, we welcome students from other faith traditions. We have a large number of Roman Catholics, a smattering of Greek Orthodox, Pentecostals, Baptists, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, one Buddhist teacher, and one Wiccan… you name it. We even have a few Episcopalians! However, for all of that, I would guess that most of the self-labeled Christian students here have not been raised in the Christian faith. Church is not a high priority with many of their parents, and some even use the fact that we have chapel several times a week as a reason not to go, believing instead, that the school serves as a substitute. For some the school is “too Christian,” for others it is not “Christian enough” or my favorite, not “real” Christian.

You can imagine what a humbling challenge it is for me to speak to these 550 students (plus faculty) who have to attend chapel. Our Chinese students use it as nap time, but for the most part the “congregation” is respectful and many of them surprisingly attentive. I am 61 years old, but I do my best to be relevant. They are fond of Rob Bell videos, and I often use movie clips to illustrate Bible teachings. I try and keep chapel time about worshipping God, and learning the amazing stories of God’s care and involvement in God’s creation. It is not youth group time, but we have done skits, or played a game now and then that makes a point – remember I only have 15 minutes – in a way that they will listen and, I pray, “inwardly digest.” I do not have a lectionary, and instead do topics according to the church year, and whatever the Holy Spirit sends my way. There is often no rhyme and very little rhythm to it. On occasion, I’ll get a student volunteer speaker. I love those days!

Our liturgy: Student chapel leaders do a few opening sentences (BCP-ish), there is a reading, then the “homily,” followed by a prayer and we end with a song called “The Grace” (the Pauline sendoff…may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you…), and a final dismissal (Go in peace to love and serve the Lord! Thanks be to God!)

So, given those dynamics and those limitations and those opportunities, and also given your own experience with different age groups as a pastor, do you think We Make the Road by Walking might work as a lectionary? I envision it working like this, but am open to other suggestions:

Monday: First reading. Homily is first half of your sermon.
Wednesday: Second reading. Brief review of Monday. Finish sermon.
Friday: Third reading. Quick review. Use the questions, and allow a time of reflection/prayer.

I have a Chapel Council consisting of 10th-12th graders who advise me on what resonates with the students. If this is resonating, I’d love to offer a learning circle once a week for those interested. Or, I could offer it from the get go.

Thoughts? Ideas?

Here's the R:
I'd say two things from the intelligence of your inquiry - 1. Your students are blessed to have you, and 2. if you think it will work, I trust your judgment!

Here are a few suggestions.
1. I'd try to have students be actively involved as much as possible, and I'd try to "change voices" frequently. For the "sermon," you could have three to five students alternate reading a paragraph …
2. For the Scripture readings, if there's a way to project the texts, you could have half of the students read a paragraph aloud in unison and then the other half read the next paragraph.
3. If you have some students with artistic sensibilities, they could create a long banner or mural (or series of them) based on the biblical story as it unfolds.
4. I really like the idea of having the students interact about the questions. Maybe there's a way to include a shortened version of Question 1 during each session?
5. It would be really amazing if that additional learning circle formed.
6. You'll get some ideas for multimedia, etc., here: http://www.geekedoutsoul.com/category/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2/

A lot depends on how "into it" the students want to be, and I know that's not a given and can change from day to day. Please let me know how it's going if you decide to give this a try. I think you're the person for the job!


Riding a tornado ...

If you're not familiar with the site Read the Spirit, I encourage you to check it out right now. My new book is featured in their cover story this week. David Crumm is a talented writer and a great interviewer. Here's his introduction to the interview:

For years, Brian McLaren has been writing best-selling books about renewing our faith. He wrote about becoming A New Kind of Christian and compared the process to The Wizard of Oz. Beginning to renew our faith, he wrote in his 2001 book, is “like Dorothy setting out on her journey to see the wizard, invigorated with new hope and passion.”

He wasn’t abandoning the long-held traditions of Christianity, he argued. He was embracing what he called, in a 2004 book, A Generous Orthodoxy, which he defined (in one of the longest sub-titles ever published) as “a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished CHRISTIAN.” He refused to capitalize any of the terms in that subtitle except the final word: CHRISTIAN.

Still in his 40s, McLaren was listed by TIME magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. TIME called him a leader in a worldwide movement to establish “a kinder and gentler brand of religion” and “yet remain true to Scripture.” TIME called him “an elder statesman … of the emerging church.”

Like Dorothy, McLaren found himself riding a tornado. Many friends saw great hope in his message and he logged countless miles to appear before appreciative audiences. Many foes claimed he was abandoning truly evangelical Christianity and he shouldered countless attacks in news media and social media.

Now, in his late 50s, McLaren is retired from parish ministry and is more firmly in control of his own life’s journey once again. He now seems far less interested in playing with labels—or battling his foes—than he is in the core message of his ministry: “The Living God is with us! And with all creation!”

Those are two lines you’ll learn to proclaim if you read his new book, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation. McLaren is hoping that you’ll make that proclamation with friends, your family and your entire congregation, week after week for a year. This book is all you need to spend 52 weeks taking a pilgrimage with McLaren through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

While a year-long Bible study may seem like a heavy-duty return to McLaren’s evangelical roots, readers quickly discover that he remains steadfastly committed to his original message all those years ago: The Christian journey is always about change.

The book’s opening lines are a challenge: “You are not finished yet. You are ‘in the making.’ You have the capacity to learn, mature, think, change and grow. You also have the freedom to stagnate, regress, constrict and lose your way. Which road will you take?”

- See more at: http://www.readthespirit.com/explore/brian-mclaren-interview-make-road-walking/#sthash.cIHCxyv4.dpuf


Why I Wrote ...



Wise Words from John Esposito

An AAR Presidential address that deserves wide readership:

A phobia, according to the dictionary, is an exaggerated, illogical, or unfounded fear of a particular class of objects, people, a particular situation. It may be hard for those afflicted to sufficiently determine or communicate the source of this fear, but it exists.

So, what are the kinds of things that Islamophobes believe?
Islam, not just a small minority of Muslims and terrorists, is the problem and threat to the West. The religion of Islam has no common values with the West. Islam and modernity are incompatible. Islam is an inherently violent religion with an extremist, political ideology.

Phillip Jenkins and Bishop Spong have written very interesting books on violence in the Bible and the degree of violence. Talking comparatively here, Phillip Jenkins said there's a way you can look at certain passages in the Bible and see God ordering genocide. If you don't understand the Biblical context, that's what you would interpret. And yet when we deal with Quranic texts, wherever I go, people will ask, “What about the passage ‘slay the unbelievers wherever you find them’?” without looking at what is said in the verse after that: “When the enemy stops fighting you, you must stop.” We must also ask, who were the unbelievers at the time? The “unbelievers” weren't Christians or Jews, they were the Meccans. But the irony is that hard-line Christian Zionists or some of our Islamophobes and Neo-Cons talk just the way that the Bin Ladens of the world do; they distort the meaning of the text. They don't interpret a text within its context.

We need to think about the impact of Islamophobia in the United States.


Is the world getting better? (Deux)

Yes, in some ways ...

No way in others …


Is the world getting better?

In some important ways, yes!

In some ways, no.

The former tells us not to give up on the latter! All things are possible for those who believe ...


Some recent lectures ...

To a wonderful group of Methodists from Oregon and Idaho -


Q & R: repenting of our will to power?

Here's the Q:

Many of us realise that we have tried to control God through our right theology and moral efforts but it has essentially been about self-determination. When we find ourselves embraced by the God who chooses to love us (and has a place for us in the new-creation plan), how can we articulate this is a way which helps wary evangelicals to grasp the radical nature of this ‘repentance’, transformation and hope-full future?

Or is Brian’s Greco-Roman hypothesis richer and more nuanced than many evangelicals would believe?, or Can we still repent of our will to power?

Here's the R:
As for helping wary Christians (whether Evangelical, Catholic, or whatever), I think some people don't feel they need to be "helped." They see attempts to help them in this way as a temptation to lower their standards, compromise with "the world," etc. Often, though, things change later in life, often due to the influence of their children and grandchildren who feel less pressure to conform to the religious status quo.

I think your insight about "will to power" is quite significant. I doubt that many people consciously presume to "control God" (although certain features of "word of faith" or "prosperity theology" sound very much like this - quoting the Bible as a kind of magic talisman that forces God to comply to our "positive confession").

However, I think, we humans are quick to use God to control others. In this way, we "control God" as we do a hammer or screwdriver - by rendering God a tool in our will to power over others. This happens in all religions, I think, from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism to Buddhism to Judaism, etc. Whether parents over children, men over women, one race over another, one party over another, one ideological gang over another, or one nation over another … we find "God" is a convenient tool to make others fearful, compliant, submissive, and cooperative.

The great irony of this for Christians, I think, is that Jesus is best understood as the opposite of will to power. He represents "will to love" or "will to self-giving." Caesar's kingdom (which lives by what I called the Greco-Roman narrative in A New Kind of Christianity) brings peace through a will to power (aka domination). The kingdom of God - the very opposite.

This is one reason that the traditional penal substitutionary theory of atonement is so problematic for many of us: in it, Jesus becomes the sacrifice to uphold, appease, and mollify God's "will to power." How different when we see Jesus as imaging God in a radically new way: a God who suffers for and with us … a God who identifies not with those willing themselves to power, but with those suffering under their will to power …

This all became more clear to me than ever as I was writing my new book, We Make the Road by Walking. You'll see this understanding reflected especially in Chapters 4, 32A, B, and C, 46, and 51.


Thoughts on Ramadan

Just as many of us in the Christian faith are engaging in deep rethinking (repentance), many Muslims are engaging in "ijtihad," reevaluating the past and present, and re-imagining the future. One excellent example is Rahim Snow. Check out this post on Ramadan.

Ramadan is less about saying no to food and more about saying yes to God.

Ramadan is not so much about pushing food away as it is about letting God in.

Let’s use this month to intensify our awareness of God, our relationship with God, our service to God. Whatever form that takes, let’s own it. Whatever road that makes, let’s walk it. This is our Ramadan and God is waiting to feed our hearts.

If you're interested in my experience with Ramadan a few years back, search this site (upper right corner) for "Ramadan 2009."


Q & R: High school youth group might start walking?

Here's the Q:

I just ordered your new book "We Make the Road by Walking" thinking I might be able to use it with my High School youth group. In one of your foot notes you say that you created a resource that provides commentary on each chapter and that we can learn more about it on www.brianmclaren.net. I've looked all over on the website and can't find it anywhere. Can you direct it to me?

Here's the R:
Sorry it was hard to find … I was a few days late in getting it up. You'll find it here:
Let me know how it goes with your group if you decide to use it. Churches, classes, small groups, and families are already using it … and I hope that youth groups will also find it helpful. I think you'll get a lot of good ideas from Geeked Out Soul - here.


We Make the Road by Walking with Kids ...

I couldn't be more thrilled … what a beautiful and encouraging post:


Our parents had the Bible figured out. Our children’s parents don’t. We gained our childhood training in Scripture through a well-ordered curriculum of Bible stories, charts, and memory verses. Not our kids. We don’t have a pre-packaged boxed set of doctrines to give them in the safety and comfort of a Sunday School room. What we have is a library of ancient texts which are complicated and bewildering. Just like the real world. The texts are peopled by violent, greedy, horny apes who are relentlessly loved by God. Just like us.
Our scriptural tradition is not a safety-certified playground with padded railings and rubberized flooring. It is not a place we will send them off to play in. It is a wild place with real risks, a place they will explore with Mom and Dad at their side.
Of course, the kids are loving it. Given the choice between a safe playground and a muddy adventure hole with Mom and Dad, they are jumping face-first into the mud. So we have begun, second thoughts be damned: The Stonecyphers are making a road.


This is not the end, but it is the road ...

This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified. - Martin Luther

Praying for peace ...

3 missing Israeli teens were found dead in the West Bank Monday. In all likelihood, the spiral of violence will spin on with even more fury now - each offense by one group being used to "justify" new revenge by its counterpart, which then becomes a new offense.

May Dr. King's words, uttered the year I was born, find their way into more and more hearts:

"As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos."

For responses from Israeli and Palestinian Peace activists - see this, at Tikkun:


Why We Gather

"We feel such joy to have God's Spirit rising up in our lives that we can't be silent. We sing our deep joy and longing, sometimes through the ancient psalms and also through spiritual songs that spring up in our hearts. The more we praise God, the less we fear or are intimidated by the powers of this world. And so we praise and worship God boldly joyfully, reverently, and freely, and we aren't quiet or shy about it." We Make the Road by Walking (185)


This week ...

it is expected the Supreme Court will render an important decision on the religious rights of corporations. I fully support religious freedom for individuals, but I will be disappointed on many levels if the court gives corporations exemption from the laws of the land on religious grounds. Here's a compilation ofresponses I and others wrote on the subject … and here's a piece my friend Rich Cizik wrote.


If you want to read some reader reviews of my new book ...

here are some. (You'll notice that people who have actually read the book rate it highly. People who wrote a review without having read it … not so much.)


This is the time of year ...

when a lot of churches receive new pastors. I wrote something when I was leaving my pastorate 8 years ago that has been widely disseminated in the years since to help in pastoral transitions. You're welcome to use it. (See below - it would be nice, but not essential, if you include a link to my website.)

It's almost always well received - but not always, as this recent response shows. If nothing else, this note lets folks know how easy it is to offend people without meaning to, and it explains why being a pastor can be a tough job:

I am a member of a Methodist church in [a Southern city] and this passage of your’s was mass communicated to our congregation in anticipation of a new minister who will begin in July. I felt that it might be more appropriate for a youth group or in a small setting but felt highly offended in receiving it over email. (By the way, I am in favor of the change in leadership at our church.) I think that the attempt to poke fun, and joke about accepting change in this passage is demeaning to members. I understand that these type of passages are often circulated from time to time to “lighten up” the congregation but I do think that maybe in the future, as the author, you might offer guidance on when and how passages should be shared or viewed. As Christians, we are encouraged to “hold one another accountable” and not to hurt or discourage. Thank you,

Here's the piece the note was referring to. Maybe you can discern which command(s) seemed demeaning, hurtful, or discouraging?

Ten Commandments for Welcoming a New Pastor

I. Thou shalt not compare the old Pastor and the new Pastor, for the Lord thy God has made each person unique and wishes you to appreciate each original creation.

II. Thou shalt not expect everything to stay the same when the new Pastor arrives. Nor shalt thou resist change, nor assume that change is bad, but thou shalt trust that the Lord thy God isn’t finished with your church yet and is bringing change for your good and the good of your mission.

III. Thou shalt not make graven images of thine old grudges, nor shalt thou keep stale disappointments in the temple of thine heart, but thou shalt forgive and move on in the grace of the Lord thy God, for how can thou ask God for mercy unless thou give mercy from thine heart?

IV. Thou shalt not commit gossip, nor shalt thou fearfully complain, nor shalt thou listen to those who do, but instead thou shalt entreat them to adjust their attitudes and lighten up, for everything shall be alright, and in fact, shall turn out very well indeed – better than you can even imagine.

V. Thou shalt not commit nostalgia or say that the old days were better, for in so doing thou shalt make thy judgment come true. Be assured that the Lord thy God is not falling asleep at the wheel, but will be with thee and surprise thee with abundant blessings, more than thou canst contain or count.

VI. Thou shalt not factionalize nor create “us-them” divisions, but thou shalt unify with thy brothers and sisters even when they annoy or confuse you.

VII. Thou shalt not come to the new pastor with your demands, pressure, complaints, bad reports, manipulations, threats, agendas, unsolicited advice, or snide comments. But thou shalt say, “Welcome! How can we help you? We love you! We would like to increase our giving significantly. We’re praying for you and your family. Welcome to our community! We baked you some cookies!” And each week, thou shalt do so again and again until the new pastor begs you to stop.

VIII. Thou shalt increase thy giving, and not withhold thy tithe, but invest thy money and thine heart in the future of thy community of faith and mission.

IX. Thou shalt not come to thine old and former pastor with anything but praise for the new pastor, but thou mayest bring thy concerns to God in humble prayer, and if thou must, thou may also share concerns with the duly appointed leaders of the church.

X. Most important, thou shalt trust God, and stay connected to God, and draw strength from God, staying deeply rooted in the message of God’s grace. For God is good, and God will never leave you nor forsake you. You can count on that for sure!


Free Resources for you

I just added a free 80+ page e-book that provides backstory/commentary on We Make the Road by Walking: here.

The section on approaches to the Bible should be of special interest.


What I Said at the White House

I was invited to be part of a forum on global human rights for LGBT persons on Tuesday. Short talks were presented by Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Ambassador Susan Rice. Later we were invited to the Vice President's home, where he shared some additional comments. It was clear that the White House has a strong commitment to human rights for LGBT persons, especially in a world where people are routinely killed, beaten, tortured, arrested, threatened, excluded from employment, driven into secrecy, and imprisoned for being gay.

It was an honor to participate on a panel with such distinguished colleagues and such skilled moderation.

One of the ideas I shared in the panel was this:There is a huge personal cost for religious leaders to change their position on LBGT equality. And there is a huge personal cost for LGBT people when religious leaders won't change. For those reasons, I recommended we find ways to encourage religious leaders to move incrementally along a spectrum with four spaces.

1. Promote violence against and stigmatization of gay people in the name of God and religion.

2. Oppose violence but uphold stigmatization of gay people in the name of God and religion.

3. Oppose violence and seek to reduce stigmatization of gay people in the name of God and religion.

4. Oppose violence and replace stigmatization with equality in the name of God and religion.

Many leaders in certain parts of the world are still in Zone 1.

Many religious conservatives (Evangelicals and Catholics in the US) are in Zone 2. That's where I began thirty or forty years ago.

Many are moving into Zone 3. They still stigmatize - for example, by welcoming gay people as members but not as leaders, or by allowing civil unions but opposing gay marriage. But they try to reduce the scope and strength of stigmatization.

More and more are moving into Zone 4.

Many people are unaware of Zone 4. They think the only way for people to become less bigoted and more compassionate is to become less religious and more secular. But that approach is fraught with unintended consequences.

It's important, I told those present, to speak to those in each group with sensitivity to their situation and to help them take the step they are capable of taking. It's not simply a choice of inhabiting Zone 1 or 4, and it's not wise to treat Zone 2 or 3 people as if they were "homophobic" in the same way as Zone 1 people are.

The fact is that there are many people in the middle, and they are moving - often in the right direction, and often at great cost. Many lack sufficient courage to take the next step and need moral encouragement, sometimes actual physical protection, to do so.

It won't suffice to only let people in Zone 1 and 2 speak in the name of God and religion. It won't suffice to offer persuasion based on "secular" legal grounds alone. It won't suffice to forego persuasion and only rely on pressure (via money, aid, etc.), because pressure without persuasion is experienced as oppression.

More of us need to make a bold and clear moral case for Zone 4 so that religious leaders can move towards it with a clear conscience and in good faith.

I may share more about the gathering soon. Stay tuned. For those interested, so much depends on finding new, liberating ways of reading the sacred texts that have so often been quoted to stigmatize LGBT people. My new book attempts to model one such new and liberating way of reading the Bible. You can read more here.


An exciting week ...

After a great weekend in Dallas, training people in leading learning circles for We Make the Road by Walking, today I'll be at the White House as part of a symposium there on LGBT equality and human rights. Then I'll be off to Wild Goose Festival. Hope to see many of you there.


"Women's Issues" are men's issues too.

I think something parallel is true of "gay issues" and "race issues" and "immigration issues" and "minority" issues. Straight, white, native-born, and majority are connected ... here's why:


More on Global Warming

Last week I posted a Q & R about global warming. My friend Paul H sent in this reply, which is full of helpful information. Here's Paul's reply:

Brian, I just read your excellent response to the guy who so desperately (and I wonder why) wants to believe that there is no global warming. One of his points was that, if there is global warming, we cannot account for the temperature plateau of the past 15 years or so. He's wrong about that. Apparently, he has never looked at the actual temperature time series, one version of which is in the Global Surface Temperature plot on this NASA webpage:


Even a cursory examination of the time series shows that the warming of the globe is not monotonic (continuously rising), but the overall trend is undeniable. The climate research community recognizes a phenomenon known as "decadal variation" -- variation on the scale of one or a few decades, and they spend considerable effort trying to understand it. The atmospheric circulation system has a number of recognized oscillatory systems, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Madden Julian Oscillation, and others. It's pretty certain that there are other factors that are not yet recognized. Taken all together, these factors cause the globally averaged temperature (and many other parameters) to have ups and downs that are superimposed upon the long-term trend.

We see decadal variation clearly on the webpage cited above. The first half of the 1950s and the first half of the 1970s are plateaus very similar to the current one. Other decadal variations show actual drops in globally averaged temperature. These are in no way contradictory to the conclusion that global warming is real. The long-term trend is still an increase of globally averaged surface temperature.

Some of the media-fueled skepticism about this comes, oddly, from meteorologists, particularly those who work in the broadcast news industry. This is in no small part due to the influence of John Coleman, one of the founders of the Weather Channel. He is an outspoken climate change denier, but one who has exactly zero credibility. He is not a climate scientist. He is not even a meteorologist. His education is in journalism. The fact that he employs meteorologists does not give him any credibility.

A couple of years go, Prof. Richard Muller, a respected physicist and climate change skeptic, assembled a research team and acquired copies of all or most of the same data that has led the climate research community to the conclusion that global warming is real and anthropogenic. He completely reanalyzed the entire, very large collection of data. Even though his research was funded in part by the Koch brothers, his widely published conclusion was that climate change is real, it involves an increase of globally averaged temperature, and it is caused by the activities of mankind, principally the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Every year, I attend the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, and I tend to focus on the climate change sessions. In 2007, one aged member of the society rose in a plenary session, to say (in the quavering voice of an old man) that he simply could not accept the idea that a system as massive as the atmosphere could possibly be affected by the actions of puny humans. That old man and a couple of broadcast meteorologists (overheard in a conversation at lunch) are the only examples I know of any Society members disbelieving global warming. It may be that 97% of scientists believe it. I don't know where you got that number. But I strongly suspect that a much stronger proportion of climate scientists (meaning those who actually study climate and, thus, have credibility) believe it.

As is the case with nearly everything in life, basing an opinion on anything other than actual data is perilous.

I just heard the 97% number recently at a briefing I was part of, but it may be already out of date, as I think the consensus only grows stronger. It referred to all scientists, not just climate scientists. I imagine, as Paul says, that it would be much higher among those who study the data most closely.


Using We Make the Road by Walking in 2015-2016

We're just wrapping up a "boot camp" for people who plan to lead groups using We Make the Road by Walking. It has been a delightful time.

My strong recommendation for groups using the book is to keep it super simple and super participatory. Here's how:

1. Have the group seated in a circle or gathered around a table. (If the group is too large, invite 6 or 8 people to the front and they'll model participation for the larger group.)
2. Identify someone to begin reading the first Scripture reading. It's best if they read a paragraph or so of the text (about 3 to 5 verses). It helps to be sure everyone has the same translation - whether NRSV, CEV, or whatever.
3. Then someone continues with the next paragraph, and so on, through the Scripture readings. It's good to keep things moving at a good pace.
4. The same pattern continues for the chapter, with each person reading a paragraph. If people don't want to read aloud, of course they can just pass. If kids are present, I encourage you to include them in the readings and Engage questions.
5. When the chapter is complete, the next person can read the first Engage question, and so on.
The group really runs itself. The leader doesn't need to do any preparation; the hour is really self-contained.

A few observations from our time together:

1. By involving everyone with reading, attention levels stay high.
2. By everyone having a Bible and copy of the book, they can follow along as others read, thus taking in the content both orally and visually.
3. The experience of listening to others read aloud may seem unfamiliar at first, but it quickly becomes natural and very enjoyable.
4. When you move from the chapter to discussion, it's important to let people know that it is perfectly acceptable to express disagreement or discomfort with the readings, which the first Engage question invites people to do. Differences of viewpoint don't need to be resolved - simply respectfully expressed, listened to, and understood. (See #8)
5. If there is a large group, it's easy to break into groups of four. Four people can engage deeply with a chapter in an hour.
6. Engaging with the material over a meal works really well too.
7. If you want to add liturgical elements from Appendix 1, of course you can do so before and after the readings, chapter, and engagement questions.
8. At your first gathering, the leader/host should read the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). It's good to get everyone to verbally agree to assist in following these guidelines (like sitting on an exit row in a plane). The leader/host should promise to remind the group of the guidelines if problems come up, and review them from time to time.
9. If problems do come up - someone is argumentative or over-participates, for example - remind everyone of the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). Because the approach I'm recommending is so highly participatory, I think groups will get in the groove quickly and problems will be rare.

If you want to begin using the book for your curriculum/lectionary in 2015-2016, you'll see how you would sync up chapters with the calendar and holidays below.

You can also use the book for a quarter or season together, and have folks use it on their own thereafter.

First Quarter
Aug 30 - 1
Sep 6 - 2
Sep 13 - 3
Sep 20 - 4
Sep 27 - 5
Oct 4 - 6
Oct 11 - 7
Oct 18 - 8
Oct 25 - 9
Nov 1 - 10
Nov 8 - 11
Nov 15 - 12
Nov 22 - 13

Second Quarter
Nov 29 - 14 (Advent Begins)
Dec 6 - 15
Dec 13 -16
Dec 20 - 17
Dec 24 - 17A (Christmas Eve)
Dec 25 - 18 (Christmas)
Jan 3 - 19
Jan 10 - 20
Jan 17 - 21
Jan 24 - 22
Jan 31 - 23
Feb 7 - 24
Feb 14 - 25
Feb 21 - 26
Third Quarter:
Feb 28 - 27
Mar 6 - 28
Mar 13 - 29, 30, 31 (*see Aug 14, 21)
Mar 20 - 32 (Palm Sunday)
Mar 24 - 32A (Maundy Thursday)
Mar 25 - 32B (Good Friday)
Mar 26 - 32C (Holy Saturday)
Mar 27 - 33 (Easter)
Apr 3 - 34
Apr 10 - 35
Apr 17 - 36
Apr 24 - 37
May 1 - 38
May 8 - 39
Fourth Quarter
May 15 - 40 (Pentecost)
May 22 - 41
May 29 - 42
Jun 5 - 43
Jun 12 - 44
Jun 19 - 45
Jun 26 - 46
Jul 3 - 47
Jul 10 - 48
Jul 17 - 49
Jul 24 - 50
Jul 31 - 51
Aug 7 -52
Aug 14, 21 - *Chapters 30 and 31 can be added here.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry. Once you get the group going, you'll be surprised how easily things flow, how quickly community begins to happen, how refreshing the whole experience is, and how effectively it can contribute to spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation.


Q & R: Death of God

Here's the Q:

I was raised conservative evangelical, and A Generous Orthodoxy was one of the first books to truly push me into a whole new realm of how to think about my faith. Thank you. Since then, I have gone many directions, found a few dead ends, and am now retracing my steps to try to get on a worthwhile path again. One possible path I’ve recently discovered is lead by folks like Peter Rollins, and in another way John Shelby Spong, and perhaps originally, Paul Tillich. Their work has helped but also troubled me, and I am curious to get your thoughts on this school of theology and its attempt to grapple with the alleged “death of God.”

Here's the R:
Let me offer a less than ideal analogy, but the best I can come up with at the moment.

Imagine a woman has breast cancer. She needs immediate surgery, radiation, and chemo. These treatments are all painful and in a sense destructive. They are "troubling." But they are necessary to save her life.

After the surgery, she will need two things. First, she will need reconstructive surgery. At the same time, she will need ongoing health care to maximize her health and monitor for a possible relapse so it can be caught as early as possible.

It could be said that religions get malignancies. Racism, colonialism, sexism, a sense of supremacy and privilege and exceptionalism, a victim mentality, paranoia, xenophobia … all these can get a foothold in religious communities and threaten their health and even survival.

Some theologians do surgery. Some administer chemotherapy. They appear to make the patient worse, and if they're not careful, they can hasten the death of the patient. But they are also necessary to save her life.

Other theologians focus on reconstructive surgery, rebuild basic health, and monitor for relapse prevention.

So there are some theologians I would turn to in order to administer chemo, but I wouldn't turn to them for a steady diet to promote health. Each is important - all the more so if each can appreciate his or her specialty - both its strengths and its limitations, and do the same for others with different specialties.

I should also add that many important living theologians are in process. Their project takes twists and turns, goes through various phases. You might say they are more like a family doctor. They follow one patient (their denomination or tradition) through various phases, and so they may be involved with preventative medicine, and then help their patient go through chemo when a malignancy is found, and then help their patient recover, and then return to preventative medicine.

The analogy isn't perfect, but I think it makes the point. In evaluating theologians, it's important to understand what their project or specialty is … and what patient they are trying to help, and what diagnosis they are trying to treat, and how far along they are in the process.

Some people see writers like Tillich or Spong as terribly negative. But when you have cancer, you don't want your doctor to water down the chemo. People who think they're fine, of course, don't see any need for strong medicine at all. Jesus himself faced that problem with the religious establishment of his time.


Presbyterians showed boldness this week ...

They made two historic decisions, one for LGBT equality and one against the israeli occupation. Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/us/presbyterians-debating-israeli-occupation-vote-to-divest-holdings.html?_r=1


Q & R: Aren't you nothing more than a hypocrite?

Here's the Q:

Since you insist on using the pejorative “denier” for people who do not subscribe to the same dogma that you do, can I begin to label you as climate change “hypocrite”? Your carbon footprint is multiple times larger than mine, yet I am your version of “the other”?

I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. That means stop with the book tours, conferences, concerts, etc. which belch tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (which might be #8 on your steps for loyal acolytes of the church of global warming).

Some questions:

Do stories that contradict your worldview on Global Warming (GW) ever penetrate your cocoon?

If CO2 is the primary driver of GW, why have temperatures hit a plateau in the last 15 years, with higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere?

Why did 95% of the climate forecast models produced within the last several years fail to accurately predict this plateau?

Have you read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear? Would you be open to listening to another point of view?

How many variables go into climate change? Do you think the models created by scientists have accounted for all of those variables

Why was Swedish climatologist Lennart Bengtsson bullied and threatened by other scientists for having a differing opinion?

Why did Michael Mann refuse to release his raw data behind his famous hockey stick?

Why did Michael Mann advise colleagues (via email) to “hide the decline” of data that contradicted his conclusions?

I very much appreciate your blog, and your tone (most of the time); you can be so magnanimous and kind to people who disagree with you spiritually. Would that you could exhibit the same “generous orthodoxy” to people who disagree with you politically!

Thanks for writing. I frequently have people send me notes like this that point to data that they believe disproves climate change. I keep an open mind and check into that data and so far, have always found it to be unconvincing. I haven't read "State of Fear" but did read reviews of it and the general consensus was that Crichton is a good storyteller but his science was distorted and flawed.

I'm certainly not against skepticism in the face of popular trends. In fact, if anything, I'm sympathetic to those willing to stand up to a majority.

But the bottom line for me is that I've done a lot of reading and attended a lot of lectures on this subject - and in fact attended the original "Sandy Cove" conference in 2004 where John Houghton presented Evangelical leaders with (then) state of the art data on the subject. In light of the fact that 97% of scientists believe in human-induced global warming, I believe it is our God-given responsibility to care for the earth and to exercise foresight in understanding the short- and long-term consequences of our actions. And I believe that the poorest of the world are suffering and will suffer from global warming the most. So … putting those together, I speak out as best as I can.

As for your specific questions above:
- Malfeasance by a few of the 97% of scientists doesn't discredit their whole project any more than malfeasance by a few of the 3% would. The issue is the evidence, and the overwhelming weight of evidence is not tainted by malfeasance. It confirms again and again that if anything, predictions have erred on the side of underestimating rather than overestimating the effects of fossil fuels on the planetary climate system. Finding a flaw in a theory doesn't invalidate it; a popular blog series makes that point quite well.

- Some of your assumptions above are questionable if not simply wrong. For example, C02 levels are rising and so are temperatures. It's important to remember that the theory doesn't predict that every single place in the world will grow warmer every year. In fact, the theory predicts that as the climate warms in general, certain places will grow colder in the short run.

You're right to say that the climate system is profoundly complex and no model so far comes close to containing the complexity. But our models are certainly the best they've ever been, and so far, when our best models don't predict the data perfectly, the data points to even more severe effects than the models predicted.

You said:

I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. That means stop with the book tours, conferences, concerts, etc. which belch tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (which might be #8 on your steps for loyal acolytes of the church of global warming).

If individual actions like the ones your propose would solve the problem, then I think you're right: it would be necessary for people who believe in climate change to stop traveling. But the sum total of individual actions of this sort won't come close to stopping a systemic problem. That's why the science and public policy are so closely intertwined, and that's why many of us feel a moral obligation to speak out on the subject, even though we sometimes make mistakes and our tone isn't always pitch perfect.


A reader writes … chapter 17 rocked my world!

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross The Road? Hi there! I just wanted to say, chapter 17 of this book has rocked my world. The entire book has opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind to a whole new way of living. I've considered myself a Christian for some years now, but upon reading this book and applying this new knowledge, I feel like I'm living a Christ-centered, Christ-led, Christ-inspired, Christ-like loving kind of life. Thank you, thank you, thank you Brian McLaren for this gem. After reading your response to someone writing a rather nasty piece about you, you concluded by hoping that if one day their child or grandchild was going to turn away from Christianity that your book would be of use, I'm hoping the same thing! I hope everyone reads this book. This is so not just for Christians, it is for the people who God loves...EVERYONE. Thanks again.
I'm so glad to know the book was helpful. Thanks for the encouragement!

Someone you should know ...

90 Second TEASER for BURNING EMBER: THE STEVE BELL JOURNEY from Refuge 31 on Vimeo.

Learn more here.


On Israel, Palestine, and Presbyterian Divestment

Tikkun magazine recently offered these two letters - by both Jewish people concerned about the occupation of Palestine:

First, we should note that under international and American law, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal. Any business involved in the occupation is therefore illegal too. That alone should be enough to keep American companies away from the Occupation. The Israeli government argues that the occupation is necessary in order to keep Israel safe. How does building Jewish cities on stolen Palestinian land or the daily harassment and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians make Israelis more safe? All indications are that antagonizing Palestinians imperils Israeli lives.

Let us also remember that the Presbyterian resolution does not call for divestment from the State of Israel, from Israeli companies, from individual Israelis or even from Jewish-owned companies. Rather the resolution calls for divestment from three American multinationals implicated in documented human rights abuses.

The Presbyterian General Assembly will consider divestment from three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Caterpillar (CAT) sells heavy equipment used by the Israeli government in military and police actions to demolish Palestinian homes and agricultural lands. It also sells heavy equipment used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, roads solely used by illegal Israeli seIlers, and the construction of the Separation Wall extending across the 1967 “Green Line” into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The number of outstanding demolition orders in East Jerusalem alone has been estimated at up to 20,000.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) provides biometric ID equipment to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank. 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays. The biometric ID is also used to regulate residency rights of non-Jews in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked more than 14,000 Jerusalem residency cards, with 4,557 being revoked in 2008 alone. HPQ sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that enables it to maintain the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has included interdicting humanitarian supplies and attacking Palestinian fishermen.

Motorola Solutions (MSI) Motorola Solutions provided an integrated communications system, known as “Mountain Rose,” to the Israeli government which uses it for military communications. It also provided ruggedized cell phones to the Israeli army utilized in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The company also sold wide-area surveillance systems for installation in the illegal Israeli settlements.

Plainly put, corporate revenue is built on the back of Palestinian suffering. And Jewish tradition is clear in its rejection of ill-gained profits.

And this:
The Presbyterian resolution targets only the occupation which is fair and right. If I thought it was anti-Israel in any way, I would not support it. But I believe that being pro-Israel requires opposing the occupation.

This resolution is pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, above all, pro-peace. It must be approved. Voting “NO” is a vote for the occupation.

And you can read a related article by Rabbi Brant Rosen here.

Powerful stuff. Let's help it get noticed.


A reader writes … I found my imagination!

I realise that you'll never likely receive this message but I thought I'd write it anyway.

I'm a 31 year old Irish man. Married for 6 years now, I love the outdoors and have a passion for language learning.

I spent 8 years working for the Presbyterian Church as a youth pastor. To cut a long story short... I found my imagination, the capacity to love those not like me, to see Christ outside the walls of the church, to read more widely, to question what I'd always been told about 'the other'
whether they be culturally or politically different, to respect, accept and welcome more...

I left my job with the church to become a Spanish teacher just last year. Having always planned to become a adult pastor it was a shock for many and still the fear is that I'm 'lost', that I no longer "love The Lord" or read the Scriptures.

My loving The Lord and reading the scriptures are all that people are concerned about it appears. (I still do both but make no song and dance about it).

Few understand the transformation that my faith has undergone, how much wider my vision for faith now is, how more expansive, mesmerising and beautifully I see things. The good news is better news than it ever was before.

Anyway... I want to thank you for your books. Your pastoral understanding has meant a lot when no one else appeared to understand. I'm not attending church right now (it does me more harm than good) and am happily working in a high school teaching Spanish/French and looking after Special Needs learners. The plan was always to be a Pastor and I'm happy to be fulfilling that role outside the walls of the church.

I imagine you get a letter like this at least twice an hour so please don't feel the need to reply!

Thanks for writing. I don't get a letter like this twice an hour, but steady stream of voices are saying almost the same thing … discovering, as you say, "how much wider my vision for faith now is, how more expansive, mesmerising and beautifully I see things. The good news is better news than it ever was before."


A brilliant series on the future of Christian faith

Patheos is running a series readers of this blog will enjoy. In addition to yours truly, it features Adam Hamilton, Barbara Brown Taylor, Peter Matthews, and many more people I greatly respect.

Here is my contribution to a panel on the Bible.

The piece stands alone, but also gives a good overview of my approach in We Make the Road by Walking, which is available now.


Don't Get Caught!



A Millennial Speaks ...

This piece from Laura Cowan deserves attention from Catholic, Mainline and Evangelical readers … Quotable:

The moral of this story might surprise you: Millennials leaving the Church is a good thing, in my opinion. For me the GOOD news is that my generation HAS refused to put up with gross distortions of Christianity. These behaviors we’re talking about are not compatible with the Christian faith. They’re not Christian behaviors at all, though we all behave in ways that aren’t consistent with our beliefs from time to time. But I think this situation with millennials leaving means they’re paying attention and they’re following their consciences and refusing to compromise their morality in order to belong to religious institutions. The pressure that used to be there to conform to religious norms isn’t there to the same degree anymore in our society, it’s true, but my hope is for a generation that walks away from the distorted practices of the Church and then walks right into Jesus’s arms somewhere else, creating an entirely new form of Christian spirituality we’ve never seen before. There are a lot of ways Christianity could take shape that don’t involve what church on Sunday looks like today. You’ll find the beginnings of hope for this in the emergent and social justice and creation care movements, and hopefully with those millennials who say they’re spiritual but not religious. Those are the people I serve with my life’s work: the brokenhearted, the abused, the people who are looking for light in the world and can’t find it. I’m grateful for the experiences of my youth, if only because they’ve given me the education I needed to understand this human woundedness that leads to such abuse. I am dedicating my life to not only stopping this dynamic from continuing in my family line, but to reversing it in my culture. It is not okay, it is not Christian, and so far as anything comes through me, it stops here.

And this:
Things are changing whether religious bullies want them to or not.

Thanks, Laura!


Q & R: Positive attitude toward Christianity?

Here's the Q:

First of all I really love your work. I love the way you are so positive despite of differences and critique.I'm from the Netherlands and I'm really struggling trying to figure out all the doubtful stuff in christianity.

For about 5 years I've been questioning my faith and researching all kinds of literature. Somewhere in this process I read 'a new kind of christianity', which led me to read all your other books as well! I just love em.

But I find it really hard to maintain a positive attitude towards christianity because the naive approach a lot of christians have. So my question to you is first of all how do you cope with that?

But to me the more important question is how do you fit Jesus in all of this. If you look at historical data and the way the bible is somewhat primitive (some parts)... and if we say that the whole wrath thing is not really the case... then what's left of the Jesus story and what's His role in our lives?

I would love to hear your comments on this. And again, thnx for all the writing!

Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. I've been to Netherlands a few times and love your land and especially the Dutch people.

Once I was having a lot of trouble getting along with someone who had hurt me deeply. I went to one of my mentors and asked for help.

"You have to forgive him," my mentor said.

"That's the problem," I said. "I could say I forgive him, but I wouldn't mean it. I'm very angry at him. I don't feel I can honestly forgive him at this point. I want to, but I can't."

"Ah, that's because you don't understand him," my mentor said.

"That's a problem too. He makes no sense to me. I can't understand him," I replied.

"When you realize he's just a human being like you, and others hurt him, you'll understand that his most obnoxious behaviors are expressions of fear and hurt. Then you'll have compassion on him, and then you'll be able to forgive him," he replied.

I think something similar happens with Christianity as a community. Christianity is people, and people are in process. Various expressions of the religion have been hurt and sometimes get reactive and hurtful. But just as people can change for the better, so can communities. That's part of what I'm trying to get at in "We Make the Road by Walking."

Maybe you and I can take steps in better directions so that our faith communities can grow and change for the better.

As for your question about Jesus - I think you'll really like my new book. It will address this directly. Let me know what you think, OK?


My Muslim friend Rahim ...

wrote this beautiful artists' prayer …
Quotable from Rahim's website:

Even though some would like to see us abandon religion altogether as a useless relic from the past, I would like to see us upgrade and redesign religion so that it fulfills its original intention. No matter how old these religions are or what culture they come from, they still hold truths that can speak to us and feed us…. We have a lot of good hearty work to do, so I invite you to roll up your sleeves and join me.

Just as many of us are seeking new ways of being authentically Christian, we have counterparts doing similar work in Islam, Judaism, and other religions too.


Q & R: Heresy

Here's the Q:

From a leadership perspective, What boundaries do you think Christians should have on 'heresy'?

If you have time, here's a (very) partial answer I've been pondering ....

I've been extremely resistant to the idea of heresy, because I've found that it's usually on matters of opinion that the heresy card gets thrown around. Specifically, I find that the false doctrine or 'false teacher' card gets played any time where it looks like having mercy and grace toward others is going to win out over keeping theological traditions.

Yet wonder if there are times when it's appropriate to call someone out on their beliefs or practises. Perhaps when people start arguing and dividing and calling each other names (or burning one another at the stake) is the time to point out that heresy only really happens when an idea leads to people being dehumanized.

Well, I think there's also when core confessions of the faith are torn down. I.e no compromise from me on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, although I do appreciate the sociological commentary of the Jesus seminar - even though I think they got the 'main' detail wrong.

My context is that I am responsible for and to people who are very black and white when it comes to their reasoning skills, and thus very black and white when it comes to their bibles. Ironically, thesis thinkers are on both the liberal and conservative theological spectrum. That fascinates me endlessly. So I want to be sensitive to the fact that a poor logical premise accepted by these good folks will quickly turn into a disaster. But I also get frustrated because I see things differently - or perhaps I am learning to see behind certain things.

I am concerned because I've seen people take what is otherwise fine doctrine, and twist it around so that it is not fine in practise. I've also seen people take what I consider terrible theology, and do unbelievably gracious and wise things with it. Of course, I've also seen questionable theology (most notably, where opinions are stated as unquestionable facts) create messes, and I've seen well reasoned, gently communicated theology empower whole communities.

Here's the R:
Great question - one I can't do justice to in a short blog post, but here are a few responses.
1. The Greek word for heresy (hairesis) means choice. The idea is that an individual or group makes a choice to differ from the norm.

2. Ideas/doctrines are usually classified as heretical, but I think attitudes may be even more problematic. In Generous Orthodoxy, I offered a telling of early church heresies where the key attitude of heretics was elitist, exclusionary superiority: we are legit, everyone else isn't. Orthodoxy, then, was the broader term, more accepting and "catholic," and heresies were more elitist and exclusionary.

3. In Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, I took orthodox doctrines that have been applied with exclusive, hostile attitudes, and tried to reframe them in more "catholic" ways. In your words, I tried to take those "otherwise fine doctrines" that have been "twisted it around so that they are not fine in practice" and untwist them so they can have better out workings in praxis.

4. In We Make the Road by Walking, I explore an idea that G. K. Chesterton introduced at the end of his book Orthodoxy:

“It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”

What I love about this quote is that it pictures orthodoxy as a dynamic process, not simply a guard standing in one place, but rather a charioteer swerving, reeling, and racing in a "swirling adventure." My metaphor of walking a road - and extending it "off the map" - is tame by comparison, but I hope conveys the same idea. It implies a deeper and more dynamic understanding of both orthodoxy and heresy, I think. Orthodoxy is not a paved parking lot with its straight yellow lines, and heresy is not people choosing to park on the grass at all kinds of skewed angles. Rather, orthodoxy is the path that begins in the past and we must now extend into the future - with faith, fear, trembling, joy, and courage. And heresy is all those paths that divert people from the road and lead them into swamps, dead ends, and parking lots.

5. The problem, of course, is that in the present, it's not always clear who is making the right choice … to take this way or that. That's why I have no problem with various denominations or associations existing to make their own decisions of what they consider on the road and what they consider diversionary. Just as different populations of biological species mutate in different ways, some of which lead to extinction and others to evolution, I imagine that the choices made by different denominations and movements will ensure that the species over time both survives and evolves.

6. This approach reaches the same conclusion that you reach. It's irresponsible to say, "It doesn't matter what choices you make about doctrines, etc." But it's also terribly unwise to take the role of violent, angry, fearful inquisitors. But I wouldn't stop there.

7. I think one more question needs to be asked: Isn't it tragic that the Christian church was so focused on orthodoxy of doctrine that it didn't pay much attention to racism, sexism, colonialism, anti-Semitism, slavery, genocide, scapegoating, and the like for its first two thousand years?

I can imagine Jesus, James, Paul, or John saying, "You say, "Lord! Lord!" correctly, but you don't do the things I say," or "What shall it profit a person to have correct opinions but fail to love his neighbor?" Is a racist orthodoxy superior to a loving heresy? Thank God we don't have to choose between those two!

That's why some of our forbears had the courage to differ - to choose a different path - from their forbears who defended anti-Semitism, suppression of women, colonialism, segregation/apartheid, slavery, etc. They challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of their day that defended these practices with all kinds of doctrinal arguments. Sometimes the choice to differ was the orthodox choice.

Similarly today, to be faithful pilgrims on the road of truth and saving love, sometimes we need to differ - faithfully, humbly, and graciously - from our forbears and some of our peers as we move forward. Attitude is essential. And orthodoxy must no longer be separted from orthopraxy, ortho-affinity, and orthopathy. That's why I am such a fan of documents like the Accra Confession and Belhar Confession … and it's why I wrote my new book, We Make the Road by Walking.


Q & R: We Make the Road in Spanish?

Here's the Q:

Can I buy " we make the road walking" in spanish????

Here's the R:
Not yet. Here's how the process works. A Spanish publisher has to show some interest in the book. (Sometimes that happens because someone like you contacts the publisher and encourages them to consider it.) They then contact my publisher, Jericho/Hachette. They reach an agreement and then translation begins. My books Secret Message of Jesus and More Ready Than You Realize are in Spanish, and A Generous Orthodoxy is in Portuguese. Korean, Chinese, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, German, and other translations have been made for a number of my books, but relatively few in Spanish … so far. For now, We Make the Road by Walking is only available in English.


An interview and a review

Here's an interview on my new book:

And here's a review by Tony Jones, who read the manuscript and made suggestions that improved the book. (Thanks, Tony!) He also suggested a different title - which you'll read about in his review.


Q & R: Girardian Lectionary

Here's the Q:

I just listened to a podcast from Homebrewed Christianity where you dialogued with James Alison. You mentioned a Girard Lectionary. I've looked all over and can't seem to find it. May I please have the title, author, etc. so I can get a copy?

Thanks for this and for all you do.

Here's the R:
Ah, I think you got the impression that it was a book, but actually, it's a website that contains information that would fill dozens of books if not hundreds. You'll find it here:

It's the work of a brilliant and generous Lutheran pastor, Paul Nuechterlein. I think the world of Paul, and was so happy to read these words from him about my new book, We Make the Road by Walking.

"If I were to organize this website into a year's worth of sermons presenting a comprehensive engagement with the basic Christian message, and all with the anthropology of René Girard in the background guiding the interpretation, I couldn't hope for writing a book this good. I am delighted and extremely grateful that Brian has written this book. I pray that it becomes a classic of Christian instruction and spiritual formation."


A reader writes: Just another "Just" War?

A reader writes ...

I finished Everything Must Change and thought it is excellent. I like the fact that while you fervently uphold Jesus' revolutionary vision, you do not shrink from admitting the many failings of the institutional church throughout history. I just read a horrifying book about the persecution of Michael Servetus by both the Catholic Inquisition and by John Calvin:
Out of the Flames: The Remarkable Story of a Fearless Scholar, a Fatal Heresy, and One of the Rarest Books in... by Lawrence Goldstone and Nancy Goldstone (Sep 2, 2003)

The only thing that disappointed me was your discussion of Just War. I think you should be more categorical about rejecting this vile notion. When Augustine formulated it most Christians lived within the Roman Empire and would not have had to fight against Christian brothers in enemy kingdoms. But I am sure you would agree that over most of the past 1500 years since the fall of pagan Rome, European nations have shed each other's blood liberally all in the name of Just War!

Indeed the Servetus book above explains that during the Thirty Years War between Protestants and Catholics, parts of Europe lost half their population! And both world wars shed enormous quantities of Christian blood.

I like to say the following: "Just War" is just another war! I think even the standard justification invoked for it to oppose someone like Hitler is bogus, since the vast majority of Hitler's military was comprised of believing Lutherans and Catholics. Had they categorically rejected the so called just-war option, then we would not have faced the crisis in the first place.

Today the same grim scenario is being repeated in Ukraine. Putin is by every measure a devout Christian, but most American evangelicals seem almost eager to demonize him and pigeon hole him as a "closet commie." The very people who so oppose virtually every policy of Obama seem to be straining at the leash to embrace a possible war in Eastern Europe. This I believe perfectly reflects the unwillingness of the church to categorically reject the poisonous option of war.

Thanks for your note. There is horror in any human blood being shed, whether that blood flows from a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, atheist, secularist, or whatever, as I'm sure you'll agree. Minimizing that horror - even glorifying it - can only serve to make it more common.

With wars, veterans, prisoners of war, and the like in the news so much lately, I've been hearing a lot of talk that glorifies war and minimizes its horrors and tragedies. No nation seems to be very honest about its wars, and calling a war "just" easily hides a lot of ugly secrets that most people seem happy to hide. The old story of Cain and Abel penetrates our fog of deception and reminds us that all wars are civil wars, and our enemies are our brothers. Add to it the story of the Prodigal Son, and we remember that our enemies are beloved by God just as much as we are. I just need to sit with that realization a while today.


Does your church have a lawn?

Here's something to consider:


links roundup - music, comfort/joy, hell, awareness, and more

MUSIC: My friend Michelle has a new album out. You can sample it here … and pick it up too.

Plus - you can sample music from a bunch of wonderful musicians in The Shift Collective here:

COMFORT AND JOY: If all the world's meansters and crazies have you down, here's a moment of comfort and joy from Capetown, RSA:

HELL: My fellow Jericho author Jon Sweeney has written an excellent book on a hot topic. Learn more in this interview:

AWARENESS: Recently I participated in an exciting series on Spirituality and Awareness. I was one of 33 spiritual leaders interviewed, and I expect this FREE virtual conference will a truly inspirational experience. You can sign up for free to live stream the virtual conference from June 30 to July 4. Here is the link to find out more about the conference or to sign up.
I highly recommend this conference. You can also email the host Ian Lawton, ian@soulseeds.com, if you have any questions about the conference.

What You Need to Know
When: June 30 - July 4, 2014
Where: Online!
Cost: sign up for FREE here: http://www.entheos.com/Emerging-Spirituality-and-Awareness/Brian-McLaren


First Review, Important Questions, and philosophical conversation ...

The first review of my new book from the good people of Spirituality and Practice is up here:

My recent replies to excellent questions from Rachel Held Evans' intelligent and animated blog readers is up here:

And a recent interview about philosophy and theology with my friend David Peck is up here:


Wild Goose - coming soon, but it's not too late to register!

As a contributor to the festival, I've been given this code, BMCANDSJ, which you can use for 30% off at the WG website: http://wildgoosefestival.org/tickets. You can't get a better deal, so don't miss the opportunity, and I'll see you at the Goose!

Just take one minute and look at the speakers (http://wildgoosefestival.org/speakers/), music (http://wildgoosefestival.org/music/), visual art (http://wildgoosefestival.org/art/), and performances and practices (http://wildgoosefestival.org/performances-practices/) that will be a part of the Goose. Just looking at the faces on these pages and you'll see we are about to enter into a conversation that might not be able to happen anywhere else.


Today ...

Thanks so much, all my wonderful readers, for your interest in my work. Today is the release date for my new book We Make the Road by Walking.
Today you can help my new book get a good start if you pick up a copy … and maybe an extra for a friend or relative. Ordering information here. I'm grateful for your interest and support, and I know you'll enjoy the book.
Again, thanks!


Q & R: Adversarial systems

Here's the Q:

I have just finished reading your book “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” and it was good and challenging in the right way. You point out the problems hostility produces and my question is this.

In the United States, and probably many other places, the legal system is based on an adversarial relationship. For instance, prosecutors and defense attorneys are adversaries. Would the existence of this kind of system be corrosive to a non-hostile community?

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Here's the R:
You raise a really important question. Rather than answer it, let me rephrase it and then pose some related questions.

1. Could we imagine a legal system based on a common pursuit for justice rather than an adversarial pursuit of "wins?"

2. Can we imagine an economic system based on the common good, sustainability, and creative collaboration rather than ruthless competition?

3. Can we imagine a political system based on civility rather than wedge issues and dishonesty?

Those are the kinds of questions that get us dreaming of the "commonwealth of God." And for those who are thinking - "Yea, that's realistic!" (insert sarcasm) - remember that centuries ago, a few daring people asked …

Can we imagine a political system where every person got to vote and we replace kings elevated by primogeniture with elected public servants?

Can we imagine a system where women were considered equal to men?

Can we imagine a world where domestic violence was not acceptable?

Can we imagine a world where all children had a right to free public education?

Can we imagine a world where slavery did not exist? Where segregation/apartheid did not exist? Where minorities had equal protection under the law?

As the saying goes … another world is not only possible; it is already under construction. That's a great paraphrase for "The kingdom of God is at hand." We're on a journey into ever-greater justice, reconciliation, and peace … we make the road by walking.


Music for a Sunday (and the 6 days following)

I've been enjoying this beautiful album by Solveig Leithaug, Finding Home:
You can learn more about Solveig here:

Something I wrote played a part in inspiring this beautiful song - "The World You Made" -

O the wonder of your faithfulness, summer, winter, spring and fall
Holy Father of the universe, great and merciful
Rushing rivers, rolling hills, jumping trout, and deer at play
Beautiful beyond our words is this world you made
O, what a world you made.
From the floral valleys to glacial peaks, northern lights to desert bloom,
Erupting geyser to coral reef, nature speaks of you
Earth is framed within your hands, earth and harvest, air and rain,
Show us, Lord, how to better care, for this world you made.


Here's a sermon for Pentecost Sunday ...

… from my upcoming book. I hope you enjoy it!


In turtle news … why did the turtle cross the road?

Nobody knows!
(HT: Thanks, Gary!)


Three links you shouldn't miss.

Consider hosting this play -

Don't be blind to the realities of racism and white privilege -
Check out this from James Cone …

And this from Andrea Smith.


Q & R: What about weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Here's the Q:

I have been reading your works off and on for about 10 years. Recently I have been reading and re-reading “A New Kind of Christianity”, which I have found very helpful in answering some questions I have. However, there are some other questions this line of thinking brings up. Reading chapters 13 and 14, where you break down the Gospel according to John, and Paul’s letter to the Romans, I find great inspiration. But what do we do with Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew? I generally read the four Gospels in the light of the Gospel according to Jesus (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (and in my thoughts available to be experienced now as revealed in the Beatitudes) What about the references to the weeping and gnashing of teeth, being thrown into outer darkness, etc. etc. etc.?

Here's the R:
This is a huge question, and I can't do justice to it in a short post. But let me offer a wild proposal. I'm not fully convinced of all the details in the proposal below, but this approach deserves consideration. It builds on insights from mimetic theory and from the work of Walter Wink, William Herzog, Andrew Perriman, and others.

1. The overall issue is not the end of the world, but the destruction of the temple (24:1-2). Much as people today foresee the end of nuclear proliferation or global warming or a pyramid economy that is owned by the 1%, Jesus foresaw that a militarized Israel would stage a violent rebellion against Rome which would be crushed.

2. His warnings that follow aren't about the end of the world, but the end of the world as they know it … an end that occurred in AD67-70 when the Romans came in and crushed the Jewish rebellion (24:3-31). For more on the phrase "coming of the Human One" or "coming of the Son of Man," see the work of Andrew Perriman.

3. "The generation will not pass" had its obvious meaning (24:32-35).

4. The "left behind imagery of 24:36-44 means the opposite of what Dispensationalists and other fundamentalists taught. Being "taken away" means killed by invading armies. Being "left behind" means surviving the attack.

5. If that's the case, the catastrophes in the parables of the servants, bridesmaids, and stewards aren't going to hell after you die, but the consequence of trusting in violent rebellion and not being ready for the coming catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem.

6. This is a tangent … but the parables of the servants, bridesmaids, and stewards are highly problematic. It's possible Jesus didn't inte