Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution,” a primer for this weekend’s AVDS events

by Cheri Baer – Horizon Guest Writer

Come and See

Warning: if you’re white, American, Christian, rich, or Republican (or Democrat), Shane Claiborne may offend you this weekend.

Claiborne, the keynote speaker for the Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series, addressed the campus at forum this morning, giving us a glimpse of what this “ordinary radical” will bring to the AVDS audience over the next two days.

Some of his talks will make you uncomfortable, but that’s kind of the point. My advice? Go to the events. Have conversations about the issues addressed.

Then, read “The Irresistible Revolution.” Claiborne, the author of this sometimes-afflicting, many times challenging book, will inspire you like it did me. Need some convincing? Read on.

Shane Claiborne's "Irresistible Revolution" introduces readers to a Christ-centered lifestyle.
Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” introduces readers to a Christ-centered lifestyle.

First, Claiborne is exciting.

“I left Baghdad with other members of our peace team in a three-car convoy heading for Jordan through the western Iraqi desert. . . . Soon we could see the gigantic smoke clouds from bomb hits, only seconds old on the near horizon. One of the bombs hit only about kilometer away. The drivers became increasingly tense, speeding up to about 80 mph to minimize the likelihood of our becoming ‘collateral damage’ in this war.”

Intense? So is the rest of “The Irresistible Revolution.”  Claiborne offers perspective on America’s war-economy, the income gap, conserving the earth, and loving the unloveable. He peppers his writing with adventures and humor, keeping his reader interested and challenged simultaneously.

Claiborne is also offensive … and gracious.

Claiborne tackles “normal” Christianity first with a story of sitting with the homeless while the Catholic archdiocese of St Edwards in New Philly threatened to evict/arrest them all. He argues that Christians spend too much money on building new churches instead of lifting up the poor, sharing his indignation with his own church, who installed a $100,000 stained glass window. Claiborne also talks about the screwed up social system in our country. Claiborne condemns us for trying to worship God and money, saying “if anyone has two coats, one belongs to the poor.” I read that and thought to myself, “I have three coats.”

Mostly, Claiborne is genuine.

I hear Claiborne’s heart breaking as he talks about a woman in Iraq who asks, “Where is the God of love?” There are Christian extremists just as there are Muslim extremists, he writes. He shares how the Iraqi people helped him as when the tires of his SUV blew in a bombing zone. He gets more indignant when he mentions the war on terror. For me, it’s offensive to hear him rage against what I’ve perceived as justice. It’s redemptive to hear him say, “I will not kill for New York or Iraq, but I will die for them.” Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa and performed a play with Rich Mullins, a popular Christian musician, built his own community – his “own Calcutta” – in New Philly, where he and his teammates live with the poor. Claiborne is radical in that he is not radical. He doesn’t side with what he calls “the religious right” but his tone is never blatantly socialist. He believes in another economy, “the theology of enough” where as Gandhi said, “There is enough for our need but not enough for our greed.”

Like I said before, Claiborne is here at Hesston College.

He’ll challenge you, maybe anger you, hopefully introduce you to a new perspective than the one you hold. At least he won’t bore you. Think I’m making this up? As Claiborne would probably say, “Come and see.

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