Monday, August 15, 2011

Book: "Everything Must Change" (Brian D. McLaren)

TITLE: Everything Must Change - Jesus, global crises, and a revolution of hope
AUTHOR: Brian D. McLaren
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2007, (332 pages).

Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of HopeThe world is in terrible shape. There are more questions than answers, more problems than solutions, and more crises than opportunities. McLaren shares his more than 20 years of struggle through 2 key preoccupying questions.

1. What are the biggest problems in the world?
2. What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?

Key to McLaren's thesis is to change our 'framing story.' A framing story is like a framework used to view how the world is functioning. Our current world model of economics and globalization policies are launching the world into three major crises.

A 'prosperity crisis' in which our current global economic model is not only unsustainable, it is environmentally hazardous. It is also a model that is very poor in wealth distribution.

A 'equity crisis' highlights the problem of the growing rich-poor divide, that causes the 'poor majority to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority.' This in turn creates an equal and opposite reaction from the rich. (5)

A 'security crisis' is a result of not adequately addressing the resentment and fear that arises out of the first two.

Finally, the 'spirituality crisis' represents the failure of the world's religions to do anything about it. In comes Everything Must Change. McLaren boldly calls for a new framing story to 'give people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives.' (5)

McLaren believes that in Christ, everything can change. For the sake of the world, everything must change. He invites all to see Jesus's life and teachings not stuck in our personal spiritual closets, but as formative to the transformation of the world.

About The Book

Part 1 goes into detail about McLaren's two preoccupying questions. Both questions seem to have a common link: an erroneous understanding of what is good for the world.

Part 2 talks about why the current framing story of the world is 'suicidal.' McLaren does a wonderful job in collecting  the top global problems from various sources like, the Copenhagen Consensus, Millennium Development Goals, J F Rischard's 6-ecological, 6-humanitarian, and 8-regulatory problems; Rick Warren's PEACE plan, and 15 global challenges. He then paints the present suicidal system in terms of 3 interlocking gears affecting each other: Prosperity / Equity / Security paradigms. According to his model, the 'suicidal machine' continues to abuse the earth, causing global warming and ecological damages. It leads to terrorism, directly or indirectly (63). Worse, the human race continues to bury its head in the sand, thinking that current world problems are bearable, and the worse may not happen to us.

Part 3 and 4 are McLaren's theological backing for change. He presents his 'emerging view' in terms of the cross liberating us from old paradigms.That Jesus' life is one of 'counter-narrative.' Like Jesus, we need to 'jam the brakes' of the current suicidal system. The call of Jesus is one that is a new kind of insurgency.

"So it is a merciful insurgency, a wisdom insurgency, a hope insurgency, a generous insurgency, a courage insurgency, a compassion insurgency, a faith insurgency, a peace insurgency."" (129)

The rest of the book goes on to describe this new wave of insurgency, that is active rather than passive, hopeful instead of hopeless, and comprises actions that are personal, community, and global.

My Comments
Here are the strengths of the book. McLaren makes a good effort to try to see the world's crises from the lens of Jesus and His teachings. Though he is not an economist, he has quite a convincing view of the world's problems. I like the Prosperity-Security-Equity model he proposes as an old framing story. It keeps things clear and understandable. I will not be surprised if McLaren's version of the world's economy has triggered new interest in the study of economic theory and globalization strategies. One can appreciate the genuine compassion and concern for the world's crises, and a strong desire to do something about it. The best thing about this book is McLaren leading the way not just in word, but also in action. One example is his launch of several practical initiatives to coincide with the publishing of his book.

Unfortunately, it does not go far enough. For all the good that mankind can do, what about sin? Isn't it true that while Christians can attempt to do their best to change the world, it is not human efforts but the Spirit of God that moves. Despite our best efforts, sin can also transform itself, and corrupt any good initiatives rendered. What about the problems with McLaren's suggested model? What about implementation? Excluding the questions at the end of each chapters, the applications laid out from pages 297-301 are meagre compared to the bulky 332 paged book.

This book is at best a wake-up call for the sleeping church. Not everyone of us will be called to tackle global problems all at once, or in a mega-scale level. We are all called to be faithful to the talents that God has given to each of us. Read this book for global awareness. Recognize that there is a need for change all the time. Refuse to loosen our hope in Jesus. If there is going to be any transformation, it will be more than McLaren's "God's sacred ecosystem" vision. Much much greater. How will it look like, we have to see how God reveals in his good time. In the meantime, plod on in faithfulness.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

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