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Strong & Kind – Book Giveaway & Review of Brian McLaren’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road”

No one knows how to prod and provoke American evangelicals quite like Brian McLaren.

I first met Brian years ago when he’d been freshly  anointed one the Top 25  Most Influential American Evangelicals by Time Magazine. At that point, Brian was leading a church plant, was a central voice (some say “The Godfather”) of what was then called the Emergent Church, and had penned a few helpful, but restrained books.

I say restrained, because Brian, has had a way of nibbling around the edges of big questions by asking provocative questions. Oftentimes, his books and talks felt like Guerilla-Theology – he’d distract readers with widely agreed upon Christian categories then attack those sensibilities in the best and most kind ways.

Since leaving the pastorate, Brian is no longer nibbling. He is no longer content to ask provocative questions. Brian’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, is offering solutions – and if not solutions, he is attempting to chart a positive path for Christian praxis in a multi-faith world. Brian’s central questions is this: In a multi-faith world, how can Christians form a religious identity that is both strong and kind?

The Pursuit

This is a precious pursuit for those of us who want to extend Christ’s love for all humanity; to witness to them what we know as the full grace of God while allowing their story to develop with God without artificial pressure and along God’s timetable.

It is also for those of us who see and hear fellow Christians on television and radio who claim Christianity, but – at least in our estimation – carry neither the spirit of Christ nor our assent to speak on our behalf. We want a path forward that neither abandons our commitments nor abuses our neighbor in the name of those commitments.

As Brian sees it, Christians have been good at forming strong identities that are hostile or weak identities which are benign. By this he means, we can stand of for Jesus but only to the domination of others or we can have a weak faith in Jesus that lacks power, significance, and meaning. Brian writes…

“My pursuit,…is a Christian identity that moves me toward people of other faiths in whole-hearted love, not in spite of their non-Christian identity and not in spite of my own Christian identity, but because of my identity as a follower of God in the way of Jesus.”

Brian’s endeavor is rooted in kindness: “We are increasingly faced with a choice, I believe, not between kindness and hostility, but between kindness and nonexistence.” Yet Brian is not arguing for a mealy-mouthed interfaith dialogue wherein we sit in circles and hear the beliefs of the religious other, share our stories, and have cookies and punch. McLaren wants to help the church re-imagine cherished – and distinctly Christian – practices in light of the teaching and Jesus and Paul. This, Brian argues, runs counter to the narratives of domination and colonialism inherited from Constantinian Christianity.

The Answer

The answer for hostility, McLaren posits, isn’t loosening hold of or losing faith in Christ, but engaging more deeply in the centuries old practices which have enlivened the church. Brian divides the text into 4 large sections: (1) The Crises of Christian Identity, (2) The Doctrinal Challenge, (3) The Liturgical Challenge, and (4) The Missional Challenge. Each of these share a locus of uniquely Christian practice.

It is these Christian practices which will either inspire or enrage readers.

I suspect no reader will agree with Brian’s entire proposal, but they will be thoughtfully challenged by Brian’s new, fresh approach. The simple truth is that something about the way American Evangelicalism is practiced has and is producing or contributing to some of the hostility we witness around the world.

In response, there must be resources among the people of Jesus to heal and solve the problem. Accepting the fact that Evangelicals have more influence over themselves than they do adherents of other religions, our core beliefs and practices seem an obvious place to start this healing – even if we haven’t thus far. What if Soteriology, atonement theory, Christology, the Eucharist, and our sermons, songs, and prayers were actually the antidote to the forces which create and sustain religious hostility?

In appropriating Christian uniqueness for multi-faith engagement, Brian charts new territory. It is neither okay to beat others with Christianity or trash our treasured beliefs. Brian offers means of using Christian beliefs to draw us toward others (particularly Anabaptists approaches to Christology, pg. 139-140).

Ultimately, Brian realizes what many fail to understand: Christians live in a world with people of other faiths. This is the way it is and the way it has always been. No! They will not all convert to Christianity, yet we have to live together, work together, and strive for general human flourishing. Brian offers a creative (if at sometimes theologically speculative) and faith-oriented path to engage the world on distinctly Christian terms.

However, if Brian were sitting across the table from me, as we have in varied places from Houston and Abilene, TX to Menlo Park, CA, I’d have serious questions about evangelism, which seem elusive and vague in this most recent work. Perhaps, Brian is leaving space there. Space for truly interpersonal engagement, the kind that can only be filled with friendship.

If you long for a better, more peaceful, less hostile world, click now and buy this book.


The Giveaway

I’m giving away 3 FREE COPIES of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World. To ENTER TO WIN, please do at least one of the following:

  1. Leave a comment in the “Comments” section of the blog telling me why you would like to win a free copy (not Facebook).
  2. Tweet a link to this blog post saying: “@seanpalmer is giving away Brian McLaren’s newest book. I entered to win. You should too. Go to www.thepalmerperspective.com #jerichobooks”
  3. Link this post to your Facebook Profile.
  4. SUBSCRIBE to The Palmer Perspective using the “Subscribe Via E-Mail” box in the upper right-hand corner.


The Disclosures

Disclosure of Material Connection (1): Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclosure of Material Connection(2): I received the work reviewed above for free from the publisher and at the urging of the author in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  • Sean,

    I make many missteps as I share life with people of other faiths. It is out of ignorance. I know there are tons of reasons given why we should be alienated from the other faiths, but I don’t warm up to that way of thinking. There is a lot to learn from other faiths if we will lower our defenses and listen. When I do that, I end up learning more about my own.

    McLaren’s materials challenge my thinking, leading to better service on my part. That is why I would be stoked to get his latest book.

  • Sounds like a substantive book from him and not just something to fulfill a publishers quota. Thanks for the review and the offer.

  • i have long been a Mclaren fan. He writes good stuff. He’s very challenging and thought-provoking. His thoughts are mostly biblically sound, though you gotta watch out sometimes.
    Thank you for sharing the book and your thoughts with the world. God bless. Grace and Peace.

  • jesse

    I would like a free copy because I have read a couple of McLarens books in the past and have really enjoyed them. I particularly like The Secret Message of Jesus. It would be great to read some more of his work.

  • Bob Smith

    I have heard of Brian McLaren, but have not read any of his books. This sounds very intriguing, esp. as we seek to be followers of Jesus in a pluralistic society. I appreciate your insights and reflections on his book.

  • Steve

    Why should I receive a free book? As a Director of World Mission Support for my denomination, I am continually seeking to build bridges. I believe this book would aid me in a quest to do just that. Kudos on the offer of this particular book – – an incredibly important topic.

  • Thanks for the contest! McLaren has shaped how I come to the table of Christianity by those poignant questions to which you were referring. I don’t agree with everything I read from him but by reading it I have become a better minister. I have most of his other books and would love to have this one too. Didn’t even know it was out.

  • Ejp

    I would like to read this book because I would like to.

  • Corey Markum

    Love to win it- Brian’s provocativeness is often rooted in a real awareness of historicity and social context. As a historian who dabbles in scholarly theology, that’s a huge points-winner for me.

  • Rhesa Higgins

    I would like a copy of the book because it will help me be more open to directees of any faith.

  • Darin Campbell

    Sean, thanks for this review. I have to admit that I’m not as familiar with Brian McLaren as I am with other contemporary authors of this genre. Your review has definitely piqued my interest and I would like to be entered to win a copy of this book. Thanks!

  • I would love to learn more about creating community and extending grace across cultural and religious lines. It sounds like McLaren’s book would be a useful too in that endeavor.

  • Marie Dozier

    I would like to win a copy because I will read it. I am struggling right now in my faith journey and particularly with my spiritual identity. I’ve been struggling for some time. I practice Yoga and have several Muslim friends. I even named my precious puppy after my best Muslim friend I went to nursing school. I would love to see how these significant leaders are related/connected since all three of them have impacted my life over the years. Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Deanna Boddicker

    I would love to read this book! I was raised in the Mormon church and feel I know little of Jesus. What I read about the Christian movement today does not make me anxious to be a Christian. Yet, I feel God in my heart.. I find myself in a spiritual depression! My close family have excepted Jesus as their savior and joined a conservative congregation. They wish I would do the same. I have never studied the bible in the Morrmon church, but I can’t believe in a God who excludes gay people, Muslim people or any other religion, color, sexual orientation! My God loves all his children! I wish I could defend myself! I’d love to know others feel the same.

  • Chris

    Hey, not expecting to get this book as I am a school chaplain in New Zealand
    However it is totally relevant to me as I am in a Christian (Anglican/Episcopalian) school which has more people of other cultures and faiths or no faith. I am such a fan of Emergent ideas that I came to CYNKC, Cheers

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