jen sets the scene for our brilliant discussion

okay, we've been dragging on long enough. time to get this thing going, don't you think?

but first!
i want to say that i hope this will be a space where a wide variety of opinions will be expressed. you do not have to be a brian groupie to comment on this blog. (no starry eyes required.) you do not have to be emerging (whatever this means) or post-something to be welcomed in the conversation. you also don't have to be an evangelist for your point of view or someone who leaves anonymous posts that are the equivalent of a drive-by shooting. (this will not endear you to anyone) you just have to be actually reading the book and interested in open, honest exchange among cyber-acquaintances who sometimes disagree, but somehow do so respectfully. some of you are wondering how i will be able to participate in this discussion at all. to this, i say, be prepared to witness a whole new jen.

our structure for this discussion will be simple. agenerousorthodoxy bloggers will take turns posting on each chapter with occasional rabbit trails to linger on points that bear more in depth discussion. these will be assigned ahead of time via email in the beginning until we get our groove thing going here. hopefully, our posts will generate good discussion. but. as any good blogger knows, many a fine conversation is initiated by the clever commenter, taking the post in a whole new enlightening direction. i hope this happens a lot.

we won't be posting a jillion separate posts a day--just one--so even the most negligent blog reader can count on their rss feed to keep them completely up to date. this blog will not overtake your life. i promise.

my hope is this blog will result in a honest discussion, between people who might otherwise--in real life, anyway--never have the chance to meet, let alone choose one another for dialogue partners. to me, that's the coolest thing ever.

so without further ado, here goes: how did chapter zero strike those of you reading along who do not know brian personally? bizarre? absurd? funny? mad? i have my perspective, but i'd love to hear yours. what conclusions did you draw if any about what you were getting yourself into? did it suck you into the book or make you wonder what the hell is wrong with this guy? all responses welcome, please.


dave p said...

After reading Chapter 0 I really wasn't sure if I could return the book and get my money back. Do you think that might be possible?

The only Brian McLaren book I had read prior to this was The Church On The Other Side, which I had just finished a couple of days prior to picking this up. I wasn't prepared for the humility and wisdom that Brian showed in his writing, especially for a "church book". From being a neutral "I wonder what this guy has to say" reader (based on hearing about the new book on Cleave's blog) I went to "I can't wait to read his new book".

I thought the intro and Chapter 0 were very engaging, almost Dave Barry-esque in their playfulness but with less outright jokes.

I really like his "we're players, not referees" analogy on p31, so we want to know the rules better so we can be better players and have more fun playing the game (for ourselves), rather than just learning when to blow the whistle (on other people) - that's priceless.

Page 33, with its analogy to playing the clarinet is another great illustration. We need to be able to internalize what we believe so we can express it more fluently in our actions. We all have an internalized belief system, but they're kind of a random mish-mash of what we've learned and experienced growing up. Brian is really talking about the need to surface it, examine it and then reinternalize it in a more coherent, deliberate fashion (well, that's what I get out of that :-)

I like that he's not a professor of theology at some fancy seminary. I like that he thinks practitioners should have an equal voice with the theoreticians (I would say more). I like that he tends to overuse parentheses (I mean, who wouldn't?).

So is Chapter 0 weird, arrogant, defensive, tortured, complex, anxious, as he worries? I think anyone who made it that far didn't really care and is basically chomping at the bit to read the rest.

I know I was. And I didn't want my money back.

Bill Arnold said...

I really like Brian McLaren. His books have been very important to me over the last year. But honestly the first chapter just dragged on a bit. The self-deprecation, to me, got a little tiring. However, I'm probably not taking into account his potential audience, some of whom are possibly ready to pounce on him. I also realize that this chapter might really endear him to some people. I just wanted to get on with the book.

Bill Bean said...

Definitely drew me in. Almost worked like a teaser. I think it does reflect what seems to be (since I don't know him personally) a genuine thoughtfulness and gentleness. He's not saying what he's saying to be merely provocative or to pick a fight. It was a creative way to add a second foreword to the book.

Natala said...

I feel as though I have started a conversation with a good friend. Someone who is not afraid to tell me what they really think, and who they really are. And a friend who allows me to question, to explore on my own as well. What I felt, as reading chapter 0, was that I was about to start a conversation. I am so looking forward to reading more. I have never met Brian, but I have read much of his work (books, and otherwise) and each time I feel comfortable, and I feel as though I am not being talked down to, but being talked to. It's what I appreciate so much about him.

Will said...

I met Brian for the first time this past week. When I read Chapter 0 it made complete sense. It's so funny, this bizarre persona and the real person. He is genuine and pastoral, and Chapter 0 was completely consistent with who he is as a true human being.

Karen Haluza said...

OK - let me see if I can be true to my mission in participating in this discussion, which is to understand, from the perspective of an unchurched person, how this book impacts me. Well, my first impression of Chapter 0 - For Mature Audiences Only is "more of the same" - Evangelicals equivocating, justifying and generally exhibiting an inability to just live this Christian life that they say is so compelling. And this is supposed to attract the unchurched?

I guess that the author is pulling from a historical context in echoing the introductory paragraph of G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" with a similarly self-deprecating opening monologue. But in the end all I heard was:

1. An inflated sense of the importance of this book (no one outside of Evangelical circles is going to read it, so don't worry about changing the dust jacket).

2. Fear that other Evangelicals will disapprove of what he's about to say. Further proof to the unchurched that church is a place to avoid.

3. A disengenuous description of his qualifications (I'm not a trained theologian, but I can still pontificate on the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy).

4. A disrespect for people who hold a different opinion, hence the title For Mature Audiences Only. Does that mean I'm immature if I don't get it? Which is galling given that he then cautions people not to take the information he's about to give and do divisive things with it.

5. A sense that here is a man sincerely struggling with his faith and doing it in a public way. So that's what I'll focus on. I think that that's where the value will be.

Christy C. said...

I just read it and I felt like I just read two chapters (or intro & chp 0) in which McLaren talked almost soley about himself. I can see the reasons for wanting to defend himself after what seems like drama was raised from his ANKoC book, but whhhoooaaa. I thought I heard him say "OUCH, OUCH, OUCH" and something close to "quit reading this if you're going to pin me up against the wall when you're finished like you did last time." I'm kinda laughing as I write this because I've honestly never read a book that started out like this before! Yeah, I even agree with what he says... it does sound "defensive?" ... I wonder if the title should have been "an Apologetic Orthodoxy"...hehehe :-) kidding, only kidding.

Another thing I think is interesting is that he just gave a forewarning, while he already said that everything he will say isn't new... hmmmm. Why the emphasized forewarning?

marko said...

woo-hoo: the book just went into it's third printing. 6000 down, the rest of the church to go!

Tommy Stunz said...

This is only my second book to read by Brian McLaren. The first was "Adventures in Missing the Point" which was written with Tony Campolo. It seemed a little disjointed due to how much ground two authors tried to cover in one book. So this is the first book I've read with McLaren's voice solo.

I thought I read somewhere (and I wish I could remember the source – maybe this blog) that Brian Mc’s publisher asked him to add Chapter 0. Does anyone know if that’s true? In either case I think that it was unnecessary, especially now that I am beyond it. It is like he is saying, “I’m about to make some of you question/think/get mad/feel uneasy… so get ready.” Too much disclaimer, why warn us? Why not just write what needs to be written and let it form in the reader whatever it may?

I’m about half way through the book and I enjoy the thought provoking writing. The mystical/poetic is my favorite so far. Thank for starting this discussion. It’s already been great to read.

jen lemen said...

marko could verify, but i do believe that chapter 0 was the very last addition to the book, written as a means of calming the fears of the publisher. when i read chapter zero, i saw it as a response to the people most threatened by these ideas--the ones with the most to lose in a sense. it had a desperate, reckless tone at times and lots and lots of humor. i imagined it flew right out of the brian. in many ways, it feels like a true opinion which i appreciate.

maybe chapter zero isn't helpful for the unchurched, as karen points out, because it reveals a bit of our dirty laundry. how complicated it is to just say what you think without villification or loss of love. how scared we are to let each other explore theologically. and maybe, as christy suggests, chapter zero reveals how much brian himself has to lose, as someone who is determined to bring the evangelical world with him on his journey.

i could be annoyed about all these things, but i feel resigned instead. this is the evangelical church world. it's not fun or pretty, but there's work to be done here. if this book can help evangelicals be more open, that would be great. whether it will make evangelicals less triumphant or less sure they are the source of all church wisdom is another thing. that is our hardest work to do yet, if we want to get along with everyone else in the family tree, and actually learn something. on this point, how this book strikes non-evangelicals will be telling.

marko said...

yeah, adding it was totally brian's idea (i didn't know he was doing it until he sent it to me!). and, to clarify, YS wasn't uncomfortable with anything in the book. but our publishing partner (zondervan), who takes the book into Christian bookstores for us, had SOME on staff who were nervous about parts of it (most of their peeps were thrilled, and even those with some reservations are very pleased to be publishing the book).

i agree with you, jen -- it's dirty laundry. but i kind of see the emergentYS line as a place where we want to be honest about that crap.

djchuang said...

I'm glad for chapter 0 [tho' I did find it lengthier than it needed to be], and other voices (particular some bloggers) that are willing tell the truth, good, bad, and ugly, dirty laundry of the evangelical world.. I get sick [statement] of the sacchriny sugar-coated blind optimism that oversaturates the Christian world, and it's refreshing to have some raw, much more human ramblings of our doubt and uncertainty, while we hold on to firm convictions on the few things that we believe.

Andre Daley said...

for me chap 0 felt like a preemptive defense of what was to come for all detractors of mclaren's work and perspective. it's too bad that it has to be that way but that's the way of the world right now