Irresistible Revolution, Updated and Expanded: Living as an Ordinary Radical

Irresistible Revolution, Updated and Expanded: Living as an Ordinary Radical

by Shane Claiborne


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Irresistible Revolution, Updated and Expanded: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

In this updated 10th Anniversary Edition of Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne uses unconventional examples from his own life to stir up questions about the church and the world, while challenging readers to truly live out their Christian faith. With new material throughout the book and a full new chapter, Shane brings readers up to date on the “revolution” – adding new stories, sharing what his community looks like now, and bringing fresh inspiration to live out this message in practical ways.

In Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne describes an authentic faith rooted in belief, action, and love, inviting us into a movement of the Spirit that begins inside each of us and extends into a broken world.

“The irresistible revolution isn’t just about going to heaven when you die but bringing heaven down as you live. The love we’re talking about is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. It’s about healing our broken hearts, healing our broken streets, and healing our broken world. The revolution we are talking about begins inside each of us and extends to the ends of the earth.” —Shane Claiborne

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310343707
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Edition description: Updated
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 262,382
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.30(d)

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 © 2016 The Simple Way
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-34393-6



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). A friend of mine who owns a Christian bookstore told me I went easy on the Catholics here, who also know how to clutter and commercialize. He told me about a Catholic cologne — imported from Italy — so even if you don't feel holy, at least you can smell holy. They had lists of bands and the Christian alternatives to them, so I got rid of all my old CDs. (CDs were what we used to listen to music on back in the 1900s.) (And I must confess, I was a bit disappointed by the Christian counterfeit. I later heard legendary musician Rich Mullins grieving how bad a lot of Christian art is. He said, "You hear these Christian artists say, 'God gave me this song,' and then you listen to it and know why God gave it away." 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 over-consumptive 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. I heard a preacher put it like this: "If you find yourself climbing the ladder of success, be careful or else on your way up you might pass Jesus on his way down." 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.

All the youth used to sit in the back row of the balcony, and we'd skip out on Sunday morning to walk down to the convenient mart for snacks before slipping back into the balcony. I recall thinking that if God was as boring as Sunday morning, I wasn't sure I wanted anything to do with him. And I remember joking with friends 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. Yes, inappropriate, but funny, and I'm not sure it was far from the truth. A solemn deadness haunted the place. I remain convinced to this day that if we continue to lose young people in the church, it won't be because we made the gospel too hard but because we made it to easy. We will lose them not because the foosball table was broken or we didn't have the latest Xbox game in the youth room but because we didn't dare them to take Jesus seriously and connect the gospel to the world we live in. I learned in confirmation classes about the fiery beginnings of the Methodist Church and its signature symbol of the cross wrapped in the flame of the Spirit. Where had the fire gone? I learned about John Wesley, who said that if they didn't kick him out of town after he spoke, he wondered if he had really preached the gospel. I remember Wesley's old saying, "If I should die with more than ten pounds, may every man call me a liar and a thief," for he would have betrayed the gospel. Then I watched as one of the Methodist congregations I attended built a $120,000 stained-glass window. Wesley would not have been happy. Wesley's general philosophy on money was, "Get it out of your hands as quick as you can, lest it make its way into your heart." I stared at that window. I longed for Jesus to break out of it, to free himself, to come to rise from the dead ... again.


Then a couple of new kids transferred to our high school, and I heard a few rumors about them. They were from a "charismatic," nondenominational congregation that was much more "radical" than the United Methodists; they spoke in tongues and danced in the aisles. All right, I must admit, something in me was secretly fascinated. I wanted to see passion. But of course, I dared not admit my interest and joined my other friends making weird looks and cult jokes. So one day in the lunchroom, I was talking with some of my Methodist friends when we saw the two new students in the cafeteria, and I was commissioned (okay, dared) to go sit with them and ask them about the speaking in tongues, as all my friends looked on, snickering. Part of it was in jest, but there was another part of me that was intensely curious. Looking back, it's amazing they even gave me the time of day. But like good evangelicals, they invited me with open arms to worship with them, and I went. I quickly grew to admire their reckless, unguarded worship. And I met people who lived like they believed in heaven and hell, who cried and worshiped like they were actually encountering God. In this wild charismatic youth group, I also became a believer in miracles and the power of prayer. I saw people healed and lives transformed. The Holy Spirit became real to me. To this day I think most of the church needs a little more of the Pentecostal fire, and I long for those who believe in prayer to join forces with those who believe in action. I've seen both work miracles.

Before long, I ended up joining that congregation. I became a Jesus freak. I tried to convert everybody, from heathens to pastors. I organized the See You at the Pole meetings at our school, where hundreds of us met at the flagpole to pray, committed to bringing prayer back into the public schools. I was passionately pro-life and anti-gay, and I tore apart liberals. I helped organize the local Bush-Quayle campaign, running around slapping bumper stickers on cars whether the owners wanted them or not. Nobody could stop us Jesus freaks. I went to the malls to do goofy skits and hand out religious tracts to try to save innocent shoppers from the fires of hell. To this day, I have a certain respect for those religious fanatics who stand on street corners. At least they have a sense of urgency and passion and live as if what they are saying is true. The only problem with many of the street-corner preachers I've heard is that most of the things they say don't sound like the "good news." I like their zeal, but not always their message.

It was awesome being a Jesus freak, and I did it for almost a year, but the fiery newness of it died out, and when they actually let us pray in school, it sort of lost its glamour. I saw the messiness of church politics and egotism. I was driven mostly by ideology and theology, which isn't very sustainable, even if they're true. I wondered if Jesus had anything to say about this world, and I began to question how much he cared whether I listened to Metallica. Sometimes when we evangelized, I felt like I was selling Jesus like a used-car salesman, like people's salvation depended on how well I articulated things. And that's a lot of pressure. I even heard a pastor explain that he used to work in the corporate world and now he was in a "different kind of business" with the "best product in the world." But I wasn't sure I was even selling them the real thing. Sometimes it felt like Jesus was ugly forms — death penalty, war, poverty. Anything that destroys life erases part of God's image in the world. So let's imagine what it means to truly stand on the side of life and interrupt death. a blue-light special at Kmart, or like I was in one of those infomercials in which people are way too happy to give you lots of cheap stuff you don't need. Really, all I had was a lot of Christian clutter, in my bedroom and in my soul. I began to doubt whether the Bible stories looked like they did in Sunday school. I needed some relief for my overchurched soul. So I became quite disenchanted with the church, though I was still fascinated with Jesus.


Excerpted from The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Copyright © 2016 The Simple Way. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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 Jim Wallis 13

Introduction 17

Author's Note 29

1 When Christianity Was Still Safe 35

2 Resurrecting Church 51

3 In Search of a Christian 63

4 When Comfort Becomes Uncomfortable 81

5 Another Way of Doing Life 101

6 Economics of Rebirth 147

7 Pledging Allegiance When Kingdoms Collide 181

8 Jesus Made Me Do It! 215

9 Jesus Is for Losers 235

10 Extremists for Love 257

11 Making Revolution Irresistible 277

12 Growing Smaller and Smaller … Until We Take Over the World 301

13 Crazy but Not Alone 327

14 Scrap Notes from the Revolution: Frequently Asked Questions from the Past Decade 341

Appendix 1 Local Revolutions and Ordinary Radicals 369

Appendix 2 Marks of a New Monasticism 379

Appendix 3 To Iraq 381

Appendix 4 Holy Mischief 385

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