Fervent and open
If Brian McLaren’s new book had a theme song, he says it would be Phil Madeira’s “Give God the Blues”: “God don’t hate the Muslims / God don’t hate the Jews / God don’t hate the Christians / But we all give God the blues / God don’t hate the atheists / the Buddhists or the Hindus / God loves everybody / But we all give God the blues.” What particularly gives God the blues is the oppositional nature of our religious identities.
Some would say that religious identities themselves are the problem. The closing ceremonies of the London Olympics featured John Lennon’s “Imagine,” complete with children’s choir in simulated candlelight and the digital appearance of Lennon himself from beyond the grave. Someone presumably thought this a pitch-perfect combination—the nation’s most recognizable pop icon and the most elevated of universalist sentiments.
But “Imagine,” by most conventions a peace anthem, can also be seen as an antidiversity hymn. Imagine no religion, no countries, no possessions. One wonders why the song is hesitant to complete the obvious list of those pernicious obstacles that prevent the world from being “as one”: imagine no races, no languages, no cultures, no gender differences. The song’s dream of a world with “nothing to kill or die for” pictures difference (religious difference above all) as the root problem and its elimination as the solution. McLaren imagines something else: strong differences that impel us toward each other in love.