Finding Peace in a Multi-Faith World

12 Dec

Segment 1 – Our guest on this edition of The Doug Noll Show is Brian McLaren: author, speaker, activist and public theologian. His latest book is titled Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World). Brian’s website is


Brian started his career as college English professor and ended up being part of a small congregation, of which he later became the pastor. He recently left pastoral hood in order to devote more time to writing and speaking. Brian grew up as a conservative evangelical, where evolution was not something you believed and the bible was interpreted literally.


A lot of folks frame the world today in broad sweeping terms, as in “it’s a Muslim world against the Christian world.” Why is it that people are so quick to deduce the difficult conflicts in our world down to religious identity? According to our guest, one of the ways we feel safe is by finding a tribe or community where we think we belong. We often define “us” by having opposition toward “them.” We tell stories about how “they” oppressed us, which gives us the feeling of bonding with our tribe.


Segment 2 – Let’s say Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed met up in a bar…what do you think they would talk about? Brian believes they would talk about the religions that have been formed in the world today, and they might talk with great sadness and pain about the things that are being done in their name. The lesson to “love one another” and “love your enemies” is the toughest teaching to follow. It is difficult to accept the feeling of love instead of the biological feeling of hatred for an enemy who is threatening. Security trumps peace. We have forms of religions that in some ways are trying to protect the status quo for the social and political elite, and then we have other forms of religions that are trying to transform the status quo. The latter’s focus is on the people at the bottom of the pyramid. Essentially we have religions of control and religions of transformation. Interestingly, each one sees themselves as the maintainer of peace.


Segment 3 – We consistently do two things already: 1) We either know how to have a strong religious identity and be hostile to people with other religious identities, or 2) We have the opposite approach, which is to have a weak or benign identity (we think the only way to become less hostile is to become less Christian). Brian thinks we need a better alternative to these two approaches. He believes the more committed to Christianity we are, the more dedicated we need to be to peacemaking and to learning the skills of interacting with people of different religious beliefs. Unfortunately, when a person who is a member of “us” advocates that we show compassion and understanding and tries to humanize “them,” that person is often seen as a traitor. In many ways it’s the story of Jesus.


Segment 4 – So how can we rethink the concept of Eucharist and instead of having it be a sacrificial, violent exercise, have it be a peace-loving, engaged spiritual practice? Brian tells us that Jesus envisioned a form of religion where (animal) sacrifice was not part of the ritual. To find out more, listen to the complete interview:


Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4


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