Thoughts on Everything Must Change

May 30, 2008

activism / books / church / culture / emergent / emerging church / ministry / theology

Recently, I’ve been reading Brian McLaren‘s Everything Must Change.

I have also read The Secret Message of Jesus, which is meant to be read as a companion volume. If you have not read The Secret Message of Jesus, feel encouraged to click the link and pick it up, as it is on sale for $6.99 at Amazon.

In any case, as I have been reading Everything Must Change, I have found much to be challenged by, to remember, to share with others, and to allow Jesus to shape my life by. Most of the things that he presents are at least familiar to me, if not things that I’ve thought, prayed, discussed, taught, been taught, and been convicted by. Often, though, he expresses these things in ways that I have thought but not expressed, or have forgotten, or particularly in ways that bring up new implications for my life.

As an aside, there is a review of this book that Jonny Baker wrote several months ago, and it is worth reading. Jonny Baker is one of the people that is most aware of what God is doing in Western culture, and he has a brilliant mind and spirit. The post indicates that much of the thinking is already established in the U.K., although it is certainly radical in the United States. Brian McLaren has an insightful comment on the post, as well.

The strength of this book lies in the insights that it presents into what powers the world, especially America and those who are impacted by the American Empire, and in the insights that it presents into what Jesus has to say to that power. The “framing story” that Jesus offers really can and should change everything, in my life and your life and in the ways we interact with the world around us.

There are countless examples and quotations (and misquotations) floating around on the internet, and a quick search will bring up many of them. But there are a few things that have really shaken me, and inspired my imagination.

Communism, [Rene Padilla] says, specialized in distribution but failed at production. As a result, it ended up doing a great job of distributing poverty evenly. Capitalism, he says, was excellent at production but weak at distribution. As a result, it ended up rewarding the wealthy with obscene amounts of wealth while the poor suffered on in horrible degradation and indignity…

The twenty-first century began in the aftermath of the defeat of Marxism. The story of the coming century will likely be the story of whether a sustainable form of capitalism can be saved from theocapitalism [the religion-like seeking of prosperity], or whether unrestrained theocapitalism will result in such gross inequity between rich and poor that violence and counterviolence will bring civilization to a standstill, or perhaps worse.

There is an amazing amount of depth in that paragraph. and it helps introduce the “suicide machine” and its systems that this book is attempting to deconstruct. Certainly it is not an optimistic statement, but the book is constantly balancing it with statements like this:

If we believe, the decadent and self-indulgent West can be converted from overconsumers to creative stewards, from empire builders to community builders, from sex-obsessed and self-indulgent couch potatoes to people like Graciela, Luiz, and Leticia and their family – who along the way through their life, discover a magnificent vision and a sacred mission that give their lives unimagined meaning.

And this is the kind of statement that challenges everything about the way I live, and inspires my visions about the way I want to live. This is the kind of thing that makes the book a valid challenge to those of us who claim the story of Jesus.