March 26, 2008 / David Fitch

EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE or EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED? A Question for my friend Brian McLaren on the eve of his DeepShift book tour coming to Chicago

It’s kind of late in the game to review Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. So much has already been said. But I thought I’d do a quick review anyway and raise some questions. I think the book is important and well done. And I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and say thank-you to Brian for the book. I also want to remind everyone that Brian’s DeepShift Tour on the book is arriving right here next week in Chicagoland: Apr 4th and 5th at the First United Church in Oak Park. I am hoping to be there and urge others to join in the dialogue. I am reasonably sure a good price is still available for most of you. You can find out more right here.

Review of Everything Must Change by Brian McLarenEverything Must Change is vintage McLaren. The book tackles large issues, digesting significant data and theological material. Yet he writes with a prose that makes it all imminently accessible and compelling for those of us who don’t have time or the scientific and/or theological acumen to really dig and understand the writers and issues he is engaging. In doing all this, Brian’s writing is a service to the church of Jesus Christ.There are many highlights in the book, too numerous for me to recount here. I’ll just offer a few that were highlights for me of Brian’s book Everything Must Change.”Framing stories”: Brian says we all have framing stories that make sense of the way we live in our worlds. Brian says that corporately as citizens of the West, our framing stories are failing (p. 68). The evidence of this is the global crises we find ourselves in. Brian’s task then is to unfold the alternative framing story offered by Jesus as a counter story ( a counter narration) over against the dominant framing stories that so many of us, even Christians, live by. I think Brian draws closer here to those of us who have argued that the church is about the narration of a counter story to the one that is in power (I am thinking obviously of Milbank, Hauerwas and friends). Admittedly, there are stark differences, but thanks to Brian for opening this particulart way of post foundational of thinking to a much broader audience.”Theocapitalism”: In the book, Brian deconstructs the master framing stories that are killing us (with global crisis). One of these framing stories he calls theocapitalism. According to Brian, the ideology of theocapitalism narrates “the invisible hand” of the market as God and economic prosperity (meaning material wealth accumulation) as a sign of God’s blessing. Theocapitalism narrates a world that blesses progress, economic growth, happiness through owning, competition and autonomous unaccountable money making as inherent goods (Pt 6 of the book). Admittedly, this is a critique which makes me smile. In the case of my own evangelical roots, it seems that the values/forces of multinational capitalism have infected everything we do including/and especially church. Thanks Brian for some helpful clarity here for the church.”The Suicide Machine”: Here Brian narrates how three systems – the prosperity system, the equity system, and the security system – work together to create a suicide machine – the earth’s ecosystem. The three systems work together to create a system that is headed for destruction. This is best illustrated in the diagram on p. 66. Each system has a framing story which undergirds the system (for example theocapitalism for the prosperity system). I think the explanation and descriptions offered here are powerful, compelling and illuminating. This is the heart and the brilliance of the book. Brian helps us see the framing stories we are believeing which in turn allow us to cooperate with these destructive forces, even in the name of Christ. Brian then turns and offers Jesus and the Kingdom of God as a counter-story. Thanks Brian for the way your writing here exposes things.MY QUESTIONS FOR BRIAN My questions to Brian for this book are really the questions I bring with me to the whole emerging church movement. I think this book stands as a wonderful statement of some of the central strengths of the emerging church movement. The sentiments of this book are what draw me into the emerging conversation in the first place and why I try to participate. I have great hopes for the future of this movement. Yet this book also reveals to me some of the issues that remain to be addressed if (in my opinion) the emerging church movement is to have legs. These questions center on asking just how will everything be changed? Most of us resonate with the many critiques of the evangelical church emanating from the emerging church movement and its writers. But any constructive movement must have proposals for the way we embody the coming revolution (“the revolution of hope” as Brian labels it). I recognize this is an easy statement to make (just about anything). Yet I really do seek to engage this issue with seriousness and constructively for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom in this movement. So please bear with me (give me a day or two) until this next post. In this next post I wish to pose two questions for Brian centering on the issue – Should it be EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE or EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED (with the empty tomb and the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord). I hope it will add to the upcoming day with Brian McLaren and the upcoming stop on the DeepShift Tour.