Thursday, June 15, 2006

More on Brian McLaren

Welcome to Kevin Jones and others who've stopped in from CAEI. Make yourselves at home!

Kevin sent me this link to another Brian McLaren interview. Kevin's right; he's kinda squirrelly on some issues. Here's what I picked up from that article:

- The conversation about violence in the Bible is quite daring and interesting. I've never heard these issues discussed in this way, and both McLaren and Knauss acquit themselves well.

- Although McLaren tries hard to be charitable and face questions squarely, his seeming deference and humility smack of an intense self-consciousness and airy superiority. It reminds me of something CS Lewis said: "The truly humble man does not think more highly of himself than others, nor does he consider himself lower. The truly humble man does not think about himself at all" - which is what enables a person with opinions to engage in debate and conversation without regard to self-protection or self-aggrandizement, and thus with respect to all comers.

- Comparing this to the DVC interview, it's obvious where he stands with regard to "organized Christian religion"; he just couldn't bring himself to admit his views to Dan Knauss at tNP. Disingenuous is the word, I believe, to describe his answers here.

- Knauss is right on the money when he detects an emphasis on the superiority of the parachurch/ecumenical entity in McLaren's "deep ecclesiology". This is precisely what the Protestant house church folks I was with (for four years before I became a Catholic) advocated - a "respect" for all expressions of Christian faith, but there was an assumed notion that our group, the small group, the "neighborhood church", the people who thought and worshiped like us - we were the Real Church. We thought it would be "rude" to say this directly to those other poor, unenlightened Christians, so we just kept it to ourselves, like nice people do.

If you believe your vision of Church to be The True Church, you ought to have the cojones to come out and say so. At least, a meaningful debate can then be had about the issue. As time goes on, I have less and less patience with the sort of "tolerance" that begs the question in this way, that assumes the debate is over and you've won, and you're magnanimously extending your benevolence by refusing to engage ideas on the ground. It's precisely what they accuse the Catholic Church and other traditional churches of doing. The question that must be engaged is, On what authority do you stake your view of the Truth? Who has the right to call their interpretation of Scripture correct? If you allow flatly contradictory views to stand alongside your own, what does that say about the nature and knowability of truth?

Like I said to a (currently) agnostic/apostate friend a while back, you can say "All roads lead to God" or "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you're sincere" all you like, but at the end of the day, no one believes that. Everyone believes in right and wrong; they just have different views of what those are. See how "tolerant" the hippie folks are if you walk into a tie-dye and incense store wearing a T-shirt with an American flag and "Support Our Troops" on it. Those folks surely do believe that some things are just right and some things are just wrong, and good for them. We all have a moral sense. We all have a sense that some things will guide us on the path to Heaven, and some things are distractions or impediments. And we all fight to preserve our perception of truth, whether we call it that or not. "Tolerance", as it's been sold to us, is a myth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Another brick on the DaVinci Code pile

Hi, friends. If you’re not too fed up with the tussle in the media over Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code by now, feel free to peruse this response I sent to a friend regarding an interview with Brian McLaren (an “emerging church”/”post-evangelical”-sort of fellow) on DVC. Enjoy!


Hi, Monique. Hope you’re having a good day.

I read the article. I’ve been following the whole DVC thing since the book was first published 3 years ago. I confess I haven’t read the whole book; I’ve read plenty of quotes and excerpts in other “debunking” sorts of books, though, and I’m thoroughly familiar with the themes and plot. I haven’t seen the movie either; we figured we wouldn’t spend money on it in the theatres and we’ll wait until it comes on cable, and maybe catch it then.

I could go on for days about this whole thing because it strikes a nerve with me, but I’ll try to keep my reactions short and to the point here. (Strap yourself in, the ride might get bumpy...)

- Being a Roman Catholic, and actually one who believes that what the Church teaches is true, I find McLaren’s attitude toward DVC – well, exasperating. I do understand his point of view and what he’s trying to say about our human views of who Jesus is, but – I have a fundamental disagreement with him about who/what the Church is. I believe in a knowable, actual entity which is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and that this entity finds its fullest expression in the human (though divinely instituted) organism called the Roman Catholic Church. He doesn’t believe this (and you don’t either, I would guess), which I understand and I'm OK with, but his reinforcement of the negative popular view of Catholicism as “status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion”, as well as characterizing it as “misogynist” and “anti-woman” is quite frustrating to me. These are precisely the things I have found not to be true of the Catholic faith, which is why I converted to become one.

- He seems to be using the publicity surrounding DVC as a platform to make the points that I’ve heard him make before, e.g. about the religious right and political stuff, etc. In DVC, Dan Brown actually completely ignores all expressions of Christianity besides the Roman Catholic Church as symbolized by “the Vatican”. It’s like the whole of Protestant history doesn’t even exist in the DVC universe. (If I were still a Protestant, I think I might have been a little miffed, even.) In comparing DVC to the “Left Behind” series, I don’t think McLaren’s correct in saying that the ideas in DVC aren’t worse than those in LB. In LB, at least they’re trying to grapple with the idea of Jesus Christ as Lord. In DVC, the very historical foundations of Christianity are attacked.

- McLaren’s dismissal of the book as “just fiction” is also distressing – and this attitude should give pause to anyone who considers him- or herself to be a serious artist. Of course the book is fiction (notwithstanding the fact that Dan Brown originally tried to market it as a “historical novel”), but it’s fiction in the sense that Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the book that Lincoln said “started the Civil War”) is fiction. It’s fiction in the sense that Oliver Stone’s JFK is fiction. It’s fiction in the sense that “The End”, that song I wrote (“There you are, at a corner table/Quiet, waiting...”) is fiction. It’s fiction in the sense that your poetry is fiction.


Sorry to shout, but this is important. We don’t read, watch, listen to, or write fiction because we like weaving pretty, intricate webs of useless lies about the world for our own entertainment, or to deceive other people. No. We write songs and stories and poetry and novels with fictional plots and characters precisely in order to get at the deeper truths of the heart, of emotion, of the psyche, of the human condition, of the spirit. DVC has hugely impacted popular culture – not because people believe it to be factually true or false, but because it has reached them on a deeper emotional level, confirming what they always felt they “knew” about Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular – that Jesus was really just a nice guy and wouldn’t have been as dumb or as mean as insensitive Christians or challenging Church doctrines they’ve encountered. It’s served to reinforce the prejudices they have against Christianity/Catholicism and made it easy for them to feel they’ve been let in on the secret – that they know “the truth” now. I’ve been on countless blog threads where people have been discussing this, and you’d be amazed at how many posts I’ve seen that say something like, “You stupid Catholics – it’s just fiction! It’s just a story! And anyway, it’s all true! You wouldn’t be so upset if Dan Brown hadn’t told all your deepest secrets, would you? And now the whole world knows that Christianity/Catholicism/YOU are all a bunch of lying, murderous, deluded maniacs bent on world domination and the permanent crushing of the human spirit!” (See above reference to “status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion”.) *Sigh. Thanks very much. NEXT.

- I do agree with McLaren on two of his points: 1) Christians desperately need to study and understand Church history better than they do. This would go a long way toward solving a host of problems facing the whole Church today. 2) Intelligent, respectful dialogue is a good thing and there should be more of it. And I applaud you for your effort in trying to foster it. I hope my contribution is suitable to the discussion, despite my strong feelings and statements on the subject.

*Hoo. I think I’ll have myself a glass of something and calm down now. Sorry if this has been heavy – as I said, it strikes a nerve. If you ever want to discuss particular aspects of the above, please feel free to email or call – I do enjoy talking with you about these sorts of things, and I hope I’m successful in my efforts to be fair and charitable toward ideas I disagree with. If I’m not, do let me know. :)

Peace of Christ, Kathleen