The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310266303
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 02/01/2006
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 243,946
Product dimensions: 5.06(w) x 7.19(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Shane Claiborne is an activist, author of Jesus for President, coauthor of Common Prayer, and is a founder of The Simple Way, a community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world.

Read an Excerpt

The Irresistible Revolution

Living as an Ordinary Radical
By Shane Claiborne


Copyright © 2006 The Simple Way
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-26630-0

Chapter One


It's what always happens to the saints and prophets who are dangerous: we bronze them, we drain them of their passion and life and trap them in stained-glass windows and icons, confining them safely in memories of the past. St. Francis becomes a birdbath, Malcolm X is put on a stamp, and Martin Luther King gets a holiday. And Jesus gets commercialized, whether it's the plastic night-lights or the golden crucifixes. (And now there is a bobbing-head "Buddy Jesus" for your car and the "Jesus is my homeboy" T-shirt.) It becomes hard to know who Jesus really is, much less to imagine that Jesus ever laughed, cried, or had poop that smelled.

I can remember when Christianity was still safe, comfortable, trendy. I grew up in the Bible Belt, in East Tennessee, where there's a church building on nearly every corner. I can't remember meeting anyone Jewish or Muslim, and I distinctly remember being dissuaded from dating a Catholic girl because she "prayed to Mary." I attended two or three different youth groups, whichever had the best entertainment and drew the largest crowd. Church was a place where there were cute girls, free junk food, and cheap snowboarding trips. I discovered a Christianity that entertained me with quirky songs and velcro walls.

In middle school, I had a sincere "conversion" experience. We took a trip to a large Christian festival with bands, speakers, and late-night pranks. One night a short, bald preacherman named Duffy Robbins gave an invitation to "accept Jesus," and nearly our whole youth group went forward (a new concept for most of us), crying and snotting, hugging people we didn't know. I was born again. The next year, we went to that same festival, and most of us went forward again (it was so good the first time) and got born again, again. In fact, we looked forward to it every year. I must have gotten born again six or eight times, and it was great every time. (I highly recommend it.)

But then you start to think there must be more to Christianity, more than just laying your life and sins at the foot of the cross. I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren't giving me anything to pick up. A lot of us were hearing "don't smoke, don't drink, don't sleep around" and naturally started asking, "Okay, well, that was pretty much my life, so what do I do now?" Where were the do's? And nobody seemed to have much to offer us. Handing out tracts at the mall just didn't seem like the fullness of Christian discipleship, not to mention it just wasn't as fun as making out at the movies.

I was just another believer. I believed all the right stuff-that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a "believer," but I had no idea what it means to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live.


So as we do in our culture, I thought perhaps I needed to buy more stuff, Christian stuff. Luckily, I found an entire Christian industrial complex ready to help with Christian music, bumper stickers, T-shirts, books, and even candy ("Testa-mints" ... dead serious ... mints with a Bible verse attached, candy with a Christian aftertaste). They had lists of bands and the Christian alternatives to them, so I got rid of all my old CDs. (And I must confess, I was a bit disappointed by the Christian counterfeit. Who could compare to Guns N' Roses and Vanilla Ice?) And I bought books, devotionals, T-shirts. I developed a common illness that haunts Western Christianity. I call it spiritual bulimia. Bulimia, of course, is a tragic eating disorder, largely linked to identity and image, where folks consume large amounts of food but vomit it up before it has a chance to digest. I developed the spiritual form of it where I did my devotions, read all the new Christian books and saw the Christian movies, and then vomited information up to friends, small groups, and pastors. But it had never had the chance to digest. I had gorged myself on all the products of the Christian industrial complex but was spiritually starving to death. I was marked by an overconsumptive but malnourished spirituality, suffocated by Christianity but thirsty for God.

It was Mark Twain who said, "It's not the parts of the Bible I don't understand that scare me, but the parts I do understand." I don't know if you've read the Bible, and if you haven't, I think you may be in a better place than those of us who have read it so much that it has become stale. Maybe this is why Jesus says to the religious folks, "the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Matt. 21:31). For me, it became hard to read the Bible and walk away as if I had just watched a nice movie. Jesus never seemed to do anything normal. How about the fact that his first miracle was the old turning-water-into-wine thing to keep a party going? (Not a miracle that would go over well in some Christian circles.) And there's that time Jesus' friends leave him on the shore. If we had been in Jesus' shoes, some of us might have yelled for them to come back. Others might have jumped in the water and swum out to the boat. But Jesus just steps on the blessed water (Matt. 14:22-26). That's nuts. It scares his friends to death. Or take healing a blind person, for instance. I've seen people gather around and lay hands on the sick. Others anoint people with oil. But when Jesus wants to heal a blind guy, he picks up some dirt off the ground, spits in it, and then wipes it on the dude's eyes (John 9:6). That's weird. No one else did that. Can you imagine the other religious leaders? "Rabbi, could you hack me up a holy loogie?" Not a chance. No one else did stuff like that. Only Jesus would be crazy enough to suggest that if you want to become the greatest, you should become the least. Only Jesus would declare God's blessing on the poor rather than on the rich and would insist that it's not enough to love just your friends. I began to wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said. I thought if we just stopped and asked, What if he really meant it? it could turn the world upside-down. It was a shame Christians had become so normal.


I know there are people out there who say, "My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around ... and then I met Jesus and my whole life came together." God bless those people. But me, I had it together. I used to be cool. And then I met Jesus and he wrecked my life. The more I read the gospel, the more it messed me up, turning everything I believed in, valued, and hoped for upside-down. I am still recovering from my conversion. I know it's hard to imagine, but in high school, I was elected prom king. I was in the in-crowd, popular, ready to make lots of money and buy lots of stuff, on the upward track to success. I had been planning to go to med school. Like a lot of folks, I wanted to find a job where I could do as little work as possible for as much money as possible. I figured anesthesiology would work, just put folks to sleep with a little happy gas and let others do the dirty work. Then I could buy lots of stuff I didn't need. Mmm ... the American dream.

But as I pursued that dream of upward mobility preparing for college, things just didn't fit together. As I read Scriptures about how the last will be first, I started wondering why I was working so hard to be first. And I couldn't help but hope that there was something more to life than pop Christianity. I had no idea what I should do. I thought about leaving everything to follow Jesus, like the apostles, and hitting the road with nothing but my sandals and a staff, but I wasn't sure where to pick up a staff.

There were plenty of folks talking about the gospel and writing books about it, but as far as I could tell, living out the gospel had yet to be tried in recent days. So youth group got a little old-the songs got boring, the games grew stale, and I found other places to meet fine women. I wasn't sure the church had much to offer. Of course, I didn't dare stop going to church, convinced that "going to church" is what good people do, and I didn't want to become like "those people" who don't "go to church." Heathens. Ha. So I sucked it up and went every week, often cynical, usually bored, but always smiling.


Excerpted from The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne Copyright © 2006 by The Simple Way. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jim Wallis 11
Introduction 17
Author’s Note 31
1. When Chris­tianity
Was Still Safe 35
2. Resurrecting Church 53
3. In Search of a Chris­tian 69
4. When Comfort Becomes 91
5. Another Way of Doing Life 115
6. Economics of Rebirth 155
7. Pledging Allegiance 191
When Kingdoms Collide
8. Jesus Made Me Do It! 223
9. Jesus Is for Losers 243
10. Extremists for Love 267
11. Making Revolution Irresistible 289
12. Growing Smaller and Smaller . . . 315
Until We Take Over the World
13. Crazy but Not Alone 341
Appendix 1: Local Revolutions and Ordinary Radicals 359
Appendix 2: Marks of a New
Monasticism 363
Appendix 3: To Iraq 365

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

If there is such a thing as a disarming radical, 30-year-old Claiborne is it. A former Tennessee Methodist and born-again, high school prom king, Claiborne is now a founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith communities. His is called the Simple Way, located in a destitute neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is a house of young believers, some single, some married, who live among the poor and homeless. They call themselves 'ordinary radicals' because they attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts. Claiborne's chatty and compelling narrative is magnetic---his stories (from galvanizing a student movement that saved a group of homeless families from eviction to reaching Mother Teresa herself from a dorm phone at 2 a.m.) draw the reader in with humor and intimacy, only to turn the most common ways of practicing religion upside down. He somehow skewers the insulation of suburban living and the hypocrisy of wealthy churches without any self-righteous finger pointing. 'The world,' he says, 'cannot afford the American dream.' Claiborne's conviction, personal experience and description of others like him are a clarion call to rethink the meaning of church, conversion and Christianity; no reader will go away unshaken. (Feb.) -- Publisher’s Weekly

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Irresistible Revolution 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 90 reviews.
PapaLester More than 1 year ago
I don't want pablum that tells me I'm great or how to self-fix. I want a book that challenges my faith to become more. I don't object to having every belief I have challenged because that makes me stronger, and sometimes it makes me change. This book challenged some of my beliefs and made me evaluate them on the basis of scripture, and some of them I had to change. It also challenged me to get active in doing the work of the kingdom of Christ.
You won't be able to put it down in the first half of the book. You'll want to in the second half, but you'll keep coming back because you need to. Don't read it if you want God to leave you alone.
Kayti More than 1 year ago
I think every believer NEEDS to read this book! Every time I pick up this book I am instantly motivated and inspired but the stories and insights Shane shares with his readers. This book has changed the way I look at my faith and even more so what I am going to DO with my faith.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're ready to roll up your sleeves, and march in God's army, pick up a copy of The Irresistible Revolution and get ready to load up on some serious ammunition. And for good measure, you'll also get a fresh compass and a friend to help you dig out of the trenches and be counted as a radical who is courageous and foolish enough to stand out as a true follower of Christ. From the streets of Calcutta, to war-zones of Iraq, to neighbourhood slums, to money-multiplying Wall Street, Shane Claiborne transports the face of Christ into a suffering and lonely world. In Irresistible Revolution, he converts his stories into a compelling case for the 'ordinary radical' . His down to earth style will engage you, much like a conversation with an old friend. But be prepared, much of what he has to say is far from comfortable. In these pages you will be dared to take up your cross, and tear down some walls. You will hear first hand of the miracle of community, of working together, being one body in Christ. You will be asked to drop the rock of unforgiveness and embrace the poor, the needy and the 'ugly'. And kiss complacency good-bye. Watch out for the gut-wrenching and heart-breaking moments laced in pain...and some joyful, triumphant ones. Watch how you never lose the distinct feeling that Jesus is right there walking through every page as you read along. You will sense his presence watching over you, holding out His hand, insisting, 'Come follow me...come and see.' Watch yourself capture a fresh and renewed understanding of who Jesus was and what He asks of you...and behold the absolute ironic beauty of a revolution 'a heart revolv-ing around Him' that is truly irresistible.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by Shane Claiborne's story, but truly compelled by his writing, and the things that stir his heart -- the needs of God's people -- and his desire to reach out to them in sacrifical ways thoroughly washed in the cleansing waters of a deep humility. The things Shane has to say are difficult -- difficult to take in, and penetrating to one's spirit. But oh, so important! Weep when you read this book, let it change the way you think about things. Ponder and pray about what you should do that you're not already doing. And then buy a copy for a half-dozen of your friends and give them the same challenge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has helped me grow in faith in so many ways! It has made me think very differently about the world! If you are looking for inspiration, encouragment, or just want to know that other people care, than this is the book for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have seen the church from the inside out (Pastor's son). My heart beats with Shane's. Christians from varieties of churches have the tendency to close themselves within the walls of the church for security and comfort. All too often it creates a disconnect in two ways. 1) we become disconnected from the needs of others and 2)We become disconnected from the call of Christ in our own lives. Surely we can change our ways. And as words can never change a world...only the actions carried forth from the words will make a difference
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a white, upper-middle class Christian living in the burbs, this is a very unsettling book. What is unquestionable, however, is that Shane loves Jesus Christ and is seeking the best way to live out the Great Commission. His quest shakes yuppie Christendom to the core. That is exactly what he desires and, I believe, what I needed to help jump start my beliefs so they translated into actions. You don't have to agree with all of Claiborne's politics to find inspiration in his calling.
abbeystombaugh on LibraryThing 3 months ago
made me think. good stuff, yeah.
DubiousDisciple on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Welcome to the world of radical Christian Shane Claiborne, where compassion and brotherly love trump all else. It¿s a world of protest rallies, sleeping alongside the homeless, frequent jail time, caring for others alongside Mother Teresa at Calcutta, and visits to leper colonies and wartime Iraq. Shane believes in works, and has written a book for a new generation of Christians who want to live their faith to the fullest. Church is no longer enough: Shane jokes that if someone had a heart attack on Sunday morning, the paramedics would have to take the pulse of half the congregation before they would find the dead person. A friend of his put it this way: ¿I gave up Christianity in order to follow Jesus.¿Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. For Shane, these are no longer repetitious words, atonally muttered in anticipation of a future era. They are today¿s conviction.At this point in my book review, I'm supposed to gleefully endorse Shane's revolutionary Christianity. Actually, the book was a bit troubling for me, more so as I saw shades of Jesus himself in its radical suggestions, for I cannot lend my support to some of Shane's teachings, and others, though just as unarguably Christ-like, I find myself unwilling to embrace. I find, like Shane, that Jesus was a radical activist, a role I am uncomfortable with. I agree with Shane that Jesus taught we should literally sell all and follow his humanitarian lead, and the only weak defense I can muster is to point out that that was 2,000 years ago. Shane's energy (fueled by a deep belief in the "Jesus of faith" and the Bible's inerrancy that I cannot share) left me drained and discouraged. I¿d like my Jesus served up passive and agreeable, please, even when I know it ain¿t so.
kungfuquaker on LibraryThing 3 months ago
As soon as I finished reading this book I ran out and bought another copy which I shoved into my pastor's hands and said, "You have to read this book!" I had never read anything like it. I realize that I am idealistic, but the idea of being able to turn the world upside down by simply living your life for Jesus is a delightful one. Shane made me realize that you don't have to be Jesus to make a difference in the world. In some small way all of us not only can, but are expected to. Jesus asks for nothing less.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Most Christians I know fall into two broad categories. The younger type of Christian (along with the older young-in-the-faith type) tend to be more idealistic and less jaded. The more ... let's call them "mature", trade a bit of that idealistic fire for a "reasonable" Christian life. I don't feel like speculating about which camp I fall into.Claiborne's a third type of person. He's as idealistic and visionary as they come, but without rancor. He's managed to mature in his Kingdom-vision without losing his passion. I hesitated to read this book for a while because I assumed it would lay out some grand call to discipleship that would thoroughly discourage most of the Christians I know. Nothing could be further from the truth.The Irresistible Revolution tells of Claiborne's own experiments in living faithful to the gospel, along with some of the lessons he's learned. Instead of prescribing solutions to lukewarm Christendom, he presents a story that's so attractive you can't help but want to join in.One of the best aspects of this book was Claiborne's humour. Here's an example. One of the times he was in court for civil disobedience, he called the prosecutor the persecutor by accident. Priceless. In a world that takes itself far too seriously, divine foolishness is one way to get noticed!Reading Claiborne is like moving from the sin-heavy atmosphere of this world to the rarefied air of the Kingdom of God.Note: A free review copy of this book was provided by Zondervan.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Shane Claiborne is a radical. So he writes to draw attention to his cause and, to some extent, to himself. I didn't agree with everything he advocated for ministry and political action, but I certainly was compelled by it. I, along with many, have been feeling disillusioned by the stagnant and comfy state of American Christianity today. The radical activism promoted in this book breaks down such stagnation. In a time of growing disparity between classes, and such stark revelations of scarcity in our society, a revolution should already be underway. The book was not a manifesto as such - thoughts about social action were interspersed with anecdotes from Shane's own life. But it does present a call to action that would be difficult to overlook. Hopefully this book and Claiborne's work become a jumping-off point for many Christians today, to re-engage them in the church as we rethink what exactly the church means.
tmamone on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Love him or hate him, you can't say that Shane Claiborne doesn't make you think. In "The Irresistible Revolution," Claiborne challenges the Church to think differently about poverty, materialism, and love. Part memoir, part manifesto, the book follows Claiborne from his Tennessee childhood to working with Mother Teresa to starting the Simple Way in Philidelphia. While I don't agree with all of his statements (a few times he considers "military intelligence" to be an oxymoron), Claiborne has definitely inspired me to think differently about how I can help make the world a better place.
whjensen on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I should say going in that there is a lot - A LOT - I admire about Shane Chaiborne. I was listening the other day to a lecture on the Foundations of Western Civilization. The lecturer was speaking of philosophers of the mid antiquity era who felt that people spoke of one philosophy and did another. The draw of the early Christian church, according to him, was that its members actually did what they believed in. Claiborne is similar in this.But no, I could not fully embrace this book. He is a definite inspiration (even though he would deny it). The problem is like many crusaders, he has no room for those who does not follow his path. His path is one of extreme Christian community, where property is given up to the community to use for the Church (big 'C') and one fights for the underpriveleged - those who have none. The books traces his life, showing his theology through the events that formed it. His time serving the poor in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. His time in college fighting for the homeless. It led him to the realization that a major problem is that some of us have lots and others have none. So the solution? Give is all away to your Christian community.This is where my problem is. It is not that we should be ready to give up "our" belongings to help one another. In this we agree. But his call is more radical yet he tries to make it universal. His is a reaction to a society where the lines of communication and community are broken. He seeks to restore them by removing the barrier of materialism. But his rejection comes across less like a rejection of materialism and more like a sneer at people who do not agree. A laugh. Rather than effectively engage people and show what can be accomplished by a little, what can be done by helping people to open their clenching hands and letting go of materialism to embrace community, the book ends up being one note and flat - sell all. By limiting his interpretation to a few verses, he misses on the true joy of people using their different gifts - in business, in ministry, in public service, in anything - and sharing as they can.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Preaching the way it should be and living it are two different things. I truly do hope that the author walks the walk and isn't only talking the talk.Liberalism and reality are two different things.I read this book marveling at the idealism and smiling at the innocence of youth.
disneypope on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Very provocative. Great book on Missional Church. HOWEVER, Claiborne steps in the mudd when he sharply criticizes missions of the typical local church (sure they give with the checkbook, mission trips, donations, etc. but it's not real mission - so we are to believe) and then turns around on his website gladly receiving those checks, donations, volunteers from those missing-the-mark typical local churches. When will people realize that there is a symbiotic/synergistic relationship between old urban ministry and new urban ministry? We need each other, since after all, we, together, are the body of Christ.
rwk on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This book made me believe I could not only imagine - but could do, even be - another way of 'church'. This book made me believe I could make a difference.Though I do agree with what szarka said - he deserves better editing - I loved it, and can't recommend it highly enough.
otherthan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
a life and mind changing book. will challenge everything you think about how we live and how we should be living. it can be a bit repetititve, but very great stuff. a true prophetic voice! a must read!
mattwiebe on LibraryThing 6 months ago
An excellent read for anyone raised in an evangelical environment who wonder about the poor and issues of justice. Most evangelicals (like myself) were taught that poor people just need to get a job and pull themselves up. After reading this book, you can see that the gospel and the poor are inextricably intertwined.
szarka on LibraryThing 6 months ago
While Claiborne often rambles and repeats himself, sometimes making me wish he had an editor with a firmer hand, The Irresistible Revolution's literary sins are merely venal. In the end, Claiborne's authentic voice shines through. Agree with his politics or not, I suspect the world would be a far better place if every Christian read this provocative book. It is nearly--but only nearly, Claiborne would probably be the first to observe--as provocative as the Bible itself. [2006-03-14]
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I enjoyed this book, which provided an excellent look at the work of Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way. I really liked the informal, witty, direct style. If I have any criticisms, they would only concern opinions expressed by the author, with which I can agree to disagree. If you are a self-identified evangelical Christian, or are discontent with "ordinary" church, this would be a good read for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago