Brian D. McLaren's Blog, page 5

June 24, 2014

After a great weekend in Dallas, training people in leading learning circles for We Make the Road by Walking, today I'll be at the White House as part of a symposium there on LGBT equality and human rights. Then I'll be off to Wild Goose Festival. Hope to see many of you there.

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Published on June 24, 2014 01:58 • 1 view

June 23, 2014

I think something parallel is true of "gay issues" and "race issues" and "immigration issues" and "minority" issues. Straight, white, native-born, and majority are connected ... here's why:

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Published on June 23, 2014 23:06 • 3 views

Last week I posted a Q & R about global warming. My friend Paul H sent in this reply, which is full of helpful information. Here's Paul's reply:

Brian, I just read your excellent response to the guy who so desperately (and I wonder why) wants to believe that there is no global warming. One of his points was that, if there is global warming, we cannot account for the temperature plateau of the past 15 years or so. He's wrong about that. Apparently, he has never looked at the actual temperature time series, one version of which is in the Global Surface Temperature plot on this NASA webpage:

Even a cursory examination of the time series shows that the warming of the globe is not monotonic (continuously rising), but the overall trend is undeniable. The climate research community recognizes a phenomenon known as "decadal variation" -- variation on the scale of one or a few decades, and they spend considerable effort trying to understand it. The atmospheric circulation system has a number of recognized oscillatory systems, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Madden Julian Oscillation, and others. It's pretty certain that there are other factors that are not yet recognized. Taken all together, these factors cause the globally averaged temperature (and many other parameters) to have ups and downs that are superimposed upon the long-term trend.

We see decadal variation clearly on the webpage cited above. The first half of the 1950s and the first half of the 1970s are plateaus very similar to the current one. Other decadal variations show actual drops in globally averaged temperature. These are in no way contradictory to the conclusion that global warming is real. The long-term trend is still an increase of globally averaged surface temperature.

Some of the media-fueled skepticism about this comes, oddly, from meteorologists, particularly those who work in the broadcast news industry. This is in no small part due to the influence of John Coleman, one of the founders of the Weather Channel. He is an outspoken climate change denier, but one who has exactly zero credibility. He is not a climate scientist. He is not even a meteorologist. His education is in journalism. The fact that he employs meteorologists does not give him any credibility.

A couple of years go, Prof. Richard Muller, a respected physicist and climate change skeptic, assembled a research team and acquired copies of all or most of the same data that has led the climate research community to the conclusion that global warming is real and anthropogenic. He completely reanalyzed the entire, very large collection of data. Even though his research was funded in part by the Koch brothers, his widely published conclusion was that climate change is real, it involves an increase of globally averaged temperature, and it is caused by the activities of mankind, principally the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Every year, I attend the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, and I tend to focus on the climate change sessions. In 2007, one aged member of the society rose in a plenary session, to say (in the quavering voice of an old man) that he simply could not accept the idea that a system as massive as the atmosphere could possibly be affected by the actions of puny humans. That old man and a couple of broadcast meteorologists (overheard in a conversation at lunch) are the only examples I know of any Society members disbelieving global warming. It may be that 97% of scientists believe it. I don't know where you got that number. But I strongly suspect that a much stronger proportion of climate scientists (meaning those who actually study climate and, thus, have credibility) believe it.

As is the case with nearly everything in life, basing an opinion on anything other than actual data is perilous.

I just heard the 97% number recently at a briefing I was part of, but it may be already out of date, as I think the consensus only grows stronger. It referred to all scientists, not just climate scientists. I imagine, as Paul says, that it would be much higher among those who study the data most closely.
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Published on June 23, 2014 02:55 • 2 views

June 22, 2014

We're just wrapping up a "boot camp" for people who plan to lead groups using We Make the Road by Walking. It has been a delightful time.

My strong recommendation for groups using the book is to keep it super simple and super participatory. Here's how:

1. Have the group seated in a circle or gathered around a table. (If the group is too large, invite 6 or 8 people to the front and they'll model participation for the larger group.)

2. Identify someone to begin reading the first Scripture reading. It's best if they read a paragraph or so of the text (about 3 to 5 verses). It helps to be sure everyone has the same translation - whether NRSV, CEV, or whatever.

3. Then someone continues with the next paragraph, and so on, through the Scripture readings. It's good to keep things moving at a good pace.

4. The same pattern continues for the chapter, with each person reading a paragraph. If people don't want to read aloud, of course they can just pass. If kids are present, I encourage you to include them in the readings and Engage questions.

5. When the chapter is complete, the next person can read the first Engage question, and so on.

The group really runs itself. The leader doesn't need to do any preparation; the hour is really self-contained.

A few observations from our time together:

1. By involving everyone with reading, attention levels stay high.

2. By everyone having a Bible and copy of the book, they can follow along as others read, thus taking in the content both orally and visually.

3. The experience of listening to others read aloud may seem unfamiliar at first, but it quickly becomes natural and very enjoyable.

4. When you move from the chapter to discussion, it's important to let people know that it is perfectly acceptable to express disagreement or discomfort with the readings, which the first Engage question invites people to do. Differences of viewpoint don't need to be resolved - simply respectfully expressed, listened to, and understood. (See #8)

5. If there is a large group, it's easy to break into groups of four. Four people can engage deeply with a chapter in an hour.

6. Engaging with the material over a meal works really well too.

7. If you want to add liturgical elements from Appendix 1, of course you can do so before and after the readings, chapter, and engagement questions.

8. At your first gathering, the leader/host should read the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). It's good to get everyone to verbally agree to assist in following these guidelines (like sitting on an exit row in a plane). The leader/host should promise to remind the group of the guidelines if problems come up, and review them from time to time.

9. If problems do come up - someone is argumentative or over-participates, for example - remind everyone of the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). Because the approach I'm recommending is so highly participatory, I think groups will get in the groove quickly and problems will be rare.

If you want to begin using the book now so that you get on schedule for the 2014-2015 year, you would begin as follows:

June 22 - Chapter 43

June 29 - Chapter 44

July 6 - Chapter 45

July 13 - Chapter 46

July 20 - Chapter 47

July 27 - Chapter 48

August 3 - Chapter 49

August 10 - Chapter 50

August 17 - Chapter 51

August 24 - Chapter 52

To sync up with Advent 2014, you would begin with Chapter 1 on August 31. If you need to begin on September 7 or 14, you would need to skip a chapter or two, or combine a few, so you'll schedule Chapter 14 on November 30, the beginning of Advent.

Because Easter's date changes each year, in 2015 you'll need to drop one chapter (or combine 2) from Part II. I'd probably recommend combining 22-23, 24-25, and/or 25-26.

Jan 4 would coincide with Chapter 19.

Lent and Part III of the book begin on February 22, 2015.

Pentecost and Part IV of the book begin on May 24, 2015.

For long-term planners, in 2015-2016, you'll begin Chapter 1 on August 30, 2015, and you'll need to drop or combine 2 chapter from Part II to coincide with Easter.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry. Once you get the group going, you'll be surprised how easily things flow, how quickly community begins to happen, how refreshing the whole experience is, and how effectively it can contribute to spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation.

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Published on June 22, 2014 06:40 • 2 views

June 21, 2014

Here's the Q:

I was raised conservative evangelical, and A Generous Orthodoxy was one of the first books to truly push me into a whole new realm of how to think about my faith. Thank you. Since then, I have gone many directions, found a few dead ends, and am now retracing my steps to try to get on a worthwhile path again. One possible path I’ve recently discovered is lead by folks like Peter Rollins, and in another way John Shelby Spong, and perhaps originally, Paul Tillich. Their work has helped but also troubled me, and I am curious to get your thoughts on this school of theology and its attempt to grapple with the alleged “death of God.”

Here's the R:

Let me offer a less than ideal analogy, but the best I can come up with at the moment.

Imagine a woman has breast cancer. She needs immediate surgery, radiation, and chemo. These treatments are all painful and in a sense destructive. They are "troubling." But they are necessary to save her life.

After the surgery, she will need two things. First, she will need reconstructive surgery. At the same time, she will need ongoing health care to maximize her health and monitor for a possible relapse so it can be caught as early as possible.

It could be said that religions get malignancies. Racism, colonialism, sexism, a sense of supremacy and privilege and exceptionalism, a victim mentality, paranoia, xenophobia … all these can get a foothold in religious communities and threaten their health and even survival.

Some theologians do surgery. Some administer chemotherapy. They appear to make the patient worse, and if they're not careful, they can hasten the death of the patient. But they are also necessary to save her life.

Other theologians focus on reconstructive surgery, rebuild basic health, and monitor for relapse prevention.

So there are some theologians I would turn to in order to administer chemo, but I wouldn't turn to them for a steady diet to promote health. Each is important - all the more so if each can appreciate his or her specialty - both its strengths and its limitations, and do the same for others with different specialties.

I should also add that many important living theologians are in process. Their project takes twists and turns, goes through various phases. You might say they are more like a family doctor. They follow one patient (their denomination or tradition) through various phases, and so they may be involved with preventative medicine, and then help their patient go through chemo when a malignancy is found, and then help their patient recover, and then return to preventative medicine.

The analogy isn't perfect, but I think it makes the point. In evaluating theologians, it's important to understand what their project or specialty is … and what patient they are trying to help, and what diagnosis they are trying to treat, and how far along they are in the process.

Some people see writers like Tillich or Spong as terribly negative. But when you have cancer, you don't want your doctor to water down the chemo. People who think they're fine, of course, don't see any need for strong medicine at all. Jesus himself faced that problem with the religious establishment of his time.

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Published on June 21, 2014 06:48

They made two historic decisions, one for LGBT equality and one against the israeli occupation. Read more here:

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Published on June 21, 2014 05:53 • 2 views

June 20, 2014

Here's the Q:

Since you insist on using the pejorative “denier” for people who do not subscribe to the same dogma that you do, can I begin to label you as climate change “hypocrite”? Your carbon footprint is multiple times larger than mine, yet I am your version of “the other”?

I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. That means stop with the book tours, conferences, concerts, etc. which belch tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (which might be #8 on your steps for loyal acolytes of the church of global warming).

Some questions:

Do stories that contradict your worldview on Global Warming (GW) ever penetrate your cocoon?

If CO2 is the primary driver of GW, why have temperatures hit a plateau in the last 15 years, with higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere?

Why did 95% of the climate forecast models produced within the last several years fail to accurately predict this plateau?

Have you read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear? Would you be open to listening to another point of view?

How many variables go into climate change? Do you think the models created by scientists have accounted for all of those variables

Why was Swedish climatologist Lennart Bengtsson bullied and threatened by other scientists for having a differing opinion?

Why did Michael Mann refuse to release his raw data behind his famous hockey stick?

Why did Michael Mann advise colleagues (via email) to “hide the decline” of data that contradicted his conclusions?

I very much appreciate your blog, and your tone (most of the time); you can be so magnanimous and kind to people who disagree with you spiritually. Would that you could exhibit the same “generous orthodoxy” to people who disagree with you politically!

Thanks for writing. I frequently have people send me notes like this that point to data that they believe disproves climate change. I keep an open mind and check into that data and so far, have always found it to be unconvincing. I haven't read "State of Fear" but did read reviews of it and the general consensus was that Crichton is a good storyteller but his science was distorted and flawed.

I'm certainly not against skepticism in the face of popular trends. In fact, if anything, I'm sympathetic to those willing to stand up to a majority.

But the bottom line for me is that I've done a lot of reading and attended a lot of lectures on this subject - and in fact attended the original "Sandy Cove" conference in 2004 where John Houghton presented Evangelical leaders with (then) state of the art data on the subject. In light of the fact that 97% of scientists believe in human-induced global warming, I believe it is our God-given responsibility to care for the earth and to exercise foresight in understanding the short- and long-term consequences of our actions. And I believe that the poorest of the world are suffering and will suffer from global warming the most. So … putting those together, I speak out as best as I can.

As for your specific questions above:

- Malfeasance by a few of the 97% of scientists doesn't discredit their whole project any more than malfeasance by a few of the 3% would. The issue is the evidence, and the overwhelming weight of evidence is not tainted by malfeasance. It confirms again and again that if anything, predictions have erred on the side of underestimating rather than overestimating the effects of fossil fuels on the planetary climate system. Finding a flaw in a theory doesn't invalidate it;

- Some of your assumptions above are questionable if not simply wrong. For example, C02 levels are rising and so are temperatures. It's important to remember that the theory doesn't predict that every single place in the world will grow warmer every year. In fact, the theory predicts that as the climate warms in general, certain places will grow colder in the short run.

You're right to say that the climate system is profoundly complex and no model so far comes close to containing the complexity. But our models are certainly the best they've ever been, and so far, when our best models don't predict the data perfectly, the data points to even more severe effects than the models predicted.

You said:

I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. That means stop with the book tours, conferences, concerts, etc. which belch tons of CO2 into the atmosphere (which might be #8 on your steps for loyal acolytes of the church of global warming).

If individual actions like the ones your propose would solve the problem, then I think you're right: it would be necessary for people who believe in climate change to stop traveling. But the sum total of individual actions of this sort won't come close to stopping a systemic problem. That's why the science and public policy are so closely intertwined, and that's why many of us feel a moral obligation to speak out on the subject, even though we sometimes make mistakes and our tone isn't always pitch perfect.

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Published on June 20, 2014 06:53 • 1 view
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross The Road?
Hi there! I just wanted to say, chapter 17 of this book has rocked my world. The entire book has opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind to a whole new way of living. I've considered myself a Christian for some years now, but upon reading this book and applying this new knowledge, I feel like I'm living a Christ-centered, Christ-led, Christ-inspired, Christ-like loving kind of life. Thank you, thank you, thank you Brian McLaren for this gem. After reading your response to someone writing a rather nasty piece about you, you concluded by hoping that if one day their child or grandchild was going to turn away from Christianity that your book would be of use, I'm hoping the same thing! I hope everyone reads this book. This is so not just for Christians, it is for the people who God loves...EVERYONE. Thanks again.

I'm so glad to know the book was helpful. Thanks for the encouragement!
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Published on June 20, 2014 05:52 • 1 view

June 19, 2014

Tikkun magazine recently offered these two letters - by both Jewish people concerned about the occupation of Palestine:


First, we should note that under international and American law, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal. Any business involved in the occupation is therefore illegal too. That alone should be enough to keep American companies away from the Occupation. The Israeli government argues that the occupation is necessary in order to keep Israel safe. How does building Jewish cities on stolen Palestinian land or the daily harassment and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians make Israelis more safe? All indications are that antagonizing Palestinians imperils Israeli lives.

Let us also remember that the Presbyterian resolution does not call for divestment from the State of Israel, from Israeli companies, from individual Israelis or even from Jewish-owned companies. Rather the resolution calls for divestment from three American multinationals implicated in documented human rights abuses.

The Presbyterian General Assembly will consider divestment from three companies: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Caterpillar (CAT) sells heavy equipment used by the Israeli government in military and police actions to demolish Palestinian homes and agricultural lands. It also sells heavy equipment used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, roads solely used by illegal Israeli seIlers, and the construction of the Separation Wall extending across the 1967 “Green Line” into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The number of outstanding demolition orders in East Jerusalem alone has been estimated at up to 20,000.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) provides biometric ID equipment to monitor only Palestinians at several checkpoints inside the West Bank. 2.4 million West Bank Palestinians are required to submit to lengthy waits as well as the mandatory biometric scanning, while Israelis and other passport holders transit without scanning or comparable delays. The biometric ID is also used to regulate residency rights of non-Jews in Jerusalem. Since 1967, Israel has revoked more than 14,000 Jerusalem residency cards, with 4,557 being revoked in 2008 alone. HPQ sells hardware to the Israeli Navy that enables it to maintain the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. This blockade has included interdicting humanitarian supplies and attacking Palestinian fishermen.

Motorola Solutions (MSI) Motorola Solutions provided an integrated communications system, known as “Mountain Rose,” to the Israeli government which uses it for military communications. It also provided ruggedized cell phones to the Israeli army utilized in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The company also sold wide-area surveillance systems for installation in the illegal Israeli settlements.

Plainly put, corporate revenue is built on the back of Palestinian suffering. And Jewish tradition is clear in its rejection of ill-gained profits.

And this:

The Presbyterian resolution targets only the occupation which is fair and right. If I thought it was anti-Israel in any way, I would not support it. But I believe that being pro-Israel requires opposing the occupation.

This resolution is pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, above all, pro-peace. It must be approved. Voting “NO” is a vote for the occupation.

And you can read a related article by Rabbi Brant Rosen here.

Powerful stuff. Let's help it get noticed.

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Published on June 19, 2014 05:19 • 13 views

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