Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gaining the World, Losing the Soul

The article below was written by Brian McLaren, founding member of Emergent Village, and was printed in the book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why it Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.
It struck a chord with me personally and I thought it was worth sharing.

Gaining the World, Losing the Soul
by Brian McLaren

From a vantage point further in the future, I think that an honest diagnosis will tell the truth about the pivotal role the Religious Right has played in these depressing statistics. In the aftermath of the Religious Right's ascendancy, it is not an accident that "antihomosexual" is the number one perception of Christians in America these days, followed closely by "judgmental" and "hypocritical" and "insensitive." Young people today could, if we had taken a wiser path for the last few decades, think "antipoverty" or "pro-environment" or "pro-fidelity" or "antiviolence" when they hear the word "Christian" or "evangelical." But because of the path influential people have taken over the last thirty years or so, what young people think of the Religious Right is what they think about evangelicals and even Christians in general.

That's why some of us believe that leaders in the Religious Right have, in a classic case of gaining the world and losing the soul, successfully gained political clout but helped lose our next generation.

But even so, a diagnosis of the evaporation of Christian commitment in the West and a prescription about how to respond must go deeper than complaining about the mistakes of the Religious Right. There are many factors, and they run deep. As for prescriptions, yes, we need more Bible--but we also need a better, more holistic and profound understanding of the Bible and what it says about justice, compassion, the future, power, poverty, money, war, sex, and the kingdom of God. Yes, we need more maturity--but we also need a better and more holistic maturity, a maturity willing to face the historic and social realities of our so-called Christian past: a past that includes anti-Semitism, racism, chauvinism, holocaust, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, attempted genocide of native peoples, and much else that is ugly and calls not for excuses and minimization but for forthright repentance. Yes, we need more discernment and missional engagement--but we also need better discernment that goes beyond name-calling and making pronouncements on two or three issues.

The data presented here can help us greatly in this regard, prompting us to discern how deep and serious the problems are, so that our missional engagement in the coming years won't be more of the same.

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