Since I know that I have too many thoughts on this book to squeeze into just two posts, I will write a bit more about what I am learning and pondering while reading McLaren's book.
One major section of the book is called "The Prosperity System", in which McLaren discusses what he calls the "Theocapitalist Religion (p.190) in which Capitalism is god. He discusses how it functions in our society, and also some scary tendencies. For example, the characteristics of large corporations match the six characteristics of a psychopath (p.197-198)!
In analyzing the situation, much of his discussion echoes major debates in economic theory: are the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer, and is this caused by capitalism? In critiquing some views, it seems that McLaren leans to the Marxist economic pie view, though he later denies this (p.214).
While we may or may not agree entirely with his analysis of the capitalist, free market economy, even arguing that he is out of his depth in this area, his analysis shifts to something that I think is more helpful.
The shift comes when he turns from questioning the ideologies of economics to considering its limits within the larger picture. He takes a clear stance on ecological issues and states plainly that our fast race towards progress is simply not sustainable. Even if capitalism does create increasing wealth for all, this may cause disaster to the world in which we live. Take, for example, China. The World Factbook estimates a real GDP growth rate of 9.8% for 2008 (compare this to 1.3% in the US). That is incredible growth. Can you imagine billions more people getting cars, refrigerators, etc? McLaren suggests that as followers of Jesus, we must consider the implications of our lifestyle for future generations.
He then explains a way of thinking about wealth and economics that is based in the gospels. McLaren states again something that has been a recurring theme in my life: thankfulness. He writes, "gratitude becomes an act of defiant contemplation" in which we become content with what we do have rather than just wanting more and more things (p.213). This is tied into an insightful reading of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. McLaren also points out the importance of giving.
Rather than simply critiquing our world, let's strive to see things differently and live in increasing generosity and gratitude.