There are so many reasons to be ashamed of the label "Christian" these days. One reason that my shame is not completely crippling is because of a one man army for decency, compassion and common sense-- author, raconteur and all around lovely person Brian McLaren.
All McLaren is and we can be is in his new book Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.
I beg you to A) Buy the book. B) Read it. C) Go to hear Brian speak.
"My pursuit, not just in this book but in my life, is a Christian identity that moves me toward people of other faiths in wholehearted love, not in spite of their non-Christian identity and not in spite of my own Christian identity, but because of my identity as a follower of God in the way of Jesus." P.11.
"We are increasingly faced with a choice, I believe, not between kindness and hostility, but between kindness and nonexistence. This is the choice we must make, the road we must cross." P.12.
"More and more of us are seeking treatment for Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome (CRIS). You are seeking a way of being Christian that makes you more hospitable, not more hostile...more loving not more judgmental...more like Christ and less (I'm sad to have to say this) like many Christians you have met." P. 15.
For every bomb blast, drone strike and killing in the name of the "War on Terror" for every inflammatory statement about Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus or Mormons, for every gay person bashed in the name of God and woman relegated to 2nd class status for some theological "reason" here is the antidote. We're over 10 years into a cycle of wars of religion. We have killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and watched our men and women die in a bogus war in Iraq and a never-ending war in Afghanistan. And parse these wars as you will religion is at the root of them.
So isn't it about time we honestly and lovingly address the issue of exclusionary religion? It is. And McLaren has gifted us with a book that can -- at last -- launch this discussion with the tone and writer's skill McLaren brings to his writing.
McLaren takes our yearnings for peace and turns them optimism about a new Christian path through which all religions can become a force for human liberation. McLaren reclaims the Christian imperative to abandon a static religion of exclusion and embrace others in the name God. He does the impossible: demonstrates how a believer can maintain a strong sense of tradition yet engage with people of other faiths.
The truth of the humble accommodation of others finds radical champion in McLaren, an urgency to befriend all God's children.
McLaren writes that it is only in knowing Christ more deeply that Christians can begin to see where the Spirit of Pentecost is at work in others.
Surely there's no worse problem than how we can all get along in this pluralistic world. Can a Christian pray with a Hindu? Worship with a Muslim? These questions are answered. And McLaren has explored what it looks like to be unashamedly Christian-- and still be open to people who aren't.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back