Book Review > Claiborne, Irresistable Revolution, 2006, Zondervan

CoverShane Claiborne is an American Christian activist and founding member of alternative community, the Simple Way in Philadelphia. Widely traveled and an experienced speaker, he advocates an alternative approach to the Christian lifestyle.

In a lose biography of stories and experiences, “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical”, Shane Claiborne outlines a shift in thinking and action from simply believing in Jesus to following Jesus. This new approach to life as an ‘ordinary radical’ of Christian faith advocates all people, especially the poor and marginalized of society, and in doing so, bring the joy and healing of Christ to the world.

American Christianity
Claiborne shares the realization from his early Christian experience that, “preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and we’re giving me anything to pick up.” (38) Searching several denominations and clubs at Christian College to “meet God” (47), he befriends homeless in Philadelphia and, “… found that I was just as likely to meet God in the sewers of the ghetto as in the halls of academia.”(51)

Ordinary Radicals
Claiborne’s experiences and reflections bring to light a blatant disconnect between Western Christians and the actions of Jesus Christ. “…It looked like sometime back we had stopped living Christianity and just started studying it.” (71). He travels to Calcutta to visit Mother Teresa and returns greatly impacted by the work there and her words, “Find your Calcutta.” (89)

Even more convinced, “… Jesus came not just to prepare us to die but to teach us how to live,” (117), he joins 30 others to found a intentional Christian community called Simple Way in a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia. With a growing reputation of being a radical, he reflects, “Once we are actually friends with folks in struggle, we start to ask why people are poor, which is never as popular as giving to charity. … People do not get crucified for charity.” (129)

Economics, Politics, Safety, and Cool

Claiborne states an allegiance to God before country is vital. He does not see this in the West, saying, “It’s difficult to know where Christianity ends and America begins.”(193). Over-arching concerns with safety, capitalistic greed, the culture of ‘cool’ and the war on terror tied to well being of the elite in the West come at the expense of the poor.

Extremists and faces
Claiborne desires “new eyes” (265) to not just see these issues in our world, but the people behind them. With the simple act of love, we’re naturally moved to advocate for those we love. This transformation starts with ordinary people. Instead of “detach[ing] from the church in a self-righteous cynicism.” (354) Claiborne suggests building bridges and being the church we desire to see.

Personal reflection
I had a positive reaction to Claiborne’s thesis and development, agreeing that a bottom-up approach to love the marginalized will best embody Christ today. Yet, this book was uncomfortable to read with implications for a lifestyle change to combat Christian apathy, consumerism and hypocrisy. Also, this content will polarize those who prioritize a non-believer’s salvation before their emotional, physical and even spiritual needs. Yet I hope these unconventional approaches to engaging culture will be considered both in class and ministry. They make a relevant and timely study for a dialogue in transforming culture.


One Response to “Book Review > Claiborne, Irresistable Revolution, 2006, Zondervan”

  1. Book Review > Gingerich/Grimsrud, Tranforming the Powers, 2006, Fortress « Design Ministry Says:

    […] I was jolted in the contrast of Claiborne’s story telling (last week’s book review of Irresistible Revolution) to the academic essays that make up this week’s book, Transforming the Powers, edited by Ray Gingerich and Ted Grumsrud. […]

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