Brad and I are going up to Chicago this weekend, so I have been scurrying around trying to clean up the house and get ready for the trip. Incidentally, I missed writing a post for Theology Thursdays – don’t think that’s a blogring name or anything, I just call it that so I can remember what to write about on Thursdays. I am such a dork. 🙂 So here’s my theological post (don’t I sound all fancy) and I will put up something later today or tomorrow for Fair Trade Fridays (oh yes, I am the ultimate dork)…
I just finished reading Jesus for President, and I must say that this is the best book I have read in 2008 (maybe 2007 too, but I can’t remember). The primary author, Shane Claiborne, is a speaker and activist. He started an organization called The Simple Way and lives in an intentional community in inner city Philadelphia. Shane and his friend Chris write about what it truly means to follow Jesus, to live a life so radically different from the world that we live in.
I grew up with a pretty fundamental way of thinking about Christianity: people are sinful and God loves us so He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins; if we believe in Him, then we will go to heaven. That has always been what I have thought of when I have thought of the word “gospel.” Surely, that is part of it, but when I read Jesus’ words in the Bible, I never hear Him saying much like that. Instead He reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” and says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21).
Shane and Chris take a look a look at what the world was like when Jesus walked the earth and see a lot of parallels between the Roman lifestyle and the American lifestyle, and that is not a good thing. They point to the ideas of materialism, militarism, and greed, and come to the conclusion that if we say that we are following Jesus we cannot live like that. We cannot support war. We cannot live to make lots of money. We can’t own big houses and fancy cars. We cannot separate ourselves from the poor. Shane and Chris believe that being a Christian means being a part of an alternative community that does things so differently from the rest of the world, that people can’t help but stop, take notice, and ask “why?”
This is the kind of thing they write:
Years ago, some folks from our communities attended a rally against overseas sweatshops. They had not invited the typical rally speakers – lawyers, activists, and academics. Instead, the brought the kids themselves from the sweatshops to speak. We listened as a child from Indonesia pointed to the giant scar on his face. “I got this scar when my master lashed me for not working hard enough. When it began to bleed, he did not want me to stop working or to ruin the cloth in front of me, so he took a lighter and burned it shut. I got this making stuff for you.” We were suddenly consumed by the overwhelming reality of the suffering body of Christ. Jesus now bore not just the marks from the nails and scars from the thorns but a gash down his face, for when we have done it to the ‘least of these,’ we have done it to Christ himself. How could we possibly follow Jesus and buy anything from that master? The statistics had a face. Poverty became personal. And that messes with you.
Into the economics of the world, the letter of James speaks a word of rebuke: ‘The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty’ (5:4). This isn’t simply about fairly paying the immigrants who mow our lawns; it’s about the way our world’s economy siphons wealth from the poor up to the rich. And we are all part of it. But the god of mammon calls out, ‘How could we buy cheap shirts without the sweatshops of Honduras? How could we get cheap fast food without the migrant tomato farmers in Florida?’ God hears the workers’ groaning. Jesus for President, p. 189-190
In the words of Chris and Shane, this messes with me. This makes me want to move into an intentional community, sell my stuff, and serve the poor. Doing that sounds so simple and good, but living it out is a lot more difficult. The ’empire’ (Chris and Shane’s term for the American lifestyle) is everywhere: even the president is telling us to buy more stuff. We need to protect ourselves from ‘them’ (‘terrorists,’ Arabs, people who are different from us). We need to destroy evil in the world.
Where does it say that kind of thing in the Bible? If anything, scripture says get rid of all your stuff, expect persecution, love your enemies. Imagine what the world would look like if we truly followed those commands.
This book has stirred up so many “what ifs” in my mind, that it is difficult to come to any kind of conclusion. I strongly recommend that every Christian read this book. Actually everybody should read this.