Orville Jenkins's Reviews > Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? by Brian D. McLaren
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Does Dissent or Disagreement Have to be Hostile?
(The Model Jesus Gave Us)

This review essay was prompted by a review article by Bob Allen of Baptist News Global in 2013, "Author proposes end to interfaith hostility" and is based on my early comments there.

I was amazed at some of the wild-eyed comments by readers who lashed out against McLaren for various envisioned evils or concepts they attributed to terminologies they saw reflected in the book, through Allen's review essay news article.

Some comments denounced McLaren on various charges or views unrelated to the book, which I found to be full of Gospel and Grace, in line with the approach and speech Jesus used as portrayed in the Gospels. He was particularly lambasted as a universalist who had abandoned the exclusive claims of the Bible about Christ. This was not even what McLaren was talking about.

I have read several books by McLaren and am somewhat aware of his warmhearted outreach to non-believers and estranged believers.

I note that McLaren is not speaking against any "exclusivity" nor was his intent to promote inclusivity -- that was not the topic he addresses here. In fact he does affirm the uniqueness of Jesus and his message. That was not in question, nor was it the topic he was discussing in this book. He is speaking against hostility. How much Good News can we project if we are hostile and sarcastic and combative? Would you listen to such a harangue?

Terminology may distract us from the real Gospel issues here. Jesus, from what I see in the Gospels, never disrespected anyone. Look at the fun he had with the Syro-Phoenician woman in their discussion, making fun of the respective cultural attitudes towards each other. Then he simply acted as the healing Lord. The gospels portray Jesus welcoming attitude and willing interaction with serious-minded enquirers of any background.

Combative Culture
It is not about winning, or about defeating a religious enemy. It is about making sure people hear the Good News -- about God's Love in Jesus! People aren't listening to you if you are attacking them!

Does our expression of disagreement with someone's idea, proposal or philosophy need to be an attack on the writer or speaker's integrity or personal worth? This seems to be the ethos today, ironic for a society built upon and touting today the concept of tolerance and diversity? It seems even otherwise good people feel it is not only appropriate but righteous to trash a person they may disagree with.

Such a response is even more egregious, it seems to me, when the reacting individual has stated or obviously indicates he has not even read the book under discussion!

We are called, as Good News people, followers of Jesus Christ, to follow his example, to give our neighbors and friends and fellow confessors of Christ Good News, not beat them down and defeat them. The people Jesus was most harsh with were the leaders within his own cultural faith tradition. More self-reflection on our own backgrounds might be more appropriate. Jesus was not a modern westerner.

McLaren is addressing our attitude -- is it like that of Christ, the Suffering Servant model that gives us a life-sized view of how God's love works? He contrasts the world's militarist belligerent approach to others with God's wooing loving way to freedom in service, overcoming even Death with submissive service on behalf of others.

This is the portrait the Gospels provide and the character reference McLaren references in his focus on the problem of belligerent hostility toward others. This common militaristic approach contrasts with loving outreach demonstrated in the New Testament, in contrast to some of our cultural streams of western Christianity.

Jesus' Setting
So it would help us to project ourselves into Jesus' historical and cultural setting to hear the words Jesus says as speaking to our own tradition. The authority is not our western religious tradition, but the Covenant God as revealed in Jesus in His time and space.

In our decades of missionary experience in Africa and the Middle East, we were always able to relate on a positive spiritual level to non-Christians who were seeking to know God's will and way. We experienced few instances of antagonism from non-Christians of whatever tradition. I have never had any Muslim acquaintance reject my offer to pray for them in Jesus' name.

I try to follow the biblical Covenant relational approach, in preference to the modern western rationalist idea approach (mental concepts as the basis of truth). This is what I understand McLaren to be calling for. It is easy to be seduced by the rationalist Modernist worldview to think Truth consists in objectified "facts" and collected bits of information on religious or metaphysical topics.

This is ironically the shared framework of both what was called "Modernism" and the backlash that called itself "Fundamentalism." They were just two forms of the same type of rationalist reductionism, but too different ideological directions, and defended different ideological premises.

This Rationalism in whatever ideological guise is simply one form of the Gnostic approach to truth that followers of Jesus rejected very early in the history of our Faith. What is Truth? Jesus -- not information or true facts, as modern rationalist science would have us believe -- is the Way, He is the Truth -- and He as Life is found in Faith, because of the Covenant Love God expressed for us through His Blood.

Jesus is the Way
Jesus is the Way, not modern American reductionism to any of a selection al of rationalist theories. Thanks to McLaren for reminding us of that. Like Jesus taught us, we should treat others the way we want to be treated.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 23, 2018 – Shelved

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