Archive for January 17th, 2008

Preoccupying Questions

January 17, 2008

In Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change, chapters two through five attempt to flesh out chapter one’s introduction by offering “two preoccupying questions:”
(1) What are the biggest problems in the world?
(2) What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?

In the first question, McLaren hopes to identify the root causes of global crises. In the second, he continues criticizing Western Christianity’s preoccupation with the afterlife and inattention to global issues.

McLaren’s conclusion is that Christianity appears a failed religion, stemming from faulty framing stories. His hope lies in his belief that these framing stories are inconsistent with Jesus’s Kingdom of God message, and that revisiting Jesus’s message may provide a framing story that will address today’s global problems.

But enough McLaren (smile). Jeff and Juvenal have been leading our conversation down a fascinating road already (but oddly enough, I think we can still use McLaren’s questions).

It takes very little time for most of us to identify Jeff and Juvenal’s intellectual abilities. It takes most of us much longer to understand what they have been saying, and even longer to summon up the bravery to engage the conversation. Let me be brave enough to attempt to frame the conversation, and then let it loose for everyone’s contributions.

Jeff points to a positive evolution of the human species as evidenced by positive changes occurring in global social systems. Juvenal claims that the positive changes in global social systems are tied to unsustainable economic prosperity and have not changed basic human nature. Jeff sees the fact that McLaren has an audience as evidence of humanity’s positive evolution (with religion evolving, too). Juvenal sees McLaren’s message as cyclical (nothing new), and influenced by economics.

Where both seem to agree is that improvements in global social systems would be helpful. They seem to disagree as to how helpful these would be over time…

And both seem to agree that the Christian emphasis on the afterlife is inconsistent with the message of Jesus. They seem to disagree on how effective Jesus’s “this world” message would be…

So back to the questions:
#1: What are the biggest problems in the world?
* I’m not sure (yet) of Jeff’s answer to this question, mostly because his comments have tended toward the positives…
* I believe Juvenal’s answers are (a) unsustainable economic systems, but on a deeper level, (b) problematic human nature

#2: What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?
* Jeff would offer “a lot” I’m thinking…
* Juvenal would counter with “less” than Jeff…

I’m really interested in hearing from both Jeff and Juvenal (in correcting my summaries, and offering answers to McLaren’s questions), and also from others as I try to work this all out myself (I’m particularly interested in the continued discussion on the interplay between human nature and social systems for anyone scoring at home).

NEXT WEEK: “Suicidal System” (chapters 6-9)