I don’t think it’s a joke – if it is I’m not sure of the punch line – but I do know it’s a book because it’s getting released soon (or is out now if you’re a US resident)!
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross The Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World is the latest release from the pen of Brian McLaren and I assume it must be pretty sweet because the arm length list of endorsements is off the chain (not sure if I can get away with that saying…)!
Here are the names I know (taken from the version being sold on Amazon.com):
“I think Brian McLaren is a spiritual genius! Not only does he have the courage to say what must and can be said, but he says it with a deep knowledge of both Scriptures and Tradition, and then says it very well besides–in ways that both the ordinary layperson and the scholar can respect and understand. You can’t get any better than that, which is why I call him a genius!” ([Fr.] Richard Rohr, O.F.M, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico)
“If you struggle with the ‘conflicted religious identity syndrome,’ this is the perfect book for you. It’s not just that Brian will turn the deepest inner struggles and yearnings of your faith into smiles, tears, and belly laughs. It’s that he really gets what it means to be a follower of Jesus without judging and dismissing others. I have not felt so much optimism about a constructive Christian life in years!” (Philip Clayton, Provost of Claremont Lincoln University; author of Transforming Christian Theology)
“This is a major work in every sense of the word-so major, in fact, that it would be impossible to exaggerate either its importance or its worth to the current conversation about religion and religions. Mapping the space between Christian exclusivitism and inert universalism, McLaren brilliantly reclaims as well the ancient Christian imperative to abandon the accommodations of static religion and pursue instead the principles of Kingdom-living.” (Phyllis Tickle, Lecturer on Religion in America and Author of Emergence Christianity: What it Is, Where it is Going, and Why it Matters)
“[Brian McLaren] actually believes that Jesus and his followers can change the world. This book is no exception – he starts with a joke but quickly you realize just how serious he is about doing what Jesus teaches us to do. Helpful, timely, and really, really inspiring.” (Rob Bell, author of Love Wins)
“Surely there is no problem more important-and more vexing-to people of various faiths than how we can all get along in this pluralistic, postmodern world. Can we, for instance, love our Muslim neighbor without fearing him? Can we work alongside our Jewish colleague without trying to convert her? Can we pray with a Hindu? Worship with a Buddhist? In Brian McLaren’s capable and gentle hands, these questions are answered, and a new way forward is offered. This is a book for Christians (and others) who want to maintain their religious distinctiveness but develop loving compassion for their neighbors of other religions.” (Tony Jones, Ph.D., (tonyj.net) author of The New Christians and The Church Is Flat and theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch)
“Brian has resisted the temptation to create an all-you-can-eat buffet of religions, where you can pick and choose what you want. Instead, he curiously explores what it looks like to be unashamedly Christian and still be nice to people who aren’t. As one who wants the world to know the love of Jesus, I am deeply troubled that one of the major obstacles to Christ is Christians…and I am deeply grateful for thinkers like Brian who are helping us discover a Christianity that looks like Jesus again.” (Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and lover of Jesus)
“With his characteristic wit and passion, Brian McLaren charts a way through the twenty-first century’s most difficult issue: How can people of different religions maintain their own faiths and yet respect the dignity of all? Join Brian as he takes you on a journey to discover a benevolent Christian faith based on hospitality instead of hostility. It will change your life. And it might just change the world.” (Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening)
“An extraordinary book: A thought-provoking introduction to one of the biggest challenges confronting the church in our globalised world; a profoundly biblical and brave beginning to a Christ-centred cultural revolution.” (Steve Chalke, MBE, Founder, Oasis Global & Stop The Traffik, United Nations GIFT Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking)
“Brian McLaren is a genius in provoking-in a constructive way. You won’t see relations among religions in the same way after you read this book.” (Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale University, and author of Allah: A Christian Response (HarperOne) and A Public Faith (Brazos))
“Genuine dialogue with difference has often been avoided by the Christian community because of a fear that it will undermine, weaken or erode the faith. Here McLaren shows us that far from being something that is acidic to Christian identity such engagement is part of its deepest expression.” (Peter Rollins, Author of Insurrection: To Believe is Human; To Doubt, Divine)
“Brian McLaren is at his best in this book-pastoral, practical, challenging and thoughtful. As always, he speaks the right words at the right moment, meeting us where we are, but helping us see just around the bend. For those who want to engage in productive interfaith dialog while maintaining a strong Christian identity, WHY DID JESUS, MOSES, THE BUDDHA, AND MOHAMMED CROSS THE ROAD? is an invaluable resource. It will make you think, yes. But better yet, it will make you a better Christian and a better neighbor.” (Rachel Held Evans, blogger, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood)
“Brian McLaren is a master of pointing us to the right question, and he has done it again by asking Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?..This is a dangerous question. Dangerous in that it will not leave you alone once you invite it in… Brian reminds us that this question is not new, but that it is ours. I, for one, am grateful to Brian for the introduction to this immensely important book and question.” (Doug Pagitt, Pastor, Author, Radio Host, http://www.DougPagitt.com)
“In its relationship to those who believe differently, Christian formation all too often takes shape with hostile reaction, or collapses into some washed out common denominator. Brian helps us recover, and explore a vital and exciting alternative: how learning from ‘others’ of all persuasions, is possible and intrinsic to vibrant Christian identity.” (Jason Clark, Deep Church)
“Brian thoroughly engages us in relevant dialogue concerning our attitudes and possible points of contact with those from different faith communities. I recommend this new guidebook leading us to better multi-faith understanding 1) because the content is creative, and engaging and 2) because the author has shown the character in his life that qualifies him to direct us in this effort. There are few other books in this genre you will enjoy more than Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.” (Randy S. Woodley, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Faith and Culture, George Fox Seminary, Portland Oregon; Author, Living in Color: Embracing God?s Passion for Ethnic Diversity)
I saw that many names and felt immediately resolved to get this one. A book like this is ever timely, many of us don’t know how to deal with plurality and difference. Often our go to reaction is to eliminate and assimilate it, rather than honour and make an effort to understand it. (The former is of course the typically Western response, we are the colonisers of the Americas and Asia and the enslavers of Africa, bringing enlightened ways of thinking and living – our default mode, eliminate the difference if they don’t bite. This is our history, it is in our blood.)
How does a Christian posture themselves toward and interact with people of other faiths? How do we cultivate our lives in such a way that we hold healthy relationships with the religious “other?” Can we/Should we aim to live peacefully and lovingly with this religious diversity, without at any point going out of our way to condemning and converting it?
I am inclined to think that God is up to all kinds of things outside of Christianity, the whole “God’s kingdom” deal cannot be limited in scope to the church (and the church is certainly not the kingdom!) – God made a whole universe, I imagine God is up to lots of things in it, other religions included! I am also inclined to think that the Jesus way is one that is hopelessly open and welcoming, without pretense or hidden agendas – we love and honour our neighbours exactly for who they are, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, whatever, because they are human beings, no strings attached.
These are the kinds of things it seems McLaren is going to go after, and I’m intrigued!