A Review-Reflection on Brian McLaren’s new book Naked Spirituality: A Life With God In 12 Simple Words

I am currently reading Brian McLaren’s latest book Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words. I’ve had three weeks to read it finding myself reading only a couple of chapters so far. I am encouraged by the direction that Brian has taken with this recent work. I’ve noticed a progression with Brian’s writings. There is this continual theme of deconstructing/reconstructing Christian faith. If you’ve been tracking his writings over the years you’ll notice the progression from deconstruction to reconstruction.

However, as you’ll see with Brian, it’s not enough to deconstruct our faith (Deconstructionist Jacques Derrida does say that deconstruction is justice). Deconstruction, it seems, is a necessary step towards a healthy vital spirituality. Deconstruction alerts us to the idolatrous beliefs and practices we stake our lives on even at the expense of others, our own souls, and the rest of creation. Without deconstruction or what I like to describe as calling-down-fire-from-heaven-to-burn-up-my conceptual idols is necessary to be able to name, discern, and learn to live in a more just direction than unjust living. But once fire has come down from heaven and I’ve landed on something more just and confident I can begin the journey of reconstruction. I can breath again. And Brian’s book begins this journey. I wish I had this book 10 years ago. I had to settle for St. John of the Cross at the time. But once one has deconstructed the next question is this: now what? What does life with God look now that Jesus is no longer, for me, a white Republican or a Genie in a Bottle, a human pyschological projection?

In this book Brian is talking about something simple: our life with God. It’s not enough to deconstruct our cherished beliefs and practices. We must reimagine our life with God in the wake of deconstruction. How do I tend to the fire of God in my soul without reverting to individualism or engaging the world without the flame of Pentecost? I believe Brian is accomplishing this in this latest book.

In the beginning of the book Brian shares with us his own journey through spiritual experience and experiences. He sets the narrative of his own spiritual journey within the larger context of tectonic shifts in spiritual, religious, and cultural beliefs and practices taking place in our time. This section is very dense. Oftentimes too much bio with too much cultural exegesis. Of course, if you are unfamiliar with Brian’s writings these portions are necessary. However, I suspect he is setting us up with a thick personal and social narrative that will have payoff in later chapters.

Next up…Chapter 1 “Spiritual Experiences and Spiritual Experience”

Hopes for Big Tent Christianity

September 8-9 is Big Tent Christianity right up the road from us in Raleigh, NC. There will be some great panel discussions and I’m sure challening/inspiring side conversations. Friends connecting again that haven’t seen each other in a while. There will be a wide array of Christian bodies and traditions represented. Everything from Storefront Pentecostals (like myself) to Mainline Protestants to Catholics. This will be an opportunity for us to practice the hospitality we see exemplified by Jesus. I’m pretty sure popular issues of the day will be debated, discussed, and side-lined (e.g. sexuality, race, poverty, et al.).

I’m schedule to be a panelist on the discussion about Justice. Not sure what I’ll say yet. I’m sure I’ll be throwing racial justice into the mix along with justice issues related to doing ministry in the margins. We’ll see. I grow weary of talking about race. The only cure I’ve managed to see for racism is friendship. Everything else is coerced diversity and tokenism.

My passion these days is doing ministry in the margins. I’m learning how to see Jesus at work in the forgotten places in my community. Here is where I’m finding my calling to live justly. I’ll talk more about that at Big Tent Christianity.

My hopes?

1. Big Tent Christianity will be one more prophetic catalyst in bringing about North American Christianity’s shift from an absolutist religion to an embodiedment of the life of God we find in Jesus. What does that look like? I hope that Big Tent Christianity will help give us some starting clues.

2. Big Tent Christianity will help Christians find friendships of virtue centered around a more minimalist understanding of Christianity (Love God, Love Neighbor). A Christian minimalism set within the context of a wider range of issues than the normal left-right issues that carry the day.

3. Big Tent Christianity will challenge, deconstruct, and provide theological/ecclesial re-toolings to reconstruct my (our?) understanding of God, how God works in the world, and how God expects us to participate in this redemptive work.

Here are the hopes/expectations of others (synchroblog) for Big Tent Christianity.

I will be contributing to the Church and Postmodern Culture Series Site

Join the conversation.  I’ll be engaging James K. A. Smith‘s recent book, “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Focault to Church.”  Specifically, I’ll be contributing a mini-essay titled “The Panopticon of Ecclesial Whiteness: Taking Foucault to a Church Divided.”

Here’s a snippet:

Ignoring white-ness as norm and its disciplinary power within the church frustrates Christians seeking racial-ethnic reconciliation or harmony. Granted, much work has been done in the area, and much of it is to be commended, but it is clear that white-ness remains in the church even as race-ism and the assertion of white privilege operates more subtly.  However, Foucault illumines for us that ignoring race as a disciplinary power blinds us to the realities that continue to hinder the church from moving beyond our racial impasse.  We can look at our discursive practices in our respective churches and see how we, consciously and unconsciously, give credence to the universal code of beauty that is presumed to be white.

I hope to see some of my blogfriends there engaging the text.  Pax. 




Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑