Thinking Out Loud

March 19, 2016

Jesus For President (It’s better than some of the current options)

While I’ve re-run many articles over the course of the blog, book reviews have not been among them. Book mentions are usually unique to a particular time and place and only relevant while the book is new. The attention of reviewers and readers alike then moves on to whatever is next.

But I was drawn to this short review because the book is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in this an election year; not to mention the release of a 10th anniversary edition of the author’s first book The Irresistible Revolution. So grab some cooking grease to power the bus engine as we head out on the road once again…

“Growing up we were taught to sing the exciting songs of Noah and Abraham and little David and Goliath. But we were never taught songs about debt cancellation, land reforms, food redistribution and slave amnesty. We don’t know if it was just hard to come up with words that rhyme with “debt cancellation” or if folks were hesitant about venturing into the ancient (and sometimes boring) world of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy… Whatever the case, these books are where some of God’s most creative and exciting ideas come alive.”

Jesus for President pp 57-58

About fifty years ago elementary school students had something called ‘readers’ which contained base materials for a variety of subjects. Each page brought some new adventure, they were the equivalent of a variety show for students with poems, psalms, pictures, maps, science articles, biographical stories and fiction. Basically, everything in it but the kitchen sink.

I’ve just finished reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Like Shane’s previous book, The Irresistible Revolution, this book has everything but the kitchen sink, too. 

This book begins with an overview of the early Jewish history as recorded in the Pentateuch. There is also a great deal of focus on Constantine’s influence on the Church in the 300s. Constantine, a hero to some for his legitimization of Christianity, isn’t doing well on review these days. (See Greg Boyd’s The Myth of an American Nation for more of this, or listen online to some of Bruxy Cavey’s teaching at The Meeting House in Oakville, ON www.themeetinghouse.ca or check the blogsphere for reviews of The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. etc.)

But kitchen sink style, Claiborne and Haw then move on to practical ways that the Church can make a difference especially in terms of the environment, the economy and creating equity. They don’t stop at stamping out poverty. They want to stamp out affluence, too. In some respects, they could have got two very different books out of this, but their understanding of Israel’s history, their interpretation of Christ’s teaching, their take on the first few hundred years of Christianity; all these provide context for where they see the church today. In other words, first you get their motivation, then you get their methodology.

Like the school readers of old, you’re left with a primer on social action, with every page yielding something new. (And the visual dynamics of each page help, too.) And not one paragraph, not even one sentence in the book is theoretical. It’s about living all this out on a daily basis. 


Keep up with Shane and partner-in-crime Tony Campolo at RedLetterChristians.org

A year after this was review was published, I later covered the Jesus for President DVD which is still widely available. You can read that review here.

 

 

March 7, 2009

Jesus for President – The Tour Documentary DVD

jesus-for-presidentWe just finished watching all two hours of the DVD based on the book, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.   Since I’ve already reviewed the book here, and because Claiborne’s take on politics is widely known, I thought I’d focus on the superficials of the DVD for those who might be considering the purchase.

The DVD opens with Shane describing what is about to happen as “a theological circus.”   Apt, perhaps; though there’s only one center ring and only four main performers.   The end-product isn’t really a documentary; there is no narrator, no backstory behind the tour, and only a couple of very brief special features showing how the tour bus was powered by cooking grease obtained from various restaurants along the route.

shaneclaiborne3thumbnailInstead, there is a live reading of much of the book by authors Haw and Claiborne, delivered in a kind of tag-team approach; while graphics and simple animations scroll by on the giant screen behind them, occasionally copied full screen for us to watch at home also.

They share the stage with two musicians who perform a rather raw, eclectic mix of music that is no doubt partly derived from the Tennessee hills where Shane was raised, part negro spiritual, part chant, part classical hymnody, part blues, part roots music, part Appalachian and one song that has an almost Asian influence.   The two, one of whom doubles as bus driver, play a host of instruments, are not credited, in fact there are no credits at all, which is unfortunate because the origin (and copyrights) on much of the music will certainly be the object of much speculation. (Did Shane write some of the songs?)

chris-hawThe documentary aspect of the film figures in as the camera cuts between different cities on the tour, which seemed to favour older church buildings for most of its venues.   (For my Canadian readers, the Toronto date wasn’t part of the film.)   There are a few road shots, but the book’s content and the music takes up a good 98% of what you see.

Having read the book, I found the DVD to be a good refresher.   There are a few adlibs where Shane particularly reminds us of the parallels between church history and the present place the U.S. finds itself in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The projected graphics add an extra dimension, although the book itself contains many of the same images.

Shane’s writing and mission are well known to many of us.    The DVD is a good introduction for those who haven’t heard him speak in person, and also introduces us to Chris Haw who I’m sure we’ll also hear from again.   For some however, both the music and film footage will prove to be just too raw, and for those, the book itself might be the better purchase.

Photos:  Shane (upper) Chris (lower)

Related Link on this Blog:  Jesus for President – Book Review

Today’s Bonus Item
funny-dog-pictures-jesus-shepherdA few days ago this blog brought you a Biblical reference on the ‘lolcats’ site, ICanHasCheezburger; and obviously the dogs don’t want to be outdone.   This one is from their related site IHasAHotDog.com where you too (as opposed to U2) can create laugh-out-loud dog pictures.   This one, however, may be a little sacreligious.

Blog at WordPress.com.