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The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical Paperback – January 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If there is such a thing as a disarming radical, 30-year-old Claiborne is it. A former Tennessee Methodist and born-again, high school prom king, Claiborne is now a founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith communities. His is called the Simple Way, located in a destitute neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is a house of young believers, some single, some married, who live among the poor and homeless. They call themselves "ordinary radicals" because they attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts. Claiborne's chatty and compelling narrative is magnetic—his stories (from galvanizing a student movement that saved a group of homeless families from eviction to reaching Mother Teresa herself from a dorm phone at 2 a.m.) draw the reader in with humor and intimacy, only to turn the most common ways of practicing religion upside down. He somehow skewers the insulation of suburban living and the hypocrisy of wealthy churches without any self-righteous finger pointing. "The world," he says, "cannot afford the American dream." Claiborne's conviction, personal experience and description of others like him are a clarion call to rethink the meaning of church, conversion and Christianity; no reader will go away unshaken. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* From dressing the wounds of lepers in Calcutta to living among the homeless in Philadelphia to visiting families in Iraq, social activist Claiborne strives to live an authentic Christian life. In his view, he is a radical in the truest sense of the word, returning to the roots of Christianity by living as Jesus did and doing "small things with great love." A partner-founder of the Philadelphia-based faith community Simple Way, he presents an evangelical Christianity gentler and more inclusive than is usually seen, especially in the mass media. He describes Simple Way as a new culture that relies on radical interdependence and consists of grassroots organizations, intentional communities, and hospitality houses. Although the book isn't an autobiography, in it Claiborne reports much about his life: growing up in the Bible Belt, becoming a Jesus freak, moving to Philadelphia despite his family's misgivings, and helping the homeless there. Then he boldly requested an internship with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She simply responded, "Come." Besides illuminating his own faith journey, Claiborne is insightful on the huge U.S. cultural and economic divide: the problem isn't that wealthy Christians don't care about the poor, he says, it's that they simply don't know the poor. A moving, often humorous account of a life of faith lived to the fullest. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; 1st edition (January 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310266300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310266303
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (329 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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With tears and laughter, Shane Claiborne unveils the tragic messes we've made of our world and the tangible hope that another world is possible. Shane graduated from Eastern University, and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago. During the recent war in Iraq, Shane spent three weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team. Shane is also a founding partner of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world.

Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. He is featured in the DVD series "Another World Is Possible" and is the author of the several books including The Irresistible Revolution, Jesus for President, and Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers. Shane speaks over 100 times a year in a dozen or so countries and nearly every state in the US. Shane has given academic seminars at Vanderbilt University, Duke University Pepperdine University, Wheaton College, Princeton University, Goshen College and Harvard University. Shane also speaks at various denominational gatherings, festivals, and conferences around the globe. Shane's work has been featured in everything from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal to CNN and National Public Radio.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I really enjoyed this book. I won't touch Shane's theology. I know next to nothing about the evangelical church. I am a blue collar liberal "cradle" Episcopalian. What I noticed and want to comment on, is that Shane makes a lot of young man's errors. He tends toward self righteousness. He is glib. He thinks he discovered any number of problems that no one else ever noticed. He confuses lifestylism with social change.

I don't think his mistakes invalidate his ministry. He is a young man. He has a young man's energy and God knows Christianity needs that. I just wonder, as he matures, will he find himself slipping into an old man's errors? Can he avoid cynicism? World weariness? If life turns ugly, as it sometimes does, will he be able to resist bitterness?

I'm sure any number of theologians can criticize me for this, but I've found the way to God is through an open heart. Your haircut, even if it's dreadlocks, your address, even if it's the ghetto and your friends, even if they're radical, can't help you. If you remain open to God, sooner or later he will break you. I am curious to see how young Shane grows through that. I will certainly give him credit for acknowledging that eventuality.

If you're planning on reading this book to find a new leader and a new set of rules, don't bother. If you're willing to read this book to learn from a young man's earnest attempt to love God and his neighbor you will be rewarded.
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Shane Claiborne has written a highly personal account of his journey as a follower of Christ and the call he feels to live radically for Christ. Much of The Irresistible Revolution is inspirational. Shane writes primarily to American evangelicals, who he calls out of their depressingly normal lives. Along the way, he levels numerous criticisms at the church, many of which seem on target.

The American evangelical church is in many ways indistinguishable from secular culture -- by its materialism, marketing, bigger-is-better mentality, and celebrity adoration. Worship services and youth ministry have almost become forms of entertainment. The church cultivates believers, but not always followers. Shane challenges his readers to take Jesus at his word when he spoke about the poor being blessed; the last being first; loving our enemies; denying ourselves; and serving Christ himself by serving the poor, lonely, sick, and imprisoned. And Shane criticizes the mixture of faith, patriotism, and conservative politics that characterizes parts of the evangelical landscape.

Shane doesn't beat up his readers. He writes with a light, often humorous touch. He teaches almost entirely through stories, mostly his own. One of his appealing qualities is his willingness to take the unconventional route, to take risks for God. He seems to have cultivated an enjoyment of risk-taking, almost like that of a prankster. There is a streak of mischievousness that runs through his stories.

I wanted to like this book. There isn't very much about my walk of faith that I would call radical. Serious and heart-felt, yes. Sacrificial, to a degree. But radical, very little. One line from the book has stayed with me: "We have insulated ourselves from miracles.
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Claiborne lives what many of us have dreamed of but not dared--a radical life of reaching the "least of these." It's hard to read his narratives without thinking, "How could I live like this?" "What would it take?" "Why don't I start?"

And, in part, that's the concern with this book. It skewers "the American dream" to such an extent that it is hard for the truly "ordinary" American to apply it without giving up trying. Had Claiborne been a tad more inviting and a tad more illustrative of how people living the American dream could at least take baby steps toward his revolutionary lifestyle, then perhaps many more would join the "kingdom movement." However, this tends to be the way with 30-something and younger Christian writers. It is all black and white, all or nothing, no middle ground, "my new way or your old highway." For all the talk of grace, some writing like this comes across judgmental and invents a brand new "holier than thou" attitude that yet a new generation 20 years from now will reject. Again, this is not to say that the book is not valid. It is to say that "with just a spoon full of sugar, the medicine goes down. . ."

Additionally, the application of Scripture at times seems more based on leftist cultural interpretation than contextual scriptural examination. For all the talk in the book about being counter-cultural, what seems to happen is that the book is counter-right-wing-cultural, but quite cozy with left-wing-cultural ideology. Regardless of where one stands on political/social issues, we should acknowledge when our exegesis reflects cultural immersion.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Spiritual Friends, and Soul Physicians.
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I read this book months ago, and waited until now to review it. It took me that long to pray through and digest this challenging view of the Christian life. But after going through it more than once and discussing it with college kids and seniors, theologians and new Christians, I have come to a few conclusions. Most of what I found in it has been covered well by other reviewers. Be sure to read the review titled, "Deeply Flawed" by PK Keith, he states very succinctly most of the flaws. But the points I bring up here I did not see in the other reviews.

First let me state that I want this book to motivate people to do great works for our Lord, His glory and the good of His children. So please do not allow my review to throw water on any fire that Shane might have been used to light. Take risks for the proclamation of the Gospel. But, be careful that you don't start to think that doing good works for poor people is the ultimate goal of the Christian life. The ultimate goal is to glorify God. Part of bringing Him glory is sharing His message with the world. One way to do that is to care for others. If this book has motivated you to live your life for others, then do so. But please understand that there are some very serious problems with how this Christian life is presented. First is the idea that poor people are in greater spiritual need than anyone else. Second is the idea that to do real ministry, you must go to people who have serious physical needs.

If you look at the ministry of Jesus and the disciples, you will see that they traveled the earth searching for those that had "ears to hear." Those that were in deep spiritual trouble and would respond to the message of the Cross. Every type of person is found being ministered to by Jesus.
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