God's Politics

God's Politics


Brian McLaren: The Need for a New Rhetoric

posted by God's Politics

A number of my friends have given up blogging, either temporarily or permanently. The reason? The blogosphere seems to indulge a certain kind of rhetoric that they don’t want to be associated with anymore.
Although I continue to post here at the God’s Politics blog on occasion, and I believe in the power and potential of the blogosphere, I share my friends’ frustration with the kind of disrespectful dialogue that frequently ensues in the comments section of so many blogs. The majority want to have substantive and respectful dialogue, and they tolerate the static because they believe in the level playing field of the blogosphere. But the ambivalence is real.
Our struggles online, I think, are a microcosm of a global problem, a problem that a friend recognized in a recent trip to the Middle East. My friend, a leader in his church, wrote,

While we were there I had the privilege of meeting a Muslim university professor. He works with college students who are volunteer mentors for children in Jordan. I spent a couple of hours with him and his students as they shared with me different things they are learning as they work with children. I was deeply moved and inspired by their stories of life change both in themselves and in the kids they work with. As we were getting ready to leave the meeting the professor approached me and asked me what I thought about the things I had heard.

My friend said he had experienced something very moving that day. He was acutely aware of the differences between their two religions, yet he sensed in their stories of service a kind of common and transcendent connection that he couldn’t find language to describe.
All of this poured out of my friend in a kind of jumble, but the professor seemed to understand:

Immediately, he said, “Friend, we know that language. It’s a secret language.” After a moment of feeling a little uncomfortable because I didn’t know what he was talking about, he moved closer and quietly said, “The secret language is love.” Surprised, I spontaneously yelled out, “YES! You are right! Love is the secret language!”

Misleading labels, name-calling, innuendo, insult, cynicism, deception, even flattery can find their way into any of our communication and add another straw to the overweighted camel of civility and mutual respect. (I’ve already edited out some of my own rhetorical descents in this piece, and I imagine I’ve still failed to live up to the ideal I’m espousing.)
But my friend’s story about his experience with the Muslim professor reminds me that there is another language hidden in all our language.
Without it, the apostle Paul said, we’re nothing. With it, even the way we disagree can lead us to a better place, whether in the blogosphere or in the world of domestic politics and international relations.
Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) serves as board chair for Sojourners/Call to Renewal. His next book, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, will be released in October.



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moderatelad

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:41 pm


Well said –
and so I don’t say something that I may have to retract later.
Have a great day –
.



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Mary

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:42 pm


I don’t read blogs very often for the very reason that I don’t want to read the vitriolic language and name calling contained in some comments. If we could simply state our responses and comments to each other, we might inform each other and learn from each other.



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Justin

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:44 pm


Brian, while I agree, it’s love that will transcend obvious expressions and obvious targets. I think the difficulty will be not in getting people to love, but to really think through what it means and how to spread its infectious nature. To whom does love deserve to be given? How do we spread it? Those will be the substantive questions.



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nad2

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:49 pm


thank you for this post brian. i have all but given up on this medium of exchange for many of the same reasons – a general feeling that i was only contributing to the noise (or at the very least doing nothing to detract from it) and a feeling that this blog has become a place to vent, to chest thump, to point out the speck (no matter how large) in the others’ eyes, to throw rocks, or at its very very best, a place to argue rather than a place to dialogue. dialogue involves so much more than reading what others write & then responding, but is seeking common understanding, mutual respect, and leaving your own point of view to see where someone else is coming from.
face it, no one who posts here regularly will ever have his/her mind changed on an issue by what someone else writes, yet we all constantly call upon our own infallible logic to try to convince the other or at the very least keep them from getting in the last word lest some unwitting soul out there fall prey to the dubious thinking of the crazy [fill in the blank]. but unfortunately, most of us will miss innumerable opportunities to really understand, without rushing to critique, the views of others. i am/was equally culpable in keeping discussion from the track of dialogue, and i am undecided still as to whether or not to continue in this venture, but it is my earnest hope and prayer that we can all lay down our bags of rocks and engage one another and the problems of the world we all hope to help solve with love for one another as our guiding principle.



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bbaltrus

posted June 19, 2007 at 1:54 pm


LOVE Wins!!!!
Always!!



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Modern Static

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:00 pm


I think it’s ironic that the call for new rhetoric comes from someone who has gotten so much mileage out of his presumptive, judgmental books.



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JimII

posted June 19, 2007 at 2:00 pm


In a blog post the other day I was looking referred to panentheism and wanted to find a link to explain it for those who were interested in more detail. Marcus Borg introduced me to the idea, and frankly it along with others in Borg’s book saved my faith and spurred me on to a more mature Christianity. (Not unlike Brian’s work, which I came to later.)
In any case, my search brought me to many hateful sites describing Borg as evil or a heretic. It made me so profoundly sad. Not angry, but sad, heartsick.
The question is what to do with that sadness. To push on with hope or give in to despair. When I pull back and look at it, hope seems the obvious choice, but in the thick of things anger & despair are easy to give in to.
God, give us strength.
Love,
JimII
my blog



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Steven

posted June 19, 2007 at 3:27 pm


Most blogs are short on moderators who should delete the obvious ugliness or profanity. With that change, the blogs could improve. Also, I don’t know if we are being realistic that the faceless chatter at the other end could ever get the same respect or understanding as if we were in person together at a event in my home. Nice to try but unlikely.



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Hali

posted June 19, 2007 at 3:44 pm


Is any of you familiar with “Non Violent Communication” (the proper noun) :)
http://www.cnvc.org/
It’s a little formulaic, but it does require one to stop and reflect before making assumptions.



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neuro_nurse

posted June 19, 2007 at 3:59 pm


Personally, the most rewarding interactions I have had on the blogs have been with people with whom I disagree.
It’s very easy to let our preconceived notions color our opinions or overall feelings about another person, especially when we are not interacting face-to-face.
I tire of the repetitiveness of some of the comments that get posted here – we’ve heard it before, and we’re either preaching to the choir or trying futilely to change another person’s mind – or even just receive some sort of validation to our point.
You need to give it to get it, folks.
When I humble myself and allow myself to try to understand the other person’s point of view I usually learn something.
Without exception, the people who post here regularly are not malicious and honestly want to serve God. We see the world differently and we have different gifts.
Unfortunately, we don’t always communicate with each other respectfully – and I am just as guilty as anyone else. I have had angry exchanges with a number of people whom I later saw as having God-centered lives.
Perhaps blogs are just the CB radios of this decade, and in a few years people will wonder what the attraction was.
Peace!



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Lisa

posted June 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm


As a history and government teacher I am always amazed about how willing my students are to spout of hateful or decisive language with nothing to back it up. Unfortunately, the blogs have much of the same behavior.
John Locke says, “It is one thing to prove a man wrong and another to put him in pocession of the Truth.”
Perhaps we should all ask ourselves before posting an comments (or in any conversation period)is our intent to lead others to The Truth, or to tear one another down?
With love we can use any and every medium to win others to God’s side, without it we just look like Pharisees, right?



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Clyo Beck

posted June 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm


Every statement we issue and every action we promote can be judged by one absolute test: is it born out of love, or out of fear?
Is it an intellectual exercise or one born of the moving spirit of a loving God?
Only the person issuing the statement can, ultimately, make this determination. For others to issue an opinion is judgment, which we have been taught damns us to being judged by the same, sometimes impossible, standard we have set for the other.
Perhaps the reason there are such ugly comments spattered across the blogosphere is because, as humans, we fear we really don’t know what we’re doing here, or what we’re talking about.
Perhaps the ugly comments in our faces also give us a choice: will we love or will we hate back, in kind?
Perhaps the ugly comments also expose our own insecurities and doubts and those tender, frightened places within us that have not yet been touched by the Light.
For Christians and non-Christians alike, fear of discovering we are like the proverbial blind men feeling an elephant compels us to repudiate or invalidate anything that doesn’t fit with our limited world view.
Our rebuttals take different forms, but whether civil or vitriolic, as even as these comments indicate, everything is open to interpretation.
Thus are we addicted to analysis, when we would be better off aligned with love.
In my opinion, the only true standard we have, upon which we can rely for anything, is lovingkindness.
Are the words loving? Are they kind? Is the action loving? Is it kind?
That is really all that will matter after we each of us is dead and buried. That is all anyone who ever brushed up against us will care about: how we made them feel: loved or used as an ideological or intellectual foil.
Yet, we can never “prove” that living through an intention of practicing lovingkindess – as opposed to fear – is the “best” way to live.
We can never provide enough arguments on why it is important to practice active love in the world.
We will never convince those who wish to hate or go to war or scapegoat a certain class or race of people that lovingkindess serves them better.
Our jobs, as Christians – but more than that, as human beings – is to live as examples of kindness, with some of us more imperfect, perhaps, than others, but doing our best.
That is what is asked of us to change the world into a place of peace, connection and justice.
As we struggle to reach that place inside ourselves where we can act out of honest kindness, we fall upon our faces, curses escape our mouths, we soul-search and repent and apologize and begin again.
In this entire process, we don’t have to get it perfect.
But we do have to keep trying, and speaking out not against those who would mistreat us, but for the humanity – and the oneness with God – of those who suffer needlessly across the Globe.
When suffering ceases and love prevails, no one will need to convince anyone of the existence of God.
My Blog



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genie

posted June 19, 2007 at 5:12 pm


Brian always manages to challenge me to be as respectful, generous and loving as he is when I read his books, blogs or hear him speak. I can only think that anyone who describes his books as judgmental and presumptive hasn’t actually read them. His theme might be that because we love God and are loved by God we view everyone we encounter with a respect and openness that we believe God has with them, too–even when they don’t see things the way we do. I can only hope that God might grant me the grace to do the same.



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Mike Hayes

posted June 19, 2007 at 5:27 pm


Brian,
Great thoughts… and honesty!
I do believe that George Lakoff (a liberal) helps us understand why views of liberals and conservatives are so different… we operate out of different concepts of what morality is… and to that I would add that the two are as different as persons coming from different cultures.
“Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think”, by George Lakoff.
In a nutshell: Nurturing parent vs Strict father models of families lead some of us one way and others an opposite way in our thinking about how government ought to function.
Or, stated another way… East is East and West is West…
But, we can respect the person with whom we disagree… if we stay focused and work at it, very dilligently…
That is charity, or love…



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kevin s.

posted June 19, 2007 at 6:36 pm


“Brian always manages to challenge me to be as respectful, generous and loving as he is when I read his books, blogs or hear him speak. I can only think that anyone who describes his books as judgmental and presumptive hasn’t actually read them.”
I have read them, and find them presumptive. The very title “A Generous Orthodoxy” is presumptuous. He admits to not being fair in the book, as well as to being arrogant and defensive, but these admissions does not render his comments any more fair.
McLaren has made a living defining himself by what he is not. That is difficult to do without judgment and presumption, and McLaren has not shown himself to be up to the task.



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Donny

posted June 19, 2007 at 6:50 pm


Are you aware that there are “agendas” and bad people with bad agendas?
You Sojouners employees are calling people to a renewal, but you refuse to call people to repentance first.
That sounds like a bad agenda.



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Another nonymous

posted June 19, 2007 at 7:03 pm


“McLaren has made a living defining himself by what he is not.”
I don’t think there is anyone, or any book I have read recently, of whom (and which) this is less true than Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy.” The whole point of the book is to define what the author is, in as inclusive a way as possible, and thus to provide a model for others to do so.



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canucklehead

posted June 19, 2007 at 7:47 pm


You guys listen up to Brian’s wise words or we’ll put you on an oral hygiene program using nothing but Colgate products.



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naomi

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:30 pm


I have often found myself clicking through a maze of blogs and community sites, and gotten lost amongst the mulitudes of opinions and experiences and sharings,
The journey has almost always left a bad taste in my mouth, a heavy heart, a frustrated spirit. Even if I start somewhere beautiful – a link sent to me by a friend, I always end up somewhere that seems to speak darkness.
I am a young person who is honestly interested in the people, themes and stories associated with emerging church. But if the face of this movement is a sullen, disatisfied blog culture, soaked in a spirit of resentment, then I know God isn’t going to let me journey very far into it at all.
I am greatful for anyone who reminds us that we have a responsibility to be bigger than our hurts, to let God heal them for the sake of His message of love, so we can be true prophets and people who bring hope to the hopeless.



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Sarasotakid

posted June 19, 2007 at 9:38 pm


Are you aware that there are “agendas” and bad people with bad agendas? Posted by: Donny
Yes, Donny, we are. Fortunately we have good people with good agendas, like SOJO and Mr. McLaren.



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Kristi

posted June 19, 2007 at 11:25 pm


Yes, I too have been disappointed in some of the name calling and judgemental comments that a few individuals insist on posting on this blog. Unfortunately, I have to say that I have sunk to that level myself occasionally when I let the frustration get to me.
Brian is absolutely right—love is the language you have to be communicating with, and when I let myself get sucked into a game of insult badminton, its not only the birdy that’s getting abuse, but my Christian witness.
I’ll be praying that I can resist the urge to retaliate from now on.
And those of you who insist on being one note rhetoricians, well lets hope that God can work on your hearts too.



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Bill R.

posted June 20, 2007 at 11:48 am


The progressive blogosphere has helped to create a political counterforce to the right wing, which has some benefit. However, I am equally downcast by the lack of a real dialogue that is respectful and healing. What our nation needs, our world needs, is not more of the politics of domination over the other, but a healing communion dialogue of listening for understanding. That is not to be confused with false agreement or consensus, but it is listening to understand. That alone is the basis for moving forward with reverence and respect for living in the communion paradigm that Jesus proclaimed. Perhaps forums like this can begin a creative process of facilitating such a development.



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carl copas

posted June 20, 2007 at 12:31 pm


Brian,
thank you for another installment of your always thoughtful comments.
As for the character of Brian’s publications, I can only speak for myself: it is no exaggeration to say that The Secret Message of Jesus and The Last Word and the Word After That helped turn my life around. Having been for some 30 years a wanderer in the wilderness of first atheism then various types of paganism, with occasional forays into pantheistic meditation, I have been for some years now a follower of Christ, saved by his shed blood and Resurrection. More than anything else, Brian’s books were the immediate catalyst for that change.
If that is “judgment and presumption,” would that God provide more of it.



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anonymous like you

posted June 20, 2007 at 12:35 pm


wow. it’s great to see everyone really stopping to think about brian’s words and consider the consequences of your words.
the “blogosphere” will never be a source of meaningful dialogue as long as so many people remain disinterested in what others have to say (pro and con). it’s the power of anonymity.



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George Lindamood

posted June 20, 2007 at 1:03 pm


What troubles me most about blogs is that they manifest a version of Gresham’s Law (“Bad money drives out good”) — that is, the pearls of wisdom get lost in the cacaphony of ill-thought-out opinion.
While it is true that Western emphasis on the individual is important in lifting all from the oppression of groups and institutions, if the uplifted individual does not get his/her ego under control, he/she becomes an oppressor, so concerned with me/mine that the needs of others get trampled.
Moral: those who blog must learn to self-edit.



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kevin s.

posted June 20, 2007 at 2:54 pm


“More than anything else, Brian’s books were the immediate catalyst for that change.”
I’m glad that his books brought you to your senses.



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Kevin Wayne

posted June 20, 2007 at 2:59 pm


I have read them, and find them presumptive. The very title “A Generous Orthodoxy” is presumptuous.
Of course, it’s musch better to keep up with the Torquemada approach that has been adopted by churches for centuries, no?



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bob c

posted June 20, 2007 at 3:33 pm


As a long-term blogger, I found this post striking.
My sense is that blogging is a speaker’s corner model, meant to support broadcast of opinions. As a medium, it is pre-disposed to the us/them mindeset that seems pervasive in many arenas.
I have been fascinated to watch the differences between interaction on social networks vs. straight blogs. In my experience, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are better bigger than blogging sites because they enable people to connect, communicate and share with each other in richer and easier ways than blogging does.



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Sarasotakid

posted June 20, 2007 at 3:48 pm


Hey Kevin, our crass exchange got erased! I guess that that means that I am no longer a “nimwit” (not sure of that!) and that maybe you’re no longer consistent!



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neuro_nurse

posted June 20, 2007 at 3:55 pm


“You Sojourners employees are calling people to a renewal, but you refuse to call people to repentance first.” Donny
My wife would say you have the gift or prophesy – not that you have visions or hear the Lord speaking to you in a literal sense, but more of a “thus says the Lord” approach.
I presume most Sojourners readers are Christians, and as such, have repented or are in the continuous process of repenting for our sins. (I’m going to take a pre-emptive strike and say that voting for Democrats or being a liberal are not a sins per se. One may, for that matter, have a sinful reason for voting for a Republican.)
As for preaching repentance to non-Christians, I agree that we live in a sinful society, and many of those things that we know to be sins are not considered to be sins by many non-Christians. Therefore, if we approach a non-Christian and tell her or him that she or he needs to repent for a sin which she or he does not consider a sin, we’ve already failed.
We can’t hold the Bible up to a non-believer and say, “It’s a sin because the Bible (or God) says it’s a sin,” because for them, the Bible has not yet become a credible source of teaching.
I suspect that more often than not, people do not reject the message of repentance, they reject the messenger.
Peace!



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jerry

posted June 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm


i like mike hayes’ comment. seems to me that most of the writers on this blog want to argue, using their excessive knowledge of everything. i am not an avid reader or quoter of others. most people have opinions and interpretations on most subjects without irrefutable facts to back them. these are who i see as the vast majority. so the only way to deal with all these people is to listen to what they say. you may not agree, like or believe what they say. they are not asking for your response, they are commenting on the sojo posting. no need to even address them. Jesus came to divide and conquer. he didn’t ask for advice,or try to out comment anyone. nit picking martin luther, the pope, dobson, kennedy or anyone else is arrogant. save it for your classrooms. you can love people without agreeing with them or arguing. you can lead people to christ by witnessing. when you start thinking others are like you, or want to be like you beware. this is a political blog with christians running it. i read it like i read aarp magazine. it’s intertesting but not worth getting worked up about. brian’s fantasys are nice to read.



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Dean Peters

posted June 20, 2007 at 4:36 pm


I read Brian’s comment about friends giving up blogging – and all I can think about are the hundres of blogs that have registered at blogs4God that were reminicent of the seeds scattered on the road.
So many were cast on the rocks & weeds of punditry that of course they withered and died.
Me, I avoid all that and instead have been enjoying myself over on HealYourChurchWebSite.com – which uses blogging as a mechanism for “Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.”
Point is – I think if we would look at blogging in light of what we can do in terms of ministry and service, rather than shaking our collective fists at the air – we may be able to grow deep furtive roots that mean something in the long term, long after our blogs and bodies are gone.



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Brent

posted June 20, 2007 at 9:04 pm


Brian McLaren isn’t one to talk. His “A New Kind Of Christian” trilogy was a venomous, malicious, and dishonest misrepresentation of those who believe historic Christianity, all cloaked in the “meek and mild” falsetto.



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Another nonymous

posted June 20, 2007 at 10:49 pm


Brent –
I think you and I must have read a different set of books (see Lakoff, op. cit). I read a passionate, eloquent appreciation of a Christian history and tradition that are big enough to continue to grace a changing world with renewed vigor.



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Jim Hollomon

posted June 20, 2007 at 11:30 pm


I’m not a great fan of Saul/Paul, but one of my favorite passages in the entire New Testament is 1st Corinthians Ch. 13. So count me a fan of Love.

But if all of those who love tolerance, understanding, knowledge and truth leave the Internet. then this phenomenal new connection tool will become to sole property of those who promote bigotry, hatred, stupidity and lies.

I am not accusing anyone of backing away from spiritual warfare. Just stating what is an obvious fact.



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Brent

posted June 20, 2007 at 11:45 pm


“Brent –
I think you and I must have read a different set of books (see Lakoff, op. cit). I read a passionate, eloquent appreciation of a Christian history and tradition that are big enough to continue to grace a changing world with renewed vigor.”
Baloney. And typical Mclaren-speak. It’s a clear rejection of Christian tradition.
The books portray the doctrine of salvation by grace as being in opposition to good works.
The books discourage refuting the errors of other religions, dismissing this as an outdated “modern” way of thinking, even though it’s clear from the the New Testament that this is what we’re supposed to do.
The books portray traditional Christians as only being concerned with “getting your butt into heaven.” No serious Christian theologian has ever taught anything like this.
The third book, in Jack Chick-like sensationalism, blames the Holocast, slavery, and all the injustice in the Western world on the doctrine of hell, with absolutely no appreciation that a clear majority of all the redeeming movements in the World have been brought about by Christians who believed in hell. McLaren should read “Christianity on Trial” or “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” instead of low-grade skeptical works.
Time and time again, the magical words from Neo, “What if”, are sufficient to overturn scripture, give permission to ignore it, and declare that being a Christian really means is going along with trendy PC thought. And those who believe traditional theology are either portrayed as jerks or are patronizingly portrayed as insecure people who are just having trouble dealing with a changing world.



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kevin s.

posted June 20, 2007 at 11:45 pm


“I think you and I must have read a different set of books (see Lakoff, op. cit). I read a passionate, eloquent appreciation of a Christian history and tradition that are big enough to continue to grace a changing world with renewed vigor.”
That’s probably because you agreed with everything he had to say. I thought “A New Kind of Christian” was fine. But as far as the rest of McLaren’s works go, well, I think the link below summarizes my thoughts exactly. Not to be the link queen, but I’d be interested to know what people think.
http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=1701



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Another nonymous

posted June 21, 2007 at 12:34 am


What I think is that, once again, Douglas Wilson read a different book than I did. I’m not saying this to be cute. It’s quite clear that people with different backgrounds read these books very differently, and Kevin is absolutely right in suggesting as much. Where he is wrong is in concluding that I must agree with everything McLaren says. I don’t.
However, McLaren’s ideas are also very easy to caricature. Nowhere does he question the idea of salvation by grace. Nowhere does he suggest that any serious Christian theologian has ever taught people to be concerned foremost with getting their butts into heaven. That grace can be presumed upon, and that human nature tends to be self-centered: well, see original sin. For McLaren to point these things out is hardly even original, and is completely consistent with every doctrine on the books.
I could go on, but to return to my original point: different people will read these books very differently. I just can’t get worked up over the things that Wilson is concerned with, because I see so much good in A Generous Orthodoxy.



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kevin s.

posted June 21, 2007 at 12:36 am


“The books portray traditional Christians as only being concerned with “getting your butt into heaven.” No serious Christian theologian has ever taught anything like this.”
I agree with a lot of your criticisms, but I think there is a fair point to be made that many churches has made a cottage industry about getting butts into the seats of heaven. This is what initially attracted me to McLaren, at least initially, before the baby went out with the bathwater.



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Amazon Creek

posted June 21, 2007 at 1:35 am


I definitely see the problem. I post on another message board where spiritual ideas have often been discussed – and the exact same types of people appeared. Giggles…only the names and the faces ever change.
In fact…someone finally posted the following link to a humorous website – http://www.flamewarriors.com
http://www.flamewarriors.com
Click on it? True? Smiling…..
But I’m not sure what you can do about it. When you read Acts, guest what? The apostle Paul was continually plagued by exactly these kind of people. In Galatians, he refers to them as “false brethren who have come to spy out our liberty.” That was their true purpose. He specifically warns Timothy not allow these types to eat up too much of his time.
Someone on another board once said in partial jest, “Awww…it’s not a picnic until the ants and yellow-jackets show up.” Or…”It’s not a party until the cops show up.”
So…good party?
I don’t have any suggestions. Part of the problem is that various people read the Bible for quite different reasons. Not everyone reads the Scriptures to draw closer to God and to seek to have their spirits radically renewed and their minds radically transformed by God.
Some read it to protect themselves. They live in fear – that they could be wrong. And they believe that if they shout long enough and loud enough – they might just drown out their inner fears until they no longer hear them. There is a story about a janitor finding a particular pastor’s notes after 1 Sunday service.
One of the notes – “Point weak here. Pound pulpit.”
People yell to drown out their inner insecurities.
Perhaps we need to have more compassion on such people – and recognize that the behavior we see on the surface is only masking the fears on the inside. A frantic seeking to justify onself.
One of the boards I post on finally made everyone register and pay a fee to use it. And they hired a monitor who wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense.
But a lot of people couldn’t afford to pay. So…that wasn’t good.
Another board I posted on went to a closed, by-invitation-only board. But…then is that open communication.
I have a very dear friend who loves message boards – but he has the same problem. Can’t find one where you can discuss. We call some boards “Calvin and Hobbs” boards – because there are way too many screaming Calvins spouting knowledge – and not near enough terrycloth tigers that speak wisdom and understanding.
So…we all see the problem. But…what to do about it? I’ll think about it and see if I come up with any odd ideas.



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Sarasotakid

posted June 21, 2007 at 11:36 am


I can see where Kevin S. and some of the others who don’t care for McLaren’s works are coming from. I too would have been at the same place had I not seen too many “orthodox” churches engage in some of the most appalling activities. So, no, I don’t feel particularly compelled to worry about his potential for undermining traditional Christianity. I am more concerned with traditional Christianity spouting one thing and doing the other. If that makes me any less of a Christian in some people’s eyes, well too bad. I don’t need their estimation of my relationship with God to somehow feel that I am “right” with God, which is short for saying- keep your power ploys to yourself.



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passerby

posted June 21, 2007 at 11:48 am


Why complain? It’s the tower of Babel.



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canucklehead

posted June 21, 2007 at 12:45 pm


I liked this blog a lot better back in the dispensation when it was permissible for Kevin to call SaraS a “twit,” a comparably minor invective, no?
Why, b/c I’ve come to appreciate both of these contributors’ perspectives. Altho I personally find my thinking aligns more w/ where SaraS is coming from, Kevin’s thots do represent the perspective of many w/i the broad evangelical spectrum and usually (usually, Kevin – easy boy!) register a valid point.
So I hope this blog doesn’t lose it’s feistiness b/c I think such a d’vpment would be to totally misunderstand the point Brian makes in this piece.



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Clark Strand

posted June 21, 2007 at 1:33 pm


What Brian wrote calls to mind a story I was told some years ago while living in a Buddhist monastery. A woman named Myhoko, who had been the personal secretary of the Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki, told me about a meeting she’d witnessed between Thomas Merton and Suzuki sometime during the 1960s (both would be dead just a few years later). Myhoko thought the meeting was conducted in secret, and maybe this is true. In any case, I have never been able to find any other record of the event.
The two men met in Suzuki’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and spent the better part of a weekend trying to find the common thread that united Buddhism and Christianity, but without either man feeling, in the end, that they had found the “secret language” Brian refers to. Of the two, Suzuki was the more reconciled to this, being older and having had more experience with the limits of interfaith dialogue. Merton, on the other hand, was really struggling and, in Myhoko’s words, seemed “genuinely dispirited” in the end.
Finally the two men parted. But just as Merton entered the elevator, Suzuki suddenly appeared at the door, holding it open. “Father Tom,” he said. “After all, what could it be but love?” At this, Merton finally smiled, and Suzuki let the elevator door close. Too my knowledge the two men never met again. But then, as Myhoko said to me, “They didn’t need to.”



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Sarasotakid

posted June 21, 2007 at 4:56 pm


Yeah, Canucklehead, I agree. I would think I was having a bad day if I didn’t butt heads with Kevin S. The “twit” remark was relatively minor (although I’m mentally scarred for life). Oh! I forgot I was already mentally scarred b/4 that remark.



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Wolverine

posted June 21, 2007 at 5:38 pm


I’ve sort of stayed out of this thread, because on one hand I found little to argue with in McLaren’s post, but at the same time I thought it was missing something important.
Here’s the thing: I think he’s right that love,as in agape really is the key.
The problem is, that communication motivated by agape is not necessarily inoffensive. It can be rough at times. Jesus modeled love in pretty much everything he did or said. He also said some pretty harsh things about the pharisees, at one point comparing them to “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” and concluded “You snakes, you brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matt 23:27,33)
Roll that through your mind a little: “Condemned to hell…”
Now could our dialogue be at a higher level than it is? Probably, but I’m not absolutely sure. This is a political discussion, after all, and politics is not nice. If it was, I’d be suspicious.
Wolverine



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Mick Sheldon

posted June 21, 2007 at 6:18 pm


Blogging has been an interesting experience . Lack of command of the English language hurts me , but I seen that command used wrongly by others also .
What bothers me somewhat is the use of the word Christian at times . I was discussing abortion and was struck by someones view that nothing in the Bible spoke to abortion . He then denied the Ten Commandments were relevant any longer, and claimed to be a Christian for over two decades ? Got quite opinionated and expressive about the ignorant and narrow mindedness of any opposing views to his liberal understandings . I ended apologizing to him because it was obvious from his perspective , I was something he could tolerate or respect . and moved on .
I just find it hard at times to not understand , even if a Christian was pro choice , not to be able to understand another person’s understanding that God created life , and only he has that authority to stop it or keep it . This is just an example , other issues between left and right perspectives of Christ and the way we are to show His light should be respected . I really don’t see Mr . Wallis doing that , or this organization , but it would sure be great in my opinion if the Church got together and focused on showing the world the Love of Christ , and his teachings .
If we can not agree on some basic understanding , how can we go on ?



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billy

posted June 21, 2007 at 7:03 pm


So, Brian – do you know love? Do you love well?



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Anonymous

posted June 21, 2007 at 11:51 pm


Thanks to Brian for raising this subject. I was beginning to think I was the only getting impatient having to weed through a lot of hateful rhetoric to see if anyone had something thoughtful to say. I have noticed a decline in comments by those who are respectful, thoughful and constructive , such as Thinker, Amazon Creek, to name a couple. I suspect they are tired of feeling compelled to respoind to hateful comments.
I generally check to see who authored a comment before reading it since there are some who consistently just sling mud, and I don’t care to waste my time looking for any nuggets in that garbage. I feel sorry for people who choose to deal with the world in an attitude of anger and hatred, but my choice is to not fill my head with thier junk.Maybe that’s the best most of us can do — ignore these folks, shut the door on them. Responding to the mud-slinging, whether in anger or in love, doesn’t seem to have any impact.I don’t know how to turn someone from being mean-spirited to being kind and respectful, but I do know how to keep them at bay,If they get no reaction, no response, maybe they will give up and possibly come to understand why they are being ignored.



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Anonymous

posted June 22, 2007 at 2:10 am


Thanks for your kind comments. No…I just try very hard to limit my time posting on message boards – because I enjoy them – and LOVE to read other people’s ideas and to write comments, writing is my passion! But…the Internet is not real life. What is real life to me is the city I live in, the ministries I’m involved in – with real people.
Cyberspace is real, in a way, but….it’s kind of whatever-you-want-it-to-be. You can get too into your own little world – and you need to come up for air, regain your perspective and touch with the real world. Maybe that’s just a peculiar problem that writer-type people have. The need to take extra care to get OUT there – and mingle and rub shoulders with people at the supermarket, commuters on the bus….
But…I am determined NOT to get lost in my own world. And so…I try to limit my internet time. So…that limits my posts.
The insulting comments? You mean the trolls? On other message boards, we use the term “trolls” in regards to some of the posters we have here, because they are only here to cause trouble. They have a set agenda – to cause mayhem.
I’m surprised this board hasn’t been hacked yet. The other boards I post on have had problems with hackers. And I’ve even been stalked in the past on the Internet. So far…this is tame.
To be honest, I would never post on a conservative message board. I would feel I was on someone else’s turf, only starting trouble. It would be a case of “Mind your own beeswax!”
Perhaps it is my quirky mind, but I have a somewhat humorous curiosity about why several of the posters on this board hang around here so much. They appear to spend HOURS on this board, a board they so obviously disagree with. And yet…they spend hours here…utterly fascinated with what goes on with this blog.
It reminds me of the story in John’s gospel in John 9 – where Jesus heals the blind man. And the blind man is brought to the Pharisees who keep on asking the formerly blind man OVER AND OVER AND OVER again… things like,
“Are you SURE you were ever REALLY blind?”
“If you were born blind, then HOW COME you are no longer blind?”
“Are you SURE it was Jesus who healed you?”
“HOW did Jesus heal you?”
And, LOL, bless that blind man’s heart, he finally responds – with what’s got to be one of the all time zingers!
“I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?”?
See my point? The vast majority of us are not magnetized by something we claim to be offended by. It raises questions….why?
But…in the future I will ignore some of the posters more. It is simply a waste of time – and Paul wrote not to spend huge amounts of time arguing with such people. There is a spiritual blindness there.
If any one advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those or our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arive envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”
Onward, full sail ahead, right? This is not how to spend huge amounts of time – arguing with such people? The Holy Spirit has to do the arguing. He is much, much better at it. LOL! No such thing as “Amazon-Creek-Almighty”. Ewwwwww!
Goodnight! That time again…



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letjusticerolldown

posted June 22, 2007 at 4:11 am


If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one present to hear the crash….?
If a blogger waxes eloquent and no readers with ears of love absorb the ideas was anything of value expressed?



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Trudy

posted June 22, 2007 at 10:41 am


I was once given an important message that I know is for everyone: “You shall be judged by how well you learn to love.” Think on it.



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letjusticerolldown

posted June 22, 2007 at 11:00 am


I only sporadically visit blogs out of a sense of waste. It is also interesting to live in this period of such rapidly evolving instruments of communication; seeing what we create it and how it shapes us.
I am also aware my reactions to blogs, newspapers, presidential debates, sermons, and conversations in the YMCA locker room all tend to be more about me than the communication I am listening to. My weariness with listening to the same points is often my disinterest in listening, learning, changing, growing or loving.
Great interviews occur when the interviewer is an engaged and eager learner. The transformation of communication (on micro or macro levels) is so dependent on listeners who are willing to continue to learn, grow, and become something different. So much of the time, the transformation of communication is as close as our ears and our hearts.
We need preachers, prophets, theologians, artists, writers, teachers, and wise persons woven through all components of our cultures–persons able to see, hear, obey, reflect, grow and creatively facilitate life-giving communication. We each, to some degree, have the profound privilege of this sacred task.



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Jenny

posted June 22, 2007 at 12:35 pm


How about something as simple as truth?
The blogosphere is how it is, because it is little different than the MSM. It is largely composed of affluent, disconnected elites whose “activism” is for the most part self-serving. They see themselves as the entirity of the grassroots, they might be able to speak passionately about their own rights, but have little interest or willingness to speak about the rights of others. The rare occasions that they do, it is because of their desire to exploit an event or issue.
The thing of it is, I see the same mindset here and in the articles and essays I read at Sojourners. The disconnect is offensive, especially coming from people who seek to distance themselves from the same behaviors practiced by fundamentalists. The willing indifference to the very real poverty that exists for American citizens is a prime example of this. The moral relativism exhibited by Rev. Wallis when he provides lip service to prop up the US Chamber of Commerce & George Bush’s attempt to use illegal aliens to quash American wage standards and workplace protections in the increasingly declining job market in the US, is appalling. Wallis would have to be blind not to see the suffering that exists here already, and to say the things he has said on the subject.
There was a reason Christ spoke against putting priests on pedastels, because they are all too human and as capable of greed, indifference, cruelty and so many other sins as any other person.
WWJD? In this case, I believe that Christ would ask Rev. Wallis to remember that what he seeks to do to the least of his brothers, he was doing to him. That exploiting the poverty of people from south of the border, and pitting them against the poor here is akin to slavery. He would remind him that he is using his position as a member of the cloth, and his religion for profit, and that profit of any kind has no place in the temple.
He would remind the reverend that what he is advocating does nothing to limit or end poverty, but to only help maintain the status quo, and to only increase the levels of poverty and suffering.
He would ask Rev. Wallis why he refuses to challenge those who speak the lies of “jobs Americans won’t do”, to consider that while they in their affluence might not want to do those jobs, but to consider that there are a majority of Americans who need those jobs and they deserve those jobs paying American wages.
He would ask Rev. Wallis why he is too cowardly to demand that if America needs to be more competitive, why are the CEOs and the corporate elite not asked to bring their own salaries down to the levels of their foreign peers? Why should the burden, the whip of profit laid across the backs of the most powerless American citizens?
Perhaps if you and yours find the discussion on the blogs less than satisfying, why are you not speaking out on the wider issues, like the reality of American poverty? Putting a human face on it, how far too many American citizens, and they are black, brown and white faces, as entitled to human rights as anyone else.
If you are ignorant of those facts, then get out there and educate yourselves, as Christ would have asked you to, and raise awareness of the issue.



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David S.

posted June 22, 2007 at 12:47 pm


Great post, Brian.
One of the reasons that I’ve stopped posting on other boards is an extenstion of what you’re talking about. There is no common commitment to speak the language of love.
Over time, though, I’ve realized that that language is extremely difficult to speak unless our interactions involve physical presence. Only the most gifted writers among us can truly convey both a message and the sense that they truly care for the other individual. Many more of us, however, can convey that care through a simple look of kindness or concern. How much more effective is such a brief interaction!
The argument is one of quality vs. quantity: Here, you can reach people all over the world. But what is the quality of those interactions? How much more beautiful is the gaze of a new found friend?



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neuro_nurse

posted June 22, 2007 at 1:22 pm


But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
Matthew 12:36



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SRR

posted June 22, 2007 at 1:45 pm


This moderate or centrist in politics and religion (I’m a mainstream Protestant)has grown weary listening to conservatives bash liberals for the last 15 years and blame them for everything wrong in religion and politics (even though they’ve been mostly in charge of everything during this time). Almost all of them are not like the respectible and bright George Will but more shrill even ugly like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. They have no intention of being loving, much less civil. Tell me what is so wrong about holding them accountable for their words/actions and giving an opinion that exposes the weaknesses in their suppositions in order that others will not fall into their trap?



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rayd

posted June 22, 2007 at 1:59 pm


I really don’t understand people who are so harsh toward Brian McLaren. He does challenge some traditional church ideas, but he doesn’t do it in a judgemental way. He asks questions. I think we need more people with good questions and fewer with all of the answers. It’s OK to question what you believe in order to more fully believe it. For me, if I hadn’t found the writings of McLaren, Kierkegaard, and others who challenge the traditions of the church establishment, I would have walked away from the faith of my youth altogether.



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Charlie McClelland

posted June 23, 2007 at 7:56 am


I agree that we need to cultivate a climate of gentleness in our communication. Too often I find myself attacking the person instead of the ideas. When I see this in other posts, I wonder if they do it to hide the fact they do not have a reasoned answer to the idea. That gives me pause before I attack the person.
I think the wider our disagreement with the other person–the stronger should be our resolve to treat the other person politely. Jesus did say to love our enemies.



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Judith

posted June 23, 2007 at 4:15 pm


Have just come on the blog this first time after receiving the Sojourners email newsletter for some months. I used to get on message boards of various kinds and then just got tired of all the arguing and nastiness. I don’t understand why all of us don’t own up to the fact that we all have opinions that are not shared by many, many others in the Christian community as well as those outside the Christian community. I know there are conservatives, evangelicals, fundamentalists, moderates, and liberals all seeking to make their voices heard. I really get tired of labels because I don’t think any of them are accurate. All of us float back and forth on a variety of issues. So it seems to me that we can be strong enough and rooted sufficiently in our own understanding of faith and service for the Lord that we can withstand disagreement. I remember how upset one of my congregation became because someone was saying something with which she didn’t agree. So what? We are not going to all agree until we stand before the Lord and are finally told how the full truth looks and sounds. Until then, I hope and pray always that we can exchange ideas, even get hot under the collar, but find ways to listen and learn. I am also troubled by those who call anyone with whom they disagree “an enemy.” I don’t think those were the enemies Jesus had in mind. Jesus asked us to love one another — all who are a part of the Body of Christ — in spite of our differing views and differences of opinion. It may seem like an impossible dream, but Jesus never asks us to do anything but what he supplies the power to be obedient. We just have to want to be open to those who routinely say things with which we don’t agree. I plan to hang around for a while, hoping to find a community that wants to listen to one another. Blessings to all . . .



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Theo Door

posted June 24, 2007 at 3:19 am


Thanks Brian. I feel the same way. Too much venom in most online discussions. 1. I think people are desensitized via the internet that there is a human being at the other end. 2. Reading one’s ideas criticized in “print” is more threatening than a verbal contradiction, I think, for the average person, which results in an escalation of emotions on both sides of cyberspace. 3. The Troll Factor is a real downside – “Don’t Feed the Troll” was a constant mantra on a different site where I interacted. 4. People generally insist on The Last Word even if it results in either name calling or rehashing the same ground over and over again.



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Payshun

posted June 24, 2007 at 5:47 pm


A question to all posters how can we create a nuturing place then?
I will say this. I am really tired of being nice (aka ignoring) dead Christianity. I find so much of evangelicalism to be lacking any real depth. That doesn’t mean that there is none it’s just that many of it’s adherents don’t offer much. I guess that’s my major issue. When it comes to real substantive discussions about relating to God I have seen very little actual relating from the evangelical camp. I want to see more before we can even begin to talk about how to make this place a more nurturing environment.
p



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neuro_nurse

posted June 24, 2007 at 6:08 pm


“I am really tired of being nice (aka ignoring) dead Christianity.”
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17
My career goal, that is, what God has called me to do, is work in health care in Africa. The response I get from a lot of “Evangelicals” when I tell them that I have no intention to be a missionary is one of dismay or disappointment – as if I’m the one who is missing something.
“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:27-29
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
It seems to me that Paul had a broader definition of ‘evangelism’ than many evangelicals.
Peace!



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canucklehead

posted June 24, 2007 at 8:50 pm


Woo-hoo. Just one more day then Brian’s piece disappears into the archives and we can get back to business as usual around here!
Neuro, you papist devotee, you! How dare you find fault with we evangelicals!
(Just warming up! Woo-hoot, one more day!)



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neuro_nurse

posted June 24, 2007 at 9:33 pm


canucklehead
I had a stinging retort cued up and ready to post – then I remembered the topic of this thread.
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Peace!



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Anonymous

posted June 24, 2007 at 11:13 pm


“I really don’t understand people who are so harsh toward Brian McLaren. He does challenge some traditional church ideas, but he doesn’t do it in a judgemental way. He asks questions. ”
That used to be true of his writings, to a certain extent. It no longer is. In his most recent book, “The Secret Message of Jesus”, he acknowledges as much. It is a book of assertions, and he can no longer hide behind the veil of query.
Questioning the traditional church is one thing, but refusing to engage your theological critics is a conceit. He is not much interested in “peer review”, you might say.



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Payshun

posted June 25, 2007 at 12:55 pm


Amen neuro.
p



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Coakley, Jay J.

posted June 25, 2007 at 4:05 pm


“I had a stinging retort cued up and ready to post – then I remembered the topic of this thread.” Neuro
FedEx it to me :)



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canucklehead

posted June 25, 2007 at 4:07 pm


woops, apologies to Mr. Coakley, twas I



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inusha

posted July 21, 2007 at 7:31 am

Jim Martin

posted August 24, 2007 at 8:20 am


Maybe we should pass a law that makes everyone get your approval before posting opinion.



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Ferd Smithe

posted August 24, 2007 at 8:25 am


The Bible is very very clear about defending your family. The Muslim plan for world donimation is well under way. The Moon God is rearing his ugly head and you are becoming part of the problem with your head stuck in the ground. Are you a Democrat?



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