Brian McLaren, Protestant pastor, author and theological gadfly is one of the most influential figures associated with the Emerging Church movement, a loosely defined network made up in large part of younger evangelical Christians seeking to reinterpret traditional beliefs and practices for the 21st century. Movement participants, stressing their intellectual and spiritual diversity, think of themselves as engaged in an open-ended “dialogue” or “conversation,” much of which takes place on the internet at sites such as emergentvillage.com, where McLaren’s podcasts help set the tone.
In more than a dozen highly influential books, McLaren has championed a progressive approach to evangelicism, stressing social justice and rejecting the traditionally conservative politics of the mainstream evangelical movement. McLaren told an interviewer in 2006, “When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the Gospels.” He has worked closely with the evangelical anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis, whose Busted Halo interview can be read here.
McLaren’s politics are best understood as an outgrowth of his religious thinking. His most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, published in early 2010, sets out to reread the Bible from a 21st-century perspective, deconstructing the book’s Greco-Roman narrative, emphasizing the Jewish context of early Christian belief, and proposing a more open-ended view of Christianity’s sacred text as “an inspired library” rather than a “constitution.”
Novelist Clyde Edgerton and Reverend Eric Porterfield, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, went to speak with McLaren at his home in Maryland. This is the first of a series of excerpts from their conversation; it focuses on McLaren’s idea of “prophetic confrontation” and the difficulty of promoting social change. The entire interview can be found here.