Thursday, March 13

Book Review - The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

I just finished reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I had the opportunity to hear Shane speak at last November's National Youth Workers' Convention. It was very, very interesting. You can read my thoughts it in the second half of this blog entry.

It's hard to sum up Shane Claiborne in just a sentence or two. He spent the several years of his college career at Eastern University, where his mentor was Tony Campolo. After his junior year in college, he spend the summer working with Mother Teresa in India. After returning from India, he interned for a year at Willow Creek Community Church, while he finished up school at Wheaton College. After graduation, he started an intentional community in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Philadelphia, where he and a number of others try to live out what it means to be a follower of Christ.

The book has some elements of autobiography, some elements discussion about how people who claim to follow Christ should live out that claim, and some elements of a call to action to followers of Christ to take up the cause of the poor and disenfranchised around the world.

Shane talks about how Jesus was a radical. Jesus preached a message that was at odds with what both society and the religious leaders of the day said was important. Jesus called people to live a kind of life that was radically different than what everyone else was trying to live. It was a call to live a life of radical grace and radical love -- a life where you loved your enemies, you turned the other cheek when you were struck, you forgave people who did nothing to seek forgiveness, and you sacrificially helped those in need. It was a message and a way of living that was opposed to the powers that existed, and led to persecution of Jesus and those who followed him.

Shane also speaks against the merger of God, Country and Capitalism that he believes has occurred in American Christianity. He points out how the actions of a Superpower are often inconsistent with the values that Jesus taught. Similarly, global capitalism (as it is operated) can exploit the poor and disenfranchised, and it doesn't match up with the economic system that can be seen in the early church. Shane uses this discussion to ask us to take a look at how we live our day-to-day lives and to see if it matches up with the way that Jesus lived his life.

The Irresistible Revolution raises some very good issues. It asks us to look at whether or not we are really living as a follower of Jesus and are doing the things that Jesus did. It is appropriate to point out that the church hasn't always done a very good job of taking care of the poor and disenfranchised, whether they were already a part of the church or not.

While I believe that Shane raises a number of good issues, I don't agree with everything that he has to say. My biggest disagreement with him is probably this: I think he overemphasizes serving with and among the poor. There were times when reading the book that I felt like he was arguing that the focus of Christ followers should be entirely on the poor and the disenfranchised. I can't agree with him to that extent. When Jesus commanded me to love my neighbor as myself, he didn't put any socio-economic qualifier on that. Certainly the person living in poverty in the inner city of Chicago qualifies as my neighbor under Jesus' definition. But so does the professional making several hundred thousand dollars a year who lives in my neighborhood. I need to demonstrate the love of Jesus to both of them.

While I don't agree with everything that Shane Claiborne has to say, The Irresistible Revolution is worth reading. It certainly make you think about what it means to really live out a faith in Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

ashley said...

I still have difficulties deciding whether Shane was over-emphasizing serving with and among the poor. It seems that Jesus spent a good portion, maybe even a majority, of his time with the poor and continually used them as an example of how to act like and serve the Kingdom.

I agree with what you say about the professional and not putting a qualifier on who our neighbor is. However, I would venture to say that the majority of Americans over-emphasize THAT and use it as an excuse to not get their hands dirty, even when they feel a specific call on their lives to be more involved with our downcast neighbors.