Saturday, August 2, 2008

Let the Revolution Begin!

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
by Shane Claiborne

There are lots of books out there right now about what faith means to people who have no use for church or any other organized religion, how to make faith a meaningful part of life, and how to engage people at a deeper spiritual level. I've read a lot of them, some of them are pretty good. Some of them are hokey and contrived. This is one of the better ones that I have read in a long time. Shane Claiborne is a truly interesting person who, in my opinion, has a prophetic ministry all his own. He does not so much say we have to be like him to be faithful as much as make us WANT to find the meaning and engagement and relationships that have proven to be so life-giving for him. More importantly, it is not really about him, although he readily shares his own experiences. The overall story is more about who we could be as the people of God if we only integrated our faith with the most mundane parts of daily life.

What I like about Claiborne is that he takes a serious look at the church and all our problems, failings, and issues, but he does not make the church into the enemy. He spares no group his critique, least of all those of which he is a part. He recognizes that what are commonly called "mainline Protestant" congregations and denominations are experiencing membership decline and in many cases a spiritual aridity that leaves faith at best irrelevant to life and at worst damaging of it. Lots of the issues (changes in the culture, failure of Christians to become involved in justice, and the pitfalls of civic religion, just to name a few) that Claiborne points out are not new news to any of us who have been paying attention, but he he articulates them clearly, with warmth and humor and hope.

Claiborne is not stuck on figuring out what the mainline churches should do to "save" themselves. He is not particularly invested in denominations or organizations. Instead, he loves Christ with all that he has and is determined to make that love permeate every part of his life. Claiborne and a small number of other people have founded a community called "The Simple Way" in inner-city Philadelphia. These people seek to live together in community and live their faith by loving their neighbors around them. This includes shooting baskets with kids in the neighborhood who are home alone after school, helping them with their homework, and occasionally taking in the homeless or neglected. They also become involved in social issues that affect the people with whom they live.

I have to admit that living on a long-term basis with a group of people outside my immediate family has little appeal for me. But I am intrigued by The Simple Way and am considering spending some continuing ed time there in the future. I think the way of living that they have adopted could make life more meaningful and faith more real wherever we may happen to live. I like Claiborne's model of building the realm of God here on earth - he speaks of "getting smaller and smaller until we take over the world." In other words, do what you can to proclaim, embody and live the reign of God and see what God can do through us. It is a hopeful and inspiring way to consider faith, and a refreshing change from the doctrinal nitpicking and the endless fighting over ordination standards that suck so much energy from the PCUSA.

I also recently picked up Claiborne's latest book Jesus for President and am greatly looking forward to reading it. Anyone else out there read Claiborne? Or heard him on his latest speaking tour? I'd be eager to hear what you think.

Reverent Reader


At 8/2/08, 11:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you know, I saw Shane Claiborne a couple of weeks ago on the Jesus for President tour and found him inspiring and prophetic. And also funny at times! The experience was very powerful and moving. I'm interested in reading both of his books. See you soon!


At 8/4/08, 7:01 PM , Blogger journeywoman said...

You have definitely made me want to read this book! You describe Claiborne as someone who "loves Christ with all that he has and is determined to make that love permeate every part of his life".
Sounds like he walks his talk, which makes him someone who has credibility in my eyes.
I admire your openness to spiritual paths other than your own and that you write so passionately about an individual who has rejected an institution, the church, that you serve and support, in spite of the "doctrinal nitpicking". That is so off-putting to many of us that want to be engaged in social justice work and find that the church is more concerned about matters that leave little time to address injustices that Jesus would have made his first priority.
I must admit that I had heard of, but been put off by, the title of Jesus for President. I think I'll pick up Irresistible Revolution first!

At 8/10/08, 11:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this book too. We watched a film at Holy Grounds tonight with Claiborne and Campolo re: money. Lots of food for thought.

Hope you are ok.

At 8/29/08, 3:50 PM , Anonymous Betsy said...

Wonder how The Simple Way compares to Sojourners and to Church of the Savior. I'd like to read this, Leslie.


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