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American Kool-Aid

3 January 2008

Oh, how I love irony. But more on that in a minute.

From time to time, one comes across an author – Michael Frost comes to mind – whose message is deeply prophetic in the best, most Christ-imbued sense but who tries to spoil the whole thing with some patent nonsense. In order to glean the golden nuggets of gospel truth, one has, by an act of the will, to sift through a distracting and dismaying amount of polemical chaff (see qb’s review of Frost’s Exiles here) with his heart tuned to just the right frequency.

Brian McLaren has invited a lot of scorn from some really thoughtful people having some really good arguments for discounting him. (The second half of Everything Must Change is much like the second half of Exiles, too, although to McLaren’s credit he does not try to prescribe what kind of beer qb ought to be drinking!) But qb has nearly reached the end of Everything Must Change, and qb has concluded that American disciples of Jesus – especially those who lean heavily on Willard, Peterson, Hauerwas, and Hays, as qb does – owe McLaren a fair and generous hearing. Despite the nonsense, which others have adequately exposed, the underlying message is undoubtedly right: American culture, including our most fundamental economic, ecological, and political assumptions, stands as a modern-day Babel, stands the kingdom of God on its head, and much of American evangelicalism is complicit; Jesus presents to us a new way of doing Americanism, if we will just humble ourselves long enough to see it through.

(Hell, just getting started would be a great good.)

You need to read this book with a critical eye, but let your guard down as you do; you can always raise it again if needed.

I’m going to resist the temptation to share an excerpt, and I’m not going to attempt an exposition of McLaren’s thinking; he writes well enough (he has an extensive academic background in English literature, and it shows) that he will be accessible to just about anyone with true curiosity and patience. You can “get” McLaren on your own without my help.

About the Kool-Aid…isn’t it funny how a commodity that exemplifies American-style capitalism comes to symbolize the seductive poison that American-style capitalism has become (taking the American church with her)?


P. S. Yeah, that last sentence is a sound bite that someone will someday use to accuse qb of being a Marxist (!). Too bad; it ain’t so, as any number of “next questions” will reveal. Go ahead: ask them!

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