The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne (LentBook #1)

Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, an impulse buy I picked up at Chapters without knowing anything about it, is the first book in my Lenten reading series (every year I give up fiction for Lent and read a random assortment of spiritual, devotional or theological non-fiction — basically whatever I stumble upon that looks interesting).

Shane is a 30-ish Christian social activist who has worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and gone to Iraq with Christian Peacemakers and lives in a community called The Simple Way among the poor and homeless in inner-city Philadelphia and really believes Jesus meant it when he said to sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come follow Him.

In other words, Shane is just the kind of guy to make a comfortable middle-class guilt-prone Christian like me double over with guilt pangs because of my comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

Fortunately, Shane discourages guilt, which makes the book fun to read, although still challenging. It has a light, breezy, po-mo tone. Shane is absolutely the most idealistic person I’ve ever met — not that I’ve met him, but after reading the book I feel like I have — but his earnest idealism is saved from pomposity by his gentle self-mocking humour. It’s a good book, in every possible sense of the word.

I am happy to announce (and I’m sure my parents will be relieved to hear this) that after reading this book Jason and I are not planning to sell our home and move the kids into a cardboard box downtown. I am, however, challenged to re-examine a lot of my own choices and priorities — without allowing myself to become guilt-ridden.

For example: I work with the poor. Sure, some of my students are nice middle-class kids who just had difficulty in school, but others are truly poor and some are almost literally homeless. And the job I do is directly related to helping them improve their situation. I love my work, and I love my students. But it’s not sacrificial — I don’t give up anything to do this job; I get paid a nice generous middle-class wage to do it. So I feel like my involvement with the poor doesn’t really cut it by Shane Claiborne’s standard of Christian living.

Rather than beating myself up over that, I’m trying to think of ways to do the things I now do — plus just a little bit more — so that I give more of myself, so that I’m less attached to the nice middle-class stuff that surrounds me. Today, for example, Jason and I decided to buy a water buffalo instead of a dishwasher, and I hold Shane Claiborne directly responsible for that. It’s a long way from a truly Simple Way, but it’s starting where I am now. This book is challenging and inspiring, especially for anyone who calls themselves a Christian.

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1 Comment

Filed under Nonfiction -- general, Nonfiction -- memoir

One response to “The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne (LentBook #1)

  1. Ed Burns

    I first saw Shane on an PBS interview. I thought at first , “who is this nut job” , then I heard his message and it brought me to tears. As Shane says in his book , “I had it all together , then I met Jesus and my life has been messed up ever since”.

    The main point for me is , are you willing to do what Jesus asks , which is “are you willing to give up this life for eternal life?”. That is so hard to do but if you don’t you feel like you made the wrong choice.

    Obviously I am struggling mightily with this and I would say that this is a powerfull book just because it does invoke such real choices.

    In this skeptical world , I want to believe that Shane is the real thing and the only way to do that is to observe how he lives , not by listening to his words.

    Hows that for a fractured comment?

    Ed (55 , philly born and raised).

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