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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At a time when political and religious liberals are taking refuge in the word progressive, McLennan (Finding Your Religion) presents an unapologetic case for liberal Christianity. Reporting that about 20% of Americans are liberal Christians, he states, Too many of them choose silence, afraid to use the word 'liberal' to describe where they stand. He immediately tackles hot-button topics—abortion, science and same-sex marriage—then moves on to liberal perspectives on God, Jesus, the Trinity, the church and the Bible as well as feminist theology and living faithfully as a liberal Christian. Personal anecdotes from McLennan's own faith journey and advice for practitioners vary in effectiveness, but few liberal concerns about traditional Christianity go unaddressed. Dean for religious life at Stanford University, an inspiration for Doonesbury's Rev. Scott Sloan of comic strip fame and a Unitarian Universalist minister, McLennan and his theology may not always draw agreement from other Christians who consider themselves liberals, nor does the book engage postmodern emergent theology. But McLennan's presentation is remarkably thoughtful, respectful and balanced as he argues that liberal Christianity is a vital expression of faith. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“McLennan's writing is that of a thoughtful scholar. . .This book will reward any reader with an open mind and a curiosity about the breadth of the Christian faith.” ―Library Journal

“McLennan's presentation is remarkably thoughtful, respectful, and balanced as he argues that liberal Christianity is a vital expression of faith.” ―Publishers Weekly

“His book is a manifesto of sorts for those who are both unapologetically Christian and liberal. He takes readers through the major concerns of liberal Christianity, both theological and social, and draws conclusions that are sure to both enrage and amuse those who don't share them.” ―Chicago Sun-Times

“Rev. Scotty McLennan is reasonable and humane. . . he makes religion sound like a valuable tool for humanity, the kind of social movement that could bring us peace, understanding, tolerance and love.” ―The National Post (Canada)

“[A] time'y and powerfully reasoned argument that it's time for liberals to reclaim ownership of Christ as he was--an outlier, a passionate but rationalist revolutionary who spoke to the best in us.” ―Garry Trudeau, author of Doonesbury

“An immensely readable book that reclaims the honorable word 'liberal' for a vision of Christianity that is persuasive, compelling, and faithful.” ―Marcus J. Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity and Jesus: The Life, Teaching and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

“A wonderfully readable and very timely book. It makes Jesus available again, as he has been at many times in history, to a much wider spectrum of people, and not just 'liberals.' Will be appreciated by those who want to 'conserve' what he stood for, taught and died for.” ―Harvey Cox, author of When Jesus Came to Harvard and The Future of Faith

“A clear-eyed, hopeful manifesto of belief, written with style and integrity. At last - the progressive case for faith, powerfully made.” ―James Carroll, author of Practicing Catholic


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780230103405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230103405
  • ASIN: 0230103405
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The Reverend William L. McLennan, Jr. -- better known as "Scotty McLennan" -- was born on November 21, 1948. He is an ordained minister, lawyer, and author. Since January 1, 2001, McLennan has been the Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University in California, where he oversees religious affairs on campus, is the minister of the Stanford Memorial Church and teaches undergraduate and Graduate School of Business courses.

Originally from Lake Forest, Illinois, McLennan attended the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He received his B.A. degree (Magna Cum Laude & Phi Beta Kappa) from Yale University in 1970 as "Scholar of the House," an honorary program for about a dozen Yale seniors. His final thesis was a monograph entitled "Computers and Infinity."

He earned both Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees from Harvard's Divinity and Law Schools in 1975. He was ordained in 1975 as a Unitarian Universalist Christian minister, and admitted that year to the Massachusetts bar. After practicing church-sponsored poverty law in a low-income neighborhood of Boston for a decade and founding the Unitarian Universalist Legal Ministry, he was appointed University Chaplain at Tufts University in Medford, Massachuestts, where he served from 1984 to 2000. He also served as a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School between 1988 and 2000.

In 1994, he was the recipient of The Rabbi Martin Katzenstein Award, the oldest annual award given to Harvard Divinity School Alumni/ae "to honor among its graduates one who exhibits a passionate and helpful interest in the lives of other people." McLennan also was honored with the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award in 2004. The award was "established to recognize leaders who promote peace and world reconciliation" by Morehouse College.

McLennan is the author of "Jesus Was a Liberal: Reclaiming Christianity for All" (2009), "Finding Your Religion: When the Faith You Grew Up With Has Lost Its Meaning" (1999) and co-author with Laura Nash of "Church on Sunday, Work on Monday: The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values with Business Life" (2001).

Scotty McLennan is married to Ellen S. McLennan. They wed in 1981 in Boston, Massachusetts and are the parents of two sons, Will McLennan (b. 1982) and Dan McLennan (b. 1984), both of whom are alumni of Stanford University.

McLennan's grandfather, Donald R. McLennan, co-founded the insurance brokerage, Marsh & McLennan, in 1905 in Chicago. Today, Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC) is a US-based global professional services and insurance brokerage firm.

McLennan is part of the inspiration for the cartoon character Reverend Scot Sloan in Garry Trudeau's Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon strip "Doonesbury". The character is also based on the late William Sloane Coffin, McLennan's mentor and former Chaplain at Yale University, where McLennan and Trudeau were undergraduate roommates.

Fore more information, please visit www.scottymclennan.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book comes highly recommended by Nationally Syndicated radio talk show star, Stephanie Miller. Which is how I found out about it in the first place, she did an interview with the author on her show.

As a person who considers myself spiritual, and who identifies most strongly with Christianity, it has been frustrating me for a long time that the extreme right wing in the United States (and elsewhere, but mostly in the United States) have somehow managed to claim Jesus Christ to be on "their side."

Their side just happens to be: pro-torture, pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-revenge, pro-wealth at the expense of all else, pro-public displays of personal religion, anti-taxes, against helping the poor, and against women's rights.

This book, point by point, cites chapter and verse of the Bible and shows that not only was Jesus a "hippy Liberal" who hung out with the prostitues, the poor and the downtrodden, but that he was outspoken against pretty much all of the issues the extreme right wing keep trying to claim he would be for.

The author points out that it was Jesus who said "turn the other cheek," he did NOT say, "let's bomb them back to the stone age." The author points out that it was Jesus who said, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. [...] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." [NIV] That pretty much flies in the face of those screaming hysterically about public prayer in the schools.
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Format: Hardcover
Book Review by Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California, and author of BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians:

JESUS WAS A LIBERAL: Reclaiming Christianity for All
by Rev. Scotty McLennan (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009)

This review was published in the Summer 2009 edition of THE PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN magazine.

"Liberal" is anything but a dirty word for the Dean of Religious Life, and pastor of Memorial Church, at Stanford University. Scotty McLennan is proof that while Christians may be a minority group within it, publicly professing followers of Jesus still thrive in the Unitarian Universalist Association in which he is ordained. He has written his opus on progressive Christianity without disparaging the conservative Christians or the public atheists to whose positions his book carefully responds. With his typical generosity of spirit, Scotty shares how much he respects and learns from those with whom he substantially disagrees, while using them to locate progressives in the center of the Christian tradition. Scotty is the real person behind the figure of Rev. Scot Sloan in Doonesbury, created by McLennan's Yale roommate, Garry Trudeau. Contrary to his comic-strip caricature as the pastor of a nearly empty church, McLennan's big audience will grow bigger with the launch of this new book.

JESUS WAS A LIBERAL is the best introduction to theologically and socially progressive Christianity that I've read in the past several years. McLennan offers a concise definition of "liberal" Christianity, and applies it concretely to hot-button social issues and common confusions about biblical interpretation.
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Format: Hardcover
In this thoughtful, carefully documented book, Scotty McLennan has some reassuring words for those of us interested in peace, at home and abroad, and in social justice. This though many of us have occasionally been embarrassed to identify ourselves as Christians of late. Jesus, McLennan explains, was up to promoting those same things. He probably wouldn't even have been pointing an exclusionary finger at people who are different. At a time when ultra-conservative Christians command large audiences from a few convenient bully pulpits, and when conservative congregations are admittedly growing (and surely doing a lot of good things!) it's easy for us centrists and liberals to wonder what to do next. So when McLennan shows how Jesus consistently stood for peace, and against poverty, discrimination and environmental degradation, it's like a breath of supportive fresh air. "We need to find each other and support each other," he says. This good book offers ways to do that, and food for the liberal soul.
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Format: Hardcover
Well worth reading if you wonder what happened to Christianity. Although I don't agree with everything in this book, I didn't expect to, and I don't find that particularly worrisome when I read something. I have found the religious right confusing for some time now. Jesus was nothing if not a champion of the poor and marginalized members of society. Its strange to me that people who claim to be Christian would be against universal health care or other social programs. As this book points out, in times brought up, the top two things covered in the new testament are redemption and social justice. Gay marriage - not mentioned. Abortion - not mentioned. Don't worry about the fact that the author is a Unitarian or doesn't believe in an active deity - you can still get things out of this book. I am not sure exactly when or how Christianity moved away from people like Martin Luther King and toward the very conservative people you mostly see associated with it today. Time to move it back. I think if a few more Christian people stopped and asked themselves - "Where would Jesus stand on this issue" they might come to some very different conclusions.

Jesus was a socially liberal Jew from the Middle East. If anything of those things make you want to freak out, you should ask yourself "why?"
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