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

4.4 out of 5 stars 337 customer reviews

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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 (337 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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Shane has captured the complacency found in western Christianity. Personally I prefer deep books on theology, but this author has given us "street-wise" theology that needs to be read by every teen, collegiate, and adult. Shane has taken the essence of the message of Jesus and given a practical and pastoral theology. That does not mean it has become domesticated, not in the least. Shane Claiborne sees the phrase "Kingdom of God" and exchanged the world "Revolution" for the word "Kingdom." Does that make a difference? Not in what Jesus meant, but it greatly changes how people view the practicaly day to day workings of Jesus' life, ministry, teachings, and words. He freely shows how even the words of Jesus existed in the flesh through the works of Ghandi and Mother Teresa. Whether it is sleeping with the lepers or giving away everything he has to feed an empty stomach, Irresistible Revolution grabs the westernized, domesticated, once-a-week Christian and shakes them to the core with ideas and thoughts that rarely enter most church doors on a given Sunday. Does that mean I agree with it all? No. But reading a good book, like Shane's, is like eating fish...there is a lot of meat and a few bones to spit out. But in the end, I think every reader will be greatly satisfied with the meal after feasting on this book.
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