A VOICE AGAINST EXTREMISM
The president of Afghanistan correctly notes that Islam has "an enemy within." Hamid Karzai is right to suggest that Muslims themselves must fight against this extremism. It can only help when voices such as Karzai's are added to those calling for Muslims to stand against the radicals in their midst.
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SOME 'EMERGING' RELIGIOUS ANSWERS
One of his latest book is Everything Must Change, and he was talking about that and related matters in Kansas City last week when I had a chance to listen in at a leadership conference he was leading at Jacob's Well Church in Midtown.
McLaren and others in the movement are trying to figure out what Christianity should look like today and how it should be both adapting to new times and clinging to its core theology.
Naturally, that openness to change and some of his answers upset some folks, and McLaren has encountered some suspicions and even hostility from some Christians who would identify themselves as theologically conservative because he's been critical of branches of Christianity that focus on how to get individuals to heaven more than on how to get the kingdom of heaven to Earth.
After McLaren the other morning had identified the major problems facing humans today as the planet (meaning the crisis of over-consumption), poverty and peace, I asked him how the Christian answers to them might differ from answers of other faiths and whether he sees common ground for people of different faiths to work together on these issues.
I thought his response was quite cogent, and I want to quote some of it to you here:
"Our religions -- you would expect them to be mobilizing people for constuctive action in regard to these problems. But. . .instead of mobilizing people to constructively address these three problems, most often we (the major religions) are distracting people from these three problems and often we're making these problems worse -- by creating eschatologies that legitimize mass consumption, by inflaming fear of other religions and nations, which makes it a whole lot easier to imagine bombing them and wiping them out.
"I think every religion is facing this challenge to somehow disentangle itself from these sort of cycles or systems and to then insert some of their own message of hope and transformation. The best answer as to how the Christian religion differs on this is that unfortunately it doesn't if we're speaking descriptively, not prescriptively. When you start saying what we wish it would do, what I wish Christians would do is. . .I wish that we would regain an understanding of Jesus' message of the kingdom of God as being at the center of our faith and then that we would really seek to understand the message not as an evacuation gospel -- how to go to the kingdom of heaven, meaning life after death, as soon as possible, but rather how can the kingdom of God come to Earth, how can God's will be done on Earth as it is in heaven."
McLaren added that he saw some evidence that people in various religions are understanding the need to focus on the problems of the planet, poverty and peace: "The encouraging thing is that in each religion. . .there are signs of people making a difference."
Because roughly nine out of 10 people on the planet have some kind of connection with religion, it seems to me vital that religion more adequately address the problems that McLaren has identified, finding ways to work together on solutions despite our different theological approaches -- and without giving up our differences just so we don't offend others.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Today's religious holiday: St. James the Great Day (Orthodox Christianity)