Book review: Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

by Brian D. McLaren

★★★★★

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. –Jonathan Swift

What does it mean to be a Christian in a multi-faith world? In a world that keeps shrinking, McLaren draws us back to Christian neighborly principles, encouraging respect and interfaith understanding, but without sacrificing our allegiance to Christ. While it may be true that fostering an us-versus-them atmosphere strengthens the walls and adds purpose to our lives, this does not mean it’s the only (or proper) way to remain strong in our faith. McLaren teaches a Christian identity that moves us toward people of other faiths in wholehearted love, not in spite of their non-Christianity identity and not in spite of our own Christianity identity, but because of our identity as a follower of God in the way of Jesus.

Anne Rice once proclaimed, “In the name of Christ … I quit Christianity and being Christian.” Many of us have felt the same frustration as we outgrew our oppositional tendencies and pondered what it really means to be Christian. McLaren calls it “Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome,” this matter of opposing opposition, for it is opposition—standing not only for something but against something—which stabilizes our identity.

But if we jettison our strong/hostile Christian training, will we drift toward its opposite, a weak/benign faith? Yes, if we don’t direct our efforts! Weak faith is weak faith! So McLaren calls for strong/benevolent Christians. Contrary to the arguments of aggressive atheists today, the antidote to bad religion is not no religion, but good religion.

As I read back over my review, I see that I’ve used too many big words; I haven’t been very true to the flavor of the book. It actually is quite readable and satisfying, and I loved it.

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