Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts on Jesus For President

First of all, an excellent book. Scriptural truth woven through excellent storytelling is a great way to read non-fiction, at least for me. I think the questions this book asks are very, very important. Some might be tempted to dismiss this book as liberal (or even hippie), but they would be truly missing out. I love the idea that it doesn’t matter so much how you vote on November 4th, but rather how you live every day of the year.

Shane and Chris, in Jesus for President, do an excellent job unpacking the political framework of the world in which Jesus lived, and how he deliberately chose to do ministry a very different way. While he didn’t operate under standard imperial guidelines, he was still able to spin the political rhetoric of the day on its head. Fascinating to read about. The authors also make it clear that Jesus wasn’t passive toward the needs and frustrations and sorrows of people, but chose a different, creative way of going about his work on the earth.

“All of this is an invitation to join a peculiar people – those with no king but God, who practice jubilee economics and make the world new. This is not the old-time religion of going to heaven; this is about bringing heaven to the world.”

Amish for Homeland Security? An interesting concept. Shane and Chris make no bones about the fact that they are extremely anti-war. They artfully weave stories and quotes and truth about the fallacy of “redemptive violence” and demonstrate that creative non-violence simply works better to achieve life change and good in this world. It is a stronger argument for Christian non-violence than I’ve ever heard, and I love how they wrap anti-voilent/war ideas into their “pro-life” stance. As they view it, life is precious from conception to death. What I’d really like to hear, however, is their perspective on the significant war and violence we see sprinkled throughout the Bible – especially the Old Testament. While I agree, for the most part, with their stance on non- violence, I think leaving this issue out weakens their argument significantly. That said, I still think they’re on the right track. One little idea that sticks with me is this:

“I’ll die for you, but I won’t kill for you.”

A lot of the stories and ideas the authors use when they point toward what Christian political imagination could and does sometimes does look like are incredible – and a little overwhelming to me. They talk about alternative, intentional communities where sharing, debt cancellation, and mutual aid are the name of the game. They give examples of people who have changed their lifestyles to become less dependent on oil and cheap labor in Asia. Others refuse to live in the suburbs so they can live in solidarity with the poor.

“Our individuated lifestyle of single-family dwellings, a car per person, and a house full of “my” stuff purchased cheaply from China makes it harder to follow Jesus, even for those with the best of intentions. When your house is built on sand, you waste energy keeping it from being knocked over.”

“Perhaps there is no more dangerous place for a Christian to be than in safety and comfort, detached from the suffering of others” – Shane’s mom

There is a lot that I buy and eat and wear that has probably passed through the hands of someone that was mistreated. And yet I haven’t stopped doing normal grocery and clothes shopping. I don’t know if I could ever welcome an unrelated homeless woman with Alzheimer’s into my home to live with my family. Am I making lifestyle decisions to cut back on my consumption of oil, knowing that there is a significant connection between oil and war? Not really.

I haven’t yet made these lifestyle changes, and honestly don’t know that I will. But God is big enough to change my heart as He sees fit. Thankfully this book simply suggests some ways others are living out their faith, rather than trying to tell me my life needs to follow a 5 stop plan. Reading this book re-motivated me to serve those around me, walk the extra mile, and turn the other cheek. And to remember that the way of Jesus is always going to look quite different than the ways of this world. After all, my ultimate hope lies not in partisan political options but in Jesus Christ and His kingdom.

For more information, see the book's website or listen to Shane tell you about it himself. Also, I recently listened to a fascinating discussion about some of these topics between Shane, Greg Boyd (author of Myth of a Christian Nation), and Chuck Colson on Krista Tippett's radio program Speaking of Faith. I recommend it.


Lynn said...

Thanks, I am always interested in what others are reading. I only heard about this book on your blog, but it sounds intriguing.

Dave and Jenni said...

I've been wanting to read this ever since you first mentioned it, and now I'm even more interested. Thanks for the honest review.

p + j + g buurstra said...

Sounds like an interesting read Jess! After Gregory Boyd I didn't think I wanted to read another thing about the topic but another perspective is always good. This is such a pertinent topic that doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves-at least in the mainstream media.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts...can I borrow the book?? :)

Jeremy said...

Loooved it. Has to be the most visually creative and engaging design I've ever seen.
Listened to that same SoF segment too.

Random tangent - Shawna Niequist is giving a talk at our church sometime soon...

Short Stop said...

It's sitting on Jason's nightstand...waiting for me to finish the other two books I've got.

Jason thinks I will really like this one...being a poly sci major and all. I'm curious to read it based on your thoughts here, too!