What Next?

All done this great book and I applaud those of you who have actually read my entire summary of it.  This last post will look at the final question which is essentially: so what are we going to do about it?  McLaren has worked through a lot of big questions that the church needs to be looking at right now as many of us try to figure out a new kind of Christianity.

The main thing McLaren develops in this final section is his way of speaking about progression in the church.  He talks in terms of the colours of the spectrum for his seven stages of what we quest for.  The first zone is the red zone for survival.  The second is the orange zone for security.  The third is the yellow zone for power.  Fourth for the green zone of independence.  Fifth is blue for individuality.  Sixth is indigo for honesty.  And now we are on the verge of the seventh, violet, the quest for ubuntu.  If you aren’t familiar with the term ubuntu, it is an African term that means something along the lines of “oneness, unity, togetherness, interconnectedness”.

Different people and even different denominations are at different stages in this quest, and that is ok.  McLaren likens the stages to rungs on a ladder.  Ultimately you want to keep climbing the ladder, not stopping at a rung partway up, but if you don’t have the bottom rungs you can’t have the top rungs.  McLaren, and I’m with him, would put himself in the violet zone.  We don’t look down on those at lower zones, and we aren’t even going to try to make them climb faster.  They need that time and growth in the same way that we did – as I read I could even pinpoint some of these stages in my own life and it would not have helped at all if somebody can along and told me to hurry up.  McLaren also acknowledges, as I do, that indigo is not the end goal either.  There will be more rungs on the ladder that we can’t even see yet and I don’t think the question is so much which rung you are on as it is whether you’ve settled partway up, thinking you’ve already made it to the top.

McLaren also hits on another good point that is also a pet peeve of one of my professors.  When we talk about different theologies, and there are lots, not one Christian theology, most of them are given an adjective.  We have “feminist theology”, “black theology”, “Asian theology”, “womanist theology”, “Latino/a theology”, etc.  And then you have “theology” with no adjective, and what we really mean by that is “white male theology”.  We have normalized only this one voice, of which I’m a part, as being the “true” Christian theology and the rest are some distortion of that.  Maybe we outright dismiss those other voices or maybe we still keep them around but on the sidelines away from the white male theology, but either way the church in general continues to insist that only white males really know God.

So to wrap this all up, I think this is an amazing read that anybody interested in the future of the church should read.  You may end up hating a lot of what he says and rebelling against it, which is ok, too, but I’d always rather you challenge yourself with alternative views so that you can be sure of what you think instead than that you simply dismiss it because somebody else said it was heretical based on the denomination’s creed.  Or you may end up finding yourself alive again for the first time in a long time, as you realize just how beautiful the Christian message is when it emerges from some very stale and problematic forms it has fallen into throughout history.  Either way I think you’ll come out a better person for reading this book.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.