Promises, promises. I said in this morning’s post that I would lead you to someone cooler than I am in tonight’s post. I’m late with that, but it’s for a good reason. I spent the evening in the company of my sisters and their families. It was worth it.
Anyway, here is a person I think you should track: Brian McLaren.
Back in 2009, I was struggling to make sense of the fundamentalist fog I’d lived in. I felt as though I had very little spiritual direction, but I could no longer subscribe to much of the theology that had informed my faith for twenty years. The problem was, I didn’t have anyone at the time who had been through it and came out on the other side. Nearly everyone I knew still held to all (or almost all) of the things I was ready to leave behind.
And then I read a little book called The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. She makes reference to Brian McLaren, among others. I decided to check out some of the people mentioned in the book. I quickly discovered that McLaren was the one who interested me most. He appeared to have gone on a spiritual journey that mirrored mine, and he made reference to C. S. Lewis. Those two things made him already a kind of kindred spirit in my mind, so I went in search of his books.
Our local library didn’t have a copy of A Generous Orthodoxy, unfortunately, and the one copy in the system was already checked out. Fortunately, another branch carried some of his titles. I brought home copies of Everything Must Change and A New Kind of Christian.
My husband quickly devoured Everything Must Change, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. I started with A New Kind of Christian (ANKoC). My world was turned upside down from page one. Before, I had been unable to put words to what I’d been feeling, muddling through and hoping that I would just recapture the faith I thought I’d lost. Instead, I found someone else who did have the right words. He named it and embraced it. I felt as though McLaren himself had stepped into my living room for a chat, reassuring me that I wasn’t crazy and that I wasn’t on the verge of turning into an angry former Christian.
Again and again, McLaren writes with this same conversational style. I finished the rest of the series that begins with ANKoC (The Story We Find Ourselves In, The Last Word and the Word After That), then went on to read many of his other books. Two years ago, I read A New Kind of Christianity and learned about the flawed narrative that overlays much of our theology and doctrine. I listened to his series of podcasts walking through the Bible, while simultaneously listening to the entire Bible on MP3. Last year, I learned how to pray again by reading Naked Spirituality. In short, McLaren is my go-to guy when I need to read or hear something spiritually uplifting.
And that sums up what I like about his style—it’s a pick-me-up, gentle and humble in tone. Although he does make some good points, theologically speaking, it’s never a matter of having to wade through theology-ese. One doesn’t need to have a PhD in religious studies to make sense of what he says. Heck, one doesn’t even need to be a Christian.
If you can, check out some of McLaren’s books from the library. Read his blog. E-mail him a question (as far as I can tell, he answers all of them). Even if you end up disagreeing, he is worth checking out. If you live near me, I will loan you my copies of his ANKoC series, because I believe it’s that important.
I’m looking forward to reading his next book.