Shane Claiborne is one of the founding members of The Simple Way, a community of faith in Philadelphia, PA. The stories that fill the pages of The Irresistible Revolution flow out of Claiborne’s life journey that led him from living with the homeless during his time at Eastern College to flying to Iraq to worship with Christians on the eve of the American invasion.
In The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne simply tells his own story – one of recognizing there was more to following Christ than what the typical American church revealed. “A ‘silent majority’ is developing,” he writes, “as a growing number of folks are deliberately distancing themselves from the noise and arrogance that have come to mark both evangelical Christianity and secular activism.” (18)
It’s this middle road that Claiborne rides so well. Throughout the book, his stories show he doesn’t fit into a traditional model of either an evangelical conservative or liberal activist. He shows that there is a way to care deeply about Christ, care deeply about the world (and the suffering and marginalized), and live out a faith that reflects the whole Bible, not a select few verses.
Claiborne begins his collection of stories by sharing the story of growing up in a safe, trendy, comfortable Christianity in East Tennessee, complete with the entertainment-filled youth group. “I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death,” he writes. (39)
But during his time at college, a trip to hang out with some of his buddies’ “homeless friends” (47) started a journey that led Shane to reexamine what it means to live by faith and how he related to the world around him. This journey, which has included many run-ins with the police, lawyers, and even the Department of Homeland Security, has shown that change can happen from the bottom up, not the top down. Claiborne shares stories showing that simply standing up for the needs one sees can make a tremendous difference.
Revolution is a challenging book. Even as someone who reads with a skeptical eye, I found myself embracing Claiborne’s thoughts and agreeing with his actions and observations. It makes sense. His approach seems holistic and healthy.
But the challenge comes in application. His approach may be holistic and healthy, but it’s also different and uncomfortable. It’s one thing to believe and understand the message of Christ. It’s another thing to live it out and sale your possessions to give everything to the poor or move to the rough part of town to share a home with other believers.
We should all consider living by the values Claiborne’s life exhibits, though those values may not lead each person down the same path. We need to see the poor and suffering and be willing to go and treat them like our brothers and sisters simply because of love. A man I respect says the key to global and local impact is to “grab what’s in front of you.” That is what Shane has done, without backing down or seeking comfort. That is what we need to do as we seek to honor God and serve the least. Those simple actions will make the Gospel more relevant to – and transform – contemporary culture than any worship service ever will.
For those of you who want more than just the name and title of a book, here’s the detailed info:
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.