Before I get into today’s material, I would just like to plug a special place here in Tulsa. Today, I am writing from The Coffee House on Cherry Street, probably my favorite place to hang out and write. There is always a great feel to the place, people conversing about whatever, using wi-fi, drinking their vanilla bullshits (as Larry David describes it). It’s a wonderful environment or aspiring writers, and for those who have writer’s block! I am currently eating the best cheesecake I have had in my life! So, help these guys out and come visit some time, maybe you’ll see me and we can chat in person instead of online. Okay here we go…
Over the last few days I have spent some time in Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. I wanted to share a few thoughts with you today on the book. I am about half way through, so I will probably post a second review when I have finished it. So far it is a good read, Claiborne is not the best writer, but I don’t think it is his prose that he is trying to win you over with. What he can do well is invite his readers on a journey through his life, pointing out the people and events that have shaped him and have guided him to where he is now. Plus, he introduces key figures along the way, the many people who have influenced him such as Momma T (Mother Theresa), Tony Campolo, and Rich Mullins. But it is not just the more well-known people that figure into his life. It is also the homeless, the poor kids playing in the street, the lepers that have shown him Christ in new, transforming ways. Claiborne is going to show you that Jesus is found on the streets of Philly, in Calcutta, in the leper colonies.
I hesitate to give a full review of what I have read thus far, because what I would really like to see is people read this book for themselves and if they want they can post some thoughts on this blog. If you have read it, please tell me what you thought, what held you and stopped you in your tracks. Or maybe what you think should’ve been added? Anything you want to contribute, please do.
Now, I will give some thoughts on some things I have really enjoyed so far. For one, I think Claiborne tackles something that I think needed to be addressed, and that is cynicism. “…cynicism takes very little energy” (pg. 100). I know that at times it seems like there is much to be dreadful about: our own personal situations, war and poverty, drugs, and crimes and diseases that seem to plague us at all times. However, Shane Claiborne refuses to let that bog us down, and he argues that it is the prayer of Jesus that keeps us going: “Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. That reality that continues to be inaugurated in our own lifetime should prompt us to act accordingly, to live as if that kingdom is waiting to burst forth upon us at anytime. It is easy to be cynical, but it is harder and yet more fruitful to live as kingdom builders.
Secondly, I admire his affirmation of the church. Not the empirical church or the divided church, but the only holy, catholic church. Going along with the first point, Claiborne says it is easy to dissect the church and discriminate against her, but it is a much tougher job to actually try and be the church. The church will always need to be checked and balanced out, but we need more people who are willing to dream and build a better church than rail against her.
Finally, I love his focus on relationality as it is formed whenever we truly seek justice. “We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care for the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor” (pg. 113). Also he adds later, “Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed” (129). We don’t know the poor like we should, we may give a lot of money or lend our voice every once in awhile, but we do not consider the poor our friends. I appreciate what Claiborne is saying here, even when it tears at my own character.
And this is where I conclude my review, with an confession that often these revolutionary ideas inspire me and change me for a moment, but often times I get stuck in a rut and fall back into old habits and thinking. I fail so miserably at knowing the poor, giving my life to them and calling them friends. Often its not a revolution, but a revolving door that I continually step into, moments of passion and drive, countered with complacency and laziness. My prayer is that God can continue to shape me and form me in ways that call me out of my comfort, that challenge me to live for the kingdom and not for myself.
Grace and peace