Pros: engaging author; interesting experiences; his compassion and humor
Cons: too much scripture discussion; he's only interested in Christianity
I did not seek out or discover Shane Claiborne, co-founder of the Simple Way in Philadelphia, PA, but he found me on myspace.com and, seeing that I review books and movies for peace in the world, he promptly asked to be my friend. He is a twenty-something originally from Tennessee and raised a Methodist, who has written the 2006 book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, in an autobiographical way (although its not his autobiography!). You could call him a disarming Jesus freak with a vision to bring the Christian church back to the fiery passion it had in its beginnings two thousand years ago. How? By living with the poor and homeless, building communities around the world with the same radical spirit, and loving the Church as a dysfunctional parent that, in America, has embraced a cultural and patriotic fervor.
Since January 1997 when the Eastern College graduate and five of his friends from there began living in the poorest area of Philadelphia, their lives have transformed like they could never have imagined. They live the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth rather than simply preach it to the choir, believing that the world cant afford the American Dream and another dream, another life, was possible. The Simple Way considers itself a tax-exempt 501c3 anti-profit organization that discourages macrocharity and distant acts of charity that serve to legitimize apathetic lifestyles of good intentions but rob us of the gift of community. Want to help them? Just go visit them and see what theyre about.
Shane explains that they hang out on the streets, they reclaim abandoned lots and plant gardens, they go to jail and court, they get fined for distributing food to the homeless, they protest state-sanctioned executions, they visit old people and open their home to strangers, they preach and prophesy and dream of changing the world little by little.
I like this one. They fight terrorism, the terrorism within each of us, the terrorism of corporate greed, of American consumerism, of war. He emphasizes that theyre not some pacifist hippies, but activists for the rebirth of the Church. Claiborne has become well-known as an activist and speaker, not only in America but he has friends, or communities of friends, in Iraq, Argentina, the Bahamas, Britain, India and I dont know where else. He actually went to Baghdad in March 2003 before and during the bombing! Its nothing Jesus wouldnt have done, hell tell you in surprise. Why shouldnt he risk his life to reach out to other Christians who are part of his family?
Here is my problem with Shane. Hes a wonderful person who is doing a lot of loving things to make this a better and more loving world. I like his humor and that he almost went into the circus as an entertainer and now defuses a situation by juggling torches or rappelling out of a dorm window. Im tickled that he worked with the Christian singer Rich Mullins on a musical (he didnt sing past auditions) and has preached often at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, where I used to haunt before him. You see, I was a charismatic Catholic for some years, but now Im not and I no longer believe that everybody needs to know Jesus, be born again and accept only the Christian God. I don't have idols anymore, but it seems like Claiborne does. I think all that is needed is for us to follow the Golden Rule and come to understand people who have a different perspective of life. I dont need to change them and I dont have an agenda or angle like Shane does as a Christian. I noticed while reading The Irresistible Revolution that he mentions only Christian writers, activists, artists, and he only attended church services in Iraq, but didnt try to visit a mosque. Hes not interested in learning about other religions and thats very sad. If there will ever be peace in the world, it will come only when we understand and accept other religions.
There are thirteen chapters, plus a foreword by Jim Wallis, author of Gods Politics, a long introduction by Shane and three appendices. Since they are interesting titles and define Claiborne and his vision, here they are.
1 When Christianity Was Safe
2 Resurrecting Church
3 In Search of a Christian (not himself)
4 When Comfort Becomes Uncomfortable
5 Another Way of Doing Life
6 Economics of Rebirth
7 Pledging Allegiance When Kingdoms Collide
8 Jesus Made Me Do It! (go to Iraq in March 2003)
9 Jesus Is For Losers
10 Extremists For Love
11 Making Revolution Irresistible
12 Growing Smaller And Smaller Until We Take Over World (no mega churches)
13 Crazy But Not Alone
Appendix 1, 2, 3 (a list of his supporters is one)
The Irresistible Revolution is recommended for Christians or those interested in Christianity. Shane enjoys discussing Biblical scripture and other Christian influences, as well as his time spent in Calcutta with Mother Theresa and a leper colony. Im always interested in people and especially people like Claiborne who have much to say and a clever way of saying it, although the scripture talk grew old fast. I feel like I really know him as a friend and it would be fun to meet him.
Its not a short book you can just read quickly and forget about. I think most Christian readers will feel challenged and inspired to live as an ordinary radical like Shane (it's an 'alter' call!) and thats a very good thing. I just wish he could see beyond Jesus and his Christian God. Hed be a little more interesting to this reader. (Shane, I've listed links below to reviews of excellent books you might enjoy.)
Claiborne has no pictures in the book of his time in Iraq, but has DVDs and CDs instead that include that. Another World Is Possible in three volumes focuses on war, poverty and creation, which reveal what The Simple Way is all about. Ill enjoy watching them.
If you don't like this passage, pass on the book:
...We are forming a new culture. And in many ways, it is broader and more sustainable, much less 'tribal' than nationalism and much less dangerous than the cult of civil religion that is infecting the church. And the imperial cult seems to be suspiciously close to those infamous cults that stockpile weapons and await their suicidal fate...
American Islam review: http://www.epinions.com/content_328808828548
The Foreigner's Gift review: http://www.epinions.com/content_308009799300
The Gods Drink Whiskey review: http://www.epinions.com/content_241790389892
Prisoners review: http://www.epinions.com/content_289430146692