The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren
Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.
Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love that moves and challenges believers. McLaren states in chapter 1, for billions of people, for Christianity to be Christian only one thing matters correct beliefs. Based on the priorities of many Christian leaders and institutions we might conclude that Jesus said, "by their beliefs you shall know them," or, "this is my command that you believe the right doctrines," or "behold a new systematic theology I given to you," or that Paul said do I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not the right theory of atonement I am a noisy gong or clean simple. Mclaren doesnt say beliefs are insignificant but that seismic shifts are necessary to get rid of the either/or mentality of so many traditional ways of believing. This approach divorces the story and meaning of the text from its attendant call to belief various propositions or concepts. Yet, at the end of the chapter (p. 31) Brian does say that beliefs matter in regards to structural racism, mental illness, and the environment. As one can very easily see, Brian is very inconsistent here, not wanting to mention the issues that more conservative or evangelical Christians would bring up, namely the issues of life, the deity of Jesus Christ, and church hierarchy.
While I disagree with much that Brian has to offer, there is one part that I think is very good for all those involved in Christianity. In the chapter on Social Poets he writes, "Or imagine if your congregation developed a community garden, started planting trees, launched a watershed protection group...got involved in building cross-racial or multi-faith relationships...or developed a tutoring program at a local public school...(171)." These kind of practices inculcate the kind of love of neighbor that is at the heart of the Christian faith. Brian terms this kind of way of life "organizing religion," rather than "organized religion." The goal here is not to be close minded but to open up these practices to a community of churches that long to love their neighbor well.
This book will most appeal to those on the fringes of Christianity, those of a progressive nature and those upset with the modern church, but I also think there is some good stuff here. The biggest problem in the book is McLaren's conception of the nature of God, seeking to apologize for God's violence and setting a too thick line between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.
Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.