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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October 28, 2010

Shane Claiborne: Speaking of Love in a Time of War

Since the first day, I’ve been hooked on CNN’s Belief Blog; a mixture of news reports and guest columns related to various aspects of religion.   A number of Evangelical authors do guest columns, including Shane Claiborne, who was featured today.

Speaking of the middle east situation in general and his travels in particular.  Here are some random notes and quotes:

  • We met with Jewish folks committed to stopping the home demolitions of Palestinians, and we met with Israeli soldiers who refused orders they deemed unjust.
  • …[T]he central message of the cross is grace, love, and reconciliation. It is about God’s love being so big he died, even for his enemies, and now we are to join this revolution that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free of hatred and discrimination.
  • …[T]hese are urgent times when we need the Church to be the Church – and to remember that we are people of reconciliation and peace in a world infected with violence and prejudice.
  • …[I]f Jesus had tried to make his walk from Bethany to Jerusalem today, he wouldn’t be able to make it through the checkpoints.
  • One of the promises of Jesus in the Gospels is that the gates of hell will not prevail. I don’t think he was saying there is no hell but I do believe he was saying that there are hells today that hold people hostage. We should be storming the gates to rescue them.

Looking for more?  Check out the whole article here.

Shane Claiborne is an author and activist and one of the architects of a community in Philadelphia called The Simple Way. Shane worked in India alongside Mother Teresa and spent time in Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Team during the recent war. His books include Jesus for President, Follow Me to Freedom, and the best-selling Irresistible Revolution. Check out more at: www.thesimpleway.org.

Here are some previous appearances on this blog by Shane:  from earlier this month, one on U.S. gun violence;  from the summer one one education;  and going much further back, a Spring 2008 review of Jesus for President.

June 1, 2009

The Vietnam War: The Scars and The Fascination

Filed under: issues, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:35 pm

I was too young to read the newspaper, and one nation removed from the height of the war in Vietnam.   Most of what I knew at the time, I learned from protest songs in popular music.   Today, when educational networks such as PBS retrace the events of that war, those same songs form the soundtrack.

There are probably some similarities between what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam and what they and their allies are now doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, that in itself would not account for the interest that remains in this particular military adventure.

On May 6th, I posted a link to a story carried in the blog, Girl in a Glass House which covered the story of Kim Phuc, who is forever captured in time as the young girl fleeing her village after Napalm bombing.   (I knew of Kim’s story already, and a few months ago, she spoke to a women’s group in our town.)  The post with the link to Cynthia’s blog continues to get traffic ‘hits’ here, over a hundred on Friday and Saturday.

But not everyone clicks to read “the rest of the story.”   So I asked Cynthia if we could reprint her post in full today, because there’s obvious interest in this topic.

vietnam-war-photo

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
Beverly Flanigan –

Most of us live out our lives in relative obscurity. When we have hurt another, when we have failed, when we have grievously wounded it is kept in a small closed circle. But imagine if the thing you most regret were to be splashed across the front page of every newspaper in the world. Imagine if that one dread moment became the thing that defined you. John Plummer doesn’t need to imagine. It happened to him.


John Plummer is a Methodist pastor living in a quiet town in Virginia. He visits the elderly, prays for the sick and preaches every Sunday. But this is not what defines him. Or at least, what once did.

John Plummer is also the pilot that, during the Vietnam War, organized the Napalm raid on the village of Trang Bang in 1972. And what he did was forever immortalized by the award-winning photograph of one of its victims, a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc.

John was haunted by the photo of the naked burning child, terrified and running, her arms stretched out, her flesh afire. He had done that to her. For twenty- four years he looked for her, trying everything he could just so that he could tell her that he had not meant this dreadful thing. It was more than wanting. It was a need that ate away at him until he lost his wife and his health and his hope.

His friends reached out to help him. They reminded him that he had tried to make sure that as many innocent people as possible had been removed from the area. He had done it for a greater good. None of these things meant anything. Her face condemned him. There was no peace for a man like him.

And then it happened. One of those amazing moments that non-believers speak of as coincidence and those who know the Father know as His merciful grace. It was Veterans Day, 1996. John, along with a group of fellow pilots, had traveled to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Officially they were there to honor those who had given their lives. But each man knew that every year they went hoping for a measure of freedom from the guilt that haunted them.The crowd gathered at the memorial hushed as a small woman took the stage and spoke into the microphone and said “I am Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the girl made famous by a photograph after suffering a Napalm attack by American forces”

John froze. He could not take it in. For twenty- four years he had longed for her and she was now so near. Her voice continued ” I am not bitter, even though the burns I suffered even to this day cause me pain. I long ago forgave the one who bombed our village”

John was beside himself, yelling, pushing his way through the crowd. Security surrounded him but he persisted. “I am the one!” he shouted “I am the man who did this to you!” She came down from the stage, the only one who could free him and he fell into her arms. For every time he sobbed out ” I am so sorry” her voice rose to cover his. “It is OK. I have forgiven you”.

Phan invited John to meet her at her hotel later that evening. Sitting side by side she once again assured him of her forgiveness. In her grace she had set him free. In one encounter she had ended twenty four years of anguish for a man who had longed for release.

As I think of this amazing story I think of a God who sees all our sins and failures laid out before His eyes just as clearly as the whole world saw John’s greatest regret. God too can erase a lifetime of pain with a moment in His arms. He too will cover our “I’m sorry” with His “I forgive”. When we seek Him we will find Him, the amazing binder of our hidden wounds and in Him we have this promise:

“HE IS FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE”

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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