6.04.2008

Jesus For President

I first became aware of Shane Claiborne last fall at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. In a sea of young professional ministry leaders, Shane definitely stood out. He looks like an odd mix of hippy, rastafarian, and hillbilly. But when this young, odd-looking guy spoke, he spoke with authority. Not "I'm-in-charge" authority, but "voice-in-the-wilderness" authority.

However, I went into reading Jesus For President with more than a little skepticism. While I agree with much of what I've heard Shane teach, his views on politics and government are a little too far to the left for my personal tastes, and the title of the book made me believe it was going to be contraversial.

I was completely right and completely wrong all at the same time. Jesus For President IS DEFINITELY contraversial, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. This is not a book about politics as much as it is a lesson on what "the Kingdom" Jesus talks so much about is all about. As Christians, our call is not to be a member of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the Green Party - but to the Jesus Party. Our allegiance is not to a nation or a government - but to a Kingdom and its King.

Here's two of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • As our brother and fellow activist Tony Campolo puts it, "Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream with cow manure. It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream."

  • It's easy to have political views--that's what politicians do. But it's much harder to embody a political alternative--that's what saints do. The greater challenge is right living, not merely right thinking. In Jesus we meet not a presentation of ideas or a new political platform but an invitation to join up, to become part of a movement, of a people that embodies good news. Political embodiment means that we become the change that we want in the world, not just lobby politicians to change things for us.
For me, about 90% of this book was personally-stretching, thought-provoking reading. Claiborne truly is a modern day prophet. The OT prophets were radical individuals that used radical methods to teach a radical message (i.e. - preaching naked, marrying a prostitute, cooking with feces). Shane definitely fits this mold. He calls Christians to question the culture and government we are so immersed in and embrace the Kingdom we are called to. This is a hard book to read because such commitment to the Gospel requires massive amounts of lifestyle change. But sometimes that kind of change is necessary.

The other 10% of the book, I'll chalk up to Shane's personal opinions, many of which I disagree with. For instance, his pacifistic views call for Christian soldiers to draft-dodge and even go AWOL to keep the peace. I don't think he could be more wrong. I believe there is room for Christian soldiers in Jesus' kingdom. Shane is also very anti-war in ALL cases. Unfortunately, I don't think things are always so simple. I believe there are instances when it's necessary for governments to use force. However, it should be the last possible resort.

That said, this is a book that I would recommend. You can't help but feel your thinking begin to line up closer with Kingdom values as you read it. (Shane is going to be speaking at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on July 11th. I hope to be able to go hear him.)

1 comment:

Chris said...

Jeff,
I read Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and thought it was life changing. It was giving to me by a pastor friend at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore CA. He said the staff has read it and it has help change how they "do church". You can hear it in the pastors teaching that I listen to online. He has been doing a red letter study of the bible he started in February and he is still going through the words of Christ. Thought you might be blessed by that.
I stumbled upon your blog and I am glad I did.
God bless.