Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Brian McLaren in Larry King

McLaren certainly comes across as compassionate, but I wonder if people were thinking “spineless liberal…” as he dodged Larry King’s questions. This is a shame, because Brian is not a spineless liberal by any means, but he only got a little bit of air time to discuss complicated issues, and he spent most of his time talking about how complicated they are. That is exactly what most Christians needed to hear, but also borders on communicating that we don’t really have beliefs on anything - just an appreciation of each issue’s complexity. I thing this is a decent starting place, but we can’t stay there forever. We can’t use “this issue is complex” as an excuse. Complexity should illuminate and nuance truth, not deconstruct it altogether.

McLaren again brings up complexity when asked about embryonic stem cells:

KING: Brian, yes, didn’t God give us embryonic stem cells?
MCLAREN: Yes, I think this is one of the hugest challenges that we face. The people in the scientific and the people in the faith community need to look at these now powers that human beings are unlocking. And this is a great responsibility. And I hope there’ll be some fruitful discussion. I don’t think it’s helpful when Christians immediately say, shut things down without saying, let’s pay attention. On the other hand, it’s not that helpful when people say, let’s make a lot of money on something without looking at the full ramifications of it.
I think Brian is right to focus on the complexity of these controversial issues, though it does present the emerging church as a bunch of prevaricators who are too busy sipping coffee and waxing philosophical to actually believe in anything. I prefer what Jakes said - we respect the intelligence of our communities, and we will not presume to simplify complex issues into black and white, especially along party lines.

What do you think? Was Brian right to focus on complexity, or should he have said something more gutsy?

Justin Baeder wonders about what Brian shared. (@ presstime his site was down).

I read somewhere that Brian mentioned that his appearance was difficult. I just told Beth that if I were to speak on Larry King I would hyperanalyze every syllable that exited my mouth. I think Brian was in a difficult position, being suddenly thrust in a very short period of time (from Time to Larry King in, what, 2 weeks?) onto a very large stage indeed. In Brian's situation, I don't know for how long I would say to myself, "I wish I had said...."


Rick said...

Dear Stephen,

I think you raise a really important question. I too questioned if he should have been more forthright in his speech. I cannot imagine what he must have felt like being thrust into the spotlight. I also think that Brian walks a very thin line with many in the church. His audience (and apparent calling) is to evangelical christians. If he comes on too strong he may just isolate many of those in the community who most need to hear what he is saying. A loud "liberal" voice often makes fundamentalists an angry mob while the rest of the world perceives his passion and compassion. I don't think he "lost" listeners on the "outside" but may have gained a few on the "inside".

Thanks for the post,

Tim Bailey said...

I am teaching a class on emerging cultures, and one of my "students", a 75 year old women was quite disturbed by Brians "lack of authority" - she used the word weak.
I think he did well - but I can't imagine the line he has to walk... I just love his humility and his refusal to say he "knows the answer"...