Acknowledging in the introduction of the book that the title is hyperbole, McLaren unpacks his purpose in writing the book. He is concerned that we will see this as just another diatribe. He writes:
If we’re going to get anywhere, I have to convince you – and fast – of at least four things. First, that I’m not another blah-blah-blah person ranting about how bad the world is and how guilty you should feel for taking up space in it. Second, that I can help you understand some highly complex material and make it not only accessible but maybe even interesting and inspiring. Third, that when you’re done with this book, you’ll not only better understand the world and your place in it, but you’ll also know how you can make a difference. (You’ll also be able to engage in dialog and further research through the book’s website – www.everythingmustchange.org.) And fourth, I must convince you that making a difference is not another dreary duty for and already overburdened person, but rather that making a difference is downright joyful – fulfilling, rewarding, good. (1-2)
A little later McLaren writes:
Jesus’ message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven’s blissful shores, as is popularly assumed, but instead about God’s will being done on this troubled earth as it is in heaven. (4)
Then he comes to the focal point that sets the stage for the rest of the book. It is all about the “framing story.” McLaren believes that our present framing story (I’ll define that below) has precipitated four global crises:
1. Environmental breakdown cause by our unsustainable global economy, and economy that fails to respect environmental limits even as it succeeds in producing great wealth for about one-third of the world’s population. We’ll call this the prosperity crisis.
2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, which prompts the poor majority to envy, resent, and even hate the rich minority – which in turn elicits fear and anger in the rich. We’ll call this the equity crisis.
3. The danger of cataclysmic war arising from the intensifying resentment and fear among various groups at the opposite ends of the economic spectrum. We’ll call this the security crisis.
4. The failure of the world’s religions, especially its to larges religions, to provide a framing story capable of healing or reducing the three previous crises. We’ll call this the spirituality crisis. (5)
So what is a framing story and what does it have to do with this?
By framing story, I mean a story that gives people direction, values, vision, and inspiration by providing a framework for their lives. It tells them who they are, where they come from, where they are, where things are going, and what they should do. (5-6)
The answer to our problems is changing the framing story.
McLaren titles Part 1 of the Book (Chapter 2-5), “Two Preoccupying Questions.” He explains that two questions have preoccupied him all his adult life. First:
What are the biggest problems in the world? By biggest, I mean problems that cause the most suffering in the present, that post the greatest threat to our future, that cause most of the other problems, that like at the root of what’s wrong with the world – and therefore at the root of what must be done to set the world on a better course. (11)
What do the life and teachings of Jesus have to say about the most critical global problems in our world today? (12)
And for McLaren this raises the question:
Why hasn’t the Christian religion made a difference commensurate with its message, size, and resources? What would need to happen for follower of Jesus to become a greater force for good in relation to the world’s top problems? How could we make a positive difference. (12)
Throughout the rest of Part 1, McLaren gives testimony of his personal journey. He is particularly attuned to the reality that, in what is increasingly becoming a global village, former colonizers and the colonized have to come to grips with each other. He explains how too often the gospel that has been taught (and is still being taught) in developing nations by westerners has been incomplete. It is truncated and doesn’t address the problems people face. By changing the framing story to the full message God has given, a revolution of hope can be unleashed that will change the world.
In Part 2 of the book (chapters 6-9), McLaren helps us understand how he conceptualizes the societal systems, environment, and framing story fitting together. It is a machine metaphor which he describes, in its present state, as a “suicide machine.” It is his macro-sociological model. We turn to Part 2, “Suicidal System,” next.
What do you think of what has been presented so far? For those that have read the book, do you think I've captured the essence of what he wrote so far?