UPDATE: At The Margins has a page of Irresistable Revolution links, and some of them have lots of quotes.
Trust me, folks, no one gave me this book, a check or a donut to write what I’m going to write in the next few paragraphs. I’m just very excited about this book.
Someone told me that Shane Claiborne had written a heck of a book, and I wanted to read something from the new Christian left, so I ordered a cheap used copy. I’ll tell you, without exaggeration, that I haven’t read anything as invigorating to my own faith journey and missional calling here at OBI in 15 years. I cannot think of a book that was more exciting, genuine, idealistic, persuasive and compelling than this odd little book by a young leftie Christian zealot from East Tennessee.
Claiborne is the typical youth group kid I worked with for 15 years. (He’s a just turned thirty-something who grew up in a UMC youth group in Eastern Tennessee.) He’s the popular, small town boy from the entertainment-oriented youth group. The problem is that he’s also smart, into Jesus and full of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere between that small town youth group (with it’s usual menu of activities seasoned with a “mission trip” here and there) and graduation from Eastern College in Philly, Claiborne became a bonafide dangerous fanatic. He got politicized, activiated, and most important, radically immersed in the reality of the Kingdom of God.
Claiborne became a Jesus follower with the daring to follow Jesus, do stuff Jesus would do, take risks, side with the poor, get public, give simple answers, turn down the usual evangelical pablum and avoid excuses. He stopped believing everything the evangelical media said. He started thinking for himself, scaring his family, going where he wasn’t really supposed to go and doing things that went well beyond that two week mission trip.
Yeah, he’s been arrested with activists for the homeless and protesters against the war, among other things. He’s been an intern at Willow Creek Church. He spent a year with Mother Theresa, caring for the dying. He helped throw $10,000 out on Wall Street in a “Jubilee” celebration. He’s been to Iraq to visit Christians, Muslims, soldiers and civilians. He speaks in churches and youth groups. He’s part of a Christian community in Philly that’s living out the economic implications of the Gospel in ways that challenge our suburban assumptions.
And yes, he’s pals with Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and other leftie evangelicals. (If that stops you from reading this, or causes you to hang up on a couple of chapters, too bad for you.) He quotes Manning and Mullins. He hangs with Catholics and has few good things to say about the “religious right” when it’s seeking political power. His chapter on economics is pretty bad. His assumptions about war are Anabaptist. If pacifiism bothers you, you’re in for trouble. If you need America First Christianity, you are going to get busted. If you believe the Kingdom is a Jesus centered-political movement, and not just a religious museum, you’re in for a treat.
Buy and read this book. In fact, my son is reading it, and it scares me to death, but I don’t care. There is so much of Jesus in Claiborne’s writing that I want my son to just be around it, to think about a life that’s different, radical and sacrificial. If he could see that in the evangelical-reformed-conservative side of the world that I live in, I’d show it to him. The reality is that it’s rare. He grew up in a Christian community and he knows much of what Claiborne is talking about by the values of OBI and our family’s decision to be here. But Claiborne puts out a compelling narrative that challenges evangelical young people to go another mile. Take a bigger risk. Examine everything you’ve been told, and see where it takes you.
I want you to read this book to simply feel the fresh wind of the Spirit blowing through the church. It’s so hopeful to think we might have thousands of idealistic young Christians like Shane waiting for the church to say, “Go! Do what we wouldn’t dare to do!” This isn’t a young man looking for a bigger Christian concert or a way to get prayer back into schools. Claiborne is living with the poor, not visiting them. He’s in Philly, in the hood, in a community, learning the terrain of ministry to America’s urban youth from street and living room level. He’s a tutor, a prophet, an organizer, a teacher, a foot washer, a fool for Christ and subverter of the status quo in the name of Jesus.
This really is good, high octane stuff. If you don’t believe there is anything of Jesus on the Christian left, you need to read this book, and you need to consider what the implications are for our own ministries. It’s an exciting ride, and you need to take it. It’s a first time book with some first time book flaws. Some chapters get a bit preachy, but Claiborne is anything but ponderous and finger-wagging. He’s a circus performer, an elvish, impish, provocateur in the Kingdom. Forgive him some faults, and get the point.
(My friend Matthew C, a fellow teacher at OBI and an east Tennessee Methodist kid like Shane, heard me plug the book, borrowed it, read it in a day, and is as sold as I am on it. This from a guy who is 100% John Macarthur, all the time. This really is an unusual book.)