A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Faith After Doubt: An Interview with Brian McLaren

March 24, 2021 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 1 Episode 20
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Faith After Doubt: An Interview with Brian McLaren
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we chat with the one and only Brian McLaren. Brian has given his adult life to the Church in many ways and has created space for followers of Christ who feel like they exist on the margins of faith and Christianity. Brian has written many influential and important books, and in this episode we chat about his newest book: Faith After Doubt. This is a beautiful and brilliant book that will give you all sorts of space and permission to let your doubts come into the light and let them mature and grow your faith (even if that sounds really crazy right now). This was a truly delightful conversation that we're excited to share with you.

Brian speaks to a number of different prayers, books, and resources in the episode. Here are all the things that were mentioned during the conversation:

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic: Prayer Regarding Critics and Enemies
Miguel de Unamuno: San Manuel Bueno, Martir
Mary Doria Russell: The Sparrow
Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible
John Westerhoff: WIll Our Children Have Faith?

The two whiskeys featured in this episode are Snake River Stampede Small Batch and their 100th Anniversary Limited Release from Snake River Stampede Ale and Whiskey.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher)

[Music]

00:08

i often grieve the losses that have come

00:10

through the stages of faith

00:12

but other times it dawns on me that what

00:14

i have left are the best things

00:15

and even though i'm not always sure if

00:17

i'm miserable or ecstatic i know i'm

00:19

alive

00:20

i know you've already experienced that

00:22

aliveness it may have been for a

00:23

fleeting moment at the birth of a child

00:25

the death of a parent an experience of

00:28

profound sexual intimacy

00:30

a sublime turn in a symphony or poem or

00:32

film

00:33

or an act of self-giving it may have

00:35

come as you looked out the window of a

00:37

train or airplane

00:38

as you walked along a hiking trail when

00:40

you body surfed a curling wave at the

00:42

beach

00:42

or as you held or nursed your newborn

00:44

child you may have hardly even

00:46

acknowledged that little moment because

00:47

it was so

00:48

foreign and odd on the one hand or so

00:50

personal and intimate on the other

00:52

it may have even scared you a little bit

00:54

or embarrassed you

00:55

even made you feel guilty because it

00:57

didn't fit in the small boxes of

00:58

simplicity complexity

01:00

or even perplexity but whenever it came

01:02

and however it felt

01:04

you knew you were alive and you knew

01:06

life was precious holy

01:08

sacred you knew more than you could put

01:10

into words

01:11

you felt in your marrow that every

01:13

single thing was priceless and profound

01:16

and beloved

01:19

welcome to a pastor and a philosopher

01:21

walk into a bar

01:22

the podcast where we mix a sometimes

01:24

weird but always delicious cocktail of

01:27

theology

01:28

philosophy and spirituality

01:34

hi folks on the podcast today we have a

01:36

really special guest that we're excited

01:37

about we're talking with brian mclaren

01:40

who if any of you were evangelicals in

01:42

the 90s as i was i'm sure that name is

01:44

not

01:45

a new one to you brian is a well-known

01:47

author

01:48

within evangelicalism

01:50

post-evangelicalism

01:52

writing a lot about the emerging church

01:54

movement back in the day but now

01:56

about what what faith might look like

01:58

after a period of

02:00

deconstruction so we're talking with

02:01

brian about his recent book just came

02:03

out this january called faith after

02:05

doubt it's a really excellent

02:07

conversation

02:09

it really is yeah i loved it i mean i

02:11

wanted to i

02:12

didn't want the conversation to stop

02:13

he's so lovely so so incredible

02:16

but we also have something fun for the

02:19

tasting today our friends at story hill

02:20

bkc

02:22

in milwaukee have provided us with not

02:24

one but two whiskeys

02:26

i mean come on like that's incredible

02:29

nice so

02:30

we're we're sampling two canadian

02:32

whiskeys they're in the same family

02:33

one's an anniversary little bump

02:35

up we're snap sampling what's called

02:37

snake river stampede

02:39

and if you look up snake river stampede

02:41

on the internet you're going to find

02:42

first and foremost a rodeo

02:44

in idaho and i'm not joking

02:48

but so they they within their their

02:51

business corporate world have a

02:52

distillery and

02:53

this right here what we have is the

02:55

snake river stampede it's their

02:57

whiskey that pays homage to the great

02:58

american cowboy it's a blended whiskey

03:00

the small batch and it's 80 corn

03:04

10 malted barley 10 rye and it's aged

03:06

four years in a bourbon barrel and then

03:09

finished for six months in sherry

03:10

barrels so we're gonna get

03:12

that sherry finish i'm sure but let's

03:14

try this one first

03:16

nice so yeah i get

03:19

strong banana on the nose is that my

03:22

imagination

03:23

i don't i get some banana

03:26

not strong i get some maybe like um

03:28

caramelized banana

03:29

yeah yeah i see what you mean

03:33

yeah actually like desserty you're

03:37

searing some banana and you get a little

03:38

caramelization on them yeah

03:40

we'll call it bananas foster since it

03:41

has that nice sweet shared fish

03:44

okay this is a good canadian whiskey

03:46

truth be told i

03:47

throw shade at canadian whiskey i don't

03:50

respect it as much

03:51

along with irish whiskey there's not as

03:53

much flavor this has something to it

03:56

yeah it's good it's really sweet a lot

03:58

of vanilla for me quite smooth

04:01

it's really nice if it had a little more

04:04

viscosity i would think of this as a

04:06

dessert whiskey

04:07

it's just so sweet it's creamy almost

04:10

pair that with some actual bananas

04:11

foster and that'd be pretty delicious

04:14

yeah yeah it's really nice okay so i

04:16

want to do the compare and contrast well

04:18

that's

04:18

still so next step refresh you guys go

04:20

ahead and sip i'll just talk about it

04:22

they have this

04:22

stinky river stampede has a hundred year

04:24

anniversary

04:26

uh batch that they just put out which is

04:28

exactly what we just tried

04:29

except they age at two additional years

04:31

in former rye barrels

04:33

so we're gonna see what that whiskey

04:35

tastes like this canadian whiskey

04:37

when you add the two years in rye

04:38

barrels which i'm super excited it's

04:40

already darker color yeah

04:42

changed it completely yeah the nose is

04:44

way different the nose is more complex

04:46

more luxurious

04:47

but definitely more woody obviously oh

04:49

oh

04:50

so much better enjoys a lot more i'm

04:53

glad we did it in this order and

04:54

not the other way around oh i almost

04:57

feel like you can taste the sherry even

04:59

more in this one where it's got that

05:01

rich

05:01

fruity thing but the rye barrels just

05:04

brought complexity to it

05:06

that's lovely more oak wow uh

05:08

butterscotch for me like it's kind of

05:09

those the deeper

05:11

brown flavors and i would never if you

05:14

if you gave this to me i would never

05:15

guess in a million years it's a canadian

05:17

whiskey

05:18

it's like sea gram 7 or this which is a

05:21

compliment for a snob like you

05:23

i'm not a snob yet but i am about

05:25

canadian whiskey this is delicious

05:27

yeah the bananas are gone too which is i

05:30

think a

05:30

marked improvement yeah and this is this

05:33

is a fun thing that our friends at story

05:34

hill bkc would say

05:36

do this these both of these bottles are

05:37

right around thirty dollars they're not

05:39

going to break the bank

05:40

bring both of them home and you get to

05:42

do what we just did which is compare and

05:43

contrast maybe even have a blind taste

05:45

test

05:46

see which one you like better there's

05:47

all sorts of fun you can have when you

05:48

do stuff like this

05:49

i feel like some of my favorite moments

05:50

around whiskey are when there's a couple

05:53

bottles out and talking about with

05:54

friends

05:55

absolutely trying to figure out which is

05:56

which it's great absolutely so story

05:58

hill bkc

05:59

it's the place to go for great unique

06:02

finds of liquor

06:03

in milwaukee it's a great place to go

06:05

for dinner and

06:07

you'll you'll just there there's there's

06:10

a thing there's things there there's

06:11

bourbon there that i can't tell you

06:13

about

06:13

but it's there my friend joe told me

06:15

about him and i'm telling you just go to

06:16

star hill bkc if you're in milwaukee and

06:18

if you're not in milwaukee make sure to

06:20

shop local

06:21

and support local because they need it

06:23

[Music]

06:25

well brian mclaren thank you so much for

06:28

being with us and welcome to the podcast

06:30

well i've got to say this is one of the

06:32

best names of a podcast of any other one

06:35

so happy to be with you guys perfect

06:38

thank you so much such a gift to have

06:39

you

06:40

um brian for the four listeners that we

06:42

have that don't know who you are

06:44

can you just fill in a little bit about

06:45

your story sure

06:47

well uh i i grew up in

06:50

upstate new york lived most of my life

06:51

in maryland i've lived in florida the

06:54

last 12 years

06:55

i started my career as a college english

06:57

teacher and so i

06:59

in fact i had kind of a minor in

07:00

philosophy i loved philosophy

07:03

and um i ended up becoming a pastor

07:06

helped

07:06

start a church co-led that church for 24

07:10

years and then

07:11

during that time i started writing books

07:13

and for the last i don't know how many

07:14

years gosh

07:16

14 15 years i've worked as a writer and

07:19

speaker and then i've got a bunch of

07:21

causes that i

07:22

can be involved with too one of the fun

07:26

things that

07:27

most people know is you're i mean i was

07:29

going to do a facebook post to say

07:31

today to say i'm going to give you a

07:33

guess of the this guy that we're having

07:35

on as an interview tonight is probably

07:36

one of the top two biggest lightning

07:38

rods in the christian movement in the

07:39

last 15 years

07:40

and i bet everybody would have been able

07:42

to guess it was either you or rob bell

07:44

i want to know how that feels to be that

07:46

lightning rod and i mean your

07:48

your book that we're going to talk about

07:50

today faith after doubt

07:51

is so gracious and generous and just

07:53

beautiful

07:54

and there's so lit there's no

07:57

vindictiveness in you there's no

07:59

bitterness in

08:00

in there it really is a beautiful thing

08:02

how did you get to that place brian

08:05

well you i don't know how if i'm if i'm

08:08

uh fooling everybody to think i don't

08:10

have my bad days but

08:12

um i'll tell you uh two things uh that

08:16

that helped me uh one was

08:19

one of my mentors when i i don't know my

08:22

second or third book had come out

08:23

and he pulled me aside and handed me

08:26

this prayer

08:27

that was written down on you know i

08:28

don't know if you remember old-fashioned

08:30

ditto paper but anyhow it was a

08:32

really old piece of paper and it was

08:36

a prayer by a serbian orthodox bishop

08:39

called a prayer for my enemies if

08:40

anybody's interested if you go to my

08:42

website which is brian mclaren.net and

08:44

you just put in

08:45

prayer for enemies in the search it'll

08:48

come right up it's just this beautiful

08:49

prayer

08:50

and he handed it to me he said i have a

08:51

feeling you're going to need this

08:54

and uh for many years it sat on my desk

08:56

and i would read it and reread it to the

08:58

point where

08:58

it i've almost memorized it but uh

09:01

anyhow that was a huge help to me

09:03

because

09:04

it really it just took me to a place i

09:07

certainly

09:08

wasn't going on my own it would be much

09:10

easier now

09:11

if i were getting the criticism that i

09:13

was getting when i was in my 30s

09:15

and early 40s you know it's just i

09:18

wasn't at a place i think where i

09:19

i was able to handle it so that prayer

09:22

helped me

09:22

a whole lot but then the other thing

09:24

that helped me is i would always get

09:26

these

09:26

uh sort of backhanded compliments

09:30

like one time an editor and i might as

09:32

well just say he was an

09:34

editor of christianity today which is a

09:36

magazine a lot of people would know

09:37

[Music]

09:38

he pulled me aside and he said uh

09:41

we we met in a hallway at some

09:43

conference and he said ah mclaren

09:46

yeah read a couple your books i really

09:48

don't agree with them

09:49

really really don't approve of what

09:50

you're doing really don't like it

09:52

and he said but i got to say my kids

09:55

are far away from the christian faith

09:57

and if they ever come back

09:59

it won't be to my kind of christianity

10:01

it'll be to yours

10:02

and so there were things like that you

10:03

know that you would just realize

10:06

yeah people are doing the best they can

10:07

and so i'll try to do the best i can

10:11

well we're going to be talking about

10:13

brian's book that i don't know when you

10:15

released it brian was that late 2020

10:17

that came out in january uh january yeah

10:20

it's called faith after doubt and i must

10:22

say

10:22

it is a beautiful book i mean it's just

10:25

really incredible

10:26

struck me as just there's been a couple

10:29

of

10:29

important books i would put under that

10:31

important category

10:33

recently that have come out and this is

10:34

one of them it's it's given

10:37

it gave me as a pastor so much

10:39

understanding to the people that i

10:40

pastor

10:41

who struggle with doubt and have walked

10:43

through faith crises and

10:44

there's so many people in the church

10:47

right now who have either left the

10:48

church

10:49

or feel like they're on the cusp of it

10:51

because they can't swallow

10:52

what they've been told they've been told

10:54

they have to swallow with when it comes

10:55

to beliefs and faith and all of that

10:58

in this book is a must read for anyone

11:00

who's walking with somebody

11:02

in faith crisis or struggles with doubt

11:05

themselves which is so many of us so

11:07

i just want to jump right in brian you

11:10

you speak to

11:11

this phenomenon of clergy struggling

11:14

with doubt

11:15

and pastors in the pulpit even

11:18

struggling with doubt struggling with

11:19

faith crises struggling with

11:21

having questions and being in this this

11:23

land that you call perplexity even

11:25

and they're not able they don't feel

11:28

freedom to to share that with their

11:29

congregation because they know that if

11:31

they did they get fired

11:32

and they have to pay off this debt that

11:33

they just that they just accrued in

11:35

seminary

11:35

and so they're between this rock and a

11:37

hard place where they can't where they

11:39

can't be their genuine selves

11:40

and that sounds like a slow death to me

11:42

oh yeah and i

11:43

i uh empathize so much with joel the the

11:47

woman who you highlight in chapter six

11:48

so much

11:49

can you speak to this reality where

11:51

there are church leaders pastors who

11:53

feel like they can't be themselves who

11:54

feel like they can't bring

11:56

the truest part of who they are and what

11:57

they believe and what they're living out

11:59

and then these gatekeepers who make it

12:01

so it's almost impossible for them to

12:03

come out

12:04

as having doubt or struggling with their

12:06

faith yeah it's funny

12:08

you bring that up uh just i think it was

12:10

yesterday or the day before

12:12

i got an email from a denominational

12:14

leader

12:15

who just read the book and he said to me

12:18

uh boy it was such a powerful paragraph

12:21

in this email he says

12:24

so many of the pastors under my care

12:27

are going through faith crises right now

12:30

many of them

12:31

are are feeling that they don't want to

12:33

spend the rest of their lives

12:35

working in churches especially white

12:37

evangelical churches he said

12:40

um and then and then you know that was

12:43

very moving and then he said and the

12:45

same is true of me

12:47

so what a lot of people don't realize is

12:49

that

12:50

there are a whole lot of clergy who look

12:52

at what

12:53

the the word christian means in

12:56

america today uh and and there's an

12:59

evangelical version of this there's a

13:01

catholic version

13:02

because i'm hearing from catholic

13:03

priests and you know a lot of catholic

13:06

leaders as well

13:07

uh who are having similar struggles and

13:09

they just feel something's gone

13:11

terribly wrong uh and so

13:15

they're and and they they have ideas and

13:18

they've read books and they have dreams

13:20

about change

13:21

but if they were to say them to their

13:23

congregation there would probably be 25

13:25

percent who'd be so happy and relieved

13:27

and thrilled

13:28

and there'd be another 25 percent who

13:31

would be ready to

13:32

fire them and uh and all the rest you

13:34

know so so yeah it's

13:35

it's really tough my uh if i were to say

13:39

the typical clergy biography

13:42

that based on my experience in the

13:44

united states

13:45

so many of the people who become pastors

13:47

become pastors

13:49

not because they love church but because

13:51

they love the youth group

13:52

or they love the summer camp or they

13:54

love the mission trip

13:55

and youth group summer camp mission trip

13:58

are what were spiritually

14:00

for formative for them and they decided

14:02

to go to seminary

14:04

and and many of them had a faith crisis

14:06

in seminary because

14:07

very often in seminary you're exposed to

14:09

scholarship that folks don't hear in the

14:11

pew

14:12

and suddenly they have to grapple with

14:14

new levels of complexity

14:16

and um but by the time they finish

14:18

seminary most

14:19

i'll just tell you most younger people i

14:22

meet

14:22

have nothing but good to say about their

14:24

seminary experience maybe the debt is a

14:26

problem

14:27

but in terms of the chance to just have

14:30

deep and open and open-minded and

14:33

open-hearted and far-ranging

14:35

uh conversations about the bible and

14:37

theology

14:38

and faith you know people love that when

14:40

they have that chance

14:41

and then they come back they get

14:43

assigned to their first church

14:45

and they find out that a whole lot of

14:46

the people might listen to them

14:49

one hour on every uh every sunday but

14:52

monday through saturday they're

14:53

listening to fox news or

14:55

until recently they were listening to

14:57

rush limbaugh or

14:58

sean hannity or tucker carlson or

15:00

whoever it is and these people are

15:02

having such a formative influence on

15:04

them

15:05

that if the pastor says anything out of

15:07

line

15:08

with these uh in some ways you might

15:11

call them the

15:12

covert clergy of their lives uh

15:15

you know the the pastor is in trouble

15:19

brian i uh i just this afternoon read a

15:22

short story or novella

15:24

that i wonder if you've read it was by

15:26

miguel de una muno who is

15:29

cited in one of your epigraphs in the

15:30

book and randomly total coincidence a

15:33

friend of mine who is an

15:34

atheistic philosopher had recommended a

15:37

short story of his to me and i just got

15:39

around to reading

15:40

it today uh and it's called saint manuel

15:42

the good martyr i

15:43

know i have not read that what read this

15:45

story well i just read one of his novels

15:47

one of innomuno's uh novels a year or

15:49

two ago now what's the name of it anyway

15:51

go ahead i haven't read that that uh

15:53

maybe maybe there's a theme that runs

15:55

through his work i don't know this is

15:56

all i've read by

15:57

but it's about a a saintly priest and a

16:00

small village

16:00

in spain who

16:04

is legit saying by all accounts and and

16:06

devotes his life to the poor and serving

16:08

the people in his village and refuses a

16:10

call to a successful career

16:12

but you find out spoilers that

16:16

that he's been deep in doubt and

16:17

probably just straightforward atheism

16:19

his whole life but he's a martyr

16:23

in the sense of the title because he

16:25

conceals his doubt from

16:27

the people that he serves and presents

16:29

to them a picture

16:30

of what you would call simplicity that

16:33

gives them joy because at the end of the

16:34

day he doesn't think anything else other

16:36

than their happiness matters anyway

16:38

uh and so the fact that death is the end

16:40

of existence

16:42

if he told them they wouldn't understand

16:44

it it wouldn't matter and they wouldn't

16:45

believe him anyway

16:46

so so he he serves them with a false

16:49

confidence

16:50

and that's the sense in which he's a

16:51

martyr and i literally just read that

16:53

this afternoon

16:54

right after finishing your book and it

16:55

was just such a weird juxtaposition that

16:57

i had to mention it

16:58

oh my goodness oh my goodness well

17:00

you're bringing to mind knowing that you

17:01

like fiction

17:03

there are just so many really powerful

17:05

stories like this you know you think i

17:07

don't know if

17:08

you like science fiction but the sparrow

17:10

which is a

17:11

science fiction with a theological twist

17:14

has a similar kind of theme a guy goes

17:16

to be a missionary to another

17:18

planet and uh and has and

17:21

i won't go into the details but you know

17:23

he comes back a broken man

17:25

and uh oh my goodness so much great

17:27

literature poison wood bible

17:29

uh incredible uh yeah

17:32

so much literature dealing with this

17:34

issue of

17:35

of the secret dimensions of doubt of

17:38

course you don't have to go to

17:40

fiction you think of mother teresa when

17:42

some of her journals were

17:44

were uh were published and you find that

17:48

and you know i i don't know what to make

17:50

of the the the story from unamuno there

17:52

but

17:53

you think of mother mother teresa and

17:56

you think

17:57

i it doesn't make me think less of her

17:59

it makes me see even

18:01

something more beautiful in her that she

18:03

continued to love

18:04

and serve and it wasn't because

18:07

she had this you know overflowing faith

18:10

it was

18:10

it was or let's say this way she didn't

18:13

have overflowing feelings of faith

18:15

[Music]

18:19

we've already used a couple of terms

18:20

that are key and central in this book

18:22

faith after doubt

18:23

um you present these stages of faith

18:26

and doubt as the portal could you just

18:28

for listeners who haven't read your book

18:30

brian can you just

18:31

walk us through those four stages

18:32

quickly sure and i always like to say

18:34

anybody who hears about a stage theory

18:37

and feels suspicious

18:38

i share your suspicion staged and i

18:40

appreciated that so

18:42

much in the book oh my goodness just

18:44

after yeah stage theories can be abused

18:46

terribly

18:46

but on the other hand they're super

18:48

helpful the the analogy i

18:50

always think of is when uh many many

18:52

years ago when my wife and i

18:54

had our first child uh and you know we

18:57

met with this

18:58

uh nurse and she talked to us about the

19:00

first trimester of pregnancy

19:02

in the second trimester and the third

19:04

trimester and what to expect and then

19:05

when it came close to delivery

19:07

we went to childbirth classes and they

19:09

talked about the different stages

19:11

and it sure helps when you're going

19:12

through something for the first time

19:14

uh to have somebody tell you here's what

19:16

to expect so that to me is what's

19:17

helpful about

19:18

stages but what i did is i took i i

19:22

just became fascinated with this 30 or

19:23

40 years ago and started

19:25

reading stage theory and over the years

19:27

i've accumulated probably a dozen

19:29

different

19:30

theorists who i i've been especially

19:32

interested in

19:33

um and i tried to synthesize them

19:35

integrating with my own experience as a

19:37

person of faith and then as a pastor so

19:39

four simple stages easy to remember

19:42

simplicity is the stage of dualism

19:45

everything is a simple us them friend

19:48

enemy good

19:49

evil safe dangerous and a lot of people

19:52

that's the faith that they have

19:54

for their whole lives and in fact a lot

19:56

of people including clergy think that's

19:58

what religion is for

19:59

to keep everybody simple in terms of

20:02

their morality and their theology

20:04

but a lot of people through travel

20:08

or reading or education or suffering get

20:10

plunged out of simplicity

20:12

and the easy answers don't work anymore

20:15

and they find themselves in complexity

20:17

and i call that the stage of pragmatism

20:19

because when those

20:20

easy answers don't work you try to make

20:22

your life work and you try to figure out

20:24

your own ways of coping

20:26

with a complex world that doesn't fit in

20:28

those simple categories you

20:30

were raised with as a child and a lot of

20:32

people stay in complexity

20:34

their whole lives i think the mega the

20:35

the mega church phenomenon

20:37

in many ways is is complexity it's it's

20:40

a

20:40

sort of self-help usually you know and

20:43

uh

20:44

not so dogmatic but very uh

20:47

inspirational and uplifting

20:49

um and then a lot of people that works

20:52

and then other people

20:53

for one reason or another that falls

20:55

apart and my contention is that

20:57

um when you in each of these stages when

21:00

you begin

21:01

to not just doubt specific elements of

21:03

the stage

21:04

but you doubt the way that stage works

21:07

that's what thrusts you into a new stage

21:10

and the third stage would be perplexity

21:12

and that's when

21:13

everything is in doubt and where in some

21:15

ways you reverse

21:16

everything from your first two stages

21:19

you become

21:19

suspicious of those authority figures

21:21

who told you all the easy answers and

21:24

and in fact you become maybe even

21:26

cynical and skeptical about uh what

21:28

you've been taught because you just see

21:29

that it's

21:30

that life isn't that simple and that

21:32

often those people who told you they

21:34

were moral were

21:35

actually doing immoral things and and

21:37

harming people so

21:39

perplexity is super important and a lot

21:41

of folks hit it in graduate school and a

21:44

lot of folks

21:44

hit it in midlife and a lot of folks

21:46

don't hit it until later in life

21:49

and a lot of folks never had it but and

21:51

many stay there and then the fourth

21:52

stage that i think

21:54

and one of the reasons i wrote this book

21:56

is because i i have a

21:58

special place in my heart for people in

22:00

stage three they think that's all there

22:01

is

22:02

and i want to help them see actually i

22:03

think there's something even beyond

22:05

stage three

22:06

and i call that harmony so simplicity

22:08

complexity perplexity

22:10

and harmony is where we try to integrate

22:11

the strengths from the earlier stages

22:13

but also become honest about the

22:16

weaknesses

22:17

yeah yeah so in

22:20

in chapter eight you speak of

22:23

this reality that you had and that i've

22:26

seen so many of my friends who've

22:27

walked through faith crisis or been

22:29

crippled by doubt and that is that

22:31

they were hoping to find this silver

22:33

bullet that just

22:35

comes out of nowhere saying god if

22:37

you're real you're gonna have to speak

22:38

to me you're to have to do something

22:39

crazy

22:40

supernatural and i come from even a

22:41

little bit of a charismatic background

22:43

which lends itself to that to saying

22:45

well if god's real he's going to show up

22:47

and that i i don't

22:50

i've never been a fan of that yes and

22:52

you speak to that reality can you can

22:54

you just speak to that what that feels

22:55

like and then what's a better way maybe

22:57

what's so interesting you for you being

22:59

from a charismatic background

23:00

i was from a very non-charismatic

23:02

background and then i got the full

23:04

treatment and i

23:05

you know but there was this period of

23:07

time where everybody was telling me i

23:09

needed to be baptized in the holy spirit

23:11

and speak in tongues and

23:13

um i kept praying to speak in tongues

23:15

and i it just

23:16

didn't happen for the longest time and

23:18

and i remember thinking

23:19

if i could just experience that i would

23:22

know forever

23:24

that god is real and the holy spirit is

23:26

real and that the bible is true and

23:28

and for other people it's if this

23:30

miracle would happen if this healing

23:31

would happen

23:32

and um and you know what sometimes they

23:34

happen uh but here's the thing

23:37

life goes on and the next miracle might

23:40

not happen

23:41

and for me i remember when i finally had

23:44

some of these

23:44

spiritual experiences i was told that i

23:46

should have i remember thinking

23:48

but this could all be psychological in

23:51

other words

23:51

those things that were supposed to prove

23:53

something i found

23:55

they didn't necessarily prove anything

23:57

and and so

23:58

uh what i'd recommend for people is

24:02

i understand how appealing it is to have

24:05

a kind of hail mary pass

24:06

uh of some one silver bullet that's

24:09

gonna solve all of your problems

24:10

and if you want to try that obviously

24:14

be my guest but i have a feeling that

24:17

after the second time or the third time

24:19

or the fourth time

24:20

that that disappoints you you're going

24:22

to have to say

24:23

you know what maybe the answer to this

24:25

isn't a shortcut maybe

24:27

and in fact maybe this isn't a problem

24:29

i'm supposed to solve

24:31

maybe this is one of the experiences of

24:33

life that is actually supposed to deepen

24:35

and expand my faith

24:36

oh man

24:39

sheesh we could be done right there but

24:42

we're not going to be

24:45

in chapter 10 brian you speak of the

24:46

great need for forward leaning

24:48

and i'm quoting you here forward leaning

24:50

faith communities

24:51

that nourish the values and narratives

24:53

of a new kind of faith faith after and

24:55

with doubt as you say so many times

24:58

can you just put put some put a picture

25:01

in and flesh that out a little bit what

25:03

does that commun

25:05

what do those faith communities

25:06

potentially look like that you dream of

25:08

that you see as

25:09

desperately needed right now yes well

25:11

you know there's a sentence that i don't

25:13

think i

25:14

ever wrote in the book i i wish i

25:17

could go back and stick it in and it

25:19

would be this

25:20

that doubt is not the enemy of faith

25:23

doubt is the enemy of authoritarianism

25:26

and i think part of what's going on in

25:28

the world and one of the reasons we have

25:30

such

25:30

crazy stuff going on in the christian

25:33

world and not just the christian world

25:34

there's

25:35

bad stuff happening in judaism and bad

25:37

stuff happening in islam and bad stuff

25:39

happening in

25:40

buddhism uh and uh and there's pretty

25:43

bad stuff happening in atheism too in

25:44

other words

25:46

we've got an authoritarianism problem

25:48

that is

25:49

sprouting up all over i think i've

25:51

written some about this if people are

25:53

interested

25:53

i have a little ebook that i've written

25:55

called the second pandemic that's about

25:57

authoritarianism but

25:59

one of our problems is that our religion

26:02

has been an authoritarian religion

26:05

and obviously there are many wonderful

26:07

leaders who are not authoritarian but

26:10

it's just sort of in the it's in the

26:13

water you know it's in the

26:15

it's in the bloodstream of our religion

26:18

and so when i think of a stage four

26:21

faith community the first thing i think

26:22

about is a community that

26:24

doesn't run on authoritarianism that

26:26

doesn't mean there's no authority and it

26:27

doesn't mean there's no leadership

26:29

but it means it's the kind of leadership

26:30

that jesus tried to model

26:32

when he for example when he said i no

26:35

longer call you

26:36

servants but friends to me that was

26:38

jesus saying

26:40

you know i don't want an authoritarian

26:41

relationship with you guys that's not

26:43

what i want

26:44

i want you to do greater things than

26:46

i've done he even dares to say that

26:49

so there's a different kind of

26:50

leadership and and part of the

26:52

one of the tools of authoritarianism is

26:55

that we

26:56

make people say that they agree with

26:58

certain statements

27:00

whether they even understand them or

27:02

whether they agree with them and it's a

27:03

way for

27:04

for and the reason many authority

27:06

figures do this

27:07

is because their authority figures did

27:09

it to them and we could go back

27:10

generation after generation it becomes

27:12

kind of a

27:13

a cultural habit it's very interesting

27:16

you don't find jesus doing that

27:18

sort of thing he he comes up to people

27:20

and says follow me and they don't have

27:22

to they can walk away

27:23

but he invites them to follow and if

27:25

they follow he leads them on an

27:26

adventure and he tells them stories and

27:29

and he learned he helps them learn how

27:33

to live

27:34

which is different than just telling

27:36

them what to believe

27:37

and and he models it he doesn't just he

27:40

doesn't write any books you know

27:43

thank god he he lived a life and and

27:45

modeled that life

27:46

and and that to me is what a stage four

27:48

faith community would be about

27:49

it would it would say uh we're trying to

27:52

be a community that is

27:53

seeking to learn a way of life and and

27:56

as a christian faith community

27:58

we're inspired by jesus and and that is

28:01

the kind of life

28:02

uh we're seeking to live and you know

28:04

the the the beautiful thing is

28:06

uh i mean this is happening it it's

28:08

always been happening

28:10

but but we're in a bad patch right now

28:12

where

28:13

a whole lot of authoritarian christian

28:16

leaders have gained a whole lot of power

28:18

and uh and that's why i think we're

28:20

we're at this period

28:22

it's causing a lot of people to doubt

28:24

and they don't want that kind of they

28:26

don't

28:26

it just doesn't smell like jesus and so

28:28

they want something different

28:30

yep i'm a parent brian i have four kids

28:32

my oldest is 13

28:34

about to be 14. and for the last 14

28:36

years my wife and i have been talking

28:38

about and trying to figure out

28:39

how do we raise our kids in a way that

28:41

gives them a faith

28:42

foundation while giving them a

28:45

foundation of faith that they don't have

28:46

to deconstruct when they hit 17 or

28:48

19 or whatever you know how do we how do

28:50

we give them containers

28:52

to hold faith in a healthy and spacious

28:54

way and you have a chapter

28:56

in chapter 13 that's all about creating

28:59

spiritualities of harmony for the rising

29:00

generation which i think is just

29:02

if your parents this book is worth just

29:04

chapter 13 to go out and get it because

29:06

it's

29:07

so beautiful and i was reminded last

29:09

sunday i'm driving

29:10

with my whole family to my in-laws and

29:13

my kids start talking about demons and

29:14

angels

29:15

and my son who's 12 said what's a demon

29:19

i said well you know there's angels like

29:21

that visited mary and joseph

29:22

and they're being spiritual beings that

29:25

assist god and then there's the bible

29:26

says there's demons

29:28

and they assist you know the enemy and

29:30

satan and i can see their eyes crossing

29:31

a little bit and i said well basically

29:33

we're not sure if they're real actual

29:36

beings

29:36

or if they're just metaphors and

29:38

pictures for something that that is just

29:40

evil in the world

29:41

and my almost 14 year old daughter sat

29:43

there for a second no one

29:44

else said anything she said i kind of

29:46

think it's that metaphor one

29:48

i kind of think it's a picture for for

29:49

the evil that happens in the world and

29:51

it's just an easy way for

29:52

us to understand it and i sat there and

29:54

wonder

29:55

yes of thinking like my 13 year old

29:59

has a grid for metaphor and myth in the

30:01

bible

30:02

in ways that maybe she might not have to

30:03

deconstruct right away

30:05

and it was just so thankful to god in

30:07

that moment you

30:09

you create this spacious place for

30:11

parents to give some tips for parents to

30:14

raise their kids in a healthier form of

30:16

spirituality can you just

30:17

go through give us an outline sure sure

30:20

well first what a beautiful story

30:22

and i and and i'm so happy for your

30:24

daughter

30:25

i'm so happy that she has a father and a

30:27

pastor and a church

30:29

where that sort of thing can be said and

30:31

what's so beautiful

30:33

is you you were bringing her out of

30:36

stage one

30:37

into stage two because you didn't tell

30:39

her what the right answer was in fact

30:41

you gave her two good options

30:43

that's something a stage one leader can

30:45

never do they can only give you a right

30:47

option and a wrong option

30:48

but you gave her good options

30:50

permissible acceptable options

30:52

and then you invited her to think about

30:54

it for herself so just

30:56

that's so that's so beautiful but the

30:58

first thing i'd say is

30:59

you know there's a whole group of books

31:01

and authors that were really big when i

31:03

was young

31:04

raising children and the first thing i'd

31:06

say is please don't read any of those

31:08

books

31:09

because what they really were doing was

31:12

teaching authoritarian parenting

31:14

yeah and it was pure they were they were

31:17

raising children

31:19

to to be stage one um their whole lives

31:22

and

31:22

and and so much harm has been done so

31:25

what i'd recommend is get some new books

31:27

and and

31:27

i'll tell you there's a book i'd highly

31:29

recommend it's by a couple named jeffrey

31:31

and amy

31:32

ulrich they'd be great people to have on

31:34

your podcast uh they wrote a book called

31:36

the six needs of every child and

31:38

jeffrey is a brilliant psychologist and

31:41

it's just a wonderful book

31:42

and and so the first thing i'd say is be

31:45

sure

31:46

you don't you don't let yourself be

31:50

inducted into a kind of parenting that

31:53

won't be helpful

31:54

and and i'm sad to say that a lot of

31:56

religious books

31:57

will you know i don't think we'll take

31:59

you in a good direction

32:01

but um the the big thing here's what i'd

32:04

say is

32:05

if if if this idea of stages makes sense

32:09

the way i see it i don't see it like you

32:11

know you're going

32:12

from the 10 to 20 yard line of stage 1

32:14

and the 20 to 40 yard line of stage two

32:17

i see it more like rings on a tree stage

32:19

one is like the center ring on a tree

32:21

and then another bigger ring grows

32:23

and builds on those capacities and then

32:25

another ring builds on those capacities

32:27

and then i think stage four becomes the

32:30

new simplicity and then we sort of keep

32:32

repeating that process but

32:34

what that means is that when you're

32:36

teaching your eight-year-old

32:38

you don't want to say anything to your

32:40

eight-year-old that you'll have to

32:41

unteach your eight-year-old when

32:43

she's 16 and you don't want to teach

32:46

your 16 year old

32:47

anything that you'd have to un-teach her

32:49

when she's 32

32:51

and so you always work at the early

32:53

stages with the later stages in mind and

32:56

and that i i think i think that will

33:00

it it will help you be honest and then

33:02

the only maybe the one other thing i'd

33:03

say

33:04

there's a great uh theologian of

33:06

christian education named john

33:07

westerhoff he wrote a book back in the

33:09

1970s called

33:10

will our children have faith and

33:14

john made a startling diagnosis

33:17

he felt that that people were losing

33:20

their faith

33:21

because of sunday school now and what he

33:24

meant by this was when you put all first

33:27

graders together and you teach them

33:30

in in age-appropriate ways and then you

33:32

put all second graders together and so

33:33

on

33:34

the one thing that children never have

33:36

is the chance to hear

33:38

older children and adults talk a lot

33:41

about their own faith

33:42

honestly and he's he believed that

33:46

storytelling

33:47

is at the core of the building of a

33:49

healthy faith honest storytelling

33:52

and so you imagine i can imagine

33:56

your 13 year old daughter in 20 years

33:59

saying i remember

34:00

a ride in the car with my dad where he

34:03

said

34:04

some people think it's this way some

34:05

people think it's that way and it was

34:07

the first time i felt i had permission

34:09

to think for myself you know and and

34:13

you hear someone say yeah you know i

34:16

i uh you you know imagine hearing a

34:18

person who's

34:20

my age or older and they say yeah i

34:23

i my faith was going fine and then my

34:26

spouse died

34:27

and for a few years i didn't even

34:29

believe there was a god anymore

34:31

and for a kid to hear that they think oh

34:34

these sort of things happen

34:36

that's that's not that's not something

34:38

to be ashamed of it's not something you

34:39

have to pretend but that's

34:41

to me that creates an environment of

34:42

safety

34:44

so good so switching gears a little bit

34:48

here

34:48

so when i think of the kind of

34:50

authoritarianism you were talking about

34:52

earlier

34:52

we've had lots of previous episodes

34:54

about our our feelings about

34:56

american christianity and evangelicalism

34:58

and whatnot so our listeners know what

34:59

we think about that but

35:01

on my journey through your stages if i

35:03

can flatter myself that i've

35:05

that i'm at least approaching stage four

35:07

one thing i've been very tempted to

35:09

from time to time is to just give up on

35:12

the whole thing

35:13

and try to form some kind of secularized

35:15

alternative community

35:17

something like the mennonites but

35:18

without all the hokies

35:21

and uh and and just abandon the church

35:24

structure all together and kind of try

35:26

to start from scratch and i think

35:27

there's a lot of people in my generation

35:28

that are

35:29

that would be gung-ho about something

35:30

like that but it seems like in your book

35:32

you think that's a bad idea

35:34

and you seem to at one point uh suggest

35:37

that

35:38

stage four faith ought not to do that

35:40

and and one of the reasons you give is

35:42

just so practical and i want to hear

35:44

your thoughts on it

35:45

and it is if we did that we'd be giving

35:47

up all the real estate

35:49

that the church has gained and i think

35:52

you mean that metaphorically and

35:53

literally so can you explain what you

35:56

said sure

35:57

well first i don't think i'd say that i

35:59

think it's a bad idea i

36:00

i'd say that that we that we need people

36:04

to do a lot of different things

36:06

and i frankly think there are some

36:08

people in some places

36:09

who do need to leave because they're

36:11

because the place where they are is

36:13

doing

36:13

them damage and it's doing their

36:15

children damage and

36:16

and it's just not healthy to stay uh

36:19

i don't want to violate anybody's

36:21

privacy but i was just on a call

36:24

the other night with 60 members of a

36:27

religious community that is highly

36:30

highly authoritarian

36:32

and they were telling me that if they

36:35

were to

36:36

question if if their spiritual leaders

36:39

were to find out they

36:40

were reading this book and all 60 of

36:41

them were 55 or whatever it was

36:43

were reading the book if their leaders

36:46

found it they were reading this book

36:47

they would be kicked out of their church

36:50

and their children they go to church

36:52

based school their children would be

36:53

kicked out of the school

36:55

they might have to leave town to find a

36:58

job because they'd be blackballed

37:00

so you just you know so i i would never

37:02

say to anybody that

37:04

i would never say that everybody needs

37:05

to do the same thing because i think

37:08

you know there are really toxic

37:09

religious communities out there that

37:11

people should just

37:12

you know get as far away from as fast as

37:14

they can

37:15

um but you know the other thing that

37:17

came to mind kyle when you said that

37:19

like you know maybe just create like a

37:22

secular community that focuses on what

37:24

really matters

37:25

i could imagine people saying that's

37:27

what jesus was doing and i could very

37:29

much imagine people say that's what paul

37:30

was doing

37:31

i as you know i quote uh paul quite a

37:34

bit in this

37:35

last part of the book uh and when paul

37:38

says

37:39

neither circumcision nor uncircumcision

37:41

means

37:42

anything at all the only thing that

37:44

matters is faith expressing itself in

37:45

love

37:46

i can just imagine a whole lot of people

37:48

saying he is

37:49

a liberal he is a heretic because the

37:52

bible says that circumcision matters

37:55

and he's saying it doesn't really matter

37:57

and so you think if you put aside

37:59

something like that

38:01

you can just see how people would have

38:02

said yeah they've just given up

38:04

they're going creating another

38:05

environment where

38:07

you know tax collectors and prostitutes

38:10

are welcome to the table

38:12

you know what kind of a table is that so

38:15

i i would say actually that doing the

38:18

kind of thing you just described

38:20

i would consider that's part of the work

38:22

but

38:23

to get to your actual question i do

38:25

think that there are

38:26

parts of the christian faith community

38:30

and parts of the christian tradition

38:32

that are certainly redeemable and

38:34

salvageable

38:35

and we shouldn't give up quite yet

38:38

on on everything uh so i i hope that

38:41

does that feel free to

38:43

push back if that doesn't answer your

38:44

question or not well it seemed like you

38:46

were also

38:47

hinting that and maybe i'm reading into

38:50

this

38:51

because i don't know maybe maybe this is

38:52

my own subversiveness reading

38:54

reading that into your book but it

38:55

seemed like maybe you were

38:57

gesturing towards somehow using the

39:00

structures that have been built for

39:01

other purposes

39:02

well look let's face it um most of our

39:05

christian denominations in america that

39:08

have been around

39:09

for over 150 years were built on slavery

39:12

i mean the wealth that built those

39:14

churches came from people who either had

39:16

slaves in the south

39:18

or were running you know cotton

39:21

manufacturing businesses in the north

39:23

that was using the slave labor of the

39:25

south

39:26

to pick the cotton so everything in our

39:29

faith

39:29

is deeply deeply polluted i mean

39:33

there's no purity we're we're way beyond

39:35

innocence

39:37

um almost all of our churches are on

39:39

maybe all of them or on stolen land so

39:41

you know

39:42

we we have that reality to face

39:46

but in the spirit of being subversive

39:48

kyle

39:49

i would say two things first if we

39:53

give up all of the tradition

39:56

to the most regressive

40:00

and reactionary and hateful

40:03

and fearful people that

40:06

puts an awful lot of power in their

40:08

hands and i'm not

40:10

sure that's a good idea just practically

40:12

to just

40:13

you know walk away that easily but

40:16

second

40:16

there really are treasures and and the

40:18

fact is everything

40:20

including myself is is

40:24

tainted and and polluted and corrupted

40:26

so

40:27

we're always talking about redeeming

40:29

corruptive corrupted things you know

40:31

uh making uh as michael gunger's old

40:34

song

40:35

said making beautiful things out of

40:37

sometimes out of pretty trashy things

40:42

so next question is kind of heavy you

40:44

ready for it okay

40:46

so do you have any genuine

40:49

hope that you could say the church but i

40:52

really want to ask about humanity in

40:54

general

40:55

actually will transcend to what you call

40:57

a stage four

40:59

uh and if so what do you think the most

41:01

likely path is and the answer cannot be

41:03

doubt

41:03

yeah yeah well

41:07

um look uh some days i'm more optimistic

41:10

than others

41:11

um but i'll tell you

41:14

my three biggest the three

41:18

things that make me least hopeful

41:22

first is the climate i mean we have

41:25

made trillions of dollars by exploiting

41:27

the climate

41:29

and there are trillions more dollars to

41:30

be made by sucking fossil fuels out and

41:33

pumping them into the atmosphere

41:35

and the power the love of money it seems

41:38

to me

41:39

is really running the world and and

41:42

and of course money is a form of power

41:45

so

41:45

it's the love of money and the love of

41:46

power together and i'm just not sure

41:49

we're going

41:50

i mean already it's too late to avoid

41:53

catastrophic

41:54

effects of climate change but at least

41:56

all the science says that like

41:58

if if everyone remembers what it was

41:59

like a little over a year ago

42:01

when they said 40 000 people could die

42:04

in this pandemic

42:05

and some estimates rage up to 250 000

42:08

and people said oh it'll never be that

42:10

bad and now it's over 500 000 right

42:12

and and that same kind of scientific

42:15

analysis tells us

42:16

that the sea levels are going to rise

42:18

and and it's just a question is it going

42:20

to be one meter or three meters or five

42:22

meters and

42:23

and any of those scenarios are really

42:26

really bad and so that's the first one

42:27

and then the second one

42:28

is wealth inequality we have this tiny

42:31

segment of people

42:33

who are getting richer and richer at an

42:35

unimaginable rate

42:36

and again money is one thing but you

42:38

think of the power that gives them

42:41

and then all the rest of the people have

42:43

uh you know just a little

42:45

uh portion of what's left over so it's a

42:48

super big problem and that means that

42:50

the powerful people keep running things

42:52

and they're running them into the ground

42:53

and they're fools and they're

42:56

and they're selfish and they're blind

42:58

and then the third one

42:59

the third problem is weapons that uh we

43:02

just keep making more weapons and we

43:03

think we're going to be safer with more

43:05

weapons but when you have those first

43:06

two problems

43:08

uh destabilizing world the environment

43:10

and economic inequality and then you

43:12

have weapons

43:12

we're in a lot of trouble so that's so

43:15

what i would say is

43:17

i don't know how this is going to turn

43:19

out i and i have my doubts that we human

43:22

beings

43:23

are going to be able to change quick

43:25

enough to avoid some

43:26

pretty rough times but what that does to

43:29

me is it doesn't make me give up in fact

43:31

it makes me

43:32

feel if i were to give up i would be so

43:34

disgusted with myself i

43:36

i i you know the worse this looks to me

43:39

the more

43:40

dedicated i am to try to raise my voice

43:42

and do what i can to

43:44

provide an alternative and and that's

43:47

what i think is the right thing to do

43:49

uh for for for everyone who can i mean

43:52

if people are overwhelmed by despair i

43:55

certainly don't criticize them i

43:56

understand but for those of us who

43:58

can keep uh keep up the struggle that's

44:02

what i think we should do

44:03

whether or not there are hopeful signs

44:05

and look i know

44:07

you know uh people want to be optimistic

44:10

and hopeful and i'm all for that

44:12

but um i i'm also suspicious of hope

44:16

i'm suspicious of it yeah

44:19

so what does the lived experience of

44:21

faith look like when you're convinced by

44:23

the sorts of things that you just

44:25

rattled off there

44:26

that there's that there's only a fool's

44:28

hope or that

44:30

that you just can't bring yourself to

44:31

believe that things are actually going

44:33

to achieve

44:34

the kind of promised land final ending

44:37

where we all want what

44:38

what does an experience of faith feel

44:40

like at that point well you know there's

44:41

a i guess she identifies as a buddhist

44:43

an environmental brilliant human being

44:46

named joanna macy

44:48

and i i think she speaks the truth she

44:50

says if anybody tells you that

44:52

everything is going to be okay

44:53

they're lying they don't know and if

44:56

anybody tells you that there's no hope

44:58

and that everything's going down the

44:59

toilet

45:01

don't believe them they have no way of

45:02

knowing that and

45:04

and so i think what that says to us is i

45:06

don't think we act

45:07

based on what the odds are i think we

45:11

act

45:11

based on what is the best and right

45:13

thing that we can do

45:15

and to me that maybe is a deeper kind of

45:17

hope than a hope

45:18

based on uh you know to

45:21

quote uh hunger games that the odds are

45:23

ever in our favor

45:25

and to me maybe that's what faith is at

45:27

its deepest i love that phrase it's in

45:29

the new testament in romans 4.

45:31

it says in hope against hope abraham

45:34

believed

45:35

and i that phrase in hope against hope

45:38

like all hope was gone but he decided to

45:40

hope anyway

45:41

uh that to me is when we get down to

45:43

what faith

45:44

maybe really is that we say i'm going to

45:47

do the right thing

45:48

because not because i think it's going

45:50

to work or it's going to pay off

45:52

i think that's who i want to be the kind

45:54

of person who does that

45:56

so let me can i ask my follow-up

45:59

question then brian

46:00

yeah and introduce a little bit of you

46:02

know hope into the

46:03

the situation i you know you you

46:07

described this

46:07

conversation of marching with this your

46:09

friend named hannah yes

46:11

and she is this remarkable person who

46:14

has given herself to being an advocate

46:17

for the earth

46:17

and for all sorts of things and she said

46:19

i don't think it's going to actually do

46:20

anything

46:21

but i just love it too dang much to give

46:23

up which is just to this beautiful

46:24

picture

46:25

but at the same time i'm a couple of

46:27

things one is i'm an

46:28

i consider myself an unabashed

46:30

progressive christian yes which means i

46:32

believe that

46:32

like things are getting progressively

46:34

better there's something out there that

46:35

we

46:36

we need to move towards yes rather than

46:38

going back

46:39

and also i live in light of the kingdom

46:41

of god a new creation that i think was

46:43

this inaugurated eschatology in the

46:46

resurrection

46:47

yes that we're moving towards and i

46:49

think

46:50

you could even look historically and say

46:52

there's less war than there's ever been

46:53

right now

46:54

it's better for women than it's ever

46:56

been now it's better for

46:57

marginalized communities than it's ever

46:59

been now even though it's terrible

47:00

in in many ways right yes but i i i

47:03

still live with this

47:04

eschatological hope that we are headed

47:06

towards something somewhere good where

47:08

jesus says i'm making all things new

47:10

yes how do you square that with the

47:12

despair in the

47:13

you know i've got these three things and

47:15

then also new creation

47:17

yes well first i'm so glad you raised

47:19

that because

47:20

i i 100 agree with you everything you

47:23

said is

47:24

true um by almost every indicator

47:28

you know we really are making progress i

47:30

think we're in a really dangerous moment

47:32

right now

47:33

you know progress that we've made on

47:34

race could be just swept away

47:36

and you know in one election

47:39

and so we um you know things are always

47:43

fragile with us human beings

47:45

uh it's it's uh i think about my friends

47:48

who

47:48

are recovering from alcoholism or some

47:50

other form of addiction

47:52

and you know you meet them and they say

47:54

yeah you know i'm six months sober

47:56

i'm six years sober i'm 26 years sober

47:59

but they in saying it that way they're

48:01

always remembering

48:02

i could go out on a bender tonight and i

48:04

could be in trouble again

48:06

tomorrow so it's this sense that you

48:08

know we human beings are

48:10

are are uh

48:13

we're prone to to wander as the old hymn

48:16

says

48:17

so here's the way that it that feels

48:20

honest to me

48:21

it's not to say i'm going to

48:25

have my realized eschatology and my

48:27

eschatological hope

48:29

so that that removes my sense of danger

48:32

and

48:33

warning and i'm not going to choose one

48:36

over the other but i'm not going to

48:38

choose

48:38

my danger and warning and make that

48:40

erase my hope

48:42

i'm going to hold both and i'm going to

48:44

live with that tension now that's

48:45

something that a stage one

48:47

in stage one we can't do we have to say

48:49

it's either hope or despair

48:51

because we're in that dualistic stage

48:53

starting in stage two we

48:54

we start to see oh it might be necessary

48:56

to hold

48:57

both of those and i think probably in

48:59

stage three we're probably lean more

49:01

toward despair right

49:03

but maybe in stage four we learn how to

49:05

hold them both together

49:06

that's good um and i also think there's

49:09

another dimension of this that happens

49:10

as

49:11

as we mature partly getting older partly

49:14

maybe getting wiser

49:15

is we also start to learn that my

49:17

circumstance

49:18

is very localized it's localized in time

49:23

and it's localized in space

49:25

so that for example while the great

49:27

awakenings were going on that

49:29

christians that white christians love to

49:31

celebrate

49:32

you know those days when people were

49:34

going to methodist revivals or

49:36

pentecostal revivals and people were

49:38

being slain in the spirit and

49:39

raising their hands and feeling the

49:41

presence of the holy ghost

49:42

there were other people being whipped

49:44

and across town there was a child being

49:46

molested and

49:47

so those things exist simultaneously and

49:50

and i think we have to try to

49:54

hold the agony of both of them together

49:56

yeah it's really good

49:58

sounds like harmony yeah and and it it's

50:01

and it sounds like the bible too you

50:02

know the the bible has

50:04

both the the bible has in fact it's what

50:07

the prophets do

50:08

they hold out warning and they hold out

50:10

hope

50:11

and they don't back off on the warning

50:13

and they don't back up on the hope they

50:15

hold them

50:16

both out and and constantly face us with

50:19

with both i love it yeah

50:22

speaking of the character hannah in your

50:24

book that randy mentioned earlier

50:26

um so in describing what might be left

50:29

after

50:30

even hope is gone certainly after

50:32

certainty is gone but even after

50:34

hope is gone there's a really beautiful

50:36

and i found it kind of moving

50:38

section or paragraph towards the end of

50:40

your book would it be okay if i read a

50:41

portion of your book

50:43

to get more thoughts on it uh so in

50:45

describing what might be left after that

50:47

you just call it aliveness

50:48

and i really love that so so here's what

50:50

you say this is page 190.

50:53

i often grieve the losses that have come

50:55

through the stages of faith

50:56

but other times it dawns on me that what

50:58

i have left are the best things

51:00

and even though i'm not always sure if

51:01

i'm miserable or ecstatic i know i'm

51:03

alive

51:04

i know you've already experienced that

51:06

aliveness it may

51:08

have been for a fleeting moment at the

51:09

birth of a child the death of a parent

51:12

an experience of profound sexual

51:13

intimacy a sublime turn in a symphony or

51:16

poem or film

51:18

or an act of self-giving it may have

51:20

come as you looked out the window of a

51:22

train or airplane

51:23

as you walked along a hiking trail when

51:25

you body surfed a curling wave at the

51:26

beach

51:27

or as you held or nursed your newborn

51:29

child you may have hardly even

51:31

acknowledged that little moment because

51:32

it was so foreign and odd on the one

51:34

hand

51:35

are so personal and intimate on the

51:36

other it may have even scared you a

51:38

little bit

51:39

or embarrassed you even made you feel

51:41

guilty because it didn't fit in the

51:42

small boxes of simplicity complexity

51:45

or even perplexity but whenever it came

51:47

and however it felt

51:48

you knew you were alive and you knew

51:50

life was precious holy

51:52

sacred you knew more than you could put

51:55

into words

51:56

you felt in your marrow that every

51:58

single thing was priceless and profound

52:00

and beloved that's beautiful

52:04

first of all it reminds me a bit of

52:06

something c.s lewis said i think it was

52:08

in

52:08

the problem of pain about a secret

52:10

thread that runs through all our

52:12

experience

52:13

that to him spoke of joy in heaven

52:16

but that you can't really communicate to

52:18

someone else you just call it being

52:19

alive

52:21

what do you have in mind there and how

52:22

does it relate to faith can you say well

52:24

i gotta tell you as you read that i

52:26

i feel a little bit emotional because um

52:29

we're we're having this conversation on

52:31

a thursday night and on sunday afternoon

52:33

i saw the woman her name isn't you know

52:36

she has i changed people's names but

52:39

who's kind of the basis of that story

52:42

i live just down the road from a town

52:45

called immokalee which is kind of the

52:46

center of

52:47

migrant farm worker uh life in uh east

52:51

of the mississippi and

52:52

so the farmworkers start down here in

52:54

the winter they pick tomatoes and

52:56

uh then they move up with the crops uh

52:59

and by

53:00

october they'll be picking apples up in

53:02

michigan and then they'll come back down

53:04

to

53:04

florida here and they have a rough life

53:07

and they're

53:07

treated terribly and the food industry

53:10

is such a

53:11

mess and so i've been involved with the

53:13

immokalee community and

53:14

it's one of the it's a beautiful

53:16

blessing in my life

53:18

but one of the farm workers a few right

53:19

after george floyd shortly after george

53:21

floyd was

53:23

killed by a police officer putting his

53:25

knee on his neck for about eight minutes

53:27

a man an immokalee was killed he was

53:29

having a mental uh

53:31

breakdown in fact it was religious

53:34

related he told his 12 year old son

53:36

that he was seeing angels and demons uh

53:39

interestingly based on our

53:40

that story earlier and uh he was having

53:43

a mental breakdown

53:44

and so in the middle of the night he

53:47

left the house and he had a shovel and

53:49

i guess he was banging the shovel on

53:51

someone's house and

53:52

obviously she the woman inside was

53:54

scared she called the police the police

53:56

came

53:56

in 13 seconds they shot him they

54:00

from the time they got out of their car

54:01

until he was dead

54:03

dying in the street 13 seconds

54:06

so it's one of these tragic stories of

54:08

of a police officer making a mistake and

54:10

then the sheriff's office

54:12

said everything's fine there's

54:15

you know there's no need for any change

54:17

he he acted according to plan

54:20

and so what happened is the people the

54:23

farm workers in this community said

54:25

we're gonna have a vigil

54:27

for for this fellow and so

54:30

i i was there and i saw her across

54:32

across the crowd and it's just

54:34

as you were reading that paragraph i

54:36

just thought of how we felt at that

54:38

vigil and i i was asked to get up and

54:40

say something as a former clergy person

54:44

and so all i said is i said to the 200

54:47

people around and of course

54:48

probably 20 of us spoke english and 80

54:52

spoke spanish so everything i said was

54:53

translated but i said

54:55

could we just stop and could everyone

54:57

look around at the faces of the other

54:58

people here

55:00

and do you realize that all of us are

55:02

here because of love

55:04

um because we love this man who was

55:06

killed

55:07

and because we love this town and

55:10

because we love

55:11

life and we don't want our children to

55:13

have happened to them

55:14

what happened to this man and and we

55:16

love the police and we want them to

55:18

learn how to do better and

55:20

and we just looked around the the the uh

55:23

we're out on a street corner and i think

55:25

we just felt that love and in that

55:27

moment here's the thing

55:29

you could stay home and and read about

55:32

you know read about this dear man being

55:35

killed by the police and you could be

55:37

angry and you could be cynical and you

55:39

could be

55:40

ticked off and and all the rest but i

55:42

can guarantee

55:43

if you showed up on that street corner

55:46

you would have felt love and you would

55:48

have felt that aliveness and you would

55:49

have felt like

55:51

you know god might not seem real when

55:54

you're sitting at home

55:55

reading about this or singing on tv but

55:58

when you're here with 200 people who

56:00

care

56:01

there is something real there and that's

56:03

yeah

56:04

so as you read that that's that's so

56:07

so relevant to what just happened the

56:09

other day

56:11

well brian got one more one more

56:13

question that i'd love to hear you

56:15

in your pastoral really wonderful way

56:18

air out for our listeners a little bit

56:20

but there's this thread that weaves

56:21

through the book

56:22

that i love where you just keep on

56:24

hitting this this this drum that is

56:27

the only thing that matters is faith

56:29

expressing itself in love

56:31

and you talk about how in the first two

56:33

stages maybe you have your christianity

56:35

or your religion is a set of beliefs

56:38

but that the goal is to move that to a

56:41

faith journey and you say basically

56:44

quoting the apostle paul in

56:45

the book of galatians that the only

56:47

thing that matters is faith expressing

56:48

itself in love

56:50

can you just give us your however many

56:52

minutes you want to take

56:54

just just get riff on that a little bit

56:57

well first of all if if paul had not

57:00

said that

57:00

and i was the one who said it that if i

57:02

were to say

57:04

neither circumcision nor uncircumcision

57:06

and then i might say

57:07

neither adult baptism nor infant baptism

57:10

in fact

57:11

neither baptism or non-baptism it

57:13

doesn't mean anything

57:15

in fact creeds in fact church buildings

57:18

in fact

57:18

clergy in fact the bible whether you

57:21

take the eucharist or not whether you

57:22

believe the bible's an errand or a bunch

57:24

of myths

57:25

it doesn't mean anything at all if i

57:28

were to say that

57:29

a whole lot of people would be really

57:31

really ticked off at me

57:34

but the fact is that is what paul said

57:37

he took

57:38

the boundary marker of his religious

57:40

community which was

57:41

circumcision and remember there's no

57:43

place in the bible

57:45

in the in the hebrew scriptures where

57:46

god said listen i'm giving you this

57:48

thing for

57:48

called circumcision i just want you to

57:50

observe it for about 800 years then it

57:52

won't be important after after that or

57:54

or 1200 or 2000 or however many years it

57:57

was like

57:57

this is the way it is forever and then

58:00

paul comes along and says that's not

58:01

that it's not

58:02

it's not that in fact it's not important

58:04

at all what really matters is faith

58:06

expressing itself in love and

58:08

and then once you see that and then you

58:10

go back and you read the gospels you

58:12

realize that's what jesus was saying and

58:14

uh you know when he says in the sermon

58:17

on the mount

58:17

i have not come to abolish the law uh

58:22

and the prophets but to fulfill it what

58:25

could he mean well he's saying look i'm

58:26

not throwing them away

58:28

they took you as far as they can i want

58:30

to take you to the next stage if we

58:31

could say it that way

58:33

and when i think of it that way and i

58:35

look over the whole bible and

58:37

you know i was a preacher like like you

58:39

so i i

58:40

spent an awful lot of my life in the

58:42

bible and you know i would preach

58:44

two or three times a week and i'd be

58:46

leading bible studies and i was writing

58:48

books

58:49

man i'm a bible guy right and here's

58:51

what i can tell you

58:52

early in the bible we have law

58:56

and law is what really matters in fact

58:59

before law you know what we have

59:01

we have patriarchs and patriarchs

59:04

they they have the patriarchs with no

59:06

law we might say that's sort of an

59:08

authoritarian

59:09

system a patriarchal system then they

59:12

get law

59:13

and law is a big step forward but you

59:16

know what law

59:16

isn't enough and and you know the hebrew

59:19

scriptures say the law comes from god

59:21

it's a gift from god

59:22

but it wasn't the last gift and then a

59:24

new gift comes and you've got the wisdom

59:26

literature you've got

59:27

proverbs that says here's all these

59:29

other things these aren't exactly laws

59:31

but they'll help you

59:32

to get through life and and then you get

59:35

to the prophets

59:37

and the prophets have the nerve to say

59:39

that god doesn't really even care about

59:41

all those

59:42

laws that what god cares about is doing

59:45

justice and loving kindness and walking

59:47

humbly with god

59:48

i mean what an incredible thing so you

59:51

start with patriarchs and then you go to

59:52

law and then you go to wisdom and then

59:54

you go to justice

59:56

and then jesus comes along and says the

59:57

greatest command is love

59:59

so it seems to me if we look at it this

60:01

way

60:02

that the entire process is supposed to

60:05

lead us to love

60:06

but because of the way we read the bible

60:09

and because of our

60:11

love affair with authoritarianism we

60:14

have done a great job

60:15

of stopping at authority figures or

60:18

stopping at law

60:19

or stopping even at wisdom or stopping

60:23

at justice

60:24

although not enough of us even get as

60:25

far as justice and it seems to me if we

60:27

go

60:28

all the way to love we'll get law

60:31

and we'll get authority the right kind

60:33

of authority and the right kind of law

60:35

and the right kind of wisdom and the

60:36

right kind of justice because in the

60:38

context of love

60:39

it just yeah it all fits together in

60:41

fact it's something else paul wrote

60:43

he said um over all of the qualities

60:46

that you seek for in life

60:47

he says put on love which holds

60:51

everything together in perfect harmony

60:54

and that i is really one of the places

60:57

where that word harmony came for for me

61:00

love is what brings everything together

61:01

in perfect harmony

61:03

so good the book is faith after doubt

61:06

why your beliefs stopped working and

61:08

what to do about it by brian mclaren you

61:10

can find it everywhere you find books

61:11

brian i'm wondering if you could finish

61:14

our time

61:15

i know people are listening who are

61:17

struggling with doubt and

61:18

feeling inadequate maybe even feeling

61:20

like they gotta hide

61:21

they're they're just experiencing the

61:23

whole thing i have doubts

61:24

we all have doubts could you just we

61:27

don't do this all the time but i i would

61:29

love for you to just speak a blessing

61:30

over us in our doubt

61:32

in in our faith journey is that okay i'd

61:34

be be honored to do that

61:37

the first thing i want to say is if

61:40

you're a parent

61:42

i want you to ask yourself if you would

61:44

ever want your children to be afraid to

61:47

tell you the truth

61:48

[Music]

61:49

if you'd ever want your children to

61:50

think that if they tell you the truth

61:53

you're going to torture them or beat

61:56

them

61:56

or hate them imagine if your child is

62:00

terrified

62:02

and he's afraid to tell you he's

62:04

terrified

62:05

and so he tries to pretend he's brave

62:08

but it's killing him inside

62:10

and would you like your child to have to

62:12

suffer with that

62:13

and i i know that every one of us who's

62:17

a parent

62:17

we wouldn't want our children to suffer

62:19

we we love our children too much we

62:22

we would want the truth from them we

62:24

want them to feel free they could

62:25

confide

62:26

anything to us and i suppose the

62:29

blessing i would wish

62:30

on everyone is that

62:34

you would have the courage and the guts

62:37

and the anger and the fury

62:40

to believe that anyone who tells you

62:44

that god will beat you up for being

62:47

honest that those

62:48

that those people are wrong and that you

62:50

have the courage to believe that god is

62:52

at least

62:52

as kind a person as you are

62:56

and i would hope

62:59

that you wouldn't just believe that

63:01

about god but that you would be willing

63:03

to at least surrender

63:04

some part of your own brain to agree

63:08

with god in that

63:09

so that some part of you would stop

63:12

condemning you

63:13

for being honest there's that beautiful

63:16

psalm

63:17

where david finally admits that he's

63:19

been lying about some

63:21

wrong terrible wrongs that he's done and

63:23

then he says

63:25

um you don't even desire all those

63:28

offerings that you know we were that

63:30

moses told us we had to make

63:32

it's one of those places where there's

63:33

actually an argument in the bible

63:35

you don't really what you desire is

63:37

truth in the innermost being

63:40

and so the thing i would say want to

63:43

blessing to everyone would be may you

63:47

seek truth in your innermost being amen

63:51

i i would say like this whoever god is

63:54

whatever god is

63:55

i think god would rather you say i don't

63:59

think i believe in you

64:01

than to say i don't believe in you but

64:04

i'm going to pretend i do

64:07

and that honesty gives us something to

64:09

work with and

64:11

truth in the innermost being is is

64:13

something to aspire to and

64:15

and i think what we find is when we

64:17

bring out

64:18

the the deep secret the thing we're

64:20

afraid of

64:22

we we actually find that that the fear

64:26

leaves that thing for us and

64:29

and we find peace and we find grace and

64:31

we find acceptance so that would be my

64:34

prayer and my blessing for people and

64:37

and maybe i'd say one other thing

64:39

there is a perverse part of our brains

64:41

that likes to beat ourselves up

64:44

and that perverse part of us looks for

64:47

people who will beat us up

64:49

but there's another part of us that

64:51

wants to be a friend to ourselves and

64:54

and that part of us looks for people who

64:58

treat us and see us with grace and and

65:01

i'd like to ask people to dare to

65:03

believe that that

65:05

is the part that's within each of us

65:07

that is

65:08

the best reflection of what we mean when

65:10

we say the word god

65:13

beautiful brian mclaren your gift to us

65:16

your gifts to this world thank you so

65:17

much for joining us

65:19

well can i say thanks for the podcast

65:22

thanks for the good work you're doing

65:23

you know it

65:24

i'll just say one place where people

65:27

are safe to think about their doubts is

65:30

while they're in their car

65:31

driving along listening to a podcast

65:33

like this and people like you are

65:35

creating space for open discussion so

65:37

god bless you keep up the great work

65:39

[Music]

65:44

thanks for spending this time with us we

65:46

really hope that you're enjoying these

65:47

conversations as much as we are

65:49

and if you are help us get the word out

65:52

before you close your podcast app leave

65:53

a rating or a review

65:55

that helps new listeners find us maybe

65:57

for the first time

65:58

if you'd like to share the episode you

65:59

just heard with a friend or a family

66:01

member

66:01

you can find those links on our social

66:02

media pages you can also find us over on

66:05

patreon

66:05

at patreon.com a pastor and a

66:08

philosopher

66:08

thanks again for listening until next

66:10

time this has been a pastor and a

66:12

philosopher

66:13

walk into a bar

66:21

you said um you said single batch do you

66:24

want to say small

66:24

sorry should i go over that whole thing

66:27

just just make it so it's small small

66:30

barrel

66:31

make sure you say it right

66:32

[Laughter]