The title first intrigued me. My friend Matt sent me an email telling me about a book that he thought looked interesting and that I might like. It was a race (maybe only in my mind) to see who could read it first. Matt’s been working on Bonhoeffer for a while, so I was free enough to snag it on Amazon. I guess I won.
Anyone who reads Shane’s book wins. It is a potluck of inspiration, field guide and political manifesto. It’s 100% memoir and full of passion. The burden is clearly on the reader as to how he or she will respond. Claiborne pulls no punches and offers no apologies. He is resolute in his call to humbly follow Jesus of Nazareth, and in doing so follows him to India, Iraq, and all over the US.
When you read the book, you can feel the sincerity as it drips off the pages and gets on you. Even if you disagree with his politics or tactics, you know that Shane is for real. His tales include a party on Wall Street, a sleep-in protest in an abandoned cathedral, and a prostitute who visits their house and everyone weeps together.
Shane is a founding member of The Simple Way, a faith community in the inner city of Philadelphia. The community structure itself is revolutionary as Acts 2 leaps out of the first century and into the twenty-first. The community personifies what it means to hold all things in common. They clearly show what it means to pray for one another and what the church looks like when it is at its best, caring for the least of these and living out the mission of Jesus.
Unlike me, Shane is unapologetic for his stances, particularly when his politics and his faith collide. His first allegiance is to a kingdom unseen, and when that bumps into today’s economic systems, he firmly takes a stand. These stands lead to episodes of civil disobedience, like when a Philadelphia law stated that it was illegal to give food to homeless people in public. He and others held worship services in parks frequented by the homeless, and at the end of each service, they served communion, which sometimes included pizza, hamburgers, and soft drinks. As you may expect, Shane has been arrested more than once.
What has left a mark deep in my mind and soul is Shane’s resolute determination to bring about the benevolent kingdom of God. While I talk and blog about my desire to see its coming, Shane goes a step further and actively works to see it happen. He makes a lot of his own clothes, careful not to wear labels that profit off of atrocities like child labor or sweat shops. He does not have health insurance. He donates all of his literary earnings to his community and communities like his around the world. He despises being called ‘cool.’ He is a revolution.
Read the book. But don’t feel bad because you can’t kiss your job and your responsibilities good-bye to live with other revolutionaries as you share clothes, food, and chores. Read it and then act in your own little extraordinary way to make a difference where you are. And then do it again. And again. And then get other people to do little things where they are. And motivate them to do these acts again. And again. And watch the purifying fire of revolution spread far and wide.