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Engaging with a World on Fire
Engaging with a World on Fire

Engaged Christianity

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Brian McLaren traces how he and Father Richard have been on similar journeys, charting a path for a Christian faith that is engaged with the world’s needs:

The titles of my books reveal that I was encountering something in my faith tradition that didn’t sit right with me…. I felt like I was peeling an onion. I noticed, for example, that people who spend a lot of time in church often seemed to be some of the meanest, more arrogant, and most judgmental people that I met. I noticed the same being true of me at times as well…. It seemed that Christianity had become for many people an evacuation plan (how to get your soul out of earth into heaven) rather than a transformation plan (how to help God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven).

When I was introduced to Richard Rohr in the late 90s, I realized that Richard was on a very similar path. He was many steps ahead of me and helped me to understand that there was something we were both struggling with and seeking to repair, fix, heal, correct in our inherited Western tradition…. Eventually, I came upon the important work of Thich Nhat Hanh, and I realized that Thich Nhat Hanh had been on a similar journey as Richard and me, but in his Buddhist tradition….

I think this parallel struggle, in Catholicism and in Protestantism, in Buddhism and Christianity, is the struggle to have a faith that isn’t an evacuation plan or an escape into private bliss, but a way of seeking to have a spiritual transformation in our own lives that will express itself in change and transformation in our world. We’re on a quest to find out how to have an engaged expression of deep spiritual life that makes a difference in a world on fire. [1]

Inspired by the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh and The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism, McLaren wrote The Fourteen Precepts of Just and Generous Christianity. Here are some of the guidelines McLaren offers:

Lifelong Learning: Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, complete, and absolute truth…. Be open to the Holy Spirit and practice childlike humility….

Gentleness: Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education….

Love: Do not maintain anger or hatred…. Make love your highest goal.

Serenity: Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Dwell in the presence and peace of God to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you….

Nonviolence: Do not kill and do no harm, and do not stand by when others seek to do so. Find creative, just, and nonviolent ways to prevent or end conflicts and to promote and strengthen peace. [2]

[1] Adapted from Brian McLaren, “What Is Engaged Contemplation?,” Essentials of  Engaged Contemplation, Center for Action and Contemplation, 2024. Presentation for the Living School.

[2] Brian D, McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (New York: Convergent, 2016), 211, 212, 213.

Image credit: Evgeniy Alyoshin, Firefighters putting out a fire (detail), Ukraine, 2022, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

What does it look like to engage with the catastrophic fires that sweep through our world without becoming frenzied or frozen?

Story from Our Community:  

The idea of knowledge “on ice” or “on fire” is a wonderful metaphor for my own journey of metanoia, my spiritual change of heart. For many years, I lived with disabling fatigue and was rarely able to leave the house. Sixteen years ago, against all common sense, I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I went with blind trust, but still 99% “on ice.” There, I had my own personal Epiphany, and came home “on fire.” Since then, the messages of Medjugorje, Fr Richard’s writings, and my own exploration of the Enneagram have all helped to keep the fire burning. I am profoundly grateful to be living in this time of unveiling. I hope the fire never goes out. —Ann S.

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