How "Everything Must Change"
A Pastor Reports on Brian McLaren's "Everything Must Change" Tour
[Note to reader: The following is a firsthand account of one pastor's experience. Due to its length, we have divided it into multiple parts, which we will be posting daily all week, Lord willing.]
We’ve all heard it said: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The Bible says it another way in Ecclesiastes 1:9-10:
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us.
I found that the essence of these statements are still proving to be axiomatic after my experience at the “Everything Must Change” conference held at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana with emergent church leader Brian McLaren. I sat through session after session listening to the emergent “gospel;” complete with medieval chants and choruses of despair, apologies to the Native American Indians of the St. Joseph River Valley, as well as to “Mother Earth” for scarring her through our mining and oil drilling operations. The sarcasm with which traditional Scriptural positions were discussed, coupled with repeated swipes at Christians who were (in McLaren’s opinion) waiting to be “snatched away,” “evacuated,” or “beamed up,” brought one particular Scripture passage constantly to my heart and mind. 2 Peter 3:3-13 captures the essence of the conference:
NEW AGE... MIDDLE AGE
Upon arriving at Goshen College on Friday night (5/9/08), I immediately went to the registration table to pick up my name tag along with all the other conference materials. I was handed a plain cloth tote bag containing sample publications from organizations such as The Sierra Club, the One Campaign, Emergent Village, etc. As I came to the end of the table, I was also given a complimentary “green,” low-energy light bulb. I knew at that moment, that I was about to begin a very unique experience to say the least.
The first session of the evening was entitled, “Focusing on the Wounds of our Planet.” We sang a song based upon St. Francis of Assisi’s poem “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” and were then led in an opening prayer of “location and repentance” by an attractive young African-American woman who approached the microphone and began the invocation.
“O Great God, we gather here where the Elkhart and St. Joseph rivers meet and then flow into Lake Michigan. From Lake Michigan to Lake Ontario, on through Niagara and ultimately into the Atlantic, one of Your great oceans that cover the face of the earth.”
She then went on,
“We repent for the violence and injustice done to the Illini, Miami, and other native tribes of the St. Joseph River Valley;” to which the audience responded, “Ancient One, Forgive us.”
When she spoke of the native tribes, she was overcome with emotion and had to step back from the microphone until she could collect herself and continue; only after being comforted by an associate on the platform. Allow me to say right here and now that I was touched by the young woman’s sincerity, and in no way want to mock or denigrate her feelings and convictions; I merely desire to express my serious disagreement with both the philosophy and logic behind them. Following that “liturgy,” we viewed a DVD prepared by the Sierra Club exposing the immoral mining techniques used by energy companies in West Virginia. We were then asked to break up into small groups of two or three to discuss our thoughts and feelings, until being called back together by a gently ringing chime; a sound which became very familiar during the entire weekend.
The music was all original and was performed by a very gifted young woman. The tonality was “modal” and a-rhythmic; reminiscent of the “coffee house” styles of the 1960s; a sort of “Hillsong meets Joan Baez” blend. Very prosaic in nature, with quickly spoken recitations over guitar and violin, seven or eight words to every two or three beats; all crying out about our rape of “Mother Earth” and other human rights violations. The thing that stuck out to me was that there was no worship poetry extolling the Glory of God or the beauty of Christ in creation. Everything was directed towards an inward, subjective, and very mystical experience, coupled with a worldview which represented more of the Gospel of “Marx” than of “Mark.” Reflecting back to the opening “worship chorus” inspired by Francis of Assisi; Mr. McLaren stated that in one particular city a man rose from his seat and walked out because the song sounded “New Age.” He then scoffed, “Not New Age, but Middle Age”… a comment that drew delighted laughter from his admiring congregation.
The emergent community’s fixation with non-Biblical practices rooted in the Middle Ages has been responsible for leading many sincere pilgrims to explore the “ancient-modern” church through candles, incense, adoration of icons and relics, etc. The audience was repeatedly encouraged to cast off their old “framing story” (the way they see the world) including such bad things as doctrinal and systematic Bible study, since (according to emergent thought) nothing can be definitely known. Therefore, any positive statements that sounded like confidence in the existence of absolute truth were scoffed at as being “narrow minded and proud.”
The conclusion of the Friday evening “session” was an amazing demonstration of this philosophy. The audience was directed to many different “sacred spaces” set up to aid them in getting in touch with themselves and “the divine”. One station was a table covered with votive candles which could be lit and meditated upon. Another held a large bowl of water where one could get in touch with the “flow” of nature and spirit, and yet another featured a bowl of dirt where one could literally touch “Mother Earth” and contemplate all the evils done to her. I got in touch with my car, drove home (burning precious fossil fuel) and finally, got in touch with my bed.
NEW AGE… OLD PROBLEM
Saturday morning (5/10/08) began with “Waking Up From a Bad Dream” where it was our task to determine and discuss the world’s top problems. Beginning with another “worship song” inspired by medieval piety, we were reminded that God once had a dream for this planet, and that our mining is a “scar cut across the face of Mother Earth.” We were also encouraged that…
“As God’s dream works in us, it then flows through our bodies via expressions such as art, poetry, shopping, voting, etc.”
Once again The Gospel was represented as no longer being an issue of personal redemption from sin, but rather “The Message of Jesus” which addresses population control, energy consumption, political justice, and the non-violent resistance of authoritarian regimes. I was stirred by the thought that my wife Doreen and I would probably be looked upon as being globally irresponsible for having five beautiful children. Under many global population guidelines we would be required (or at least urged) to have aborted four of them in the name of saving the planet. Isn’t it tragic that as a result of the recent devastating earthquake in China, thousands of couples are now grieving the loss of their only child; many of them having been sterilized to prevent any future pregnancies (man’s wisdom at work)?
The conference audience was constantly reminded that “catastrophic consequences due to global warming are upon us,” and asked to consider that “fact” when we stood under a warm shower, we “probably felt better than the King of France did during the Middle Ages.” To this I mused, “Does this now mean that I am to feel guilty for the blessing of hot water as well?”
Illegal immigration found its way into this ancient/new “Teaching of Jesus” when Mr. McLaren stated,
“If only an invisible border separated your baby from 40 extra years of life, only a really bad person would pass a law making immigration illegal.”
I thought to myself, “If America is so bad; perhaps we need more 'emergent evangelists' stationed at the borders telling these misguided seekers that they are better off in their simpler, more earth-friendly villages than in this land of irresponsible consumption! Ask yourself the obvious question… “Why do our babies live longer?” “Why do these precious people desire to live in the developed West anyway? You see, Mr. McLaren’s illogical diatribe against everything American suffers a fatal self-inflicted blow when he is forced to come to grips with our level of health care and welfare programs, public safety and education, and all the other benefits which prove so irresistible to the rest of the world’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
He also could not resist venturing into the arena of foreign relations as well.
“When the prosperous, rich minority [“McLaren speak” for White, European, Evangelical, Heterosexuals] feels afraid of the angry majority, they decrease foreign aid and increase military spending”. Also, the prosperous [American] says, “Let’s sell arms to many different poor nations. That way they will fight each other and leave us alone.”
And what workshop on social, political, and economic injustice would be complete without a few words on behalf of yet another of McLaren’s favorite victimized “minority groups”… the homosexual and lesbian community. He stated:
“Homosexuals have been perfect scapegoats for the powerful throughout history. There are enough of them [7% at his estimate] to be present, but too few to do you any real harm in return.”
This proclamation scored even more points with his small but approving audience.
To be continued tomorrow, Lord willing. . . . .
"God thundereth marvellously with His voice; great things doeth He, which we cannot comprehend." (Job 37:5)
[Links were added to this article]