Monday, March 8, 2010

Obama, McLaren, and Breaking the 9th Commandment

As Barack Obama is to politics, Brian McLaren is to theology. And we mean that as a compliment to both of them. Both are committed to being open and inclusive of different perspectives. Both speak with nuance and charitably. Both invite as many people to the table as possible. Yet, the interesting thing for us is to see how Obama and McLaren are treated by their detractors. McLaren is labeled a "heretic" and "apostate." Obama is labeled a "socialist" and "communist." Clearly, these words are simply meant to stamp these men with a deeper label: "other." We're supposed to fear Obama and McLaren because they are not like "us." It's the old "us-versus-them" game. It pits the implied bad people of the world ("others" like Obama and McLaren) against the implied good people world ("us"). The irony in this sloppy label-slapping is that the two people who seem the most open and inclusive of other people are being labeled as the most "other" and "extreme." There's a phrase for this kind of label-mongering: bearing false witness. And that breaks the 9th commandment (Exodus 20:16).

Obama is not a socialist. We lived in Norway for a while and experienced the gifts and challenges of socialism. We can say confidently that Obama is no socialist. And is certainly no communist. To say otherwise is to break #9. In reality, Obama is a rather centrist, pragmatic reformer of politics. (Click here for more.)

McLaren is not a heretic. We have studied church history and know about the diversity of theologies in Christianity. We can say confidently that McLaren is no heretic. And is certainly no pagan. To say otherwise is to break #9. In reality, McLaren is a rather centrist, pragmatic reformer of theology. (Click here for more.)

We desperately need more civil discourse in politics and religion. And once we have that, we might even begin to have more generative conversations with one another. It's time to follow the lead of people like Obama and McLaren. We need more thoughtful dialogue. And there's nothing false about that.

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