Tag Archives: The Great Spiritual Migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian McLaren – A Book Review

McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY


 

A Review by Bill Dahl

In the Foreword to the book entitled, Mis-Measuring Our Lives,[i] France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy[ii] wrote:

The time to change our trajectory is now. Amidst all these difficulties we cannot rest content with reacting on a day to day basis; we will not recover from the crisis with just ad hoc solutions…the only thing that will save us is unchaining our minds so as to gather the strength to make the necessary changes. The only thing that will save us is unchaining our minds so as to free ourselves from conformism, conservatism and short sighted interests….such a revolution is inconceivable without deeply challenging the way we represent the challenges of what we undertake, the results of what we do.”[iii]

Although writing in two, somewhat different contexts to a global audience, one underlying theme of McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian is the uncanny parallel with Sarkozy’s tremarks above:

  1. The time to change the trajectory of the worldwide Christian faith is now.
  2. Christians must unchain their minds.
  3. A revolution in Christianity must include deeply challenging the way Christians represent the challenges they undertake, how they behave, and the results of what they do.

McLaren writes:

The Christian faith needs to be radically converted to a new fuel. We need to be energized by something other than beliefs; because beliefs are not the point.” Not the point? That’s not to say beliefs are insignificant. They are powerfully significant, for better or worse.”[iv]

The author then launches into some superb examples of how specific Christian beliefs have led to unfortunate historical and current day outcomes. McLaren envisions the migration like this:

“Must we stay where we are, forever defining ourselves as a system of beliefs, or may we migrate to a new understanding of Christian faith as a way of life, (emphasis is mine), a practice of ongoing personal growth and cultural evolution ?[v]

McLaren then turns to the life of Jesus as the example of what he refers to as the way of love; a life embodying love, mercy, compassion, reconciliation, community, solidarity, friendship, kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, love for neighbor, the other, the earth  and humanity.

McLaren’s thesis is a call to what I refer to as “re-belief.” He makes the distinction between beliefs and faith as follows:

“Beliefs are commonly defined as opinions or judgments about which a person is fully persuaded. Although beliefs generally cannot be proven they are treated among believers as certainties, perhaps not as absolute certainties, but as certain enough that they aren’t up for questioning (statements that a group requires members to and not question or contradict. In contrast, faith is conviction, the deep and motivating sense that a course of action is right and worth doing…a conviction (faith) lived out in the context of uncertainty, involving risk, proceeding not through certainty but through confidence (hope) and expressed through love.”[vi]

McLaren goes on to share very personal examples of his own journey “seeking to conform to the way of Christ by willing to rethink”[vii] the beliefs he was saddled with at certain points in his life. These examples are poignant and powerful, demonstrating walking the talk. This concludes the first section of the book entitled “spiritual migration.”

The second part of the book delves into the essential “theological migration’ where McLaren addresses the issue of the conception of God as a violent God of domination versus a nonviolent God of liberation. He dives into the history of “justifiable homicide,” (my term), violence, prejudice domination, subjugation and “un-love” perpetrated in the name of the faith. He lays out a rational, logical narrative as to how these outcomes are related to our conception of God, our reading of the Bible (literal vs. literary) and other causal factors. He suggests an approach consistent with the way of love.

McLaren titles the third section of the book The Missional Migration. – the transition from organized religion to organizing religion. His focus is on moving away from the extractive, consumptive and unsustainable way of life that is destroying both civilization and planet. In this sense, the migration McLaren is calling for is moving from a “religion organized for self-preservation and privilege to a religion organizing for the common good of all.”[viii] This section contains innumerable practical examples of exactly what some of those beliefs and behaviors for might look like for modern day Christians, modeled by the life of Jesus.

The book contains superb lists of questions at the end of each chapter and three appendices to guide individual readers and groups into further discussion, contemplation and a guide to the behavioral migration to the way of love.

Admittedly, I have read every book Brian McLaren has penned. I have met him on several occasions and enjoyed his presence. His life, mind and passions are inspirational to me on a personal level. As one who is self-described as widely read on the topic(s) of faith and culture, this particular book stands out to me, for several reasons:

  1. As we age, the proximity and reality of the light at the end of this earthly life becomes tangibly more apparent. In this book, it is clear to me that Brian McLaren is no exception to this truth. The passion, compassion, and love for the Christian faith, Jesus, his followers and institutions erected in His name are all distinctly expressed here (as they have been, in my opinion), throughout the author’s lifetime.
  2. There is a rather unique sense of urgency expressed by McLaren in this book. Perhaps, this too, emanates from A. above.
  3. The vision McLaren lays out in this particular writing, is accompanied by a roadmap to guide both individuals and institutions (as he has done in several previous books). However, this particular roadmap is informed by specific global and cultural imperatives where spectating just won’t cut it anymore. The urgency of global challenges (and the state of the Christian faith) demands concurrent, immediate changes in individual and group behavior to positively inform, and re-direct the trajectory of those current challenges.

For me, this book is an urgent call for the faith and the faithful to immediately engage in the process of what has been referred to as de-illusionment. I believe it is also a deeply personal  sharing of McLaren’s actual life journey whereby de-illusionment has been an incredibly important aspect of his development as a person, his relationship with Jesus, and voice for his cherished faith. In this sense, the term de-illusionment is defined in the following:

As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions, a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”[ix]

There is much here for those involved in organized communities of faith. Clearly, McLaren has not abandoned his deep respect and love for the church, in its myriad of forms, wherever it may be found. In this work, McLaren maintains his ongoing “within-stitutional” (my term) voice, echoing through the corridors of organized religion. The value of the book is also for those with no current church attendance and/or denominational commitment. Yet, if I had one recurring longing during my consumption of this work, it was the resurging hope that Brian McLaren pens a fiction work in the near future; one that may embody what carrying out the vision shared in this book, just might look like…

Read Brian McLaren’s The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian. May you end up where I did, embracing McLaren’s call for V’yisa’u! – To get going, go forward, go farther, NOW!

May “finger by finger, the fist of your little heart be pulled open, where a new depth of naked, essential faith in God mysteriously become possible.”[x]

Buy this book. Share a copy with a friend. Engage in the dialog it compels. Introduce it to your faith community. Unchain your mind. Accept the permission and invitation to re-belief. Begin the essential process of de-illusionment.

V’yisa’u!


 

 

NOTES:

[i] Stiglitz, Joseph E., Se, Amartya ans Fitoussi, Jean-Paul Mismeasuring Our Lives – Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up – The Report By The Commission on The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Copyright (c) 2010 , The New Press New York, NY Excerpts that make up this quote are compiled from pages vii, xv.

[ii] Nicolas Sarkozy was the President of France from 2007-2012.

iii McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 31.

iv McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 42.

[vi] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 45

[vii] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 40.

[viii] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 153.

[ix] Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1978, p.192. This sociological classic was one of the first longitudinal studies of how people’s beliefs and perceptions change throughout the life cycle.

[x] McLaren, Brian D. – The Great Spiritual Migration – How The World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian,  Copyright (c) 2016 by Brian D. McLaren Convergent Books, an Imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Random House, LLC. New York, NY. p. 203.