Here’s an older article from Brian McLaren, apparently it was written back in 1999 sometime, which means this was a few years before he’d written A New Kind of Christian. I remember reading this awhile back, and I just stumbled onto it again today. I wish I could say that I had read it in 99, cause that would have helped me make sense of a lot of things, but it was probably more like a few years ago.
Anyways, it’s called “They Say It’s Just A Phase” and it’s a great analysis of what being a follower of Jesus could look like in the emerging (and in some senses, emerged) Postmodern world. Here’s a few choice quotes:
True, we have lost our modern sense of control, power, and certainty in this transition. But since the fruits of control, power, and certainty (from paving over wetlands — because we were sure that parking lots were better than swamps, to ethnic cleansings — since we were sure that our people were better than theirs) haven’t been entirely salutary, maybe there’s something better than control, power, and certainty out there. Maybe that something is love, stewardship, faith. And maybe we’ll find some ways to create a kinder and gentler world (truly, not just as a slogan) on the other side of this transition, in an atmosphere of love, stewardship, and faith. [emphasis mine]
So, ignore this transition if you want to, and treat it like a phase if you want to. I think you’ll miss one of the most exciting times in anyone’s memory.
Here’s how I think about it: Imagine yourself a Roman Catholic monk in say 1510, in Germany or Austria or England or Switzerland. The world is about to change. The institutions and theologies that have sustained and nourished your faith are about to be challenged. Jon Huss has already been burned at the stake, and a fellow named Martin Luther is beginning to think some dangerous thoughts. Your institutions are bastardizing themselves (if not through indulgences, then through TV/radio evangelists, the religious right, and other fear-based fundraising machines). How do you want to posture yourself for the spiritual re-formation that is about to occur? Do you want to study the fine art of inquisition in order to repress the emerging culture?
Or maybe simply observe it, uninvolved? Critique it, feeling smug, as if only “they” are in danger, and not also “us”? Tame it, trying to neuter it and co- opt it into a gentle, incremental evolution (and so preserve our modern structures, etc.) instead of a radical, energetic innovation? Or help lead it, passionate, involved? [emphasis mine]