In recent days [weeks] some new questions have pervaded my thinking as I’ve gone about my everyday activities. “Could I use less water to do this? Do I really need to buy this much food-will I use it all?”

It all started when I attended Brian McLaren’s “Everything Must Change” conference in early April. For a day and a half, 300 people gathered at First United Church of Oak Park to hear Brian speak about global crises and reflect on how we can help. Many of the attendees had traveled from other
Midwest states to be there.

Brian contends Christians have contributed to and perpetuate global crises partly because of wrong beliefs. He says they have put Jesus in the wrong “framing story.” That story says God authorizes rich, powerful Christians to hold onto wealth and power, ruling and controlling others for their own good. (Which looks the same as ruling and controlling others for selfish reasons, but, of course, Christians wouldn’t behave that way!) Brian believes the framing story Jesus role-modeled and intended his followers to live is one of humility, service, kindness and generosity.

The event was well-organized and seemed to go well. First United was a wonderfully friendly host church: I enjoyed meeting the staff and volunteers on site to help.

Brian identifies himself as an “evangelical Christian” and in many ways this conference felt like an evangelical Christian event. The sessions included worship songs, Bible reading and prayer. A small team of musicians with guitar and violin led the singing as words were projected on a large screen. First United’s huge organ remained unused behind them, a striking backdrop only.

Brian’s talk “Which Jesus?” drew heavily on three Bible passages as he showed violence was inflicted on Jesus, not by him.

The conference also included things which had never been part of any other evangelical Christian event I’d attended: Watching a Sierra Club video about how mountaintop mining is devastating parts of the U.S. landscape, checking each other’s T-shirt labels to see where they were made, singing a song confessing how we’ve wasted the earth’s resources and failed to do enough about world poverty and injustice.

Brian’s team wrote their own songs for the tour. Global crises is such a new focus among evangelical Christians that there were no existing songs to draw upon.

The people who attended already agreed with Brian that Christians need to address global crises. They were there to connect with other Christians who share their concerns and consider what the next action step is. Some are wondering how to get other members of their Christian communities on board.

It’s hard to ignore the seriousness of global crises while attending an event about them. Yet would I do anything differently once it was over? Evidently I did bring what I heard home with me, because those new questions keep popping into my mind, unbidden. And I am making changes because of them. They’re small but at least they’re steps in the right direction.


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