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The Gospel Truth
The Gospel Truth
15 used & new from $6.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Progressive Gospel Music, May 28, 2011
This review is from: The Gospel Truth (Audio CD)
What happens when an agnostic from Iowa writes a Gospel album? Well, you get some pretty cool music. Susan Werner has written an album, The Gospel Truth, that features progressive Christian lyrics set to old time Gospel music. It's got slide guitar, upbeat choirs, foot stomping, and everything else you'd expect out of tent-revival-meets-healthcare-reform-rally music.

(Why Is Your) Heaven So Small features slide guitar and a sultry voice as the lyrics explore the problems of judgmentalism. One of the powerful phrases says: "Well I know you'd damn me if you could / but my friend, that's simply not your call / If God is great and God is good / Why is your heaven so small." It seems like human nature to confuse our perspective with God's perspective. The people that don't think like us are wrong and are going to hell. The people that think like us are right and get to go to heaven. This kind of thinking makes God sound just like oneself. To this theological offense, author Anne Lamott says, "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." So, Lamont and Werner seem to be trying to remind us that maybe the Heaven of God of the Universe isn't as small as the "heaven" of the "god" we make in our image. To drive this idea home, part of Werner's last verse reads: "But my friend, imagine this if you would / a love much mightier than us all."

Help Somebody is hand-clappin', continually building explosion of Gospel music. Ya just gotta stand up and dance by the end. Lyrically it's an ode to missional, social justice minded Christianity. It's about realizing we have enough stuff in life and then deciding to share those resources with others. One line reads: "I got supper on the table / What do I do / I go out and help somebody / Get supper on the table too." This song is about doing the work of the Church. Therefore the lyrics are in line with popular quote from St. Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." It'd be a great song for congregations to use during stewardship or fund-raising drives.

Forgiveness is one of the few slow songs on the album. And it's also one of the heaviest songs lyrically. It's about exploring the perennial question of how we can love and forgive people who hurt us. It's hard to summarize the power of this song in a brief review. It's one that has to be heard and felt. So let me just quote one of the verses and let it stand on its own: "How do you love those / Who never will love you / I think only God knows / And He is not taking sides / I hope one day He shows us / How we can love those / Who never will love us / But who still we must love."

Did Trouble Me offers a mid-tempo reflection on times when God challenges us to move, grow, and act. Werner opens the song with: "When I close my eyes so I would not see / My Lord did trouble me / When I let things stand that should not be / My Lord did trouble me." It's refreshing to hear a song about God encouraging us to see the things we'd rather not see, and address the things that need to be addressed. For example, global poverty kills 30,000 children every single day. That should trouble us. And when God troubles us with these kinds of things, God also calls us to act. We're invited to join in on God's mission of changing the world for the better. Perhaps the first step is to be troubled. Then to be empowered to act.

Sunday Morning is Werner's own autobiographical story about being former-church-goer-turned-agnostic who, in some ways, still longs to go to church on Sunday mornings. But, for her, church is not a place that was or is a safe place for her questions. In the last line she sings: "And I went back the other day / closed my eyes and tried to pray / but a voice spoke loud and clear / 'You ask too many questions, dear' / And I said, 'You ask too few' / that's why I still don't know quite what to do on Sunday mornings." Too few churches welcome real questions and authentic wrestling with theological ideas. But, as Ann Lamott reminds us, "The opposite of faith is not doubt, it's certainty." It's okay to have questions and doubts. But it's absurd to think we have all the "right" answers. As Apostle Paul reminds us, "We see through a glass dimly" and "know only in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Mystery is part of faith.

Our Father (The New, Revised Edition) sounds like something off the Old Time Gospel Hour. In a good way. Especially since the lyrics are so fun-yet-prophetic. Here is a great example: "Lord send us forth to bring compassion / to every corner of the world. / And please allow for women in the Catholic priesthood / And remind the pope that he could have been a girl." Ya gotta love the serious lyrics about bringing compassion mixed together with the edgy reminder of just how inconsequential gender is to the ability to do ministry.

Lost My Religion is another autobiographical song about being a convert to agnosticism. The lyrics lament about the things that push someone out of their faith in organized religion. In the second verse Werner laments: "Lost my religion / in the holy Church / Preacher told me girls like you / Are more trouble than they're worth / Lost my religion / I guess it had to be / Lost my religion / or my religion lost me." Many people will be able to relate to the story of outgrowing a part of organized religion. It's tough to be part of organized religion when you study things like evolution, slavery, the Salem Witch Trials, the Spanish Inquisition, Women's Studies, etc. Religion can be a powerful force for justifying war, oppression, and other evils. Hopefully we can lose bad religion and replace it with something better.

Don't Explain It Away is an ode to the beauty of mystery. While it's interesting to read how science and religion attempt to label, classify, and explain everything, Werner reminds us of the importance of enjoying the deeper truths that can't and shouldn't be explained. For example , a doctor can describe the process of childbirth in scientific terms, but nobody can explain the beauty of such miraculous moment. It has to be felt. In the last verse Werner sings: "If you find yourself at the water's edge / And you're listening as the waves break on the shore / While a sea of stars rolls above your head / And you realize you're part of so much more / And you're struck dumb with wonder / Can't find the words to say / Don't break the spell you're under / Don't explain it away." Some things in life are just too special to be explained.

I Will Have My Portion is a song about the belief that everybody deserves good things to happen in life. Despite setbacks, we're meant to have joys also. The first verse talks about the naysayers: "And some would say / That time has passed me by / And some would say / That the wells have all run dry." But the rest of the song talks about the resilient faith in good fortune coming despite the naysayers' doom and gloom. in the last verse, Werner sings about the vision of hope she sees for herself: "Somewhere there's a blessing and it bears my name / And soon or late, it's coming to me just the same / Can't wait to see / What's set aside for me / With every new sunrise / I'm gonna keep my eyes wide open." We all need a vision of hope to get us through life. And for those who are Christian, Jesus gave us a vision for our lives that includes "complete joy" (John 15:11) and "abundant life" (John 10:10). We all deserve our share of joy.

Probably Not is a piano infused Gospel rocker. And it's funny. It's not meant to be taken too seriously. The lyrics are about an agnostic who does think there is a God but also doesn't think she'd turn down eternal life with God if it was offered. Okay, that idea may not sound humorous, but the way Werner writes the plot of the song is quite witty. The best line of the song has got to be this: "Saint Tom was the grooviest apostle of all." Sung like a true agnostic! Yet the song ends with an affirmation of God. Ya just gotta hear the song to appreciate its wit.

Together closes out the album. And she saves a good one for last. The lyrics are about our need to come together as a human family. In the first verse, Werner sings, "If there is a God / With a human face / I'm sure He'd want us all to come together/ And get beyond these bolted doors / Get beyond these awful bloody wars." We don't all need to think the same and vote the same. But we need to appreciate the dignity of our differences. And find a way to be united. As the old maxim goes: "We need unity, not uniformity." After all, the God with a human face prayed, through Jesus: "That they all be one" (John 17:21). This song is a beautiful prayer for that oneness.


Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science
Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science
by Thomas Jay Oord
Edition: Paperback
Price: $25.71
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Intersections of Open Theism and Modern Science, May 28, 2011
Creation Made Free is a book edited by Thomas Jay Oord that explores the intersections of open theism and modern science. Thirteen different theologians reflect on different aspects of this topic, so this book is beautifully nuanced. (I'm very biased in favor of edited books because of the diversity of thought.) While this book diverges from its focus on science from time to time, it's theological reflection is refreshingly insightful and evocative without being overly academic or pedantic. Therefore this book is worth a brief-yet-comprehensive review/overview.

Karen Winslow argued that "the earth is not a planet" in the Bible (26). When the authors of Genesis write about "all the land" they are not talking about planet earth. Instead they are describing the limited part of the world that they knew. So, for example, the big flood would not have destroyed the entire earth in a global sense, it would have simply destroyed the entire world of the author. Winslow uses this info to make her ultimate point: the scientific knowledge of the authors of Scripture was very different than the scientific knowledge of modern people. The authors were writing out of a different context as well as writing for a different context. Therefore Winslow said: "To try to force the Bible into categories of modern science creates an unnecessary opposition between theology and science" (24). After removing the awkwardness between the science of the modern and ancient worlds, she drives home her point about what that means for our reading of Scripture today: "Recognizing and appreciating what the Bible does not say is as important as understanding what it does say" (27).

Thomas Jay Oord tried to reconcile science and open theism by suggesting that God works through the process of evolution in a way that is "slow, indirect, and sometimes painful" (36). He suggests that Jesus revealed a God who is "self-sacrificial and non-coersive" and therefore "does not overrule or dominate creatures" (35). God gives humans - and all living things - freewill and agency. This freedom brings with it the risk of evil happening since God doesn't force anyone or anything to do the right thing. While God is the most powerful being in the universe, God doesn't invade the integrity of other creatures out of God's self-giving love for the creatures. Here Oord tried to walk a fine line between process theology and his own open theism.

Michael Lodahl wrote about how Christianity is more open to the scientific worldview than Islam due to Islam's higher understanding of God's sovereignty. Islam tends to be committed to the absolute sovereignty of God. While the Quran gives humanity some agency over their lives (58), the Quran is also understood as a perfect revelation by an all-powerful God to a passive people. Lodahl then argued that such an understanding of God "surely undercuts the scientific endeavor" (65). He then went on to argue that Christianity is able to support the view of open theism because the incarnation (God in the form of a dynamic human) and Holy Spirit (God's presence in our midst). For Lodahl, open theism makes Christianity more supportive of modern science than theologies like Islam that hold to the idea that God's power is absolute.

Anne Case-Winters argued that God's ongoing presence in the world means that the world is continuing to be created and re-created by God. For her, the "incarnation is not the exception to the rule but the sign of what is really the case about God's relation to the world" (71). God has been and always will be present and active in the world. This point is important for Case-Winters because she argues that God creates and sustains the world through "the processes of the natural order" (82). In and through all things, God beckons each creature way from evils and toward their best potential. In some ways, this essay seemed to be suggesting that process theology is better than open theism.

Brint Montgomery wrote about how "God functions as Cosmic Mind after the creation of an ordered, material universe" (97). This essay was the least relevant and evocative in the book.

Clark Pinnock argued that God creates and re-creates the world through the process of evolution. He rejects the idea of "episodic divine interventions" because it brings back a "god of the gaps" (103). Instead he upholds the idea that God is continually active and creating. He wrote: "Evolution is opening the future up as God is calling the universe to reach beyond itself to a new creation" (108). Because God is always re-creating the world, each moment is "pregnant with hope" (110). Pinnock ends with an evocative thought: "Ours is a world capable of becoming the kingdom of God. The purpose of our lives is to carry forward the values of the divine project. Sin is the refusal to participate in it. One can think of the omega point, not as a rigid goal, but as God's vision for the world and what the process can become" (110).

Craig Boyd suggested that the earth isn't a perfect, static world, but instead, it's a good, dynamic creation where God is continually at work. For him, evolution is the story about how God creates and re-creates the world. As creatures act and react, God needs to adjust and readjust the vision for the journey forward. He ended by writing: "Creation is more like a song that begins with a simple melody. As it continues, the musicians improvise here and there with variations on the theme...God's song of creation is a song open to possibility, novelty, and ever-increasing goodness and beauty" (124).

Gregory Boyd argued that "evolution may be seen as a sort of warfare between the life-affirming creativity of an all-good God, on the one hand, and the on-going corrupting influence of malevolent cosmic forces on the other" (127). Boyd's reflections were the most judgemental, including two places where he said readers need to agree with him in order to be biblical (132, 139). This essay went too far down the doctrinaire rabbit hole.

Alan Rhoda wrote about God's decision to give humans freewill and the subsequent openness of the future because of that choice. Instead of a determined future, there is a "branching array of possible futures" (151). Rhoda goes on to propose analogies that describe God's relationship to the world: Theatre Director (brings out the best in the actors), Discussion Leader (helps students explore wisdom), Persian Rug-Maker (adapts the design as needed), Master Composer (helps autonomous musicians to find harmony together), and Expedition Leader (brings tools and resources - including the ability to change plans). Rhoda then used game theory to suggest that God plays games with many different people, with many different skill levels, so the strategy that God uses to play the game is different in each new game. The one constant feature in this game theory analogy is that God wants to find a win-win for every game. Clearly all of these analogies are used to illustrate the creativity and rationality of God with humanity.

Alan Padgett argued that God's knowledge is supreme (without knowing the future) and God's providence is powerful (without being coercive). In this essay, Padgett adds some much needed nuance to the discussion of God's foreknowledge and sovereignty.

Richard Rice used his essay to suggest that God's forgiveness of humanity demonstrates God's ability to resourcefully bring about transformation. God isn't naive. Bad things happen. But God is able to forgive people for their sins and then bring about change for the better. This means "the future is always open to new possibilities" (214). By emphasizing God's ability to bring about transformation, "Open theism keeps open the possibility of a future in which God's purposes for all God's children are fullfilled" (217). In the end, forgiveness is the foundation for hope.

John Sanders wrote about how we come to know, understand, and describe God through our embodiment as creatures. There are many different kinds of metaphors for God in the Bible but most of them are personal, relational metaphors. He then argued that "mutual relationships are the ideal form of relationship between God and humans" in Scripture (233). People seem to relate best to images of God as personal. Sanders used a quote from John Calvin to make his point: "God cannot reveal Godself to us in any other way than by comparison with things we know" (219). Humans relates well to a humanly God.

Dean Blevins argued that the continuously emerging world is a result of the ongoing transformations that God brings about through God's loving relationship with the world. Out of God's love for the world, God is intimately involved in the world, even at the quantum level. Our relationship with God is based on "co-relationality" and a "co-determinative" process whereby the world is co-created with God. In this process, God is aways leading us toward creative transformations in the future.

Creation Made Free is a great book for exploring Christianity's relationship to science, introducing open theism in general, or comparing process theology to open theism. If none of those topics seem worth exploring, then this would be a very boring book. But if any - or all - of those topics sound intriguing, then this book just might be an edge-of-your-seat theological thriller. Since I experienced this book as a thriller, I hope there will soon be a sequel!


Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words
Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words
by Brian D. McLaren
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.37
82 used & new from $0.01

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discovering An Authentic Spirituality, May 28, 2011
Naked Spirituality is for anyone who wants to strip away the clutter of traditional religious trappings and dive into a deeper, purer, and more meaningful spirituality. Reading it feels like a quick dip in a cool pond on a hot day. For those of you who didn't grow up on a farm, that is a good thing! Totally refreshing.

Let me allow McLaren to introduce the book. In the Preface of Naked Spirituality, he says, "This book is about getting naked - not physically, but spiritually. It's about stripping away the symbols and status of public religion - the Sunday-dress version people often call 'organized religion.' And it's about attending to the well-being of the soul clothed only in naked human skin" (ix). Then, in an interview on my blog, McLaren said: "In a single sentence, I hope the book helps a wide range of people become more vulnerable to a genuine and transformative experience of God's presence in their lives." Indeed, it does that. Naked Spirituality invites people to leave behind the masks and pretences that most of us drag around. It then helps us to find practical ways to enjoy a better, more authentic, and more spiritual life.

Naked Spirituality is focused around twelve meditative words that serve as spiritual practices: here (opening to God's abiding presence), thanks (expanding our sense of gratitude and enoughness), O (soaking up the joy of life and God), sorry (living honestly and transforming wrongs), help (empowering ourselves to ask for help from God and others), please (relying on the support of God and others to get through difficulties), when (aspire after a better life and world), no (allowing ourselves to acknowledge pain, lament about our troubles, and refuse a problematic life and world), why (allowing ourselves and others to ask God the difficult questions that arise from pain and doubt), behold (mindfully noticing and appreciating the indescribable goodness of God and the world), yes (joining and engaging in the sacred mission of God) , and [...] (enjoying moments of silence and contemplation).

McLaren weaves together pithy writing, evocative Scripture, powerful stories, intriguing quotes, enriching poetry, thoughtful song lyrics, etc. in order to help the reader dive deeply into these spiritual practices. Straight up prose would have been too dry - and boring. Thankfully the many different kinds of writing that McLaren uses keeps the spiritually thirsty reader both satiated and engaged. He also provides an appendix with suggestions for group practice, body prayers, and spoken prayers.

This book is not a cheesy self-help book that provides the 10 easy steps to spiritual enlightenment. Those books are a dime a dozen. Instead, Naked Spirituality provides 12 meditative concepts to consider, and then allows each reader to develop the spiritual practices that will best help them embody the spiritual ideas. In other words, McLaren dignifies the reader for having a brain, heart, and context that might be different from his own - and other readers. Instead of spoon-fed religiosity, McLaren invites others to dive in and explore the waters with him.

To conclude this review, here is a taste of how McLaren describes the spiritual life:

"There is a river that runs like a song through this world, a river of sacredness, a river of beauty, a river of reverence and justice and goodness. I know that some people have only rarely seen or barely sensed it. But I also know that you and I are learning to live like green trees along its shore, drawing its vitality into us, and passing it on for the healing of our world. Its waters are clear, refreshingly cool, and clean, and if you care, you can strip naked, dive in, and swim" (237).

Naked Spirituality is full of quality writing like that quote. If you want to connect more deeply to God and your own authentic self, treat yourself to this refreshing, rejuvenating book. It will help you strip off the rags of tired religion and dive into the Healing River of God.


If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics
If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics
by Bruce G Sanguin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.95
36 used & new from $18.61

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Prayerful Evolutionary Spirituality, May 28, 2011
Process theology and open theism both describe a life where God invites us on a holy adventure through our evolving, interdependent world. Instead of controlling everything/everyone through coercion, God beckons people through persuasive love. Instead of predetermining an end/plan for the world, God works with the changing world to bring forth God's vision of greater love, justice, and mutuality. Instead of hiding away in some heaven light-years away, God's abiding presence is with us - and all creation - along the journey of life every single day. Instead of acting once upon a time in the Bible, God continues to act in each new moment of life. The attributes of God based on process theology and open theism could go on and on. The point is this: it's pretty cool theology. One of the reasons that it's so cool is because it combines an understanding of the world that is evolving, an understanding of God as a Being that brings forth creativity in the evolutionary process, and a deep spirituality that invites us to experience God's abiding presence within all of life.

Sounds good. No problem, right? Well...not quite. The problem is that most hymns, liturgies, devotionals, etc. still use traditional language and imagery for God. It's rare to find practical resources for a spirituality that is based on process/open theology. In fact, I have heard a few colleagues say, "I like process theology better than any other theology, but I just don't know how to use it in a church." And that is a valid concern. It's hard to make the transition - especially without many useful resources. Another problem is that many people simply can't go to church if they hear nothing but an ancient worldview reflected. They want to connect their spirituality with the worldview they live in right now. In short, many people want an evolutionary spirituality.

Bruce Sanguin's new book "If Darwin Prayed" is filled with prayers that exude, enliven, and embody an evolutionary spirituality. Imagine if someone combined Scripture, process theology, open theism, and quantum mechanics into something so practical as a book of prayers. That describes this book. At a time when such resources are so rare, this book is like a cold drink on a hot day. It's refreshing in ways that have to be felt to be truly appreciated. So here is a taste:

Come, friends of Spirit
let us gather in gratitude,
opening to the chaos of life;
the mistakes,
the messes,
and the muddles.
But let us also open
to the order of things -
the magnificent
and the marvelous pattern of it all -
and to beauty that is beyond our minds
to be comprehended
but not to be apprehended by.
Let us calmly celebrate
that we are held
by an order that emerges from the chaos,
and by a chaos that loosens suffocating structures,
and let us learn to trust
that this play of Order and Chaos
is Spirit
dancing its way
into a sanctified future.
Amen.

Now that is a prayer that Darwin - and modern people - can pray with heart and mind! You don't have to separate science from religion. You don't have to separate sacred from secular. You don't have to separate your "church brain" from your "real brain." Instead, you can combine all of these aspects of your life into a holistic spirituality that nourishes the heart, body, soul, and mind. While each prayer focuses on a different Scripture and theme, all of the prayers help develop and deepen an evolutionary spirituality.

The prayers are organized by lectionary themes (e.g. Christmas), liturgical elements (e.g. Eucharist), and special occasions (e.g. Mother's Day). One of the surprise gifts of this book is the theological reflection that Sanguin offers on each of these sections. Not only do you get a lot of amazing prayers in each section, but you also get some brief-yet-stimulating reflection on the evolutionary spirituality of the major elements of the Church's life.

"If Darwin Prayed" is for anyone who wants to explore and experience a deeper spirituality in our continually evolving world. Because of the poetic way these prayers are written, they could be used for anything from personal devotions to congregational worship to seminary training. Hopefully this wonderful book is the beginning of an "evolutionary Pentecost" (xxvi)!


Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith
Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith
by Doug Pagitt
Edition: Hardcover
63 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important and Practical, But not New, October 20, 2008
The book "Preaching Re-Imagined" re-discovers and re-packages the idea of dialogical preaching. Creative styles of preaching in general, and dialogical styles of preaching in particular, have been discussed and used for a long time. While this book doesn't present anything "new," it does offer a practical guide to understanding one way of preaching in a conversational style. This style is characterized by preparing and facilitating the sermon collaboratively. The most helpful aspect of this book is it's practicality. But other books also describe similar approaches.

John McClure's book "The Round-Table Pulpit" describes "collaborative preaching" where the pastor hosts a "sermon roundtable." Lucy Rose's book "Sharing the Word" suggests "conversational preaching" where "the preacher and the congregation are colleagues, exploring together the mystery of the Word of God for their own lives, as well as the life of the congregation, the larger church, and the world." Mark Elliot's book "Creative Styles of Preaching" describes nine different styles of preaching. All of these books add to the growing cannon of books on creative styles of preaching.


The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
by Tony Jones
Edition: Hardcover
91 used & new from $0.01

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased Yet Interesting, October 20, 2008
Tony Jones' book "The New Christians" is an outstanding history and overview of the Emergent Church movement. Jones is obviously a clear and compelling writer. As a postmodernist, he also bring along a nuanced perspective in much of his book. But, as in all writing, there's criticisms to be given. One criticism for his book is that Jones' comments about Mainline/Old-line denominations are inaccurate. Jones' comments communicate a non-nuanced, unrepresentative, and negative view of the Mainline Church in general and the United Church of Christ in particular.

In the first chapter of his book, Jones attempts to set up a dichotomy between conservatives (e.g. Southern Baptist Convention) and liberals (e.g. United Church of Christ). He then implies that these two perspectives represent the extremes of Christianity. Jones also says that the SBC-UCC dichotomy represents "Conventional Christianity" - and the Emergent Church represents "New Christianity." The implied message is that the Emergent Church is the rational movement that has been able to transcend the SBC-UCC dualism. The problem with this argument is that it's an oversimplified perspective and false dichotomy.

For example, Jones commented on "the silly television ads from the liberal United Church of Christ." This comment is a misunderstanding of the purpose and meaning of the commercials. The "bouncer ad" (which Jones mentions) was one of many different ads used in that campaign. They all have different themes and ways of communicating, so it's not possible to describe them with one simple description. As Bill Moyers says, we must "beware of the great oversimplifiers." Nuance is always important because things are always more complex than our initial impressions reflect. Plus, for Jones to name something as "silly," is dismissive, unhelpful rhetoric for Christian dialogue.

As another example, Jones said the UCC was a "notoriously left-leaning denomination." This label is a gross misrepresentation of the UCC, since the denomination is represented by a vast array of theological and political perspectives. The UCC is a postmodern denomination that is made up of a combination of the polities, theologies, perspectives, and peoples from many different contexts: Evangelical, Reform, Congregational, Frontier Christian, Black Church, Rural America, Feminist, Womanist, Queer, etc. So, the UCC is a multiform denomination that seeks "unity in diversity."

Real life is too complex for labels. But we need to use them in order to make sense of things and engage in conversation. The important aspect is using labels in a careful, prayerful, and mindful way. Sometimes Jones did this well - and sometimes not so well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2013 3:37 PM PDT


Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
by Brian D. McLaren
Edition: Hardcover
247 used & new from $0.01

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Changing Framing Stories: The Relevance of Jesus For Today, October 23, 2007
In Brian McLaren's new book, Everything Must Change, he brings many different resources together, both religious and secular, to offer a theo-political critique of our current society and its global crises. He then offers an alternative vision in the form of a new 'framing story' that he argues can transform the way we life. McLaren argues that 'our societies are unified, integrated, motivated, and driven by the framing stories we tell ourselves as groups' (66). He then contrasts the Christian 'framing story' (i.e. Kingdom of God) with the theocapitalist 'framing story' (i.e. suicidal machine).

The 'Suicide machine' is the metaphor McLaren says 'captures the way the world's most serious problems are linked in a vicious, self-reinforcing circle' (52). These suicidal systems are the following: dysfunctional prosperity system (culture of affluenza), dysfunctional security system (invisible hand of the market requires the visible fist of the military), and the dysfunctional equity system (sharing the cost and story of prosperity and equity) (55-56).

The 'Kingdom of God' is the metaphor McLaren uses to describe the alternative, transforming framing story that has the potential to bring life instead of death. The Kingdom of God is the divine vision of justice and peace communicated in Hebrew and Christian scripture. For McLaren, the Kingdom of God offers the best framing story: 'a story in which God provides through creation's natural systems, a story in which we acknowledge our creaturely dignity and limits within those systems, a story in which we celebrate our kinship with birds and flowers, with season and toil' (139). This story is a story where peace is achieved through collaborative efforts at 'justice, generosity, and mutual concern' (159).

McLaren believes that Jesus' message and ministry challenged the dysfunctional, destructive status quo of the Roman Empire in his life. McLaren writes: 'Jesus' creative and transforming framing story invited people to change the world by disobeying old framing stories and believing a new one: a story about a loving God who, like a benevolent [leader], calls all people to live in a new way, the way of love' (274). McLaren also believes Jesus' challenge to the old story and offering of a new story is just as relevant for our lives today.

For McLaren, Jesus' message is relevant because it invites us to live a new and better life right now. Not something we must wait for, but something God invites us into in our daily lives. And this better life we can live now is 'live a life dedicated to replacing the suicide machine with a sacred ecosystem, a beautiful community, an insurgency of healing and peace, a creative global family, an unterror movement of faith, hope, and love' (227).

Ultimately, McLaren's book is about how Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God can offer us a way to discover hope and 'abundant life' in the midst of a world in crises.

Also recommended: For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future (John Cobb and Herman Daly).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2014 7:11 AM PST


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