A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Do I Stay Christian with Brian McLaren

July 28, 2022 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 3 Episode 1
Do I Stay Christian with Brian McLaren
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
More Info
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Do I Stay Christian with Brian McLaren
Jul 28, 2022 Season 3 Episode 1
Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker

Text us your questions!

Brian McLaren is at it again, writing a book for people on the edge of Christianity, just barely holding on. Do I Stay Christian? is a brilliant book that takes a very honest look at Christianity, ponders reasons to go, and reasons to stay, while presenting us with a new kind of Christianity...one that's more Christ-like and rooted in this moment and on this earth we find ourselves on. I know...weird, right?

In this episode, we tasted both the spectacular Wild Turkey Father and Son 13 Year and a select offering from New Riff Distilling.

The beverage tasting is at 3:18. To skip to the interview, go to 8:26.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains some mild profanity and mention of (biblical) sexual assault and murder.

=====

Join us at Theology Beer Camp 2024!

Get your tickets here to join us in Denver Oct. 17-19. Use code PASTPHIL2024. Let us know if you sign up!

=====

Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.


Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com

Cheers!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Text us your questions!

Brian McLaren is at it again, writing a book for people on the edge of Christianity, just barely holding on. Do I Stay Christian? is a brilliant book that takes a very honest look at Christianity, ponders reasons to go, and reasons to stay, while presenting us with a new kind of Christianity...one that's more Christ-like and rooted in this moment and on this earth we find ourselves on. I know...weird, right?

In this episode, we tasted both the spectacular Wild Turkey Father and Son 13 Year and a select offering from New Riff Distilling.

The beverage tasting is at 3:18. To skip to the interview, go to 8:26.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains some mild profanity and mention of (biblical) sexual assault and murder.

=====

Join us at Theology Beer Camp 2024!

Get your tickets here to join us in Denver Oct. 17-19. Use code PASTPHIL2024. Let us know if you sign up!

=====

Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.


Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com

Cheers!

Kyle:

So we have a returning guest on the show today.

Randy:

Hey!

Kyle:

Brian McLaren is back to speak with us about his new book Do I Stay Christian?, which we found out is actually a kind of a companion book to the last one that he wrote that we talked to him about last year. It's a great conversation, ranges over a lot of different things, I think it'll be particularly good for people in our audience who are in a position where they're just not sure if they can hold on anymore. That's kind of the target audience for the book, there might be some things about Jesus in the church that you love, and that have defined your identity, but then there's probably a lot of other stuff about the church that makes you kind of sick to your stomach. And if you're in that place, this is the book for you.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

It literally is divided up into sections, one section gives you all the best reasons he could think of for leaving, and saying, no, I'm not doing this anymore, and then another section, all the best reasons he could think of for staying, which, depending on what kind of person you are, one of those sections might be very difficult for you. But I think it's, it's going to be a super valuable resource for anybody on either side of that divide to get a handle on what are the people on the other side thinking about this? And yeah, it's definitely targeted, I'd say more than Faith after Doubt was, it's targeted more to people who aren't necessarily looking for a book to unpack a lot of reasons and intellectual discourse about something, it's targeted for people who are in an existential place.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

I need, I need to do something about this, or, you know, something significant is gonna go badly in my life.

Randy:

Yeah. If you're, if you grew up Christian, and you find yourself in a faith crisis right now, this literally is a must read. Even if you don't, it's a very, very valuable read, because it's so honest, if I had to say one word about the book, it'd be honest, and also hopeful, which I find both of those words fitting for Brian McLaren. I mean, I, I probably literally want to be Brian McLaren when I grow up, I want to grow into who he is. And I say that with some playfulness, but with total sincerity. There's two people in the orbit of Christianity, some would say outside of Christianity, that, that I really want to bring their practices and their the way they see the world into my way I see the world which is Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren. And if I could, if I could harness all of the way they see the world, the way they see human beings, the way they see God, the way they see the Earth, the way they see reality, I want to grow more and more in that, and so any opportunity I get to talk to Brian McLaren, be in his presence, grow in familiarity and friendship, I'm in. So I'm excited that he's, Brian just says yes, we're, there's nothing special about us. He says yes, because that's who he is. So I'm excited to share him again with you listeners, to cultivate this conversation that's really on the forefront of a lot of people's minds right now. Do I stay Christian or not? I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

Kyle:

We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.

Randy:

Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. Before we get into the actual interview, on this show, we sample an alcoholic beverage because it's A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We have something special today, Kyle.

Kyle:

Yeah, or in this case two alcoholic beverages.

Randy:

Hot damn.

Kyle:

And I think once before we've done a blind tasting.

Randy:

We sure have.

Kyle:

We're gonna do that again.

Randy:

I got it right, by the way. In the first one.

Kyle:

Oh, that's right you did. Yeah. So one of our Patreon supporters, a guy named Tim...

Randy:

A new Patreon supporter.

Kyle:

A new Patreon supporter. So if you if you want to get mentioned on the show, this is the way you do it.

Randy:

Especially Top Shelf.

Kyle:

You become a Patreon supporter, especially Top Shelf, and then you send us booze. And that's exactly what Tim did.

Elliot:

Yeah, and if you've been a Patreon supporter for a while, like this guy's new...

Kyle:

Where's the booze guys?

Elliot:

...and he's already sent us something what's going on?

Kyle:

Yeah, pick it up. Come on. So what he did was he sent us some vials, like prepared for blind tasting, so we don't know what these are. And this guy knows a lot about bourbon. He's from Louisville. He has like a YouTube channel about bourbon. So, so here we go. We're gonna taste these and then just give our basic assessment, and if we think they'd be on the bottom, middle, or top shelf.

Randy:

All right.

Kyle:

All right. So this is number one.

Elliot:

Whoa, really hot on the nose.

Randy:

Straightforward.

Elliot:

Wheated...

Randy:

Oh wow. Oh, wow.

Kyle:

Wheated?

Randy:

It's like pepperminty. It's very nice. It's not very hot. Like you said, the nose is, smells strong, but it doesn't taste strong.

Elliot:

Not so much. I see why you say pepperminty. Like almost effervescent.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

It might be because you said wheated, but it's reminding me of Maker's Mark.

Randy:

The color's pretty light. This is very good. It's not young. And I'm guessing it's like, middle shelf?

Kyle:

Yeah, yeah. I'm gonna say this is like maybe three or four years old.

Randy:

I would say more than that.

Kyle:

You think so?

Elliot:

I'm going to say top shelf just to be contradictory and also because there's a lot of top shelf stuff that blind, doesn't, doesn't taste top shelf.

Kyle:

Doesn't stand up to what you think it should, yep..

Elliot:

I, but I think that there's enough going on here that it's top shelf.

Randy:

What is it Elliot?

Elliot:

Alright, what we're tasting is Wild Turkey Father and Son 13 Year.

Randy:

Nice!

Kyle:

Holy shit!

Randy:

You said 3 or 4 years old!

Kyle:

I know! I feel like an idiot.

Elliot:

So this is the 86 proof.

Randy:

Wow. Yeah. So it's a low cut. 13 years old.

Elliot:

There's another tasting note I'm getting now that's like cash money.

Randy:

Yeah.

Kyle:

(Sarcastic) You can really taste the barrel in this...

Elliot:

Yeah, there it is.

Kyle:

Alright, tasting number two. This one is noticeably darker...

Randy:

Darker color, yep.

Kyle:

...in the glass. More of a kind of burnt caramel color.

Randy:

It's got a sweeter--cheers--it's got a sweeter more dark fruity nose.

Kyle:

Sweeter nose for sure.

Elliot:

Yep. Can I beat Kyle, Kyle to the bananas punch on this? Oh, there you go.

Randy:

This smells wonderful.

Kyle:

I already tell I'm gonna like this better than the last one. Which I feel like an idiot now saying, that it was 13 years old.

Elliot:

Wow, brown sugar.

Randy:

Oh wow, that's good.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Randy:

That's really good.

Kyle:

I don't know how old this is, but it's definitely more in my wheelhouse than the last one.

Randy:

Sure. I mean...

Kyle:

There's a lot of dark brown sugar flavors going on here.

Randy:

Brown sugar, molasses, leather. This tastes like it's expensive.

Kyle:

Or like it's...

Randy:

Or he deceived us.

Kyle:

...it's something trying to appear to be expensive. Hard to say. If it's that, it's successful.

Elliot:

It tastes like a gingersnap.

Randy:

Sure.

Elliot:

Those little waffery cookies.

Randy:

Yep. That's good. This is delicious.

Kyle:

So I've learned my lesson last time. I'm not going to assume this is middle shelf.

Randy:

I hope it's, I hope it's bottom shelf and he's, he's just tricked us. But...

Elliot:

I think it's middle shelf.

Randy:

I love this. This is very, very good.

Kyle:

Yeah, I'm gonna say this is another top shelfer and it's delicious and I would buy a bottle.

Randy:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. 100%, let's see what it is.

Kyle:

What do we got here Elliot?

Elliot:

This is New Riff Power of Bourbon Pick 4 Year.

Randy:

There you go.

Kyle:

How about that.

Randy:

Yeah, the one you love and thought was older...

Kyle:

The one I thought was 4 years was 13 years old and then I preferred the one that was actually 4 years old.

Elliot:

Did I say that right?

Randy:

What does that tell you listeners? What does it tell you?

Elliot:

New Riff Power of Bourbon Pick?

Kyle:

Oh, okay, so I believe Power of Bourbon is their YouTube channel. So this is a pick that they did from New Riff.

Randy:

Awesome.

Kyle:

How about that.

Randy:

It's not just any New Riff.

Kyle:

Yeah.

Elliot:

It's really good.

Kyle:

Somebody went there and tasted the barrel and picked this out.

Randy:

Yep. So this is what happens, first of all, Tim, you are the new man. We bow before you and love you. Thank you for the generosity. And this is a great example of what blind taste testings will do to you, they, it levels the playing field.

Kyle:

Yeah, I learned that I like much cheaper bourbon.

Randy:

It's amazing how that will humble you when you think you know good bourbons, and I think a lot of what we think are the best is because we think they should be the best because they cost the most and they, you know, are the oldest or whatever. But I will say that Wild Turkey 13 year was delicious. So good.

Kyle:

I think there's a sermon in here somewhere about comsumerism and fear of missing out.

Randy:

I think so. I think the Apostle James would be a fan of we don't prefer the, the wealthy person, anyways...

Elliot:

The Wild Turkeys and the goats.

Randy:

We need to wrap this up.

Kyle:

We do. Tim, my god, man. Thank you.

Randy:

Thank you so much. Cheers to you. So Brian McLaren, welcome back to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar.

Brian:

I have good memories of my last visit with you guys. I wish it could be in person in a bar. But here we are.

Kyle:

Someday, someday man.

Randy:

Yes, let's do that. Absolutely. So I think we'll save everyone the introduction, if you want to know who Brian is and you don't know already, A. the four of you can go listen to our, our first episode with Brian where he gives a little background, you're a former pastor who's turned into just this brilliant mystic and sage within the church that I think many of us absolutely 100% need. I wish there were more Brian McLarens in the world. And I want to be Brian McLaren when I grow up, if that's okay for me to say.

Brian:

Well, you're working on the right hairstyle.

Randy:

Yeah, yeah.

Kyle:

There you go, you're halfway there.

Randy:

Absolutely. But we spoke last after your last book Faith after Doubt came out, and I spent time with you and some friends in New York City last June. It was a magical time on the rooftop. But tell us what you've been up to and how your world has been since then Brian.

Brian:

Well, let's see. You know, I, I just feel that so many things are going so crazy in the world that when people ask me how I'm doing my best answer could be surprisingly well, considering the circumstances. So yeah, I've, I've been, finished up the last book, and I've been doing a lot of podcasts and a bit of public speaking this year about the new book and getting ready for a stint of travel. So, but it's been a good time,, and my wife and I live a very quiet life here in southwest Florida.

Randy:

So this is something that was not on the outline Brian, but you strike me as someone who's both/and in this way that you are delightfully hopeful, optimistic, winsome, I mean, just delightful to be around and to engage with and talk to, and at the same time, you don't do that with your head buried under the sand, you, you are affected, deeply it seems like, by things happening our world, such as today, just today, this is June 30, I don't know when you're going to be listening to this friends, but just today the Supreme Court came out with another ruling against I would say the Earth's well being and against climate change. So these things I've, I know you enough to know that these things deeply affect you that are happening in our world. How do you hold both of those, both your hopeful, you know, delightful way that you see the world and live, and also the really ugly stuff that seems to be filling up our our headlines and airwaves?

Brian:

Well, you know, I think letting your heart be broken is painful and, and tough, but it's way better than trying to pretend your heart isn't broken, or in, or in translating pain and disappointment into anger and blame. And, and I think what I spent a lot of my life doing is always trying to find out who to blame, or find the simple plan to fix it, which is never good enough for the big problems. And so I think a big part of what I try to do now is lament and just feel the pain and acknowledge how disappointed I am. And then I suppose what then I have to do, as sort of the follow up to that, is I have to say, okay, now given that reality, what's our next best option? And, and that often involves increasing the timeframe for the solution. In other words, when you, so right now what it means is that the Supreme Court has basically just said that the government cannot take action on, on climate change the way that we have been in recent years. In some ways, this is a worse, this is worse news for the future of the planet than even when Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, because now there's going to have to be a whole different way. But then you say, okay, well, now there's going to have to be a whole different way. And maybe that whole different way, we'll, we'll get some some progress that we couldn't, couldn't have gotten or wouldn't have gotten this way. So I suppose I, one of the reasons I'm able to keep going without total despair or anger or cynicism is just I don't have high expectations to begin with, I sort of assume that human beings are not really well equipped to deal with reality. So, so I'm not surprised when we don't.

Randy:

Okay. So we'll come back to that idea of human beings and reality when we're deeper into your book, but your new book is Do I Stay Christian?, and we were just talking off air about how it's kind of a companion book, a pairing with Faith after Doubt, which both of those books are just really, really important for people who feel like they're on, they're just, just on the edge of Christianity, don't know if we can do it any longer. These are must reads. Can you tell us, just, you begin Do I Stay Christian? with the story of being woken up at 1030 at night, before you've got a red eye flight, and someone who says we have to talk to you. Can you tell, bring us into that world, and maybe how many people have you spoken to with that story?

Brian:

Yeah. Oh my gosh, so many, so many, yeah, that, that particular story goes quite a few years back too and I remember, the reason that story stayed with me is that the wife in the story said, if I had my way, I'd leave Christian ministry today and leave the Christian faith tomorrow, or I'd leave ministry tomorrow and leave Christian faith the next day. And it was one of the first times I really heard a person say, I'm done with a Christian faith entirely, you know, so, especially a person in ministry. And since then there have just been so many more. And in fact, just the other day, I did an interview with a couple of people who work only with clergy, and they told me, that's the question they're hearing all the time as well. So, so I think part of what's happened is that in the last 20 years, my friend Diana Butler Bass calls it the great religious recession, that we've just seen one ugly thing after another, the Catholic pedophilia scandals that came out in the early 2000s. Obviously, they'd been out there before that, but then there was that big Boston Globe article, and just also today as we're having this conversation, word is out that a huge investigation is going on for the Catholic Church in New Orleans of more pedophilia scandals, and there have been these horrible stories of what happened in the Indian boarding schools, Catholic and Protestant Christian schools where horrible atrocities took place. And, and of course, you know, I mean, it just, it just goes on and on. And as these things have come out, you know, who's the megachurch pastor who is in the scandal this week? It just seems like it's another one every week, that I think more and more people say something here isn't working, and I keep trying to sort of pick up the pieces, but I think something is more wrong than I realized before, and I don't know what to do about it. And for some people, it's understandable then that they say, I just want out, because this thing is supposed to help me, doesn't seem to be helping me. And it's supposed to help other people, it doesn't seem to be helping them.

Randy:

So would you say, if you're asking those questions or saying those things or having those feelings, that's who you wrote this book for?

Brian:

Yes. Exactly right, exactly right. I, I would say, you know, 90% of my energy is for those people. I'd say the other 10% is for the people who the Christian faith has been nothing but a blessing for them. And I have a lot of friends like this, you know, I have friends who were drug addicts, and a church, that, somebody brought'em to a church and they got off drugs, and being part of this church is the best thing that's ever happened to them. I was just with somebody a week and a half ago, and I knew her before she, when she would have said that she was a non-religious person, probably agnostic, and she became part of a Methodist church near where I live. And it's just, she was just telling me last week how it's changed her life, you know. And for those people, I still think it's important that they hear the stories of other people. It might be their children, it might be their, you know, parents, but they need to understand what's going on with other people, even if it's not happening to them.

Kyle:

Yeah, one thing that caught me right off the bat in your book is you open by listing, I think it was like 11 ways of understanding what Christianity even is. And I thought that can be, that alone can be jarring to a lot of people, to realize that there's like multiple different ways of understanding this. And when one person says I'm leaving Christianity, it might mean something entirely different to that person. And another person that says I could never imagine doing that I'm holding on forever. And they're just thinking about totally different things. So, so why did you open the book that way? And if you can remember what the, what the ways were, or at least the main ones, give us, you know, a little rundown of all the different ways that you can even understand what Christianity is.

Brian:

Sure. Well, this, I think, is something that has only become more clear to me in recent years. And that is that, first that the Christian faith can mean opposite things. You know, when I was a young, I was in my 20s, and helped start this new little experimental church. Our church was known in the community as the church that helps refugees. We took in Vietnamese, Cambodian, Ethiopian Iranian refugees. And for a small church, we did amazing things. For us Christianity meant this is the, to be a Christian means you help refugees, you help people in need. There are a whole lot of people that being a Christian now means you oppose refugees, and tell them to go back home and make sure they don't get a warm welcome. So the Christian faith can mean exactly opposite things. There are Christians who, because of their faith, want to make abortion illegal, and there are Christians who because of their faith, want to be sure that that right is not taken away from women. And so what that's forced me to do and challenged me to do is see, yeah, when people say "I'm a Christian," they have different definitions in mind. So for some, it's a political identity. The word "evangelical" in recent years has come to mean largely a political identity, it means I'm a Republican, and I feel morally superior as a Republican, you know. There's Christianity as an ethnic identity--of course I'm Christian, I'm Italian; of course I'm Christian, I'm Irish. There's an identity that is a matter of doctrine. I'm a Christian because I believe these things. There's a definition of being Christian because of experience, I had a born again experience, I got saved, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. And we could just go on, there's kind of a sociological dimension, there's just all kinds of different ways that we could define the term. But maybe the thing that I think has helped me understand what's going on, first of all, is because I grew up evangelical and Protestant, for me, Christianity was defined by adherence to doctrines. But I can, I know that for many of my Catholic friends, being Christian is defined fundamentally by belonging to a tradition, and belonging to an authority structure, and placing myself under the authority of a certain kind of hierarchy that's, has a history through, through the centuries. So very, very different definitions. And here's where it really gets interesting. A lot of times people consciously think "I'm a Christian because I believe these doctrines," but then they realize, you know, I'm really a Christian because I'm afraid to stand up to my father, and my father would disown me if he, In other words, there, there are the conscious, overt reasons and there are the unconscious, covert reasons.

Kyle:

At least in the Protestant-Catholic setting there, there's, there's an identifiable referent that is the same; otherwise they wouldn't be disagreeing about anything, right? So there's, there's a common understanding there. But in some of the other cases, it's less clear that there would, would even be a common understanding, right? It's easy to think of groups of people who probably have almost nothing, and maybe nothing at all in common when they, when they use the term"Christianity."

Brian:

Yes. And you know, but I think this is even a difference maybe between you and me and our generational cohorts. When I was growing up, Protestants and evangelicals, we would have said that our fundamental understanding of Christianity was at complete odds with Catholics, it, we were not in the same boat, we were, and that's changed for political and social and theological reasons over these years. But another example would be the Bible is super, super important to many evangelicals and fundamentalists. To be a Christian means to believe in the Bible, in fact, to make sure that they identify the kind of Christianity they are, they say,"I'm a Bible believing Christian." But you know, for, for many Catholics when I was growing up, "we don't read the Bible, we're Catholic, Protestants do that," you know, we, we listen to what the Church says, the church is the custodian of what the Bible says and means, and so that's our fundamental reference point.

Kyle:

Of all of those ways of thinking about Christianity that you list, do you think any of them should take priority over the others?

Brian:

Well, I don't think so. I think, I think there are problems with each of those definitions taken alone. And I think each of those definitions tells the truth about something. In other words, it accurately describes some dimension of some forms of Christianity. I suppose what I'm arguing, what I'm really inviting people to do in this book is, is to just real, in a sense, if you're going to be a Christian, have your eyes open, if you're going to be a Christian, understand what that could mean intentionally, understand what it could mean unintentionally. If you're not going to be a Christian, understand what it is you're turning away from, and, and your good reasons for turning away from it. So yeah, I think in some ways, I just think it means different things to different people at different times. And, you know, if you're asking me, what do I think the true definition is? Well, I could say, you know, I think if something's going to be called Christianity, it sure would be nice if it believed that Jesus was right, and was about people following Jesus. But that actually is not that important in many streams of Christianity.

Randy:

Oh man, don't get me started Brian. I had, I had a moment of repentance, I would say, a couple of weeks ago, where I realized that when I look at the Jewish faith, and the multiple streams within Judaism, I see that it's beautiful and really fun, that there's you can be Orthodox, or you can be Conservative, or you can be Reformed, and they think different things but they're, they see themselves as family. And I don't do that with my Christian family, I judge and am cynical and really angry towards a lot of my Christian family, instead of seeing it as one river that has a multitude of streams and tributaries flowing from it that maybe is all going the same same direction, maybe some of it shouldn't be called Christianity anymore, I don't know, but who am I to judge? And I've been trying to discipline myself, it's been my spiritual discipline over the last few, few weeks, I would say, to see Christianity as a stream that just has an untold almost amount of streams coming from it. It's been helpful for me personally. So in chapter one, Brian, you say that our religion can hellify us by giving us a sense of superiority, an addiction to certainty that inoculates us to humility and leaves us unteachable. There's a lot to that sentence right there. But can you tell us more about how our religion can actually hellify us? It reminds me, as I was thinking about this this morning and thinking about you, it reminds me of Jesus in Matthew 25, saying, you religious leaders cross oceans to bring in more converts, but actually all you're doing is turning them into twice the sons of the devil that you are. How does that hellification, what does that look like, and what are the products of it?

Brian:

Yeah, well, of course, that's exactly the passage of scripture I was thinking of when I, when I wrote that part of the book. So, well, I mean, we could see an awful lot of examples of it today. But let me go back in history, because sometimes if we look at something a little distant from us in history, it helps us to be more honest about what could be going on in our own time. I was just recounting to someone earlier today, you know, a lot of us learned about the "explorers" when we were kids in elementary school, Cortes and Columbus and Magellan and...

Randy:

You're full of them in Florida.

Brian:

...de Soto. Yeah, we got a lot of 'em down here in Florida. And, of course, the other name for the explorers was the Conquistadors, and depending on what you call them, they have very, you have a very different feel about it, the "conquerors," as opposed to the "explorers," right? And a lot of people don't know that when Christopher Columbus first landed on Hispaniola, his first thought is, we could make all of these people slaves, these people would be great slaves. And, in fact, he, on his second voyage, I think it was, he brought back some slaves to show Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and say, see, look at these people, we could get all of them that we want. In fact, he wrote a letter to the Queen and said, in the name of the Holy Trinity, we could make all of these slaves. So here you see someone like Christopher Columbus, who we have a day in his honor in this country, and this was the kind of person he was, and he believed that his Christian faith gave him a carte blanche, you know, a permission slip.

Randy:

Well because the Pope did, right?

Brian:

Exactly. The Pope had given him a mandate, to the kings of Europe, to go into all the world and make slaves of all the nations. A lot of people don't know that history. It's just, it's been kept a secret from us. But that's part of our history. Then you fast forward, we have another day in our calendar where we give people off work and school, for Martin Luther King, Jr. and here's someone who in the name of Christ was saying, every human being has dignity, that we have to learn how to break the chains of both slavery and racism, white supremacy, that all of us will be more fully human if we move to a new place. Both of them were Christians. And they, they had opposite ways of seeing the world. And it just, in a sense, I think if we tell those stories from the past, it will help us realize that it's not that we're in some anomaly right now, this has been going on for a long time. And that, in a sense, what it does is it says, just because I call myself a Christian, it is actually relatively meaningless. The term itself, the label confers upon me nothing. And of course, Jesus said the same thing. "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don't do what I say?" And so then it forces us to say, I'm a human being, what kind of person do I want to be, because this is an unintended negative consequence of any religious identity, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, agnostic. You take on that label and you think ah, now with this label, I'm a good person. It could be a horrible way of deceiving ourselves.

Elliot:

Friends, before we continue, we want to thank Story Hill BKC for their support. Story Hill BKC is a full menu restaurant, and their food is seriously some of the best in Milwaukee. On top of that, Story Hill BKC is a full service liquor store featuring growlers of tap available to go, spirits, especially whiskies and bourbons, thoughtfully curated regional craft beers, and 375 selections of wine. Visit storyhillbkc.com for menu and more info. If you're in Milwaukee, you'll thank yourself for visiting Story Hill BKC, and if you're not, remember to support local. One more time, that's storyhillbkc.com.

Kyle:

So you do a thing, so your book is divided into three sections. The first section is reasons you should not, right, reasons you could say, give a no answer to the do I stay Christian question, the second section is reasons you could say yes, and then the third section is more like a sort of how to for whichever thing you choose, this is, you know, some ways to go about it. The first two sections you, well you open all the sections with a quote, and I particularly love the Rilke quote at the end, by the way, good choice there, but the quote you open the first two sections with struck me as an interesting juxtaposition. One of them was from James Baldwin, in the no section, and the other one was from Howard Thurman, in the yes section. So I'm curious why you chose those people, because it, it just seems like an interesting pairing to me.

Brian:

Well, I'd love to hear more of your thoughts about it, I'll answer your question, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. But, you know, James Baldwin, as an African American who was trying to tell white people and black people the truth about America, wasn't he the one who said to be, to be black in America is to live in a perpetual state of rage. But here was this man who struggled to know the truth. And he said that the reason I write is because I want to know the truth, even though it's probably going to make my life more difficult. I'm motivated by knowing the truth. And I thought that that quote was a good quote to introduce the no section of the book, because there's an awful lot of things that we Christians have had hidden from us. And, you know, the book's only been out just over a month, but I've received so many letters from, and emails and messages from people who say, man, I barely made it through that first section, it was just too tough, everything in me, just, I didn't want to know that, you know. And so I felt that, and to have a black man say that, I think is, is good for everybody to hear, black, white, brown, you know, whatever, whatever our our identity, racial identity is, and religious identity. And Howard Thurman opens a second section by saying that it was the slave who redeemed the religion that the slave owner had profaned. And Thurman, I just, I just feel that, I don't know, people think Billy Graham is the greatest Christian in American history, or they think Jonathan Edwards or, you know, George, although Whitfield was, was British, but you know, they have these people that they name as the great heroes of American Christianity. If we have a great hero, I would say, Howard Thurman ought to be, you know, considered near the top. I just feel he was, he's truly American. And he is both a mystic and a brilliant theological thinker. He engaged with so many of the issues that we're still struggling with 100 years later. So I always, I just love to introduce people to Howard Thurman every chance I get.

Kyle:

Yeah. Mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., right, so.

Brian:

Yes.

Kyle:

Yeah, no, I just was curious if there was any interesting symbolism going on there, picking two black men, one a sort of paragon of nonviolent political resistance, and then another, presumably an atheist, I assume Baldwin was an atheist, and, you know, definitely critical of religious stances against LGBTQ rights and all that.

Brian:

Yes. And as you can see, he is a good fit for that first no section. Yeah.

Randy:

So just without going chapter by chapter, Brian, can you tell our listeners about the first section of the book? What's your case for why not to stay Christian?

Brian:

So what, what I'm trying to do in that first section of the book is, is saying, look, if you're thinking about not staying Christian, you have some good reasons to think about that. Because the problems that are bothering a lot of people are real problems. And I think, whether you stay Christian or not, you ought to know about these things. And they have to do with Christianity's relationship to the religion that we grew out of, Judaism, and the, oh my goodness, the realities of Christian anti-semitism, and how deeply embedded it is. Just the other day, I wrote something, and I thought, oh, gosh, that could be understood in an anti-semitic way. You know, it's just, it's just so much, it's so complex, our relationship to Judaism through the centuries is so complex, right up to this very moment. And then you think about our relationship to other religions, where we, where Christians are the majority and the other religion is the minority, how have Christians treated, what's it been like to be, have a Christian as your neighbor if you are Muslim or Hindu or, or Buddhist or atheist, and, and then questions of, the way that the, almost, the vast majority of Christian religious institutions are all male lead. And so that, what does that mean to have patriarchy that deeply rooted and then in a sense almost divinized because of the almost exclusive way that, that Christians refer to God as Father. Father is a potentially beautiful image for God, but it's only one of many. And the way that it dominates, it seems to me, ends up reifying or re-intensifying a certain kind of patriarchy so that the universe is made a patriarchal universe, right? And so you just go on, the relationship of Christianity to learning, I look back and think about how many books I read to be a good Christian. But the books I read, the books I was told to read in church, were the books that always told me what I already knew. And, and I did so much research and did so much reading, but it was the reading that I did in university or the reading I did following my own curiosity or the reading I did because an African American friend said, you ought to read this book, or a Jewish friend said, well, you ought to read this book, and, and I just feel like, gosh, I had such an encouragement to read stuff that confirmed what I already thought. And I was steered away from anything that would challenge me toward truth that my religious group didn't like.

Randy:

It's called confirmation bias. It's a real thing.

Kyle:

We have a whole episode about it, if anybody's interested.

Randy:

Yep. And Brian has a whole podcast about it.

Brian:

Yeah.

Randy:

In chapter four, I'm gonna steal this, you call, you have this inner voice that you call your inner fundamentalist. Your inner fundamentalist comes out in chapter four. And I think many of us identify and have a similar voice inside of us, if we grew up in the faith, particularl. So can you take us into what are these inner dialogues like in Brian McLaren's self consciousness and what is your inner fundamentalist sound like?

Brian:

Well, one of the reasons I like using that little literary motif Is that when you don't realize you have an inner fundamentalist, and you just, you might say, oh, the Holy Spirit is talking to me. Or you might, you might not even be aware that a voice is talking to you, it's just the way things are. Or it's like an inner police officer that's saying you're not allowed to think that, you're not allowed to think that. And what I've come to realize is that that is a way that all of us internalize danger. If somebody is going to be angry at us, if somebody might threaten to kick us out of the group, we internalize the danger and try to keep ourselves out of trouble. And in that way, the other person could totally disappear. Now, the agent of oppression and the agent of authoritarianism is actually encoded in my own brain. And so one of the reasons I wanted to do that is help people see, it's just a voice in your head, it's a voice that came from your upbringing. Somebody who wasn't brought up in the same family or under the same influences you were wouldn't have that voice, they'd have some other voice in their head. So I think part of becoming free people, is learning to name those voices. I actually think that's what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, you have heard it said, and then he'd quote something, I think there's six or seven times he does it, and most of them, he's actually quoting something from the Bible. In other words, you've got this voice going around in your head that says, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, so he's, he's going directly into that script that's playing in your mind that you got from authority figures who taught it to you, and he's challenging it, he's putting the word "but" after it, and in a sense, he's creating a space where you then are free to question that, that voice. So that's, that's the reason I wanted, I guess, part of the reason I wanted to create that little scenario.

Randy:

Yeah, love it. And again, I think we all can identify, and for those of us who still believe that the Holy Spirit does speak to us and address us on a daily, moment by moment basis, I think, tell me what you think about this, Brian, but a good way to measure, is this my inner fundamentalist or this the voice of the Spirit of God, is the voice speaking to and trying to bring about the fruits of the Spirit is just a pretty easy question. Right?

Brian:

I love that. I think that's a great way to say it. By the way, if folks wanted to do a really, really interesting Bible study on this, they should read Acts chapter 10, the story of Peter and Cornelius, and folks who know the Bible well will know, it's a story where Peter has a kind of a vision or a dream, and in the dream, God tells him to sin--in his mind--by eating forbidden foods. And he, he tells God, no way will I do that, I'm a pure person. And, and the dream repeats, and it's his way of, you can just see, the Spirit is guiding him to question what he thought the Spirit had told him.

Randy:

Yes, it's, it's what many of us have in our journey of how we went from non-affirming of homosexuality to affirming, is the active real voice of the Spirit saying, where's the fruit of the Spirit being born? Is it in these non-affirming spaces? Or is it in these affirming spaces? And I think it's pretty clear.

Kyle:

It's interesting that you bring up that analogy, because I heard a rabbi say one time on a different podcast that, like the really conservative sections of Judaism are much more likely to go affirming of LGBTQ people than they are to ever eat pork. Like the one thing will come way before the other one. So just like contextualizing how important of a thing that was that the Holy Spirit was saying to Peter, like, it was very core to the self-understanding of an Israelite, especially, but even today, like way more important than sexuality.

Brian:

And, you know, I was a preacher for so many years and, and I remember, maybe 10 years ago, I noticed a verse that had always been there, but I had never, ever noticed it. And it's in the book of Galatians, where Paul says, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything at all. The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love, which sort of resounds with or resonates with what you were saying about the fruit of the Spirit. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love, and you just think, for an observant Jew like Paul, this was him as a Jew challenging one of the core markers of what it means to be identified as a member of his religion. It would be like somebody, yeah, well, it'd be like, all the things that this book is dealing with today, of saying, you know what, yeah, you can say you're a Christian because of this or this, it really doesn't mean anything. If you don't have love, it's not worth anything at all.

Randy:

Yep, yep. Also in chapter four, I think this is worth just highlighting, you say conservative Christianity has focused on personal and especially sexual sins, so much that it's become a weapon, you call it, of mass distraction.

Brian:

Yeah.

Randy:

Tell us about that.

Brian:

So let's just take American history. So the Civil War ends, and something called Reconstruction begins. What a lot of people don't know is back then it was the Republican party that was the multiracial party and the Democratic Party was the party of white supremacists. And, and so reconstruction begins, but then the opposition begins to grow. And now, it's like, the genie is out of the bottle and white people are desperate to put black people down again. And there's all kinds of horrible laws that are passed, not unlike laws that are being passed again now, but, but you know, in a brutal raw form. A lot of violence. And then comes the lynchings, and the lynchings were acts of terrorism by white people that were intentionally planned and launched so that they could scare black people away and make them move away, leaving everything to the white people. And so what do white Christians do? They mount a decades long movement to make alcohol illegal. And it results in Prohibition, was it two, it was 1919, I think, was the year of Prohibition.

Randy:

We don't like that rule in this podcast.

Kyle:

We're not a fan of Prohibition around here.

Brian:

But isn't it interesting that at a time with the, the most obvious moral issue is how are black people being treated? How are the indigenous people being treated because they were being really screwed badly in the end of the, all through the 19th century, and of course, there were all kinds of other racism being perpetuated against Asian people and, and others. But isn't it interesting that the church decides to avoid everything about race, avoid it all, and concentrate on alcohol.

Randy:

Interesting.

Brian:

And, and what it says to me is, it's a way to say, if we were to get involved dealing with race, it might cost us something. But it just makes us look holy and pure to be against alcohol. It's, and of course, I think very similar things are going on in today's world where Christians pick an issue that costs them absolutely nothing.

Kyle:

And sometimes it's the same issue. So you're referencing Prohibition in the early 20th century. I was in college in the early 21st century, heard a whole lot about alcohol and why I should be a teetotaller. Never heard a damn sermon about racism.

Randy:

Or homosexuality, right?

Kyle:

Yeah.

Brian:

Right, yep, exactly. So, so that's what I mean by it, and I actually borrowed that term from a brilliant Muslim writer who happens to be a lesbian, an incredible journalist named Irshad Manji, and she wrote a book called The Trouble with Islam, and she talked about the same phenomenon of weapons of mass distraction that keep us obsessed with certain things so that we don't notice and pay attention to other things.

Randy:

So you would say that it would behoove the church for pastors to speak perhaps primarily about systemic sins and oppression, rather than personal sins exclusively? Is that what you're kind of, kind of getting at Brian?

Brian:

I suppose so, yes. I mean, obviously, I think personal sins are a really big deal. And I liked it better when Christians actually cared about personal sins, like lying, or cheating. And it was, it's been terribly depressing to watch a lot of Christian, white Christian leaders, just make it, it's not a big deal that Donald Trump lied 33,000 times or whatever it was, it's not a big deal that he tried to have an insurrection, boys will be boys, you know, it's this kind of minimization, it's not, it's not a problem that he cheated on his wife and paid off a porn star, and it's not a problem that he makes fun of people. Like, I kind of liked it better when Christians cared about things like personal integrity and honesty. So I'm not against paying attention to personal sin, but when we emphasize certain personal sins to the exclusion of others, and to the total exclusion of structural and institutional evil, which the Bible is incredibly honest about and pays a lot of attention to institutional structural evil, it just is a sign to me of how we're, yeah, we're missing the point. And we're, we're trying to distract ourselves from something. Yeah. So much more we could say about that, but. And then the other thing, I think, is that even the way, especially Protestants, but also Catholics, the problem with sin is that it's going to keep us out of heaven. What if the problem of sin is that it hurts us and it hurts other people and it hurts the earth? And so in some ways, even when we use the word sin, it feels to me like we've already corralled ourselves. I'm a big fan of the word sin, I just think we conveniently misdefine it.

Kyle:

Or just don't define it. I mean, most Christians have no idea what sin is.

Brian:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Maybe especially the ones who talk about it...

Brian:

You know, there are two Psalms, I think it's Psalm 51 and 52, two successive Psalms, and in one Psalm, David, after he's committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he says to God, against you and you only I have sinned. And you feel like, well, what about? What about her husband? And what about her? You basically raped her, you know. And so the word "sin" can be one of those words that we use to pay attention to certain things and...

Kyle:

As Stanley Hauerwas would say, a tool of self deception, and this is going to come up later, I have a question... So we were actually just talking to Stanley this morning, so I've been immersed in his books for the last couple of weeks, and so he's kind of living in my brain right now. And so when Randy asked that question, I thought, is there a distinction between personal and communal sin? Do we have any idea what sin means? I could just hear him saying, where are you, where are you getting this distinction? To have some understanding of sin you need an ethic, and an ethic for Christians should include a robust account of the virtues, and virtues are formed communally. What is personal sin? Like, is that, is that just a tool of self-deception itself?

Brian:

Isn't that, I mean, that's a really great point because nowhere in the Bible do you find the word "personal sin" as contrasted to institutional structural sin. It's all just bad, you know, and it's bad for a reason, so.

Randy:

Yep. Yeah. If there's one most common thing that I've been criticized for in my preaching and teaching, it's from people saying afterwards, it was great, but you didn't talk about sin.

Brian:

Yes.

Randy:

And I will say, well, sure I did, you just weren't listening because I didn't use that word. I used all sorts of different words, because I think that word brings out something that Christians are just looking for and fixating on and saying, if you talk, if you say that word enough, that means you're a good Bible believing, Bible preaching pastor, and I'm not interested in that. So moving on, Brian, you say in chapter seven, talk about how Christianity has turned itself into simply a system of beliefs, and getting those beliefs right. But the early church didn't see it that way. They didn't see their faith as primarily a set of beliefs. Can you talk about that and talk about how you say Christianity seems like it's stuck.

Brian:

Yeah. Well, you think about Jesus' fundamental message, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent, believe the gospel, follow me. I mean, you put that little couple of phrases together, and you've got the core of what Jesus was about. He didn't say, hey, everybody, I'm here to start a new religion, we're going to name it after me, and I would like you to come together and sing songs to praise me for at least 45 minutes a week. And, you know, it's just not what he did, it's not what he talked about. And we have a couple of things working against us here, because he has this message of Kingdom of God, he also sometimes calls it Kingdom of Heaven, and then we assume what he means is going to heaven after you die. And so all of, our whole understanding of Jesus is focused on what happens after we die when it's very clear Jesus uses what happens to us after we die to tell us you better pay attention to how you live and take seriously how you're living. And when he says repent. He's not just saying feel sorry so that you'll say the center's prayer, a term that you never find in the Bible. He's saying, repent, rethink, rethink everything in your lives, stop looking at things the way you're looking at them now. You're not looking at it the right way, see it a different way. And this seems to me to be one of the unintended consequences of defining Christianity as a set of beliefs. Because if I affirm those beliefs, I'm in, it's, it's done, especially if that's what gets me to heaven. By the way, in the New Testament, is never, it never says you're saved by your beliefs. It says you're saved by your faith. And again, we equate faith and beliefs. I don't think that's a smart or fair equation. Anyway.

Kyle:

I heard a, I heard a philosopher of religion named John Kvanvig one time say, it's almost as though we think when we get to heaven, God's gonna put a little hat on us with a meter on it, he called it a doxastiscope, and if the thing, the, you know, the meter pings high enough, then he lets us in. And it just paints very vividly, how, how silly do we think God is, is that really what we expect?

Brian:

And can I say, you know, one of the other themes in this book is the danger of authoritarianism. And the interesting thing about that kind of dogma policing is what it does is it says the people who are willing to not think and just say what people tell them to say are the people who get the farthest in this community. And boy, that has far reaching consequences.

Randy:

Sounds like a cult, yeah. David Bentley Hart, I was listening to him recently talk about the Sermon on the Mount and he went as far, you gotta love Hart, he doesn't mind saying things that he knows are gonna trigger Christians, but he just went as far to say is that Jesus, if you're reading the gospels honestly, Jesus obviously believes in salvation through actions, through works. And it's, tell me if you can argue with that if you're reading the gospels.

Brian:

Yes. And, and even there, the word salvation, for so many, the reason they get triggered is because for them salvation means having your original sin problem legally dealt with so that you can go to heaven when you die. And what if salvation means liberation? That's the, that's the meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. And liberation involves how you live, you know, and not only your own liberation, but the liberation of everyone and everything. So we don't realize how successfully, I want to use the word brainwashed, I guess I'll use it, has successfully brainwashed we've been, and how hard it is for us to ever get a fresh look at Jesus in the gospels.

Randy:

Yes.

Kyle:

So before we move on from this chapter, I want to zero in on a couple of things that you do there. So you compare, I hope this isn't too specific, but you compare Christianity with science, which I thought was an interesting analogy. And you say that, basically, the genius of science isn't in the content or the facts that it discovers, but it's in the method, which stuck out to me because it's the first thing I say to my intro philosophy students, philosophy is all about method, we don't really give a shit about content. And so I think that's a striking analogy to use for Christianity because anybody that's ever taken a philosophy of science course, or read a book on that, knows it's very difficult to say what the scientific method is. Like, every scientist knows the method you're taught in elementary school is false. Like, no scientist believes it or uses it. And so actually trying to pin down what is this method is very, very difficult, keeps a lot of philosophers employed. It seems even harder to do it for Christianity. So if we're gonna say Christianity is about method, not content, which seems to be the implication with the analogy, I have no idea where I would start saying what the Christian method is. So do you know how to start, is there a way to locate Christianity's method or methods? And the reason that, I want to tie it back to what I said earlier, because the reason I asked you earlier if you thought one of those characterizations of Christianity should trump the others, is because answering this question about methods seems to imply that you need to choose one.

Brian:

Yeah.

Kyle:

Or a few anyway.

Brian:

Yeah. Well, you're making me think of a, he was a chemist, but he really became something of a philosopher of science, Michael Polanyi. And Palanyi became very interested, especially after World War II and the Holocaust, when he realized how intellectual Germans fell for an authoritarian con artist and evil person. And you know, Germany was arguably the most scientifically advanced country in the world, I mean, great philosophers and great scientists, who seemed to get bamboozled by Hitler. And he became interested, he called it personal knowledge, and he became interested in a kind of knowledge that isn't just words, but is a actual method that you best learn by being apprenticed to someone who's a master of that method. And, and if that's the case, you might say, well, science, if you want to know what science is, find the people who do it, and learn from them how they're doing it. And obviously, that's a little bit, that's not a perfect definition, because you've got some bad scientists who do whatever gets them the most grant money, and you have other scientists who, they aren't really interested in the truth, they're interested in advancing their career, and so they know they have to publish something that will take down the person who they're in competition with, right? So there are all kinds of bad stuff going on, and unscientific things going on in science. But if we were to just say that there is some consensus that this person is doing science, let's learn, let's learn from an actual person doing it, I think that is, has something to do with what we might call the Christian method too, or the Christlike method too, perhaps. I should say, one of the things that science does, too, is it argues about its method and constantly tries to improve it. It doesn't say someone wrote the scientific method in 1924, or in 1736. And therefore, we're never allowed, science is never allowed to grow beyond that. It's actually an ongoing conversation and argument too. That way the community keeps learning and growing. And unfortunately, I think what happens in the Christian faith when it does define itself by dogma, it basically says, well, the big and important questions are answered, there's no more work to do there except to find ways to argue about it more forcefully and oppose people more energetically who don't go along with it.

Randy:

Yeah, and I would just say, I mean, a couple of methods might be, and I think you've submitted in your book, Brian, you just said it, Jesus' call to, the Kingdom of God is, has come, so repent and follow me, but also Micah 6:8, you cite over and over again, especially in the, in the end of your book, do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God, that's kind of, you know, this multitude of laws and institutes and rules in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Micah seems to think, the Holy Spirit has inspired this to say, here's what it all comes down to, acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God. There's your method.

Brian:

By the way, there also is, is an example of the argument, that a community lives by good arguments, not by shutting down arguments, but by keeping the right arguments going. Because Micah is arguing with a priestly tradition that's obsessed with sacrifice. And in that passage, in Micah 6, he says, look, if this is all about sacrifice, what are you after, you want me to sacrifice 10,000 bulls and goats, you know, you want 2000 gallons of blood per day, is that what's going to make God happy? And so he's, he's saying, there's some absurdity in the way a lot of people are thinking about our religion. And then he challenges them with a different view. And I'm sure there are a lot of the priestly people who were mad at Micah for saying that.

Randy:

It's amazing how that works, isn't it, where the prophets in those times were probably seen as just scandalous, insulting, outside of the faith, heretics, that are dangerous, and you got to, you got to silence them as quick as possible. And now we look back on them and, well, holy cow, they got the message of Yahweh more than anybody did, you know, in the Old Testament. You fast forward through time to where, you know, how many times have you heard, Brian, that guy's a heretic? That guy's dangerous. That guy doesn't love Christianity. He's against it. He's tearing it down. It just keeps happening, doesn't it?

Brian:

It does. And, you know, here's where also though, the Bible becomes such a gift, because if you say, look, when Moses, you know, as the story goes, comes down the mountain with the 10 commandments, it's not like there's a guy named Micah standing around saying, you know, what really matters is doing justice, loving kindness, like, Moses comes down with that set of laws when everyone around him is saying, you know, if somebody pokes out your eye, you poke out his eye, his brother's eye, his mother's eye, his sister's eye, you know? In other words, Moses giving the 10 commandments was a really good step in the right direction in Moses' day, and, and, and you're able to see, oh, that was the right step to take. But because we took that step, we're ready to take the next step. And that seems to me to be so much what, what we need today.

Randy:

That's good. Yeah.

Kyle:

So another thing you say in chapter seven, just camp here just for a second., so you describe your trajectory from a classical, what you might call dualistic understanding of God and the universe towards what I would call a more process or event-oriented understanding of God and the universe. I don't know if you go as far as to say that God evolves, but it was definitely kind of in that direction. And while describing that, you say, quote, "It's not that I refuse to believe in the old universe, it's that I simply cannot honestly be somewhere I no longer am."

Brian:

Yeah.

Kyle:

And that, that struck me because I've said that, or versions of that, many times. I think it gets at something really important about the non-voluntary nature of belief. I said something like it to my dad one time, we were riding in the car, and he was concerned about the kind of liberal education I was getting, and I think maybe we were talking about creationism, I don't know, and he was trying to press me for, you know, why I was giving up sort of the orthodox faith for this liberal lie. And what I said to him was, would you rather me lie about it? Would you rather me lie to you about what I'm believing? Or would you rather me, you know, talk honestly about my doubts here? And it was effective, rhetorically, and I think there's a lot of truth in it. But maybe it's because Hauerwas is still in my brain, I don't know, I'm, I'm wondering if there might be some self-deception in it too.

Brian:

Yes, yes, yes.

Kyle:

Because it can invite a temptation to give up too easily, right?

Brian:

Yes.

Kyle:

The "this is, but this is just how things seem to me" can mask my unwillingness to investigate something, or what you were saying earlier, you know, that thing you experienced is just a voice in your head.

Brian:

Yes.

Kyle:

But you could say that about just about anything, you know what I mean?

Brian:

Yes, yes.

Kyle:

It could be a conversation stopper. And I know that's not what you intend it to be. So I just wanted to ask you what you think about that and how it could get used.

Brian:

Yeah. No, I think that's a really great point. I think that's a really great point. And I, I mean, I, I have a little saying, never underestimate your capacity to be wrong. Never underestimate your capacity for self-deception. So I think it's always you know, it's always good to to keep that option open. Maybe the only other thing I'd say is that there's something different when you used to hold an idea, you used to hold an idea or a belief, and then you had experiences and encounters and, let's call a thought a kind of a mental experience, you had thoughts and questions that caused you to question that belief and in fact made it impossible for you to feel honest to say you still believe that belief. That's a little bit different than a person who won't allow the new experiences to even come because they're very comfortable in that belief. It's just another way of describing confirmation bias, you know. So I think it's, it's really a danger for a person to say, I can't think otherwise, so I'm not going to, you know. In fact, that's actually another very common thing that you experience with people who are in authoritarian groups. They physically, not physically, but experientially can't think certain thoughts because the the fear of being punished is so great, or the, the fear of having rewards withdrawn is so great, that they can't bear to even, when I say they can't bear, it's not like they're saying, oh, I can think about that. I just choose not to, it's that on a level before it even becomes a conscious thought, everything in them is, all the alarm bells, it's like panic, or, yeah, it's, it's a real thing. And I felt it before. And I think a lot of people, especially who grew up in authoritarian religious contexts, or political contexts, know what that's like. You talk about, you know, me and Kyle were talking earlier about, you know, where has Brian landed, and it's clear in your book, you're still Christian, you've decided to stay Christian. But you do make clear in the book that if I had to choose between the old Christianity that you grew up in, that you were given originally, or nothing at all, you would choose nothing at all, it seems like, right? Can you explain that? And then also, what, what does this new Christianity mean for you? What does it mean to be a new kind of Christian? So maybe I could explain it most simply ethically, that the Christianity I grew up with said that Jesus is coming soon, and everybody's gonna go to heaven or hell, and God will burn up the earth, and it will all be gone. And I realized that, if you believe that, then the idea that we need to be stewards of the earth and we need to pay attention to how we're destroying the climate and how we're acidifying the oceans and how we're stripping the topsoil and how we're exploiting our freshwater reserves and how insects are going extinct and fish are going extinct, and, you know, you just don't need to worry about that, we're all going to be in heaven, and this world is just, it's not my home, I'm just passing through. And this is just all gonna burn, it's not important. If somebody said, I'd like to invite you to believe that, I would say, I'm a bad enough person the way I am. If I believe that, I will become a really abominable person. I'll be so, so much of a worse person if I believe that. I was taught to see every person and decide, are they going to heaven or are they going to hell? Maybe I don't know. But I know I'm going to heaven. And so the question is, are they with me or are they not? And to be with me is to be with God. And oh, my goodness, if I had to go back to believing that, it would mean that I would have to close my eyes to so much beauty in so many people. And I'd have to minimize so much ugliness in so many people. I just couldn't do it ethically, it would be dishonest. So that's what, that's kind of what I'm, what I'm getting at there. But the thing I found out, and this is, you know, this is my honest answer, I don't need to say this, when I kept going back, with all my frustrations with the Christian religion, when I kept going back to look at the Bible as a library of texts, not with those assumptions of you have to read it literally and that it's inerrant, none of that stuff, but just looking at it, I thought, gosh, the Bible is dealing with the same issues I'm dealing with, you know, the tensions in the biblical story. And then when I get to Jesus and see what's going on with Jesus, I just think there is enough to keep me going there. I haven't exhausted it yet. It, it's, it's still leading me forward in a positive way. So I mean that, we could take an intellectual dimension of it, you know, talk about science and history and all the rest, but that would be an ethical way to respond to that, that question.

Randy:

That's good. Brian, thank you so much. I, last year, the question, I felt like I was going a little bit mad, and the question that was in my head over and over again was, is there a future for people like me in the church? You know, I'm leading a church through COVID and a crisis, racial crisis, you know, public health crisis, political crisis, you go on and on. And I felt like maybe there isn't room for me in the church anymore with my, where my faith has evolved to. And I remember looking at you in New York and asking you that very question, is there, is there room for people like us in the church, is there a place for us, or is, are we just going kind of just settle into little corners of pubs and you know, deconstruct non-stop? And you looked at me and you said, there's a future for us in the church. And that gave me hope, personally. So I'm just grateful for you being a voice to people like us, and saying, there's a future for you in the church, there's a future for you in this world, and we need you. So Brian McLaren, you're gift to this world, and we're just grateful for this.

Brian:

Well, we're all in this together. And I'm grateful for you guys doing this podcast and creating just beautiful space for people to eavesdrop on intelligent conversation and think their own thoughts and just a great gift that you're giving everybody, and, and I've got to say, I feel super honored to be in conversation with you guys on the same day you've had a conversation with Stanley, so that's a good thing.

Randy:

It was, today was a little bit like Christmas, I tweet about, so yeah, we're, this is a good day. Thank you, Brian McLaren, bless you.

Brian:

Thanks. Bye, bye.

Kyle:

Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being good person.

Randy:

Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.

Kyle:

If anything we said really pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Randy:

Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at@PPWBPodcast, @RandyKnie, and@robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.

Kyle:

Cheers!

Beverage Tasting
Interview