Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christianity as Global Threat.

Before I talk about Brian McLaren's article, Christianity as a Global Threat, let me make an analogy. Consider the speed limit.

Consider a town where speed limit signs have been posted along the side of the road for longer than anyone in the town has lived. Folks have debated exactly who put up the signs. The signs say, "Do not drive faster than 30MPH in front of daycare centers". The drivers on the road have a variety of responses to the sign. Some hate being told what to do and so drive 50 MPH. Some drive 30 MPH, ever careful to slow down whenever they see a kid by the side of the road, because the sign reminds them about the risk of hitting children. Some drivers, however, drive 30.0 MPH, rain or shine, regardless of whether there are dogs, cats, deer, little old ladies, or children in the road in front of them.

Now in my analogy, the townsfolk start complaining about the mean drivers in the third camp. The third camp drivers say, "I believe these signs are a divine ordinance. Because of these signs, I have a divine mandate to drive 30 MPH whenever I want." Some of the townsfolk, rightly alarmed at the philosophy of this third camp of drivers, point to the speed limit signs as a source of evil, and say that whoever posted them must be a very bad person. The second set of drivers, meanwhile, get offended that a philosophy of running over kids is somehow associated with a literal reading of the stop signs, noting that there are also laws against hurting people. The second set of drivers say that the townsfolk mad about the sign are as silly as the third set of drivers who drive crazy.

McLaren points to three dysfunctions in American Christianity, which are "prosperity, equity, and security." I don't think that blame for the Prosperity Gospel, nationalism, and Bush/Falwell's view of the War on Terror can in any way be laid on a literal reading of the bible. I say folks like Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Oscar Romero are the literalists. They neither skimped on the spirituality nor remained silent when their fellow men and women were being trampled upon.

McLaren continues:
"The final conclusion of the book surprised me as much as I hope it will surprise readers: the most radical thing we can do to bring change into our lives and world, it turns out, is an act of faith – an act of withdrawing trust from the dysfunctional stories we’ve been told – stories both secular and religious, and transferring our trust to another story, a story captured by Jesus in the metaphor of “the kingdom of God.”
(Hat tip to Willzhead blog for a link to that discussion.

Here's the problem with McLaren's view. I say that belief in the old story, even a literal belief, an ardently-held belief in the old story of sin, cross, and redemption, has nothing to do with the misanthropic content of the Falwells of the world. McLaren's argument shows incredibly sloppy scholarship and it gives the bigots and torturers far too much credit. It seems to say, "Oh poor Falwell and Robertson. They are such inherently good people, they've just been duped into following some misanthropic stories, which they follow oh so faithfully in all extents. If only we could find some different stories for them to follow." Another apparent mistake with McLaren's approach is the implication that one were ardently to hold to a story, one must therefore start bopping the heads of those who disagree. Does the same apply to McLaren's story? Ouch!

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