Generally, I try to have better titles to posts, but sometimes you come across something that baffles you so much that words are impossible to come by to describe it.
Take, for instance, Brian McLaren’s willingness to celebrate Ramadan with his Muslim friends. Most of his subsequent posts are emails from loyal fans thanking him and congratulating him for his choice to do this (as opposed to responding to the legitimate critiques).
Now, some might think, “Joel, why does this upset you?” For one, McLaren is, by his actions (and words, look at his “part 3”) acknowledging Allah and the Christian God to be the same. Now, I could offer up academic arguments pointing out they are not the same, but I want to take a different approach. McLaren is telling Christians in the US to be more open minded, more willing to embrace our Islamic “brothers.” But what does he say to Christians in the Middle East? What does he say to the girl in Pakistan who was gang raped because she refused to accept Allah as God? Does he tell her, “You silly conservative girl; if you would embrace postmodernism instead of your modernistic, closed-minded way of thinking, you wouldn’t have been raped”? What does he say to the little boy who watched his father killed by government officials because his father was unwilling to admit Allah was God?
In most of these Islamic countries, it’s okay to be a Christian so long as you pay homage to Islam. So long as you acknowledge Allah as God, you can go about your business. But the moment you challenge that notion, you are established as a target. So in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia we have Christian brothers and sisters who refuse to submit to Islamic law, who refuse to partake in Ramadan, who refuse to see Allah as God and they suffer for it. Meanwhile, we have Brian McLaren mocking those Christians by taking part in Ramadan.
His whole universalistic message makes little to no sense from a Christian perspective. For one, the time we live in is actually less pluralistic than the time of Christ and the early Christians. So to argue that Jesus, John, Peter, or Paul wrote in a time of single-mindedness, or that the early Church was formed in a time when everyone thought the same is simply ignorant of history. The Romans were known for taking on foreign gods. It was chic to worship foreign gods. It was also quite alright if one didn’t want to worship any gods (the Stoics, for example, were borderline atheists, with “god” being reasoning). So long as one acknowledged that Caesar was lord all was tolerated.
But that was too much for the early Christians. It wasn’t enough to simply worship Jesus along with other gods; to the early Church, they worshiped Jesus alone. This wasn’t some personal choice that made them feel better either. They did this because they recognized that Jesus was the only true God, the only One worthy of worship, and that all other people, gods, and objects fell drastically short in terms of worthiness of worship. These Christians took this belief, this “dogma,” into the coliseums, into the fires of persecution, and onto their deaths by torture. When they faced the hungry lions, they refused to relent the belief that Jesus Christ alone is to be worshiped. When the Romans put the legionnaires sword to their necks, these Christians refused to waver in their convictions. And yet, here is Brian McLaren and sadly the emergent movement as a whole, in the face of no persecution, in the face of no threats, in the face of no discomfort (other than slight mocking), throwing away the exclusivity of Christ – a belief that the early Church died for – as though it were nothing.
Yes, I could offer the academic arguments. Yes, I could show how universalism or even McLaren’s inclusive attitude is self-contradictory. I could exegete multiple passages of Scriptures. Truth be told, those are better defenses. However, McLaren and the other Emergents are big on living in the “real world.” Well the above is an argument based on the real world.
This inclusive/universalist attitude reminds me quite a bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knight Sir Robin, who nearly did a lot of things and acted as though he were brave, but when his feet were put to the fire he was no where to be found. Like Sir Robin, McLaren and company talk a big talk about taking on fundamentalists, about changing the world, and about shifting doctrine to become “closer to how Christ lived,” but when the times get tough, they’re nowhere to be found. How quickly they forget why Christ died – He claimed to be God. If He were a universalist, He could have easily made vast appeals and gotten Himself out of the situation. But instead, He went to His death claiming to be God; He went to His death because He claimed to be God and His followers died in return, truly acting like Christ by dying for Him. McLaren and company, however, have chosen to kill Christ all over again, sacrificing Him to political correctness and selfish emotions rather than dying to Him and with Him.
There is nothing generous or orthodox about that; the emergent view of Christianity is hardly a Christianity worth believing in, much less dying for.