A ‘Teaching’ Prophet

Brian McLaren once said ‘It’s natural to think of Dave as a prophet: his fiery passion, his concern for justice, the way his life speaks more eloquently than his words. But Dave is also a teacher, drawing from classic theologians from Christian history, along with some of the most seminal theologians of today, making them accessible to a wider audience’[1] And probably one of the best examples of my better known teaching is my teaching on the Beatitudes in my book Plan Be. Brian says, ‘I think Plan Be will be his most widely-read book yet, and will introduce a new readership to this important prophetic voice – one who deserves global attention. Plan A has been tried and found disgusting. It’s high time for Plan Be spirituality.’ [2]

I had begun meditating on the Beatitudes more intentionally for some reason or other around the year 2000. So when 9/11 occurred in 2001, I reflected on the attack and counter-attack in the light of the Beatitudes. To me it seemed both the attack and the counter-attack were based on the traditional default reactive approach that I called ‘Plan A’ – demanding for ‘an eye for eye’ – taking its cue from the words of Moses (Ex.21:24) rather than the words of Jesus.

‘Plan A’ is to ‘treat others like they treat us’. On 9-11-2001, Osama Bin Laden ordered an attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center at the heart of the American Empire. As the world looked on in astonishment, Bin Laden cried ‘Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed.’[3] In retaliation George Bush ordered an attack on Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan – and also an attack on Saddam Hussein in Iraq (who did not have any weapons of mass destruction, or anything to do with the 9-11attack, but had tried to kill Bush senior.) Bush claimed ‘God told me to strike al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.’[4] And as a result, over 100,000 innocent civilians have been killed – and we are still counting.

The trouble with the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ approach of ‘Plan A’, is, in the end, it makes us ‘blind’, so we can’t see the sort of things that make for peace, love and justice.

Over against ‘Plan A’ is an alternative transformative responsive approach that I called ‘Plan Be’ – taking its cue from the words of Jesus (Matt.22:39) – ‘treating others like we would like to be treated’ rather than ‘treating others like they treat us’. It is an ethic best expressed in what I refer to as the ‘Be-Attitudes’ of the Beatitudes.

But few Christians tried to frame their response to 9/11 in terms of the Beatitudes. In Cold Turkey, Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical American author, wrote: ‘For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But – often with tears in their eyes – they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings and of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.’[5]

I became convinced that it was time, now more than ever, to campaign for ‘Plan Be’. ‘Plan Be’ is my call for all of us to practice the ‘Be-Attitudes’ – ‘to be the change we want to see in the world’ – the ‘people-that-be’ over against ‘the-powers-that-be’.

I wrote a series of articles on each of the Beatitudes for a Brethren magazine. Based on these articles I was asked to lead a Servants retreat in the Swiss Mountains on the Sermon on the Mount, alternately walking through the Alps and sitting on a hillside to talk about each of the Beatitudes. I was then asked to share these talks on the Beatitudes at Greenbelt, the famous alternative Christian Festival, where I spoke on ‘Plan Be’ to the largest crowds I’d ever spoken to, and recorded a podcast on what I was now calling the ‘The Blessed Be-Attitude Revolution’. A publisher of mine was at Greenbelt, heard my talks, saw the reaction of the crowds and suggested I publish them straightaway. So I published Plan Be with Authentic, (following up the success of the bestselling Plan Be with a prequel, Hey, Be and See and a sequel, See What I Mean afterwards.) Given the popularity of Plan Be, the Bible Society helped publish complementary Plan Be study guides, journals, tracts, CDs, DVDs, and a Plan Be web site on http://wecan.be

Plan Be was adopted by the Uniting Church in South Australia who used it as a framework for their churches, colleges and schools. TEAR Australia dedicated a whole edition of Target to Plan Be, promoted the Plan Be resources through their organisation Australia wide and published my book People Of Compassion which gave lots of encouraging examples of people who had practiced the Be-Attitudes throughout history. MICAH, a global coalition of hundreds of mission and develop-ment agencies, of which TEAR Australia was a part, invited me to share the message of Plan Be at their international conference in Switzerland. So the call for a ‘Blessed Be-Attitude Revolution’ was spread by MICAH’s partners around the world. .

The Plan Be campaign has involved Christians around the world implementing four important, simple, sequential, teaching/learning, adult educational processes.

One – Restoring the Beatitudes to the church by reciting the Beatitudes in church every Sunday. Reciting creeds is not enough. The creeds have no ethical content. If we are to recover the ethics of Jesus we need to recite the Beatitudes as well. If we recite the Beatitudes we will, like Jesus, begin to regularly focus, like he did, on

  1. the poor – or poor in spirit – who identify with the poor ‘in spirit’
  2. those who mourn – who grieve over the injustice in the world
  3. the meek – who get angry, but who never get aggressive
  4. those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – who seek justice
  5. the merciful – who are compassionate to everyone in need
  6. the pure in heart – who are whole-hearted in desire to do right
  7. the peacemakers – who work for peace in a world at war
  8. those persecuted for righteousness – who suffer for just causes

Two – Encouraging Christians to learn the Be-Attitudes in the Beatitudes and live the Be-Attitudes in the Beatitudes – committing ourselves to sincerely try

  1. to identify with the poor ‘in spirit’.
  2. to grieve over injustice in the world.
  3. to get angry, but never get aggressive.
  4. to seek to do justice, even to my enemies.
  5. to extend compassion to all those in need.
  6. to act with integrity, not just for the publicity.
  7. to work for peace in the midst of the violence.
  8. to suffer ourselves, rather than inflict suffering. [6]

Three – Organising ‘Be’ Groups to help people overcome socially-acceptable addictions to riches, status and violence, (like ‘A.A.’ Groups help people overcome socially-unacceptable addictions to porn, drugs and alcohol) and incarnate the radical personal-political Be-Attitudes at the heart of the Blessed Be-Attitude Revolution –

  1. Solidarity
  2. Empathy
  3. Self-restraint
  4. Righteousness
  5. Mercy
  6. Integrity
  7. Non-violence
  8. Perseverance [7]

Four – Urging ‘Be-lievers’ to share the radical personal-political Be-Attitudes at the heart of the Blessed Be-Attitude Revolution with people of all religions, as say, ‘The Sharia Of Isa’, that might in the context of the so-called ‘Conflict of Civilisations’, guide the Christian-Muslim collaboration together, that I envisage in The Jihad Of Jesus.

As I write, St John’s Anglican Cathedral, along with a number of other parishes in my hometown of Brisbane, have decided to use Plan Be for their Lenten Reflections this year, recording a special podcast on ‘The Blessed Be-Attitude Revolution’ for their parishioners that can be heard on ‘On The Way’ at https://bit.ly/2G9x9pF

 

Let us praise the saints of courage in struggle.

Widows and orphans in our fatherless world.

They slave night and day – to care for each other.

And so become the children of God.

 

We will rejoice with people of spirit –

The Christ in our house and Mohammed next door.

They cannot boast of status or riches –

But they will inherit heaven on earth for sure.

 

Let us praise the saints of courage in struggle.

Brothers and sisters in our families at war.

They embrace the pain – of the folk who suffer.

And so embody the love of God.

 

We will rejoice with people of spirit –

The Christ in our house and Mohammed next door.

They cannot boast of status or riches –

But they will inherit heaven on earth for sure.

 

Blessed are the women who show compassion.

Blessed are the men who are kind.

Blessed are the children who seek reconciliation.

Blessed – all those who try!

 

We will rejoice with people of spirit –

The Christ in our house and Mohammed next door.

They cannot boast of status or riches –

But they will inherit heaven on earth for sure.

 

Praise the saints mp3

 

[1] Brian McLaren in Preview of Dave Andrews A Divine Society Wipf and Stock Eugene 2012

[2] Brian McLaren on Cover of Dave Andrews Plan Be Authentic Milton Keynes 2008

[3] Bruce Lincoln Holy Terrors University Of Chicago Press, Chicago 2002

[4] Greg Austin, Todd Kranock, Thom Oommen God And War Department of Peace Studies, Bradford 2003

[5] Kurt Vonnegut ‘Cold Turkey’ In These Times May 10, 2004

[6] In Hey, Be And See I talk about how the Spirit empowers us to practice the Be-Attitudes

[7] In See What I Mean I talk about how I try to practice each of the Be-Attitudes myself

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