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George Lakoff, a distinguished cognitive scientist trained in linguistics, came to prominence several years ago as an unlikely guru among Democratic Party strategists. In books such as Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Lakoff highlights the "frames and metaphors" by which Americans organize their perceptions. Why, Lakoff asks, did many conservatives accept President George W. Bush's foreign policy despite abundant evidence that it was badly misconceived? Simple. Conservatives interpreted the Bush Administration's decisions via the "strict father morality" that helps frame their understanding of the world. "Map this onto foreign policy, and it says you cannot give up sovereignty. The United States, being the best and most powerful country in the world—a moral authority—knows the right thing to do. We should not be asking anybody else." In his books, Lakoff systematically contrasts "conservative" frames with "progressive" frames, urging progressives to understand conservatives, and then reframing debates in a way to persuade conservatives to see the light.

In Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (Thomas Nelson), Brian McLaren—one of the two or three most influential figures in the "emergent" movement—pursues a similar project, though one even more ambitious than Lakoff's. McLaren attempts nothing less than a reframing of what Jesus taught and what it means to follow him on the Way.

McLaren contrasts what he calls "conventional" frames ("frequently defined as 'orthodoxy,'" he writes) with "emerging" frames. So, for example, in the emerging view, "Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ...

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January 2008

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