Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book Review: Shane Claiborne, "The Irresistible Revolution" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006)

Shane Claiborne is “one of the founding members of The Simple Way”—a Christian community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (quote from the back cover of the book). According to his profile on the Simple Way website, he graduated from Eastern University, where he studied sociology and youth ministry ( He is a “hellfire and damnation preacher,” writer, and circus performer according to the same site. He is also an avid activist.

This book is a call for Christians to become “ordinary radicals”—“ordinary people choosing to live in extraordinary ways”—by simply following the Way of Jesus Christ, “a new and ancient way of life,” as put forth by Scripture (20; 356). And in doing so, an “irresistible revolution” will begin within us that will transform the world (356).

Claiborne calls his book “a book of stories,” and that is what it essentially is: to develop his thesis about there being another way to live the Christian life, he tells stories about how living like Jesus has changed not only his own life, but the lives of those around him (28). He begins by recalling his Christian upbringing in the conservative South, and the longing that he felt to “find those who tried to live out the things that Jesus taught” (46). This longing led Claiborne to Eastern University where he learned solidarity with the poor in Pennsylvania, to Calcutta where he learned to care for the dying, and even to Iraq where he learned what it meant to truly love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44). All of these things led Claiborne and others to form the Simple Way, a community dedicated to “[loving] God, [loving] people, and [following] Jesus” (121). Through this community Claiborne and others have seen God transform all aspects of their lives from economic decisions, to politics, and even down to the very clothes that they wear on their backs. And Claiborne claims that communities are just waiting to “[wake] up” and discover this “new (ancient) form of Christianity” and to join into this revolution fueled by “little acts of love” (348).

I honestly could not put this book down. I think that a lot of the things that I have been questioning in terms of my own walk with Christ were addressed in this book: Am I truly living the Christian life, or is it just something that I’ve created for myself that is neither Christian nor is it life? Is it even possible in this western context to live as Jesus did? Claiborne’s stories gave me hope for Western Christianity, something that I have felt disappointed with for awhile. It’s reassuring to know that our faith does matter—something that I have been preaching on the college campus that I have been doing ministry, but something that the majority of them haven’t grasped fully. It seems like Christianity is just another thing that they do, like party and school, and not an entire way of life. Not seeing their lives transformed and hearing the same issues—like if it’s ok to drink, and still be Christian (This is an issue that makes me want to pull my hair out whenever it comes up. And, boy, does it come up a lot!)—come up time and time again has even caused me to doubt if that transformation is possible for these students. I think that God has given me “the gift of frustration,” as Claiborne calls it, but now what am I to do about it (354)? ...


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