Because artists, authors, and other exciting individuals don’t always have time for interviews, Backseat Writer is introducing a new feature called “Take 5”. This concept is simple—we e-mail five questions to a band, artist, author, astronaut, whoever, which should only take about five minutes to answer. It’s a great way to keep tabs on some of our favorite folks, have a little fun, and still provide you with something interesting to read. Read on for BSW’s first “Take 5” with one of my favorite authors and speakers, Brian McLaren.
By Amy Sondova Being discontent with the way people do church, Brian McLaren starting looking for a new kind of Christianity and invited others a long for the journey. Now one of the front men for the Emergent Church movement, McLaren’s is a sought-after speaker, activist, and writer whose best-selling books include A New Kind of Christian, A Generous Orthodoxy, and Everything Must Change. Still accessible to his ever-growing audience, McLaren graciously agreed to “Take 5” with us.
Backseat Writer: Because you’re a popular author, speaker, and one of the main faces of the Emergent Church, people seem to put a lot of labels on you, which aren’t necessarily true. What are a few of the biggest misconceptions about what you believe?
Brian McLaren: I guess the biggest one isn’t actually about me, but it’s about my loyal critics, and the misconception is that they accurately represent what I believe. They correctly understand that I differ from them in some ways, which is a start. But then they tend to put me in a category they think they understand –from liberal to New Age to Son of Satan to whatever–and that generally doesn’t fit. One way to explain the disconnect is to say that they assume I’m giving different answers to the questions that formed them, when actually I and a lot of my friends are being formed by different questions entirely.
Likewise, being one of the front men in the Emergent Movement, you receive a lot of criticism, even from “friends,” something which we all deal with on a human level. How do you deal with the criticism?
This is one of the advantages of being 52—along with many others, like not having to comb my hair! It would have been psychologically and spiritually devastating to have to deal with some of this stuff back when I was 25 or 35. When you get older, you’ve been around the block enough times that you realize that your critics are just human beings like you, doing the best they can. (Read also Brian’s “A Friendly Note to My Critics“)
As well, I hope that after many years of seeking to follow Jesus, my sense of identity is at least a little bit formed in Christ rather than in public opinion. One of the things that has helped me the most in dealing with critics is a prayer by a Serbian Orthodox bishop called “a prayer for enemies.” It’s at my website if people want to use it (Prayer/Liturgical Resources–BrianMcLaren.net). That prayer has helped me in ways I can’t begin to explain. Most of all, though, I’ve been helped by the example and teaching of Jesus. Sincerely.
I know a lot of people interested in the Emergent Church, but have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s like you guys are speaking a completely different language. What’s up with all the fancy words and terms, Brian?
It is confusing. I don’t think I understand it. But the bottom line is this: a lot of us feel we can’t survive—in good faith, in good conscience—maintaining a form of Christianity that feels dishonest, uncompassionate, and disconnected from the real world and the message of the Bible as we are coming to understand it. We’re simply trying to find ways to be faithful when it feels like conventional Christianity isn’t working for us. We’re more committed than ever to Jesus, the good news of the kingdom of God, the great commandments, and so on. So maybe the problem is that we’re just doing what Christians have always done—learning to love God and our neighbor, and there really isn’t anything to talk about.
Your words and ministry will live a long time after you’re gone. But, really, how do you want to be remembered?
Wow, that makes me feel 92 instead of 52! I hope people remember me as a guy who was learning to love God and others, and also who loved God’s beautiful creation, and who had enough courage to speak the truth as he saw it and enough humility to do so with gentleness and respect.
When you’re not being deeply intellectual, what do you do to let off some steam (ie, play Guitar Hero, shoot your wife with a water gun)?
I’m a major fan of stupid movies. I just saw Get Smart, for example, and I love Princess Bride, Dumb and Dumber, Tommy Boy, Mr. Deeds and my all-time favorite is UHF with Weird Al Yankovitch. I also enjoy making my wife laugh. On a more serious note, I’m a major outdoors person, so I love wildlife, hiking, camping, fishing, noticing birds, turtles and other creatures. I guess if I hadn’t become whatever it is I’ve become, I would have been a “Croc Hunter” wannabe—tossing cobras, hanging out with orangutans, swimming with sea lions, that sort of thing.
For more information on Brian McLaren, visit him online at brianmclaren.net and buy all his books because they’re fantastic!