Well, maybe I could have resisted, but this is something that has been a big part of the past 2 years of my life, and it has been such an important developement I believe, stirred by the Spirit of God in me. So I am going to do something I had thought I would wait until I was done with the book to do.
I am presently reading the soon to be released book from Brian McLaren Everything Must Change....Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I am almost half way through at this point, and in my reading today I ran across what has been for me the greatest point he has made so far. There have been others though.
It comes from a section he calls: HEARING JESUS WITH FIRST-CENTURY EARS. The phrase comes from NT Wright, who has done much work studying Jesus in his historical setting.
I am going to refrain from putting up anymore large sections of this book so as to leave it to those who are interested in reading it themselves so that you can have your own discoveries. Like I said, this one I couldn't resist putting out there as a taste. I believe this to be a much needed perspective change. It has been instrumental this past year producing in me an entire deconstruction and re-working of my world view.
"The phrase "kingdom of God" on Jesus' lips, then, means almost the opposite of what an American like me might assume, living in the richest, most powerful nation on earth. To the citizen of Western civilization like me, kingdom language suggest order, stability, government, policy, domination, control, maybe even vengeance on the rebels and threats of banishment for the uncooperative. But on Jesus' lips, those words describe Caesar's kingdom: God's kingdom turns all of those associations upside down. Order becomes opportunity, stability melts into movement and change, status-quo government gives way to revolution of community and neighborliness, policy bows to love, domination descends to service and sacrifice, control morphs into influence and inspiration, vengeance and threats are transformed into forgiveness and blessing.
In his message of the kingdom of God, then, Jesus proposes a radical new framing story, and he wanted people to trust him enough to give his way to peace a chance. How does he do so? In public, he teaches people (often using parables, which invite them to think rather than telling them what to think) and heals them (which is often described as freeing or liberating them from disease and demons)---rather than propagandizing them (telling them what to think while simultaneously keeping them from thinking for themselves) controlling them (oppressing them under sick and demonic systems of oppression). In private, he eats meals with people---all the wrong sorts of people---to demonstrate that the kingdom of God transforms by grace and acceptance rather than by fear or threats of exclusion. In the midst of Rome's empire, wherever Jesus goes, he creates a family meal where all are welcome.
Some will be quick to note that Jesus also used strong language of exclusion---being thrust into "outer darkness," for example where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." But in an irony that is so powerful it can hardly be overstated, Jesus applies that language to the typically exclusive (religious scholars, Pharisees,etc.), and asserts that the typically excluded (prostitutes, sinners, even Gentiles) will be included before them (Matthew 23:13, Luke 13:28-30, Luke 4:24-27) Clearly Jesus is deconstructing the dominant system of exclusion---not fortifying it.
No wonder Jesus mixes metaphors so freely: kingdom can be useful in confronting the kingdom of Herod and the empire of Caesar, but it also needs to be deconstructed and augmented by other more intimate and less violent metaphors. So Jesus habitually refers to God as Father rather than King. As the famous prodigal son parable profoundly communicates, the rebel and the upright are equally God's children, as (we could extrapolate) are the Jew and the Gentile, the free and the slave, the religious scholar and the prostitute, the female and the male. The Father's deep desire is to bring all the children home into his feast (Luke 15:11-32)."
This is some of what Father has been doing in my life this past year. Deconstructing how the dominant framing script of American Christianity had shaped me to see things. I just couldn't defend it any longer. I so clearly remember feeling that he was speaking to me this simple but stern statement. Kent, you speak of a life you say you believe in, but you go one living like you don't believe it. My life began to come undone at that point because I knew this was true. I also remember my response at that time. Okay, show me. The showing began and still continues today. I have said so many times as something new is revealed to me; I don't think I can do this? He has been so gentle in his response; I know. But I can take you there. He has been so faithful to that promise.
So I move on in this new journey one day at a time. I think that is how he encouraged us to proceed?
I will put up a full review once I finish reading the book.