I heartily and without reservation recommend The Word of the Lord to Evangelicals to everyone who reads this blog. It’s a wonderful little parable in which we follow Wheaton College student Wendy Gullivan. Wendy has a surprise encounter with God in the form of a homeless man while she’s on an “Urban Immersion” ministry weekend with fellow Wheaton students. God, it seems, is depressed–suicidally depressed–by Evangelicals…”Especially American Evangelicals. And most especially in groups. The more, the scarier.”
Over the next four or five years, Wendy and God meet up several more times, and with each encounter, Wendy learns a little more about how to shift her perspective from an obsession with personal salvation and certainty of doctrine, to loving and ministering to those God loves. Along the way, McLaren is good for several hearty laughs from those of us who recognize ourselves, our friends, or our churches in his characters. I don’t want to ruin the story by spilling too much…for three bucks you really ought to just read it! But I will say his alternate rendition of some Scriptures the way Evangelicals teach them is worth the price alone. Take this example:
For God so loved the church that he gave to himself his only Son, as a penal substitutionary sacrifice, so that those elect few who believe in this atoning doctrine would not suffer eternal, conscious torment in hell as a result of original sin, but would live forever in heaven after death. For God did not send his Son into the world to save the world, but to condemn it, and save only the church. (Not John 3:16-17)
The other two books, The Word of the Lord to Democrats and The Word of the Lord to Republicans are both good, but I can’t give them the same unqualified “You Must Read This” endorsement. Both are actually funnier, in places, than Evangelicals. But while McLaren’s skewering of Republicans is both witty and pointed (and quite appropriate, I think), in Democrats Brian pulls his punches too much. I say this as a Democrat–it seemed to me that McLaren’s “Word of the Lord” to the Dems was largely that they are behaving too much like Republicans. While this is to some extent accurate, it seems to me that if God were to send a message to Democrats it would have a lot more content than just “make up your mind what you’re going to stand for and then take a stand” (for one thing, I think God’s message to Democrats would also remind them (us) that morality and holiness aren’t antiquated concepts to be left on the scrap heap of history). So I finished Democrats rather disappointed that he hadn’t slapped them around with the same gusto he did in Republicans. I will say, however, that his parody of Rush Limbaugh in Democrats is inspired…
All three books are well worth the $2.99 each. Unfortunately they are only available as e-books…the good news being that this means they’re cheap, but it also means you can only read them on an e-reader or your computer (either Amazon or Barnes & Noble carry them).