Love Is the Protagonist — Center for Action and Contemplation

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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Love Is the Protagonist

A New Story

Love Is the Protagonist
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Like me, Brian McLaren has spent many decades “on the edge of the inside” of the institutional Church. Although he often critiques the stories told by Christian denominations, he has never tired of the Jesus story or failed to believe in its power to transform the world. Brian and Gareth Higgins write:

Jesus came to subvert all stories of violence and harm, not repeat them.

Instead of patriarchal stories of domination, he taught and embodied service, reconciliation, and self-giving.

Instead of stories of violent revolution or revenge on the one hand or compliant submission on the other, he taught and modeled transformative nonviolent resistance.

Instead of the purification stories of scapegoating or ethnic cleansing, he encountered and engaged the other with respect, welcome, neighborliness, and mutuality.

Instead of inhabiting a competitive story of accumulation, he advocated stewardship, generosity, sharing, and a vision of abundance for all.

Instead of advocating escapist stories of isolation, he sent his followers into the world to be agents of positive change, like salt, light, and yeast.

And instead of leaving the oppressed in stories of victimization, he empowered them with a vision of faith, hope, and love that could change the world. [1]

Richard again: One time after I spoke at a business breakfast about the Kingdom of God being a win-win world, a very successful man I knew came up to me and said, “You know, Richard, that story is not even interesting. How could I get my juices going in the morning without competition?” When we’re trapped in a narrative of winners and losers, especially if we think of ourselves as winners, the Jesus story really isn’t that interesting! Brian and Gareth put it this way:

The earlier six stories all claimed that the path to peace, security and happiness was about “winning” . . . but in the Seventh Story, the story of reconciliation, we still get to win, just not at anybody else’s expense.

In the Seventh Story, human beings are not the protagonists of the world. Love is. [2]

The hearts of more and more children, young people, adults, and senior citizens are yearning for a new story, a story of love rather than hate, of creativity rather than destruction, of win-win cooperation rather than win-lose competition, of peace-craft rather than war-craft.

They are waiting for a new story to explore, inhabit, and tell. [3]

We are all looking for a larger and more loving story in which to participate. This is what God gives us! Our ordinary lives are given an extraordinary significance when we accept that our lives are about something more meaningful than winning and succeeding inside of a very small plot line.

[1] Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, & the End of Violence (Porch: 2018), 79.

[2] Ibid., 38, 40–42.

[3] Ibid., 80–81.

Story from Our Community:
My brother connected me to the [Daily] meditations five years ago when my world had fallen apart. By 50 I had experienced great loss, including the deaths of two children. These meditations have helped me make God-sense again in my broken life. Thank you to Fr. Richard and the team for your generous, wise, encouraging and inclusive words. They bring me back again and again to that quiet place in God’s lap, meditating in whatever form. —Liz C.

Image credit: Tree Trunks near Hermitage, Gethsemani (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
We can’t always see the ways trees are in relationship because their complex world of roots lives underground. We, the human family, are also inextricably interconnected.
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