Brian McLaren gave the second part of his presentation on Saturday at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly. The title of part 1 was “And the Word became flesh…” The second half was, “…and moved into the neighborhood.” This was, of course, the theme of our assembly, so his presentations wonderfully illustrated this important reality. God has skin in the game. God cares about and gives life on all levels.
The presentation was chock full of inspirational stories about the lived reality of this question: What would happen if the Kingdom of God came to our neighborhood? The part that captured my imagination, however, was his opening piece about the relationships between the individiual-communities-publics-environments. The individual-community-environment connection is an organic interdependence. Individuals exist within human communities, and all communities are connected by the physical environment. We share it, and every action we take in and against the environment affects other communities “down stream.”
However, the publics are humanly constructed, supra-community realities that, in our technologically-driven age, have gained the ability to transcend communities, and live in the self-deception that they somehow transcend the environment. McLaren used the Coca-Cola corporation as an example of a public to illustrate the point. The public markets to individuals for personal consumption. The consumption of the product–sugar water in this case–can contribute to individual health issues, e.g. tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, etc. Yet, the corporation does not have to feel the effect of these diseases. They simply profit from individual consumption. It is the communities that suffer the effects of the individual maladies.
God cares about communities, therefore, the church is the body of Christ that “moved into the neighborhood.” We are not the Church of the City, we are the church for the city.