After way too few hours of sleep last night, I was awoken by an National Public Radio (NPR) story on Brian McLaren's new book "A New Christianity". The story was interesting enough to replace coffee as my main wake up mechanism this morning. Not only is McLaren's "new" vision of Christianity interesting (though I think describing it as "new" is overstating things a bit), but the report's discussion of changing dynamics among young evangelicals.
There really is nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. What McLaren proposes as new is not really new at all. But for an evangelical audience who has been raised on a Christian message of Revelations, eternal life for the select few, and Jesus Christ as religious warrior McLaren's message is certainly new.
After some actual coffee, I watched a short video on McLaren's website in which he takes up one of the 10 religious questions addressed in his book. I was pleased to hear McLaren state that he thought Christians needed to return to an understanding of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - an understanding that seems to be missing in much of the fundamentalist Christianity of America today.
In addition, McLaren urged listeners to reconsider their emphasis on an eternal afterlife away from the mess and difficulty of our earthly life. Instead, he notes, Christians should consider the words of the Lord's prayer - "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth...as it is in heaven".
Pastor McLaren, in a radio interview, indicated that his questioning of the Christian doctrine he was taught throughout his life emerged through pastoral conversations within in his own church. He realized that he did not have satisfactory answers to the good questions that religious seekers posed to him at his own church.
NPR reports that young evangelicals are asking questions themselves. McLaren's message may resonate with young evangelicals living in a religiously and ethnically diverse world.
But what of the masses seeking the soothing message that the difficulties of this life will be replaced by eternal heavenly happiness for those who simply profess the right "faith". Good luck to Pastor McLaren in his quest to spread this new Christianity. I wish him many blessings on the Way.