I bought another book last night. I didn’t mean to, but seriously — “Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?” — how can you not?

Anyone but a staffer from the Library of Congress would agree that I’ve already got more than enough books. They line every wall in my house and have crept up the staircase, each step providing space for another dozen tomes. The phases of my life are captured in the titles and authors — What Darwin Saw, Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, Saint Francis and His Times, Animal Liberation, Christian Faith and the Environment, Great English Mystics, John Lewis, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Richard Rohr. Countless Grishams and Micheners.   I just recently gave away my collection of Elvis books, but other than that, I find it hard to rid myself of the friendly bindings that grace my home. They are so familiar by now; they hold my history . . .  and a lot of dust.

I’m adding my new book to a large McLaren collection, but it won’t be getting dusty for a good while. I can tell it contains words I need to commit to memory. The author, Brian D. McLaren, is an old friend of mine – used to be my pastor, in fact. He’s the guy who made it possible for me, and thousands of others, to even consider tagging along behind Jesus.

“Do you believe in evolution?” I asked him once, back in the early nineties when I was still in my fascination-with-everything-Darwin phase.

“Well,” he said, “If you tell me God created the world, I’m pretty impressed.  But if you tell me God created a plan so that the world would keep creating itself, I’m even more impressed.”

And just like that, I realized I didn’t have to get into the Unreality Box to explore Christianity. I would be allowed to think.

Brian certainly gave the crowd something to think about last night on the D.C. stop of his new book tour. The premise of his new book is that there’s too much hostility in our world, which is kind of a DUH premise. But his solution is lovely. What if, instead of all the different religions and sects dividing and conquering and judging and excluding, they all came together in common cause against hostility? The idea of seeing love and benevolence as the sacred center for all of us, regardless of the framework or name we put on our belief system – spiritual, religious, atheist, agnostic, whatever – certainly resonates with me. Sounds like something Jesus might have said.

It’s easier said than done, of course, especially since step one is a heavy dose of humility for all of us. Brian’s book is primarily directed towards Christians — its subtitle is Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World — and it delivers the heaviest blows to Christian hubris. He covers in painful detail the history of his religion’s oppression and genocide and takes a few whacks at TV evangelists (such easy targets). Christians need to learn and repent of their past, not deny or justify it, he says. Interesting that the same prescription that can cure a warped soul might also release a major religion from its painful past. Brian also examines Christian doctrine, liturgy, and mission and how they can contribute to “God’s commonwealth of peace“ instead of “earthly empires of hostility.”

I was going to say that this is a fortuitous time for Brian’s book to be released, with all the violence and hostility and religious misunderstanding that’s going on this week. But sadly, the odds of hitting such a week are fairly high. In America alone, the hostility purposefully generated by multi-million dollar ad campaigns this election year is predictably shameful.

One of things I love most about Brian is that he’s an optimist; it’s in his DNA. Imagine believing that we can rally the world’s major religions against hostility, thereby saving ourselves, future generations and even our planet.

“Perhaps this choice now,” writes Brian,  “to move forward or to hold back, to  open arms or to clench fists, to identify ourselves by opposition and hostility or to identify ourselves by hospitality and solidarity — perhaps this our defining moment .”

And if we choose well? “’This is very good,’ God will say. And we will say, ‘Amen.’”

Amen, right?

Check out Brian’s writing: http://www.brianmclaren.net/

Brian McLaren & Friend in their Natural Habitat

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