Ten Questions for Brian McLaren

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Brian McLaren, done by Terry L. Heaton, that espically resonated with me.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Brian McLaren is a postmodernist Christian leader, and that makes him a controversial fellow in a religion with roots in absolutism. He's the author of ten books and pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church, an innovative, nondenominational church in the Baltimore-Washington region. He's one of the leaders of Emergent, a growing generative friendship among Christian leaders. In February, Time Magazine listed him as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America...

Q: In a nutshell, what’s your definition of postmodernism?

A: That's a hard question to put into a nutshell. Those who use it usually mean it as something that involves continuity and discontinuity with modernity. It’s not anti-modernism. It’s not the same thing as pre-modernism. It means people who've gone through the modern era and been changed by it, so now they argue its principles in many different ways...

...The church has done exactly what it should do: it has effectively adapted to modernity. It has learned to speak modern language. It has learned to how to engage with modern media. It has learned to use modern technology and all the rest. Now when that happens it’s always likely we'll go too far — that we'll become "of and in the world" instead of "in but not of it." A lot my friends and I, when discussing postmodernity, feel that the church doesn't realize the degree to which it is over-accommodating to modernity...

Q: I'm going to put you on the spot and ask for your thoughts about some conservative Christian organizations, like the Parents Television Council, seeking to pressure the government into censoring television programming. Is this going to work or will it backfire?

A: I think the Christian community is making an extremely dangerous mistake with this. The mistake is we are going from dissatisfaction to legislation and missing the middle step of persuasion. Now you would think, from our beliefs from the Gospels, that God isn't just interested in us being focused on the law, but he actually wants to change our hearts. That’s my understanding of how the Kingdom of God works, but we (the church) don't seem to understand that.

So our first move when we're unhappy about something is to get laws passed about it. To me that is pure Colonialism, Colonialism says change the world, by controlling other people against their will. The work of persuasion would be much harder, and it requires us to change our rhetoric 180 degrees. You can't, you don't, influence people you identify as the other side of the culture war. The language of the culture war is the language of "strength on our side" to dominate the other side. That leads to belief in things like redemptive violence, which is incredibly widespread in the Christian community, and which, I think, needs to be questioned in light of the teachings of Jesus. That discussion you certainly aren't going to hear on religious broadcasting.

So, firstly, I think it’s a gross and foolish mistake of strategy. If we were to take 30 percent of the effort spent on legislation and invest it instead on sensible and palpable persuasion, we would get an awful lot farther.

Secondly, it’s hypocritical, because the conservative religious value always talks about how we want to weaken federal government. They want to weaken the federal government when it talks about the government helping the poor, preserving the environment or doing a lot of other things that I think Christians should care about, and they want to strengthen the government in all these other ways. They ought to at least be honest and say, "We want to strengthen the federal government for our agenda and not somebody else’s." I think it’s incredibly duplicitous to, in one breath, call for weakening the federal government and then try to use it for your advantage. I'm stunned that people who call themselves Christians would practice that kind of duplicity. It's stunning. It feels to me like George Orwell.


Mike Todd said...

Hey David - do you have any inside info on the date of this interview. Fantastic - thanks for the link.

David Best said...

Mike, I think I ran across it via a google search. I certanly don't have any "inside" information.