Book Review by the Rt. Rev. Sandy Hampton
Sometime ago, "The New Yorker" magazine ran a cartoon which showed an army (Crusaders?) marching off to war. One soldier turns to another and says, "I hear it's because we're right and they're wrong."
This cartoon, along with a recent story in "Peace Notes" on The Daughters of Abraham, reflects, in part, a major theme of theologian Brian D. Mclaren's recent book, "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?" (Jerico Books 2012). The subtitle is "Christian Identity in a Multifaith World." It is hard to resist a spiffy title like this and NO, the answer is not "...to get to the other side."
I join Mclaren in being fed up with the "Us vs Them" mentality that infects our culture at many levels: international, political and religious...especially religious. Even those of us who claim to be welcoming and tolerant of those who differ may not be as "clean" as we pretend. Mclaren says, "We may be friendly to individuals of other religions, but our friendship always has a pretext: we want them to switch sides and be won over to our better way. We love them (or say that we do) in spite of their religious identity, hoping that they will see the light and abandon who they have been to find shelter under the tent of who we are." (pp. 9-10). Mclaren appeals to Christians to seek and appreciate the religions of others from THEIR point of view. I would suggest this as a template for relationships with other nations as well as those with political views that differ from ours.
The author suggests we can embrace these relationships without compromising our own Christian committments and he does this through examining fundamental Doctrines of Creation, Original Sin, The Trinity and a number of others. Mclaren follows up with an examination of "How the Christian Year Can Become more Christian" through our prayers, sermons, hymns and Sunday School classes.
I can't recall a book, in years, that contained more "aha" moments than this one, perhaps because it strongly affirms where I am in my own life, thinking and theology at this time. I recommend this book be near the top of every cleric's, seminarian's, EPFer's, indeed, Christian's reading list. To practice what Mclaren preaches has the potential to transform the world, the Church and, at the very least, ourselves.
Oh, and "Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?" Because, Brian D. Mclaren suggests, "..they hoped we would follow them."
The Rt. Rev. Sandy Hampton is the retired Bishop Suffragan of Minnesota, Assistant Bishop of Olympia and former Board Member of The Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He and his wife, Mari live in Anacortes, Washington.