A New Kind of Christian
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Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 12:49:17 PM EST
While Russell Moore is trying to popularize a  narrrow, judgmental and patriarchal reading of the Bible, Brian McLaren is trying to popularize a postmodern and open reading of the Bible. What is interesting is that both Moore and McLaren come from similar evangelical backgrounds. As a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Moore is directly linked to the current highly politicized leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention which in turn is connected to the wider goals of the Christian Right. McLaren is connected to what is known as the emerging church movement. McLaren is a good example of the growing number of new voices in the evangelical world that are challenging the Christian Right. Understanding the contradictory impulses in American evangelicalism is puzzling and uncertain, but I see in McLaren a sign of hope that there are forces within the broader evangelical movement that may eventually move American Christianity away from its current theocratic tendencies. Some quotes from Brian McLaren:
From a Beliefnet interview:

Congratulations on making TIME magazine's '25 Most Influential Evangelicals' list. How did you feel about being included?

It's complicated because my sense is that the article was really trying to equate the word 'evangelical' with 'conservative Republican.' Although I think there are many wonderful things about conservative Republicans, I don't fit in that category. So I felt I probably was the oddest duck in the article (laughs). On the other hand, I was glad if I could be an example of someone from an evangelical background who is not happy with the tone of the religious right. So if I provided an alternative voice, I'm glad that I could be included.

From an interview in the Dallas Morning News:

Many conservative Christians feel that the interests of America and the interest of the kingdom of God are closely aligned - they might even say the interests of the Republican Party. (Laughs). I think that is a deep area of tension. Many of us certainly love our country, but we don't think that the kingdom of God is in the pocket of any political party, or in a nation, or even in Western civilization.

From an interview on PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

A lot of critics are really frustrated that homosexuality is a question you're not very definitive on. Why do you not want to go on the record on that?

That's a great question, and we could talk for hours about this. I think, as I said before, when an issue is badly framed, we're not wise to just rush in and try to answer it. And I think the issue of homosexuality is badly framed. One of my concerns about the framing of it is that I'm worried that the religious community is being manipulated by the political world and that the political community, in some ways, has decided this is a wedge issue, and we can use this issue to shave off voters from one party or another party. And so they've wanted the issue to be a political issue. I'm worried that the religious community has been manipulated by some of this political machination. I don't mean that as a conspiracy theory, but I just mean let's be realistic about how these things work. It seems to me it's worked that way; that's the first thing.

The second thing is that the issue of homosexuality is so complex, and as a pastor I have to sit across the table from people, from a young man who's raised in a wonderful Christian family and says, "Look, you know, I'm 19 years old. I've never been attracted to women. I didn't ask for this. I've been ashamed to tell anybody. You're the first person I've ever told." Well, when I have a conversation like that, or with a young woman who grew up -- her father is a minister, and she lived with this deep self-hatred for many, many years. She considered suicide and all the rest. When you have conversations like that, you can't just walk around making pronouncements like so many people in the media do. You realize these are real human beings we're talking about. And you realize that the issues are not as simple as many people make them sound. Then add to that the biblical dimension of it and the way of interpreting the Bible that yields these very easy, black-and-white [answers], throw people in this plastic bin or in that plastic bin and now we got them sorted out, here are the good ones, here are the bad ones. You know, I just think that's absurd. The Bible's so much more complex then that. If people want to start picking out a verse from the Bible here and picking out a verse there, and picking out a verse, we're going have stonings going on in the street. It's a crazy way to interpret the Bible, in my opinion. Now that doesn't mean that we just throw out the Bible, but we've got to learn ways to engage with the wisdom in the Bible that help us be more ethical and more humane and not less.

From an article in Christianity Today where McLaren responds to Mel Gibson's recent Jesus movie:

There are millions of poor Muslims who see the West as decadent, strident, arrogant, selfish, careless, and pugilistic, and of course, they are right. Can you see how offering them a fine movie could just make things worse? Instead, why don't we show them some Christians (in the West but not of it) who are honest, upright, peacemakers, compassionate, humble, and generous?

Our world is torn by ethnic, class, and religious hatred. Don't show the emerging culture a movie about Jesus: show them a movement of people living like Jesus--people who like him love the different, even the enemy, whose doors are open and tables are set with welcome.

Thanks for posting these comments by McLaren.

Now I know why SBC leadership has become so hostile to the emerging church movement.

by Mainstream Baptist on Fri Nov 25, 2005 at 08:15:50 PM EST

In my August 15 < http://civicconnections.blogspot.com/2005/08/evangelical-sect-in-politics-community.html> blog, titled "The Evangelical Sect in Politics & Community; Why I am Not a Christian Republican Anymore," I became alarmed by the intensifying levels of political maneuvering within the houses of worship. "Money-changing" political strategists have hijacked the Christian assemblies -- for the love of wealth and riches and not God.  I am angry about the hijacking of my church. I found your post edifying. It's good to know I am not imagining things because when speaking to "real" Christians, they insist that I am. Thanks.

by CivicConnections on Sun Nov 27, 2005 at 08:40:45 PM EST

Another Southern Baptist leader attacked Brian McLaren and the "emerging church" movement in the Baptist Press yesterday: Baptist scholar sounds a warning to 'emerging church' - (BP).

Having read A Generous Orthodoxy over the summer, I found it to be extremely thought-provoking and inspiring. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to deepen their relationship and be challenged to think. However, many Southern Baptists and other Christians are afraid to think about issues of faith and would rather paint the world in simplistic and judgmental terms.

Also in yesterday's Baptist Press was an article by Russell Moore attacking fellow Christians for accepting some of the tenets of feminism: Many evangelicals unwittingly live as feminists, Moore says - (BP). The article reports on a speech in which he also defends patriarchy. His words there are enough for me to want to be counted amongst Brian McLaren's new type of Christian.

by Kaylor on Tue Nov 29, 2005 at 05:14:51 PM EST

It's complicated because my sense is that the article was really trying to equate the word 'evangelical' with 'conservative Republican.' Although I think there are many wonderful things about conservative Republicans, I don't fit in that category. So I felt I probably was the oddest duck in the article.| Decking Contractor Scranton               

by maroso on Mon Sep 13, 2021 at 07:21:30 AM EST

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