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.

 

 

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March 30, 2013

Shane Claiborne Knows How to Throw a Party

Combine social activist Shane Claiborne with Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream’s Ben Cohen and you’re left with Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream; 90 minutes of raw video of a pacifists rally that was as entertaining as it was informative.  Produced by the same film crew that did Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Awakening of Hope video, J,B,&IC is every bit as much a block party as anything, complete with painters, jugglers, singers, a rapper, kids filling shopping carts and a welder literally ‘beating swords into plowshares’ so to speak. It’s hard to imagine having this much fun about a subject so serious.

Jesus Bombs and Ice Cream - Shane ClaiborneThe subject is decisively American-interest. However, as a Canadian, I’m well aware of the saying, “Every time America sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” That’s true of other countries, also; so whether the subject is armed conflict on-the-ground, or the nuclear build-up, the rest of the world can’t ignore what the U.S. does, and the statistics presented here are –despite the increase in threat level from other countries as I write this — extremely alarming.

The video can be watched as a single film, or broken up into six sessions for small group study, for which a study guide is available from Zondervan. However, there’s no actual book this time around, the movie or curriculum video is the main product. The nature of the filmography means this will appeal to a younger audience; I sometimes wonder if Shane’s (and Jonathan’s) use of the particular film company diminishes a greater potential.

Each section contains scripture references, and while I didn’t have the advantage of seeing the group study and discussion guide, I can see this generating much passionate conversation both inside and outside the U.S., though I might combine a couple of the clips and go with a four-week focus on this topic.

October 2, 2010

CNN: Shane Claiborne on U.S. Gun Violence

The Belief Blog at CNN, in addition to providing breaking religious news, regularly includes columns and editorials by key figures in Christianity and other faiths.    This week that included author and speaker Shane Claiborne…


My Take: Getting in the way of gun violence

By Shane Claiborne

Last week there were gunshots again. This time, four people were hit with bullets. One was 3 years old.

I don’t live in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a place where 5-year-olds know how to distinguish the sound of fireworks from the pops of a gunfire.

Nearly every night this week there have been gunshots. And it’s been only about six months since we heard gunshots on our street one cold February night and looked out the window to see a 19-year-old kid stumbling down the block with blood pouring out of his body. We held him, prayed with him and watched him die.

Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered the good Samaritan story in the Bible and said in effect (my paraphrase): We are all called to be the good Samaritan and lift our injured neighbor out of the ditch… but after you lift so many people out of the ditch, you start to say, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be re-imagined.

For over a decade…[continue reading at CNN Belief]

June 26, 2010

Education: An Often Forgotten Social Justice Mandate

Shane Claiborne guested yesterday at the CNN Religion blog.  It was a great article and well-written.    I’m torn between just linking it (knowing many of you won’t click) and reprinting the whole thing (knowing it’s quite long.)    I guess I’ll have to do my best with the following excerpt.

Historically, churches founded colleges and universities and made it possible for kids to attend.   Recently Evangelicals have rediscovered social justice and we’re working on the poverty problem on several fronts, but education isn’t currently at the forefront.   I’ll let Shane tell it, but please consider reading the whole piece.  His story takes place at Edison High School in the poorest part of Philadelphia…

Out of about 500 kids graduating in that class at Edison, around 40 will go to a four-year college and about 50 will join the military. That struck me. More kids in the graduating class will go into the military than will go to college.

I also learned that Edison High School holds another tragic record – the most graduates to be killed in the Vietnam War of any high school in America (54 kids), no coincidence that it is located in North Philly rather than the suburbs. Heaven forbid Edison end up holding the record for Iraq casualties as well.

It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said,

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

And as we see a bankrupt school system we can truly feel the blowback of the bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is that bumper sticker hope that a day will come when the schools will have all the money they need and the military have to hold a bake sale. It’s time for our kids to dream of another future than wars and rumors of wars.

I am reminded of a returning veteran from the Iraq War who told me of how financial difficulties compelled him to join the army. And then my young vet friend said, “We may not have a draft in America, but we have an economic draft… kids like me are joining the military because they see no other future.” And they are dying as they try to build that future. He ended up becoming a conscientious objector and being discharged.

In my neighborhood, military recruitment is very clever and selective – recruiters go door to door with military brochures that say: “They told you to go to college, they just didn’t tell you how… Join the Army.”

It occurs to me that those of us who are Christians and other people of conscience working to end war and violence (and build an “Army of None” as we like to say) have a tremendous burden of responsibility on our shoulders. We must create other ways for kids to go to college than military and ROTC scholarships.

continue reading…

May 16, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two of my favorite pastors together in the same service!

Bruxy Cavey

Today we drove to Oakville, Ontario where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House — Canada’s largest and fastest growing church movement —  welcomed Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.    It was the sixth and final week of a series on the New Testament message of pacifism.

Early in the message Boyd stated — and Bruxy, not knowing this, repeated it to me in a conversation between services — that of all that megachurches in North America, he only knows of two that are taking the time to highlight what The Meeting House and Woodland Hills see as a prominent them in scripture.

What neither said, but what is implicit in the comment, is that most North American churches subscribe to what is generally called “Just War” theory; or perhaps “Just War” theology.

Bruxy devoted week five to considering the objections people have to this, those “But What About…?” questions that led him to call the message “But What About? Sunday.”   He often records an appendix to the sermons called “The Drive Home” and in this instance the supplement was actually longer than the sermon itself.    You can find the series online by going to The Meeting House and clicking on “Teaching” and then clicking on the series “Inglorious Pastors.”  (Yeah, they really called it that.)   You’ll see the “Drive Home” messages available there as well for listening live or downloading.

Greg Boyd

Boyd was in excellent form, and didn’t seem to miss a beat — or lack any energy — moving from the platform to handling individual questions  between the three services.   The audio portion of this morning’s teaching is also already uploaded, and a quick scan of the nearly two decades of sermons archived at the Woodland Hills site may help you find messages where he’s covered this back at home.

I got to shake Boyd’s hand tell him I was one of his “podrishioners,” his term for people who are part of the church’s vast podcast family.   Then I added — since Bruxy was standing nearby — that I was also one of Bruxy’s “podrishioners” as well.

I wish both of them well in proclaiming this aspect of Jesus’ teachings that is relatively absent from our churches; it’s gotta feel like swimming upstream sometimes.

…For my local readers, after leaving TMH, we drove across almost the entire stretch of Dundas Street, cutting through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Toronto, considered one of the world’s most diverse cities.   We ended up at Gerrard and Coxwell in an area specializing in Indian and Pakistani food, making somewhat random choices from a menu we didn’t fully comprehend and enjoying it all not knowing exactly what it all was.

Starting on Friday (5/21) you can catch a one-hour radio interview with Boyd and Cavey broadcast on Saturday (5/15)  on the Drew Marshall Show.

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.

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