Saturday, October 11, 2008
In Walter Brueggemann's deeply insightful The Prophetic Imagination, he complains, "The contemporary American church is so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or act". Our desperate need is for a prophetic imagination to "nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us". Indeed "Who will ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down)" (Rom 10:6). How can we be awakened from our slumber of costly self-absorption into the light of gospel-living unless someone goes before us and shows us the way? What we desperately need is not more talkers but dreamers, not mere sideline critics but those who will live critically of the prevailing ethos.
Without being too dramatic, I believe Shane Claiborne attempts such a feat. Author, speaker, and co-founder of The Simple Way in the badlands of Philadelphia, Shane believes, imagines, and acts on a new way of living in his recent book Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. He won't win any awards for clarity or conciseness but his book is littered with gems that capture this thinking:
"Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls for a new world" (129).
"...believers are a dime-a-dozen nowadays. What the world needs is people who believe so much in another world that they cannot help but begin enacting it now" (149).
"For the flag and the cross are both spiritual. And they are both political... No wonder it is hard for seekers to find God nowadays. Its difficult to know where Christianity ends and America begins" (193).
"The more personal property is retained as private space, the more corporate property becomes a necessity. And the cycle continues, for as we enlarge the territory of corporate property, private property remains comfortably sacred" (330).
"...I just wanted to rise above the suffocating deadness, to rise above people who no longer feel or dream but just exist" (346).
Most importantly he's done something (exit Donald Miller). Whether he is moving into a decrepit, crime-ridden neighborhood and building community, or sleeping in public parks with the harassed homeless, or extending fellowship to Iraqi believers during America's invasion, he is acting in refreshing, innovative ways that give pause to our shared ethos with the present powers. That is prophetic.
My only complaint is the faddish, stifling ambiguity that permeates his writing. A pair of millennium have taught us that talk of Jesus is malleable, that he can fit into our image of him. As communication and causes grow, our Messiahs will multiply into a myriad of Christs, christening the banners of everything from Republicanism to organic herbal remedies. I am not saying Shane has invented a Jesus on the spot. I am saying that the less we hear of Christ and the more we hear the issues, Jesus ends up filling in the cracks and becomes immeasurably less than we intended.
That being said, Irresistible Revolution is a great read that challenges my Jesus and my lifestyle to the core. May we be men and women that invite fresh winds of Scripture to upend our cultural comfort and embody a different script than the tattered one we've been handed.