In Emergent Circles Da Vinci Code No Worse Than Left Behind
In the spring of 2005, I wrote a column detailing what I considered a few of the shortcomings and dangers of the Emergent Church Movement. Much to my surprise, the piece sparked more of a debate than originally anticipated, full detail of which I am not privy but it must have been a real humdinger.
According to one pro-Emergent blog called TallSkinnyKiwi, since I have dared to say my peace elsewhere about tattooing, smoking, and boozing (three things Emergophiles seem to revel in with impunity), as well as enunciated differences with Presbyterians, and Southern Baptists (as if these institutions were somehow above criticism [perhaps they should be reminded about the Protestant Reformation ]), my comments about the movement ‘s grand pooba Brian McLaren are therefore out of line and not worthy of consideration.
In the spirit of ecumenical inclusion gripping much of mainstream Evangelicalism, TallSkinnyKiwi categorized my classification of McLaren as “the worst McLaren slam” making the rounds on the Internet and “This is NOT the kind of discussion we want to have, so please...no wrangling about words, no arguing, no divisiveness...Let’s have a good productive discussion that allows us all to move ahead.” No doubt headlong into the arms of apostasy. Thus, the practitioners of liturgical diversity hold the sacrament of tolerance should only apply to those agreeing with them.
My column regarding McLaren might seem utterly bizarre to minds too small to fathom the revolutionary apocalyptic changes sweeping across certain sectors of society, but I stand by my conclusions and assessments of this aberrant movement and its foremost luminary. Yet, from what I have learned since then, the situation might even be worse.
In the May 9, 2006 Sojomail ezine of the leftwing Christian rag Sojourners, McLaren is interviewed as to his opinion of The Da Vinci Code. According to McLaren, though The Da Vinci Code is lit with fallacies and distortions, these are no more serious than those in the Left Behind Series.
Though there is room for debate among committed Christians as to the specific chronology of certain eschatological events and that some of the plot elements seem needlessly drug out or somewhat silly, overall one cannot deny that the Left Behind novels depict a milieu where Jesus is Lord of the universe. The Da Vinci Code portrays Jesus as little more than a sex fiend no more divine and thus worthy of worship than the rest of us. But since in their own words a good story is more important to the Emergent crowd than cold hard fact, all that is beside the point.
What McLaren and his disciples really can’t stand is the reasonably conservative outlook espoused by the Left Behind novels. McLaren writes, “The Religious Right has polluted the air. The name ‘Jesus’ and the word ‘Christianity’ are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that is distorted and false.”
Encase Pastor McLaren has not been off that spacious Burtonsville church compound of his surrounded by houses pushing a million dollars in prince, there’s quite a bit to be negative and angry about in the world today. Frankly, it’s that naive brand of Christianity with the sickening grin plastered across it’s face that is so emasculated that it doesn’t get upset at anything that is upholding something distorted and false.
The McLarenite beef with the Left Behind series is the way novels “twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end.” Mind you, I doubt he’s raving about a pre-tribulation rapture or the oddity of a believer chauffeuring the Anti-Christ around the globe. Rather, what McLaren is lamenting is Left Behind’s stern warning against global government and the amalgamation of world religions into a demonic mismash.
For you see, whether he wants to admit it or not, Rev. McLaren turns out to be something of a universalist deep down. For while he will no doubt dance around the matter with the obfuscation endemic to the Emergent Church movement, McLaren is out to undermine traditional belief in the afterlife, particularly the destinations of the soul popularly known as Heaven and Hell.
According to McLarenite doctrine, it doesn’t even matter if these metaphysical realms even exist and the belief in them are actually a holdover from a more primitive time, actually hindering continued spiritual progress by fostering what has become the new boogeyman constantly harangued from the twenty-first century pulpit and Sunday school classroom (namely individualism). McLaren comes close to insinuating that Jesus didn’t even believe in Hell but simply invoked the concept to best the Pharisees at their own game of verbal one-upmanship.
Instead of fearing the eternal torments of Hell and anticipating the unending happiness of Heaven, the truly spiritual person only concerns themselves about a this-wordly COMMUNITY. Frankly, if this is all there is to the Kingdom of God, I want a refund and being a Christian is a colossal waste of time.
The hyperpious might come down with a case of the vapors for me having said that, but whether they want to admit it or not, my opinion is essentially that of the Bible as I Corinthians 15:19 says that if in this life only we have hope, we of all men are most miserable.
Interesting how those in these revolutionary movements constantly counsel how we have so much to learn from foreign cultures when these alien dogmas undermine sound doctrine, traditional liberties, and private property yet so eagerly dismiss these concepts when a degree of congruity is shared with Christian belief. So what if Zoroastrians at that time had a more vivid understanding of the after life than their Jewish counterparts?
Does the idea’s origin somehow negate any of its truthfulness as apparently Jesus wasn’t the only Biblical source to endorse the notion of a punitive realm of the after life irrespective of where the idea might have gotten its initial start as the theme received its most elaborate treatment probably in the Book of Revelation. But if McLaren is going to get his knickers in a knot over Left Behind, he’s as sure as Sheol not going to like the Book of Revelation.
What good is the COMMUNITY going to do you on your deathbed as your existence is about to be snuffed out all together if Heaven and Hell really do not exist as destinations in eternity but merely as states of mind for the few brief years that each of us trod this earth? McLaren and his ilk often claim they have taken the tack they have in the name of bringing the young people back into the church. But if his message is going to be this life is all we have, why should they bother showing up Sunday morning at all because in the grim world McLaren posits (no matter how much Emergent types might try to put a smile on it with their scented candles, nose rings, and espresso bar, one is better off patterning one’s life after Hugh Hefner than Jesus Christ if tomorrow never comes.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.