Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Irresistible Revolution

(Don't miss the great discussion going on with this post. It's not too late to join in. Check it out.)

I've been reading Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution.

It's really great. You should read it. I mean it. I don't say this too often but I think this is a book everyone should read.

But unfortunately, I can't read it anymore.

I can't take anymore.

Shane is this incredible guy with an incredible story who is not very incredible at all. He's just an ordinary guy who wants to follow Jesus. Shane lives with the poor in Philadelphia and has given his life to follow Jesus in the margins of society - kind of like Jesus actually.

I like Shane's message. I like Shane. I highly recommend his book. But I just can't read it anymore.

Basically I just don't know what to do with it. I am really affected by Shane's story in this book. I think he is right. I think Jesus asks us to give up everything and to truly love our neighbor. But at the same time I don't know what that should look like for me. Are we all called to sell everything and live with the poor? I kind of think not but I also tend to agree with Shane that Jesus wasn't just speaking metaphorically when he talked about possessions, serving, loving others, etc. Part of me really thinks we (the church) should be living just like Shane. Why wouldn't we? Oh yeah, it does take a lot of sacrifice. And quite frankly, whether right or wrong, I'd rather do one of two things. One, say how nice the book is, praise Shane (and others like him), but make sure to point out that Jesus didn't really mean for everyone to live like Shane is living. Or two, decide to do some nice community service. Some nice community service where I get to feel better about myself but then go back to my nice smelling house.

Believe me, I'm not making any statements here. Don't be offended or anything. I really just don't know how to take this kind of message. I've heard it quite a bit before, it's affected me before, and I've ignored it before. I'm just going to stop the process now before it repeats itself again.

Any thoughts? I'm really interested to hear what any of you might have to share. Anyone else screwed up like me?


Rishi said...

I don't really know what to say. The one thing I know is that I have really been burdened lately for Waco.

26.3% of ALL WACOANS live in poverty. 30% of Waco's children live in poverty.

If you were to randomly pick just four people who live in Waco, chances are that one of them is living in poverty. That's amazing.

And this is my city!

I don't know what to do except this: be as attentive as possible to the opportunities God places in front of you.

God did this to me with a Brother named Shannon. I want to touch this Brother and love this Brother.

I know that, if I am faithful with this opportunity, God will give me more opportunities.

Mark said...

Shane's book still haunts me. I don't know what to do with it either. I recommended the book to you just because I wanted you to share in my misery. And because I am really hoping God gives us some answer to your questions. I keep hoping someone will read this book and say, "OK, here is what God told me we are supposed to do with this..."

I am at such a loss to know what to do with this book that I have basically decided that maybe I'm just the guy that says "Hey, we have to do something." And then maybe someone else will be the person to tell us what we should do. How lame is that? Shane is a guy that is saying, "Hey, we have to do something, and here is what we are doing."

I want to say we should do something, and I am willing to do something, but I have no idea what to do. So I blog about poverty in our city, about those dying of hunger all over the world, and about the new plasma tv I'm going to buy. And I wait for someone to tell me what to do.

Should we all sell our possessions and live with the poor? I don't think so. But I think we should be willing to. I mean really willing to do this. And I think if we were willing to, that God would call some of us down this path. But I'm not willing to do that. I can't do it. And that is what really haunts me.

Amy said...

There's a silly song on one of our new VeggieTale videos that, silly as it's supposed to be, really gets me. It's long, but I'm posting it anyway because I've wanted to share it with people, and you guys are the lucky ones. (L=Larry the Cucumber, GC Chorus=Gated Community Chorus)

Narrator: There once was a boy
who lived in a house
and the house sat under a tree.
By the tree ran a fence
that stretched far and wide
‘Round the Gated Community.
L: Can I have my ball?
Can you get my ball?
I kicked it into the tree.
And my ball bounced up
And my ball dropped in
To the Gated Community.
GC Chorus: Ohhh, the Gated Community is where we like to be
Everything’s so lovely, Ohhh our hearts are filled with glee
And when you come to visit, you can stand outside and see
What a lovely bunch we are in our gated unity!
L: Umm, can I have my ball?
Can you get my ball?
I kicked it into the tree.
And my ball bounced up
And my ball dropped in
To the Gated Community.
GC Chorus: Ohhh, the Gated Community is where we like to be
Our clothes are never dirty, and the lawns are always green.
And when you come to visit, you can stand outside and see
What a tidy bunch we are in our gated unity!
The Gated Community we think you will agree
Is pleasantly devoid of unsightly stray debris.
Old Man: Free, free of debris.
GC Chorus: The Gated Community is where we love to be
Our smiles are wide when we’re inside, in comfy custody
And when you come to visit, you can stand outside and see
What a smily bunch we are in our gated unity!
L: Can I have my ball?
Can you get my ball?
I kicked it into the tree.
And my ball bounced up
And my ball dropped in…
GC Chorus: The Gated Community is where we like to be
Our lives have been made perfect by a hefty entrance fee.
And when you come to visit, you can stand outside and see
L: To the Gated Commu…
GC Chorus: What a lovely bunch we are!
L: To the Gated Commu…
GC Chorus: What a happy bunch we are!
L: To the Gated Community!
GC Chorus: In our Gated Unity!

I think we can tend to be this way. Not all the time, but sometimes. I don't have answers either, but I do think there's a difference between going out and doing some nice community service and coming back to my clean-smelling house (or, maybe just my house), and truly getting our hearts involved in service for our city/community. I think it's the heart issue that is the big deal, not where we live or what we own. We are not inherently bad or uncaring because we have houses and stuff. We are not inherently good if we don't have houses and stuff.

I think *productive* conversations are starting to happen along these lines, (including this one) and I'm ready to do something, too.

Aaron said...

I can't help but think poverty is not the issue. What is poverty anyway? The main thing that comes to my mind as i read this post and these comments is this: PEOPLE are poor. PEOPLE live in poverty. It's defenitely a noble task to fight poverty. But i can't do it. So i'll leave it up to some politician or someone with more weight to throw around (figuratively speaking of course). I believe that the Lord is calling us all down this road that you speak of but just not in that super intense, Shane Claiborne sort of way. Believe it or not, all of us are given an opportunity to love someone in a very practical, non- cataclysmic sort of way. And on a regular basis too. Poor or not, we are all given the chance to lay our lives down for someone every day. This willingness that you speak of Mark, is found in the recognition and seizure of these opportunities. I want to obey the Lord in this way. I feel that this is the road to which He is calling most of us.

Mark said...

Amy: I love the song.

Aaron: I think you are right on about seizing the opportunities we have.

I should clarify what I mean when I say I don't think I could give up everything and live among the poor. If Jesus appeared to me in a blinding light (think road to Damascus) and told me to give up everything and live among the poor in a Shane Claiborne kind of way, I'd like to think I would be obedient to that. But my experience tells me that is not likely to happen to me. So what I am left with is trying to discern God's will in the way he speaks today, which is a whole other topic. And I just don't think I'm capable of hearing something like that, because I am so wound up in everything that is going on in my life, with my family, job, church, etc. I just don't think I could ever get such a strong sense of his leading down a very radical path, and that bothers me.

Rishi and Aaron seem to be suggesting that God is leading us in smaller steps to love the people he puts in our lives. I can't disagree with that, but it's just too easy to say that and then go on living exactly the way I have my whole life - for me, with a few nice community service projects thrown in to make me feel better about my self-centered life. (I'm not suggesting either of you guys are doing that.)

Adam said...

Mark, in your most recent comment you have put your finger on my struggle exactly.

By the way, the song is awesome! I want to see the video of it.

I really appreciate all your comments.

Amanda said...

Adam - thanks for this post!
Mark - thanks for your honesty!
Amy - thanks for the "silly song" (that is painfully true)!
Aaron - thanks for reminding us that this isn't about fighting poverty, but loving/helping/caring for people!
Rish - thanks for bringing this to the forefront of my mind lately!

My thoughts are these...

While I can't disagree that it's all to easy to do a "few nice community service projects", feel better about ourselves, & go on with our lives, it's even easier to read, talk or write (passionately, even) about this enormous problem, feel overwhelmed by it, wait for the call to something amazingly radical, & ultimately DO NOTHING. I think that we have a tendency to fall into the latter, not the former (I mean, is this community service we seem to be minimizing even practiced amongst us?). Again, not trying to offend or say that my family has this figured out, just calling 'em like I see 'em.

If we're willing to be obedient in these everyday opportunities, then I think that (not only will the little things add up to create big change) we'll be more willing & able to follow Jesus in extraordinary ways. I'm willing to bet that Shane Claiborne didn't begin by selling all his possessions & living with the poor, but by living generously in his ordinary matters. Something is better than nothing (thinking back to Adam's "doing the best I can" post), & I'd hate for us to sit on doing anything while we're waiting for a perfect solution to fall into our laps...

Adam said...

Really good words Amanda.

gk said...

Shane spoke a Church Under the Bridge a few years back and has done so again on several occasions I believe. I'll keep an ear out if he's coming back. It was before he was a published author and he was just some nut living with the poor in Philly.

Where does one draw the line between "waiting for opportunities" and "seeking opportunities?" It seems that Jesus did both.

Mark said...

Adam, you should finish reading the book. There is some great stuff towards the end that is worth talking about.

Adam said...

GK - I actually heard Shane speak at Baylor last year. He was great.

I also wonder about "waiting for" and "seeking" opportunities.

Maybe our lives are such that if we wait for opportunities they will not come - if we have insulated ourselves, etc. Or if we are in our "gated community" etc. I feel this way about my own life.

Also, I think the question "who is your neighbor" might be answered differently today than when Jesus originally asked it. Actually, I want to blog more about that later.

Of course, as I write this I am very aware of Amanda's comment...it is far better to do something than to talk about everything. But I also think it is best to talk/think/discuss and do. Hopefully they feed each other.

Catherine said...

Thinking and acting are not mutually exclusive. Just like any job, you get your foot in the door and work to build from inside the organization. So take your pick...do something...anything...and then make it bigger and better...do more.

But I do not find value in giving up everything you have in order to do this. At some point, don't you just become part of the "problem?" I could give it all away and be homeless and hungry. Then what? What does that really accomplish? The goal should be hand up and a step down toward a point of equilibrium for all. Don't you think?

Who takes care of Shane while he is living like Jesus? (I have not read the book.)

Mark said...

I think most of Shane's living expenses (which are much lower than you would think, because he makes his own clothes and things like that) come from his speaking engagements. He would have enough money to live on the rest of his life just from the book, but he is giving all of the book proceeds away.

On the Simple Way website, he lists his occupation as "Hellfire and damnation preacher, writer, circus performer".


Mary said...

Everyone: Wow. Really, really good thoughts (and hopefully, not only thoughts, but actions).

When I was a little girl, I asked my mom once if the different things I did with our church really counted as service, because I enjoyed them so much. Was it really a sacrifice if I was having fun at the same time?

Lest it seem like I'm tooting my own horn here, let me say that I've pretty much lost that attitude. I wish I hadn't. At the same time, I like to think that it's not totally lost, just kind of buried. Discussions like these are the thing that wakes it up. So, thank you.

Now I'm wondering: what sounds like fun and can be turned into something that helps other people? Even giving money can be fun, depending on where it's going and how you go about it. I also found out (through tutoring, oddly enough) that I enjoy reading aloud. So...reading to kids? Could be fantastic!

Forgive my simplicity here, but I do think Mary Poppins was right: a spoonful of sugar...Or, if you want to get theological about it: Unless you become like a little child...

Anyway, these are the thoughts I had to share. I don't know how much sense they make (outside of my own head, anyway), but I hope a little at least. I'm really enjoying this discussion, and am looking forward to hearing what comes of it. Please do share.

P-Style said...


I think I'm of a similar ilk to you. There's only so much of the compassionate message I can hear before the conviction becomes overwhelming. And the funny thing is, is not the overwhelming sensation that says "I can't do anything" but the sensation that alerts me to all the things in my power I can change/ influence.

Unfortunately I' never allow that thinking to consume me for long enough so that I take action. I think that most of us are only motivated to great behavioural changes when the imperative of action becomes so great that we can no longer resist.

I use the analogy of being attracted to someone, during the period when they are still unaware of it. Most of us will sit and stew about it and eventually get so worked up that we either let it go, or we act. At some stage we reach the tipping point where our though life becomes incarnate in our actions.

The same applies to compassion or justice. As time goes by, I am becoming increasingly saddened by my lack of compassionate action. Yet I am also aware that I will probably only do something about it when I become so enveloped with concern or care that I do something about it.

The key for me is to discipline myself over time to recognise the prompting of the Spirit, and not put it out of my mind when it consumes me with feeling. Eventually, by the Grace of God, His compassion will become my compassion, I hope. So in the end His law will be written on my heart, and evidenced in my actions. . . but I think it will take time, because I know how much I can resist, but eventually my walls will fall down, so I pray.


Karen said...

I think it is about your heart. About finding what God wants you personally to do. When you have other people in your life that you are responsible for it is sometimes not as simple as just selling everything and giving to the poor as you then make your wife/kids part of that poor section of society.

I have a burning urge to go to Africa to live and work and everytime I hear someone speak or see something on the TV etc I feel convicted and ashamed that I am not there but I also am aware that at this point in time I am not meant to be there. I am meant to be here - building into the lives of those God has placed me with, helping where I can and investing in others so not only can I help in the future in Africa but I can take others with me or send others to wherever God wants them.

Not sure if this makes sense or is useful at all. I grieve for all I could do, should do, want to do but can't do.

Patrick said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

Bruce Neubauer said...

I am 46 years old, grew up in the white suburban American church, and then went on to become a pastor in this same church environment. We came to believe God was probably a white Republican just like us.

Around 36 years of age I began to really take seriously what Jesus had to say. I became a very disturbed believer. I began to see that, over the years, I had unknowingly grown up with an unholy mixture of American thinking and biblical thinking. In effect, a strange hybrid Christianity that resembled the Gospel only in termonology and certain practices; a form of godliness without any real transforming power. It was hard to tell the difference between my American beliefs and my Christian beliefs. I became utterly undone by God. Provoked. Messed up. Frustrated. A complete Holy Spirit smackdown. But I also became very free.

So I walked away from the polite white American church. I ditched consummerism, blind patriotism, the American tendency toward independence, and most of all, the insane hunger for personal peace and affluence. God's Spirit mercifully led me out the spiritual ghetto I was living in. The rest has been an amazing journey that contniues to this day.

I also just finished Shane's book. Sorry fans, but he's not a very good writer. Way too redundant. The book could have been half as long and still made its point. And the constant references to bubbles, dancing, and sidewalk chalk got my eyes rolling.

My point? Jesus' message is not as impossible to live out as you might think. First, dissect where your American/ consummeristic/materialistic/
personal independence values collide with God's. This will take brutal honesty and time spent absolutely alone with God. Then get rid of them. Sell all your "belief possessions". And then just act. Act up right where you are. Now. Today. Be real, first in your own home, with your family, with your neighbors (even if they live in the comfortable suburbs), at your school, where you live, because unless you can have mercy on all people's lives you have no business going farther than your own backyard.

Finally, don't try to be Shane. You can't. You shouldn't. Just keep reading Jesus and I promise you he'll create an amazing story that will be all yours. You may end up in Calcutta or in uptown Manhattan, but it will be your story. Just sell out and he'll show you the rest.

Very sorry for the long blog, but I saw too much hand-wringing here and thought I could help. Hope I did.