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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jesus for President Blog Tour

I purchased a copy of the new book by Shane Claibourne and Chris Haw, "Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals". (You can click on the book to the left and read samples of it). I have been excitedly waiting to get the book after reading last fall "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical". I bought it online and counted the days to get it. One day I came home from work and a box from Amazon was open in my living room. But the book was not there. My 17 year old son, Bene had nabbed it!

Bene has just given it back to me after devouring it. As a father I have been so excited to watch as my soon to be 18 year old has become an ordinary radical for Jesus. As he read the book, he told me that many people young and old would pick it up, skim it and then ask if they could borrow it or said they would go buy it. Six people so far, and one did go to the store and buy it.

Needless to say, I told him he couldn't lend out my copy quite yet as I hadn't started to read it! Sorry guys -- Go buy your own! I find this fascinating. I think it has a lot to do with what I perceive as an emerging dissatisfaction with politics as usual among evangelical and other Christians. Shane describes this book as a project "to provoke the Christian political imagination". I like that. Too often we have bought on to a party line, not realizing that we are part of a true, vital, radical kingdom counter to the politics of this world's empires.

I have so far only read the preliminary pages and the first section "Before There Were Kings and Presidents." Let me give you some initial impressions and I will follow it up with more thoughts in another post.

First, this book is more than a normal book. It is a work of art. I mean that literally. The pages are artwork that have the words printed on them, seemingly hand scrawled, typed, underlined and with edit marks, too boot. There is a real sense that this book is designed to awaken hearts, to truly re-enliven stiff, stuffy, cob-web filled, gray painted interiors of the inner sanctums of many a Christian's heart. It is full of color, photos, drawings, and abstract art. Its words and art flow together to get you thinking and feeling.

The first section is a re-telling of biblical history that brings in sharp relief the tension between God and empire. Shane and Chris tell the stories we all have heard in Sunday School, but in a way that you can see a clear politic of God and the empire emerging. To give an example let me quote a little from the section on the tower of Babel.

"God's people decided to build a sky-scraping tower (Genesis 11), Scripture says that "the whole world had one language," and the people seemed quite impressed with their limitless power. So they began erecting an idol of human ingenuity to "make a name" for themselves. They hoped to attain the beauty of heaven, only to find themselves growing farther and farther from God who dwelt with them in the garden of Eden. During the project, God noted that "nothing they plan to do will be impossible to them" (Gen 11:6) You can almost hear the echos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki heer. It seems that God has an aversion to limitless power. It is not that they were a threat to God but that they were a threat to themselves. This type of grand collaboration wouldn't be God's solution to a world "full of violence." Instead of letting them build a bridge to the heavens, God came "down" from the lofty heights and scattered the people across the land, confusing their languages and bringing them back down to earth. They became babblers. God confused the language of the whole human family and any hope for communication, and reconciliation now lay only in the hands of God."

Shane and Chris bring this thought to a conclusion by saying, "This tale is less a tragedy of divine punishment and more an act of divine liberation for humankind from an imperial project that would lead to death."

To me it is good for Christians to see in sharp relief that there is a difference between empire or national self interest and the politic of God and Jesus. In the upcoming sections I trust these thoughts will be expanded on and applied to my life as an ordinary radical following the crucified lamb today.

As I close this initial post on "Jesus for President", I want to leave you with the titles of the sections.

Section 1. Before There Were Kings and Presidents
Section 2. A New Kind of Commander-In-Chief
Section 3. When the Empire Got Baptized.
Section 4. A Peculiar Party

This post is part of the Jesus For President Blog Tour. For other blogs on the tour see Jesus For President Blog Tour. At this site you will also find videos by Shane and other information about the upcoming book Tour. Shane and Chris are to be in Raleigh on July 22.
Look for Jesus for President Blog Tour - Part 2 post in about a week. (It actually took me about 6 weeks, but here it is as pormised ---> Jesus for President Blog Tour Part 2 )
If you would like to hear Shane talk about the book in his own words, check out this video.

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