Friday, 9 January 2009

Irresistible revolution

I read The irresistible revolution - living as an ordinary radical directly after Shane Claiborne's Jesus for president! and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's New monasticism, about five months ago.
I was very much enthused by this threesome of books so I got in touch with the publishing company - they specifically ask for response via email - to propose to translate relevant parts of it into my mother tongue. Alas, I got no reaction of any kind at the two mails I sent. "We want to hear from you" apparently does not mean that you may expect a reply.
Then there was the conference of the Anarchist Studies Network, at which I found that Alexandre Christoyannopoulos had become as enthusiastic about it as I (I had told him about Claiborne through email - a medium that defintiely works sometimes). Keith however was skeptical, he called the theology of the book of the copy/paste-type. So my original enthusiasm got another hitting. What does it mean when the two political scientists attached to this weblog are enthusiastic, but the theologian is not?

After some time I asked Keith timidly what he meant with his objection of copy/paste-theology and he replied that he may have been too harsh in his judgement. But he definitely did not like phrases like Mom Theresa. Neither do I, but I am afraid that's the way it goes with people from the US of A...
But it is yet another objection than saying its theology is copy/paste. And after all, is not the stressing of the importance of the Sermon on the Mount, common to christian anarchism, copy/paste-theology too? Why not choose - provided you accept the so-called Old Testament - some loci where gays or adulterers and other folks are properly stoned to death, or some places where JHWH calls for the extermination of whole lists of enemy tribes? (Maybe they take those as a motto in Tzahal?)

When Dutch christian anarchist Felix Ortt wrote his books with bible stories for children and the young he completely left out the so-called Old Testament. "There is nothing edifying of any importance in it," was his judgement. That seems to be going too far again, and anyway, you can call that copy/paste-theology too. Shane Claiborne relies heavily on the OT but he treats the unedifying, indigestible parts ironically and lightly.

To my surprise it appears you can read theology in the USA, like Claiborne, and still have no knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. He went to Iraq with the best possible intentions, prior to the invasion by "his country", to act as a human shield, amd he writes about his surprise at finding Christian communities in that country. About the oldest branches of christendom can be found there, so it turned out christianity is not Made in USA. Does he really mean that?

Claiborne was originally an evangelical Republican activist, and I cannot avoid to conclude you really got to have a diminished mind to be such a person. Mind diminishing is generally prescribed by Capital but a bit more in the USA than in Europe. The book is more or less the autobiographical story of the change he has gone through - from being a "christian" to being a follower of Jesus.

And he is honest about it. He describes his change from right wing evangelical to a follower of Jesus - to what I would call christian anarchism, a qualification he must be familiar with, quoting Hennacy, Eller and others. Presumably choosing for this stamp is going too far for him - admittedly, it takes explaining, and it does not really matter because the Spirit is there anyway.

Glancing through the book again for this description I get caught anew by my original enthusiasm. I can live with the simplisms regularly popping up with Claiborne, and after all: he lives in a community called the Simple Way.
Summing up: it is a book to be recommended, perhaps it is even unmissable as a manifesto for present day christian anarchism, certainly more so than Dave Andrews' Christi-anarchy.

- Shane Claiborne, The irresistible revolution - living as an ordinary radical. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. Foreword by Jim Wallis.