Churches should be school of love. Love. This is the premise of Brian D. McLaren’s book The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion is Seeking a Better Way to be Christian. In the book, McLaren goes into some dark days of religion: colonization, slavery, oppression. Broken relationships with Indigenous groups around the world, slave and sex trades in the name of God, and oppressing people of colour and different sexual orientations. It’s not a great past. It’s ugly and evil. But the saddest part, that McLaren points out, is the Christian religion hasn’t really changed that much from their violent and wretched past: Christianity is still about exclusion and who believe the right thing, and those how are outside that need saving. In this book, he argues that there is a better way. And there is: LOVE!
The last few years, I have found that I don’t fit into the Church I grew up in. I don’t hold as tight to the beliefs and rules that I grew up believing were the only way to follow Jesus . I find myself in a spot where I just want to love more and seek out opportunities to find challenges to be more forgiving, loving, and compassionate. I’m done with organizations that exclude people, and I’m more about organizations that include and welcome all people. This has been a long, tough journey, but I feel more freedom, which is the whole point of Christianity in the first place: freedom to love others. In his book, McLaren writes more about American churches, yet Canadian churches are just as complicit in evil (look at Indian Residential Schools for starters). He writes that “if our [church] prime contribution to humanity can be shifted from teaching correct beliefs to practicing the way of love as Jesus taught, then our whole understanding and experience of the church could be transformed. That’s why I’d like us to take a fresh look at the church as a school of love”(His emphasis, Pg 48).
McLaren shows the dangers of believing that Christianity is they only way, and excluding other faith traditions: “When we better come together as Christians, we can better join with parallel movements from other faith traditions, because ultimately, the problems we face are not just Christian problems, they are human problems. We are all human, and we need to see each other that way and work together to love each other. Just because you were raised in a certain faith tradition, that does not give you superiority and the ability to take control of what humanity should look like. That has failed miserably. Just look at Central America’s history with Christianity as one of many examples. If the goal in life to is learn how to love supernaturally, then we need to work together as humans to make that happen. It is this idea that had me nodding my head and whispering a joyful YES! as I read this book. Together is better. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is the only way.
Toward the end of the book, McLaren talks about how we can make this spiritual migration to love (instead of beliefs and rules) a reality. He quotes Richard Roh, a man also dedicated to spreading the message of love: “Richard Rohr says, ‘Pain that isn’t processed is passed on,’ or ‘Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted.'” (Pg 187). There is a lot of healing that needs to take place in the world, healing that is required as a result of so-called christian actions. Decolonization, feminism, LGBTQ rights, civil rights: all of these movements are an act of healing, and Christians should be involved in these movements toward more love. Enough with the creeds and rules, more with the love and healing. As Shad would say, “What we all want, should look a little more like love.”