Changing McLaren’s Mind

Last month Brian McLaren posted a very interesting note from a former fan who was feeling the need to ‘break ranks’ with the author over his position regarding homosexuality. 

I wanted to post part of it here for several reasons.

  1. I have been saying that ‘People Do Change Their Minds’. 
  2. We talked about Brian doing the religious  ceremony for his son and his son’s partner on this TNT.
  3. In the post Brian quotes his new book.
  4. Brian doesn’t allow comments on his blog so I thought it would nice to host a little comparing of notes conversation.

After the reader’s very cordial note, McLaren begins his response by saying that we don’t actually have to break ranks with each other.

So, it’s important for you to know that if you hold a different view than I do, whatever the issue – I would not want to “break ranks” with you. In fact, I am continually enriched, instructed, and challenged by people who differ with me on this and other issues – and I hope the reverse could be true.

Brian’s second point is that in the current configuration of conservative v. liberal positions, some groups place a lot of pressure of people to ‘break ranks’ with those who differ – or they are in danger of ‘guilt by association’.

McLaren’s third point is that if you just look at sheer percentages, that if roughly 6% of every population is homosexual …  if they were not forced to live in silence,  in denial, or in the closet  … that the numbers quickly become significant of people who are directly affected (parents, siblings, and friends) to the point that old views simply become untenable. [you will actually want to read McLaren's reasoning here if you plan to push-back on it.]

Then he gets to the quote from the book (p. 52).

I think of a friend of mine from the same background of Christian fundamentalism I hail from. When his son came out, he had no support to help him accept the possibility that his son could be both gay and good. With deep ambivalence, he stood with his tradition and condemned his son. The cost alienation from his son – was high, but it grew unspeakably higher when his son internalized the rejection and condemnation of his community and took his own life. Or I think of another friend, the mother of a gay son, also from my heritage. She came to me in secret to talk, knowing that one of my sons had come out around the same time as hers. Through tears she said, “I feel like I’m being forced to choose between my father and my son. If I affirm my son, I’m rejecting everything my father stood for. If I stand with my father, I’m rejecting my son.”
In religion as in parenthood, uncritical loyalty to our ancestors may implicate us in an injustice against our descendants: imprisoning them in the errors of our ancestors. Yes, there are costs either way.

Finally McLaren says the most interesting thing of all: 
“I want to add one more brief comment. You ask, if we change our way of interpreting the Bible on this issue (my words, not yours) “- what else will happen next?” Here’s what I hope will happen. After acknowledging the full humanity and human rights of gay people, I hope we will tackle the elephant in the room, so to speak – the big subject of poverty. If homosexuality directly and indirectly affects 6 – 30% of the population, poverty indirectly and directly affects 60 – 100%. What would happen if we acknowledged the full humanity and full human rights of poor people? And then people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses and impairments? And then, what after that? What would happen if we acknowledged the spiritual, theological, moral value – far beyond monetary or corporate value – of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, of seas and mountains and valleys and ecosystems? To me, Jesus’ proclamation of the reign or commonwealth of God requires us to keep pressing forward, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, proclaiming God’s amazing grace to all creation.”

And that is why I thought the conversation might be worth hosting here.   What are you thoughts about the last part?  

2 thoughts on “Changing McLaren’s Mind

  1. I haven’t made the leap into fully affirming homosexuality but I have good friends on both sides of this issue. I happen to think McLaren is right on this. When we elevate homosexuality to ‘super sin’ we end up skipping over some pretty major priorities in the Bible (like the care of widows and orphans). So by all means hold convictions regarding the gay lifestyle (I do) but be civil and listen to the other side.

    • Well done :) Thank you for the note and your very irenic tone! If I could – I would give you a copy of McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, … anabaptist/anglican, metho (emergentYS)” !!! -Bo

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