Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

Just as I wrote about reading a little bit of ‘The Hiding Place’ by Corrie ten Boom each morning, now comes the time to write about ‘Irresistible Revolution’, with which I have done the same thing.

The strength of the ‘Irresistible Revolution’ lies in its being the account of a lived experience of taking faith seriously, and there are many helpful challenges to be taken from that  (as below). However, because of this, it can also lose its clarity and be too proverbial at points – which sometimes leads to the text losing some of its power. What I am going to call (forgive me) ‘waffly American Christianese’, does plague this book a little, but I think this is mostly just personal preference in writing style.

Having added that disclaimer, here are 6 ‘take aways’ from Shane’s book that I am still processing –

1. Act as if serving Jesus himself

In the projects Shane works on in India, while they mix ashes with soap to make it go further, they are told to put as much gravy on the food they serve as is possible – because they are serving Jesus himself. He speaks of working and serving in a way that does not have success as the aim, but faithfulness. We are to seek faithfulness over success.

2. Becoming Poor

It’s pointed out that we are very comfortable as Christians in talking about being ‘born again’, although this is only very explicitly spoken about with Nicodemus (in John 3). On the other hand, our responsibility to the poor, like the call on the rich man to sell all he owns (Mark 10), is much more prominent within the gospels – and yet taken less seriously. Shane reminds us that when we are told to sell all our possessions, no qualifications are put on it. This step also comes before going to follow Jesus rather than afterwards; it is something we should act on accordingly.

Our giving is not just to be an outlet which appeases our consciences and allows us to stay a safe distance away from poverty. Fighting all forms of injustice, including poverty, is to be done not at a distance, but relation-ally. In fact, Shane says, ‘If they come for the innocent and do not pass over our bodies, then cursed be our religion’.

3. The reality of loving people

Shane writes about living within a community (thesimpleway) with the clear intention of loving people. The glamour of the vision behind pursuing this kind of living, is much greater than that of the gritty reality of the everyday:

‘Sometimes we turn people away, or play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who answers the door on tired days… we see our friends wast away from drug addiction, and on a good day someone is set free… we spend our lives actively resisting everything that destroys life’

A life of love is not a life of order or a life free from mess. And a life of loving both the oppressed and the oppressors is neither easy nor comfortable.

4. The Kingdom of God is for now

There’s a challenge in this book that goes like this: if there was no promise of heaven, no after, would you still follow Jesus? Is the way of life faith calls us to, with both the challenges and joys it presents, worth it? Is the sacrifice entailed by living a life that is not self-seeking worth the presence of Jesus? Is Jesus enough for you?

5. A great quote from Dorothy Day

‘Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us but it is the only answer’

This is the art of the backwards kingdom, where first becomes last, where life is found where it is lost, where love is the only answer. One of the things that Shane says in all the work that he’s done with the simple way is that, they’ve ‘never learned how to stop hurting each other’. Learning to love is a painful process.

6. Involvement in Politics

As far as Shane is concerned living in faith inevitably leads to involvement in politics. We should not be ‘uncritically managing the collateral damage of the market economy.’ Our dissent should not be compartmentalised, and there are times that fighting injustice will lead us naturally into opposing the law.

Final thoughts

I think the stand out thing in this book is the challenge to love in the glamorous sense of big dreams, visions of fighting injustice and of bringing light to darkness, but doing so ready and alert that this will necessarily involve the gritty sense of long days and tired feet. Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us but, as Dorothy Day says, it is the only answer.

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