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Saturday, April 15th, 2006


 

The Irresistible Revolution: Living As an Ordinary Radical

by Shane Claiborne

Jim Wallis, Move Over

A review by Chris Faatz

Let's face it: our cup runneth over these days with people who claim to have prophetic insights into our times. Recent books by the likes of Jim Wallis or Tony Campolo on the left, and many, many more on the right all aim to set things straight, to paint a picture of what a "true" Christian is and how she or he should behave.

But, somehow they all leave the reader unsatisfied. Being a Christian means doing what Jesus said and living how he did. How many of these people actually do either? How many of them really deserve the prophetic mantle?

Don't give up hope. Shane Claiborne is a prophet.

Claiborne is the real thing, the guy who not only talks Jesus' talk, but walks Jesus' walk. He lives in intentional community and voluntary poverty, owning all goods in common, in the inner city of Philadelphia (not generally the place where you'll find a skinny white boy from a nice, middle class Methodist family from Tennessee). He has traveled to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity and been to Iraq while the bombs were dropping. When Jesus said to the rich young man, sell all and follow me, Shane listened -- and obeyed. His whole being is infused with the glorious madness of the Gospel, and he fairly glows with the absolute nature of his commitment.

And, now he's written a book.

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical is a stunning book, utterly compelling, part autobiography, part theological treatise. It's also unbelievably accessible, and chockfull of the kind of passion and eloquence that can cause one to seriously ruminate over the nature of the life that he or she lives.

Shane defines an ordinary radical as someone who gets "down to the roots of what it means to be Christian disciples." He goes on to clarify:

Most of the time...I think that if what we are doing seems radical, then that says more about the apathy of Western Christianity than about the true nature of our discipleship. And this is why "radical" has to be coupled with "ordinary." Our way of life was typical in the days of the early Jesus movement. We are like the Marys and Marthas, and Peter's family -- houses of hospitality, which was the standard call of the early Christians, who abandoned their personal possessions to a new family. This is to say nothing of the countless others who gave up everything and left their homes with no money or food or even sandals to follow Jesus. Christendom seems very unprepared for people who take the gospel that seriously.

Shane has many heroes, all of whom he considers ordinary radicals, all of whom I consider amazing. They include Archbishop Oscar Romero, Eberhard Arnold, and Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. All of these men and women spoke truth to power, and modeled new ways of living in line with scripture. In Shane's life, the form community takes is The Simple Way, a place where he lives with several other fiery-eyed lovers of Jesus, and attempts to make his life a living summary of his beliefs. And, at least according to him, they're not alone: there are literally thousands of others across the country who are beginning to well up in this beautiful "irresistible revolution" of which he speaks. They don't all conform to the same pattern. They don't all live in community. They don't all live in poverty. But, they're all committed to living the message of Jesus Christ and to embodying now the Kingdom come.


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