Igniting a revolution of hope

Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope
By Brian D. McLaren.
Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Reviewed by Henni Helleman

In Everything Must Change we hear an echo from the life and teachings of Jesus. But are we ready to listen?

Brian McLaren invites Christians to translate their faith into a way of life that makes a positive difference in this world.McLaren shares a nagging question, one that he has struggled with for half his life, but which is also central to his journey; “How does the life and teachings of Jesus addresses the most critical global problems in our world today?” This question forms the foundation for the book and presents a fresh, holistic and provocative vision of the teachings of Jesus.

Throughout the book, McLaren’s predominant metaphor for our society is that of a suicide machine. He writes, “When the social, political and economic machinery of a society gets out of control, or through some flaw of design or operation begins to destroy its creators and intended beneficiaries, then it has become a suicide machine” (54).

The machinery of our society falls into three main subsystems: the prosperity system, which provides us with the goods, opportunities and experiences we feel we need to be happy; the security system, which seeks to protect the existence and the standard of living of those who prosper; and the equity system, which seeks to distribute the goods of the prosperity system and the costs of the security system in fair and equitable ways.

McLaren believes our society has become a suicide machine through the “framing story” our society believes in. A framing story tells what is important in this life, what is worth fighting for, what is the purpose of humanity’s existence. McLaren says we have let ourselves believe the lies of a deficient framing story, and it’s important to both open ourselves up to a new, alternative story, as well as examine the ways in which Jesus spoke truth in love to the powerful and inadequate framing story of his day.

As a conversation guide, McLaren includes with each of the thirty-four chapters some group dialogue questions. I found the questions instructive for my own reflections and also for dialogue with others about the version of Christianity we have inherited. McLaren critiques our Western Christianity where we seem to be satisfied with our own happiness and personal salvation while the world is lost and doomed.

This book may also appeal to those who may not want to call themselves Christians. Jesus has a following outside the Christian Church, outside the Christian religion. As McLaren lays out in the first chapter “this is a religious book but in a worldly and unconventional and ultimately positive way, a way some nonreligious would probably call ‘spiritual but not religious’.

This book forces me to acknowledge, again and again, how we are living a dual narrative, wearing a mask of piety while being complicit in our world’s inequitable system. Provocative and refreshing truth-telling must be awakened and McLaren has certainly ignited a revolution of hope that can change everything. We have been challenged to defect from the dominant system, to disbelieve the destructive framing story and to trust instead in the new framing story of Jesus.

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