Friday, 9 September 2011

Brian McLaren - Christian identity in a multiple faith context

This talk is a prequel to his upcoming book with a tentative title "Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed walk into a bar".

As Christians we know how to have a strong faith, but we also know how to be hostile to other faiths and their beliefs.  We have centuries of history of our identity like this.  It might not be a glamorous history, but without knowing our past with it's history, violence and genocide we can't possibly move forward.

It might be nice to have a benign and weak Christian identity which avoids the hostility of strong Christian identity; but it in itself is not really celebrating being Christians.

There should be a third way, a third identity; one based on stories and history which actually brings into our identity both the violence and peace of our past.

We need a new story that sweeps away all the myths of our past and is inclusive enough to include all Christians.  We need to return to what Jesus actually did and said and base our faith on that.  A gospel faith.

There are 6 narratives in Jesus' story; and they all still stand as applicable today:
1. Domination
2. Revolution
3. Purification
4. Isolation
5. Competition
6. Victimisation/self preservation

These are the stories that send us into the world in battle against others.  They give us ways that we as Christians we can be 'safe'; by dominating, by overthrowing oppressors, by blaming others for our problems, by scapegoating, by feeling mistreated and oppressed which needs freeing, by aiming to start again alone.  All these separate 'us' from 'them'.

Instead of a narrative of a clenched fist, Jesus told stories of the open hand.  Instead of warriors, he sent us as farmers.  He showed is baptism as the cleaning from the old stories a d resurrection as a new narrative people with a fresh identity.

We are going to need theological shifts to understand the Bible in this open hand narrative.  This will be a shock, after hundreds of years of reading the Bible to support our warrior identity.

Jesus tells us to be non violent even in the face of violence; we are not called to fight but to forgive.

Jesus gave us the Eucharist to be a continuation of eating with sinners; yet our Eucharist is 'just for us'.  Why?  When did it become exclusive rather than inclusive?

Jesus never plays self preservation; He shows us pursuit for the common good - for everyone!  Would he exclude the Palestinians from their lands?  No, he'd work for peace of all together.

We need to leave our hostile narratives and work towards peace together.  As Christians we should lead this, we can work with other faiths and together come to a peace as faiths different but together.

Religions are similar but their mysteries are different at the core.  If you compare Christianity and Islam then you will see that we say different things about different things.  We do not conflict, we are talking differently.   

We need to be celebrating our similarities and accepting our differences; through peace. 

We see false Jesus' being proclaimed; Jesus' who make us more successful, more important, more happy, more in control.  We need to start realising that Jesus is strong and benevolent; we need to have that same faith.

We can be Christian and love other faiths and even aestheists.  We can love them for their faith and questions. 

All of Gods creatures are part of creation, we need to be benevolent to them all whether person, animal or plant.  We need to develop a new doctrine of love for creation of all forms.  We are called to a focus on love and acceptance and peace.

It's a new identity walking in the way of the Lord.

My thoughts

As I heard Brian McLaren speak I was really touched by the fact that many UK Christians definitely feel like victims in our secular society.  This has never sat well with me; I've never felt like a victim, never felt marginalised.  I've always felt a part of a multi-cultural society which allows many different people to live together despite our differences.  

So why is it that so many Christians like to feel like victims?  Is it about wanting others to save us and support us?  Or is it because it feels safe if we're together as the oppressed.

I say that if we feel oppressed then it's of our own doing!  

As I am in community with many peep of different faiths and none I encounter no negativity; I encounter interest and love.  God is love, I am loved, I love others; and in return they open themselves to me and accept and reciprocate my love.

We need to move beyond thoughts of separation and realise our role as disciples of Christ; forgiving, loving and giving.

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