Last night we went to see Brian McLaren at Church of the Redeemer on Bloor (across from the ROM) and I was reminded of how much I am encouraged by his generous, thoughtful and fresh approach to Christian faith. I am also even more bewildered and saddened by the reality that many evangelicals continue to denounce him as a heretic without reading a single word he has written.
Brian talked about our “framing stories,” the narratives we use to make sense of our world. We are looking for prosperity, security and equity… but usually in our societies and communities we think we can only achieve peace and stability through the exercise of tyrannical control, scapegoating, “purification” (think ethnic cleansing), and other invisible ideological mechanisms. To the extent that the Christian religion has been co-opted over the centuries by unhealthy, destructive “framing stories,” it has been complicit in the injustice of our world: colonialism, racism, economic disparities, ecological destruction. Only by recovering the message of Jesus – a story with a completely different trajectory, about the renunciation of power, nonviolent resistance and restorative justice – can we move towards “a new kind of Christianity.”
As he noted, moving away from some of the problematic tendencies in our current version of Christianity may mean we lose the reason we became Christians in the first place… our deeply-ingrained, even cherished understandings of the atonement or justification, for example. But McLaren is giving us some new reasons to be a Christ-follower, which for me as someone a little worn out by evangelical Christianity is enough of a reason to listen to what he has to say.