Monday, February 25, 2013


Everything Must Change
Part 6
The Prosperity System

Do you have any idea where the products that you buy come from?
          Does it make any difference to you?
Would you avoid companies that use sweatshops or unfair practices?

McLaren begins this section by saying:
While to outsiders, economics may seem like an objective discipline of science, numbers, statistics, and other hard data, there are many reasons to look at the economic sector of the suicide machine --- what we are calling the prosperity system --- in a religious light.  It is, after all, ultimately about the immaterial currency called desire. (p190)

What do you think?
          Do you agree or disagree?

What is of "true value" to you ---- what is worth desiring? (p190)

How would you define theocapitalism?

          1.       The Law of Progress Through Rapid Growth
          2.       The Law of Serenity Through Possession and Consumption
          3.       The Law of Salvation Through Competition Alone
          4.       The Law of Freedom to Prosper Through Unaccountable Corporations

What to you is a good and positive kind of prosperity?

How does Jesus answer these Four Laws?
          1.       The Law of Good Deeds for the Common Good
                             Fruitfulness not consumption
          2.       The Law of Satisfaction Through Gratitude and Sharing
          3.       The Law of Salvation Through Seeking Justice
          4.       The Law of Freedom to Prosper by Building Better Communities

What did you think of Rene Padilla's analysis of Capitalism and Communism?
Communism specialized in distribution but failed at production.  As a result, it ended up doing a great job of distributing poverty.  Capitalism was excellent at production but weak at distribution.  As a result, it ended up rewarding the wealthy with obscene amounts of wealth while the poor suffered on in horrible degradation and indignity.  Latin America is still waiting for a viable alternative, as is the whole planet. (p 220)

McLaren goes on to say:
The story of the coming century will likely be the story of whether a sustainable form of capitalism can be saved from theocapitalism, or whether unrestrained theocapitalism will result in such gross inequity between rich and poor that violence will bring civilization to a standstill, or perhaps worse.
What do you think?

What insights did this section offer you about gratitude, happiness, and materialism?  How could these insights help you in your life?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Everything Must Change, Part 5

According to Will Durant: “there have only been twenty-nine years in all of human history during which a war was not underway somewhere.”
Why are we so enamored with War?

          2011 Statistics
          World wide spending on military       1.7 trillion dollars
          USA             711,421 Billion
          China          143 Billion
          Russia         72 Billion
          England       63 Billion

That calculates out to $2 billion dollars per day on military.
Just to put it in perspective, in 2011, the USA spend $23 billion on Foreign Aid
Is the world a safer place?

Some argue that the Bible is a violent book, how do you respond?

At the start of Chapter 19 McLaren uses the terms derangement and dislocation to describe our situation today.  (p 151)  Do you agree with him?

Sam Harris has written a couple of very provocative books (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation), in which he challenges the way religion aids and abets the violent side of human nature.  Have you read either of those books?  How do you respond to his arguments?  (p 152f)

William Fulbright, in his book The Price of Empire writes:
Violence has become the nation’s leading industry.  It is not an enthusiasm for war but simple economic self-interest that has drawn millions of workers, their labor unions, and the elected representatives into the military-industrial complex.  To those who build them, weapons mean prosperity, not war.  For the industrialist they mean profits; for the worker, new jobs and the prospect of higher wages. And for the politician, a new installation or defense order with which to ingratiate himself with his constituents. . . . Weapons are not reproductive; they are sheer nonproductive assets.  They do not contribute to the welfare of the country in any positive way.  On the contrary, they drain resources --- human as well as material --- that could be applied to making our consumer products competitive, or to restoring the infrastructure that has been so rapidly deteriorating. (p163-164)
Is Fulbright correct?

Dwight Eisenhower
It happens that defense is a field which I have had varied experience over a lifetime, and if I have learned anything, it is that there is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security --- but it can easily bankrupt itself, morally and economically in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone.
Is the USA threatened with moral bankruptcy in our search for security?

At the end of Chapter 20 McLaren makes illusion to trying to get on God’s side, rather than trying to get God on our side. 
What does he mean? 
How can we tell which side we are on?

In chapter 21 McLaren uses very strong language (suicidal, idiotic) when he describes our culture’s love affair with war. 
Is his language appropriate or excessive?

Desmond Tuto is quoted (p172) saying: “no longer should the peace business be undermined by the arms business.” 
          What do you think?

In Chapter 22 McLaren talks about developing a “craving for justice”, what would that look like in your life?
          In the life of our church?
          In our nation?

Donald Rumsfeld said:
We have a choice, either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live, and we choose the later.
McLaren believes Jesus might have said it a little differently:
We have a choice, either to change the unacceptable way we live, or to change the unacceptable way that they live, which is impossible to do against their will --- without stooping to ethnic cleansing so they don’t love at all.  So, we choose the former, in the confidence that a voluntary change in our behavior will precipitate an unexpected change in their behavior.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.  Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. . . . Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. . . .  The chain reaction of evil --- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars ---- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

. . . Violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everything Must Change Part 4

The Message of Jesus

Have you ever struggled with the tension between generosity and greed?  What was your experience with that struggle?

McLaren writes on p 119
Fundamentalist religious movements . . . take words spoken five hundred or fourteen hundred or two thousand . . . years ago and apply them, sharia-style, as if they were intended to serve as today’s annotated legal code, today’s constitution, today’s how to manual.  They underestimate how the original words and teachings were rooted in gritty contemporary problems and human social contexts; instead, they see their sacred texts as timeless, placeless utterances coming from an arid, Platonic plan of universal abstractions.
How do you react to McLaren’s assertion about how fundamentalist have abused sacred texts?

Have you experienced religious people abusing sacred texts?

How do you think this kind of abuse can be overcome?

How can we help everyday Christians learn to read the Bible correctly? 
And by that I mean “we must carefully seek to determine not just what Jesus said, but what he meant, and how he would have been heard by his original hearers.  Only then can we venture to explore what his original meaning would mean for us today, and even then, we must do so with great humility and awareness of our amazing human capacity to be wrong.” (p121)

Jesus speaks repeatedly of “the Kingdom of God” (sometimes called Kingdom of Heaven), McLaren argues that Jesus would not use that language if he were speaking today.  Do you agree or disagree?

What do you see as problematic about the language of kings and kingdoms today?

How do you think Jesus might do it today?
          McLaren offers 4 alternative approaches (Chpt 16 p 128ff)
                   1.       God’s love insurgency
2.       God’s un-terror movement
                   3.       Global love economy)
                   4.       God’s sacred ecosystem
How does creation teach you?

In chapter 17 he focuses on the Divine Eco-System he asks us to try and describe what it would be like to decrease our distance from creation and see ourselves as part of God’s sacred ecosystem --- can you do this?

What are some of the various views of Jesus that you have heard, read, seen, ect.

Which Jesus do you follow?

What have you struggled with up to this point?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Everything Must Change, Part 3

What was the mission of Jesus?  Can you describe it in five words?

McLaren suggests two different ways of understanding the "Good News" of Jesus.
          One view he calls the "conventional view"
          The other he calls the "emerging view"
Summarize these two views.
How is your view of Jesus changed when you understand that he lived under the rule of the Roman Empire.

What did the cross mean in the Roman Empire?
          How does it compare with how we understand the cross today?

McLaren says that the emerging view can "help us face and then turn away from at least some of the more disappointing failure that have plagued the Christian religion in its first two millennia" --- do you agree?
          What are some ways that it can do this?

In Chapter 12 McLaren introduces the idea of "junk DNA".  What does he mean as it relates to the Bible?

Starting on page 105, McLaren retells the story of Jesus in Nazareth.  Imagine you were there that day, when you came home and told a family member who wasn't there, what would you tell them?

What does Kingdom of God mean?

Has there ever been a time in your experience when it seemed like God's kingdom lost and other forces won?