Friday, December 29, 2006

irresistible revolution

(I usually don't get too risky on my blog. Most of the time, I am confident the views I am expressing will be shared by the majority of my readers. Today, however I have the feeling that many of you may disagree. That's okay. Its just a book review.)

The buzz surrounding the book Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne has been pretty remarkable. Many of my friends, and people whose opinions I greatly respect, have had tremendous things to say about it.

And they aren't saying things like, "It is a really good book. I liked it a lot." No, what I've been hearing is more along the lines of, "This is the most challenging and thought-provoking book I have ever read."

Now, I want to stop and make perfectly clear...I, in no way, want to disrespect those views. I have been challenged by and fallen in love with books that most of my friends didn't even like. Books are funny like that. It has every bit as much to do with the context of the individual's life who is reading it as it does with the actual words the author wrote. So please understand, these are just my opinions.

Okay, with all of that said, here is my review: the guy is hippie.

I generally liked the book. He has a lot of really good things to say about Christians and about the Church. I was challenged by some parts and laughed at others. But the whole time I couldn't help but wonder...if my dad were to read this wouldn't he just say, "Yep. That is exactly the same stuff the hippies were saying in the 60's and 70's."

And I wonder if the reason this book seems so revolutionary isn't because we are a bunch of white, middle-class kids raised in a predominately republican environment reading the words of a real life, flesh and blood hippie. A hippie that has come from our world, talks about the things in our lives and speaks our language.

I don't want to demean the things he stands for or the life that he has lived. I think it is incredible. I think the church needs more people like him. But I am not nearly as convinced as Claiborne is that the life he lives is the life every Christian needs to live. And, in my opinion, he comes pretty darn close to saying, "If you are not a homeless, liberal, out-spoken, social activist than you need to question whether or not you are a Christian." I understand the point he is making, I just think he comes off slightly arrogant and narrow-minded while saying it.

It would be like me saying, "If you don't write songs of worship and praise to the God that created, sustains and redeems your life than you need to question whether or not you are a Christian." No, that is just the way I am wired. And most of what is said in Irresistible Revolution is just the way Shane Claiborne is wired.

I'm not going to go to Wall Street and drop $10,000 in change on the street. I'm not going to go to the National Republican Convention and interrupt the President by yelling scripture in protest.

I don't like sidewalk chalk.

I don't know where I stand on issues of war and capital punishment. While I certainly don't lean right on most issues, I do know that I don't lean left on everything.

Does that mean the points he makes are invalid or irrelevant to the rest of us?

Absolutely not. All I am saying is that I believe he would be an out-spoken social activist even if he wasn't a Christian. It just seems to be the type of person he is. He's a hippie.

Now, because he is a Christian and a hippie, when he reads the Bible, he does so from a certain angle and comes away with truths that you and I would have totally missed. Thus, I believe, we need his voice. It is an important voice in the Church. People like Claiborne, Jim Wallis, Derek Webb, they are saying things we need to hear more of.

That is why I really liked this book.

But my problem with it is that I felt, at times, like he was saying, "Live how I live, value the things I value, do the things I do, care about the things I care about...cause the rest of Christianity is going to hell." And while I absolutely believe that the Church will benefit from people reading Irresistible Revolution and altering their lives based on the life and values of Shane Claiborne, the over-riding feeling I had while reading it was...

"...yeah, but we aren't all hippies."


Janie said...

Bill! Happened upon your blog during a slow week at work. Great stuff.

THANK YOU! You have freed me from the angst that overcame me as I read this book. The whole time I read it, I thought, "I can't argue with what he's saying - it's right from the Bible. But he's looking at the world in a vacuum of economy."

An elder I respect says he's a rabble-rouser (gotta love the term!) - that Shane isn't really this extreme, he just writes from far left in order to stir up the conversation - which he certainly has done.

If I could sit down with mr. claiborne, here's what I'd challenge him with: What about all those people out there with loads of money who look like they have it all together from a human viewpoint, but underneath it all, experience poverty of the soul.

If Christians completely head to the hood to minister to the poor, who's staying behind to love the rich in the name of Christ? The Bible even says they're going to have a harder time getting into the Kingdom . . . so there's a lot of work to be done.

And, just think, if we as Christians really got down and dirty - REALLY challenged those with earthly wealth to shed their facades, humble themselves before Christ and become like Him, I wonder how many more resources and hands and feet of Christ could be mobilized to send to the poor (spiritually and physically) people of the world.

Or, perhaps it's just that I'll never shed the ultra-conservative political and moral viewpoint of my parents. They'd completely agree with yours that this guy is a hippie. =)

greg said...

my only question is this...

is he a DIRTY hippie?

that makes all the difference...

Taylor said...

I don't disagree with you, but I also haven't read the book. My question to you is how do we, then, as middle class, conservative american Christians die to ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Christ? How literal do we take His words and how much do we spiritualize everything Jesus had to say? Do we settle merely on dying to our sins?Or are we just more comfortable with Jesus telling us to stop sinning rather than become a social activist. I really agree with you, but if that only applies to him in that context, how does it apply to people like you and me?

D.O. said...

So you probably won't, but my job is to comment stuff like this on people's blogs, so... you should check out the Another World is Possible DVD series. It's a multimedia project by Shane Claiborne and Jamie Moffett (co-founders of the Simple Way) that emerged in response to their belief that things are not right in the world, and that they don't have to stay that way. There are three DVD's, one on war, one on poverty, and one on creation. You can find out more about them at