Sunday, March 09, 2008

Jesus For President



Shane Claiborne is out with his 2nd book. You may have read his first called The Irresistible Revolution. If you haven't, you should. His new one is called Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals.

The book is divided into four parts, with a number of headings and subsections in each part. Let me give you a quick overview before I get into my thoughts.

Part 1 (called "Before there were kings and presidents") is a retelling of the story of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible. From Genesis 1 through the prophets, Shane offers his telling of the story and traces the work of God throughout (with his commentary thrown in), and the original plan to not have a king, but God giving in and allowing it based on the continued grumbling of the people.

Part 2 (called "A new kind of commander-in-chief") is a deeply contextual look at Palestine in the time right before, during, and after Jesus. The politics. Rome. The oppression etc. One of the neatest things in this section is a look at many of the terms that Jesus used or were applied to him, like kingdom, gospel, savior etc. and compares them to what the terms meant from the perspective of the Roman Empire. The result is a really cool chart on pages 67-69.

Part 3 (called "when the empire got baptized") is where Shane hits his stride. If you were not offended by the first two parts, this one will probably get you (particularly if you have connections to the military or are rich). It is in part 3 where I think you see Shane in the role that fits him, calling out injustice, national sins and the like. I think Shane is most closely identified with the prophets in the Old Testament (though not in the prediction way). He is living a very radical, alternative life. He is a prophetic voice calling out to the followers of Jesus. That is his role. But, he does it in love. He is not into guilt, he is into truth. He doesn't play games or coerce, he tells stories and mimics Jesus and loves.

Part 4 (called "A peculiar party") is mostly a collection of stories from the community Shane is a part of, or from letters he gets from soldiers etc. A good chunk of these stories appeared in his first book.

Here are some overall thoughts.

1. Shane's second book is not nearly as good as his first.

That isn't really a slam on this one as much as it is a testament to the first. His first included a lot of his own personal story and testimony, which is one of a kind. That is hard to beat. Make sure you read The Irresistible Revolution before reading this one.

2. The book is an experience.

This is one of the most visually unique books I've ever read. It is filled with art, marginal notes, creatively written quotes, pictures, and other stuff you just have to see. It is a great feature. It makes the book come alive a bit more. you experience it, rather than just read it. If nothing else, next time you are at a book store, page through it briefly and you will see what I'm talking about.

3. The book pulls from a myriad of other sources in compiling the book.

I think this is a great feature. Shane has placed countless quotes, blockquotes, excerpts, etc. in the text. It goes a long way in showing that his ideas, though revolutionary, are not new. It also creates a great opportunity for readers to continue research on the subjects covered.

Is it worth reading? Definitely. It is the kind of book that each of us should read every so often to stir us up about things that stir God up. Will you agree with every word? No, but do you ever agree with every word in any book? (If so, you need to expand your reading horizons and stretch yourself).

Pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

Here are some quotes from JFP as I leave you:

"Jesus taught a third way. Here we see a Jesus who abhors both passivity and violence, who carves out a third way that is neither submission nor assault, neither fight nor flight." pg 94

"The young church lived within the messy collision of kingdoms. The more the early Christians reflected on the life and message of their rabbi-messiah, and the more they tried to live the way of the way of the gospel, the harder they collided with the state and its hopes and dreams, militaries and markets." pg 141

"The history of the church has been largely a history of "believers" refusing to believe in the way of the crucified Nazerine and instead giving in to the very temptations he resisted--power, relevancy, spectacle." pg 166

"The bloodstained pages of history are filled with people doing terrible wrong out of a deep sense of right." pg 203

"Perhaps there is no more dangerous place for a Christian to be than in safety and comfort, detached from the suffering of others." pg 292

1 comment:

Amy said...

Thanks for your blog post about Jesus for President! I just wanted to let you know there are 2 videos of Shane speaking about Jesus for President, plus audio clips, visuals, and a blog tour at this link:

http://zondervan.typepad.com/zondervan/2008/03/jesus-for-pre-1.html

Please feel free to join the blog tour.

Blessings,

Amy