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Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness in a Broken World Paperback – April 26, 2016
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"From the manger to the cross, Jesus announced the ultimate subversion of power -- the last will be first, the first will be last... the mighty will be cast from their thrones and the lowly lifted up. This book is about that Jesus -- the holy troublemaker, the revolutionary Messiah. Craig dares you to join Jesus in the trenches, and to reorient your life around the upside-down kingdom of God. What you have here is nothing short of an invitation to join the revolution of the subversive Savior who was born a refugee in the manger and executed as a rebel on the cross."
~ Shane Claiborne, Founder of The Simple Way, and Author of Irresistible Revolution and Executing Grace
"This book is a wonderful example of the more honest reading and following of Jesus that is invading all of our churches today. It seems many have come to recognize that the 'churchified' and pious Jesus many of us grew up with had little to do with the man and ministry revealed in the Gospels."
~ Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Author and Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation
~ Ken Shigematsu, Pastor of Tenth Church, Vancouver, B.C and Author of the international bestseller God in My Everything
"After a lifetime of living among and working alongside some of the poorest people in the world, Craig Greenfield knows a thing or two about the upside-down nature of the kingdom of God. The subversive Jesus comes riding a donkey, carrying a towel, welcoming children, feeding the hungry, and serving the least. And Craig knows him, really knows him."
~ Michael Frost, Author of Jesus the Fool
"Craig Greenfield is a prophet of hope calling for an urgent return to embody the subversive memory of Jesus. Craig's fresh take on old stories are brought to life with new stories of solidarity in friendship.Craig writes with a keen nuance for the substance behind our religious rhetoric, getting to the heart of the issues by showing us the way to live and love in a world of wounds."
~ Christopher L. Heuertz, Founding Partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and Author of Unexpected Gifts:Discovering the Way of Community
"Craig Greenfield's Subversive Jesus marks him as a provocative modern-day John the Baptist-- preparing the way for Jesus' radical call to be heard and heeded afresh. This prophetic treatise is full of honest,oft-humorous and compelling stories straight out of the trenches of the Greenfield family's lifetime of celebrating and suffering alongside society's least. You will find deep practical wisdom in these pages born of vast,hands-on experience that speaks to the breadth of human life-- from what hospitality and child-raising looks like amongst the homeless to how to challenge injustice on cruise ships. This must-read refreshes and inspires, re-introducing Jesus as the life-giving, subversive, trouble-making friend of sinners that he was and still is."
About the Author
Craig is the founder and director of Alongsiders International (alongsiders.org) - a fast-growing movement mobilizing and equipping thousands of young Christians in the developing world to walk alongside those who walk alone - orphans and vulnerable children in their own communities.
During more than 15 years living and ministering in slums and inner cities in Asia and North America, Craig has established a number of initiatives to care for vulnerable kids and orphans, as well as formed Christian communities for those marginalized by society.
For 8 years, Craig served as the International Coordinator of Servants, a ministry within the slums of Asia. His postgraduate research in International Development led to the publication of his first book, The Urban Halo: a story of hope for orphans of the poor. Craig's second book, Subversive Jesus, will be published by Zondervan in 2016.
For more info visit Craig's website: craiggreenfield.com
Top customer reviews
I finished reading Subversive Jesus: an adventure in justice, mercy & faithfulness in a broken world, and am still digesting it. Usually, I would not stray into anything controversial, but this book, to start with its title, captivated my attention. I knew a bit about the author and his message from an earlier book (Urban Halo- Hope for the poor), so it felt safe enough to enter into potential controversy. In the end, it is a rather liberating journey of better understanding the “subversive” in Subversive Jesus. Subversiveness, like in seeking or intending to turn upside down an established system or institution appears to be quite central to the Good News – as Craig notes in his blog: “Jesus’ stated mission was to bring an upside-down Kingdom that would be good news for the poor and oppressed (Lk 4:18). This Kingdom was not just a place to chill out in heaven, after we die - but something that would come on earth as well (Mt 6:10).”
If you are intrigued by Dom Helder Camara’s saying on sainthood versus communism (“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist”), then this book is for you. If you are prepared when asking “What Would Jesus Do?(WWJD)” that part of the answer is “Flipping over tables and chasing with a whip”; then this book is for you. The book will also broaden your insights into concepts about charity and justice- charity as in crumbs on the table; and justice as in overturning the table and rebuilding together.
Consider for a moment WWWSTJ instead of WWJD: What Would We Say To Jesus if he would come back today in our city, in our church: are we sure we understand completely how He would be and interact with us and our society? Or would we find him radical, controversial, trouble making, because questioning the status quo and because questioning the religious and societal establishment? The author also allows observing his and his family’s life, and the radical choices they make, in pursuit of love for the poor and pursuit of justice by following Jesus.
“Subversive Jesus” challenges my mind and heart. To the mind- it challenges some traditional views on who Christ is, and therefor what Christ-ians are called to be and do. It also challenges conceptions about charity and mission, and pro-poor strategies (like, actually they should be with-the-poor strategies). Challenging to the heart, because it drives home the message from Mathew 19: 16-22. Subversive Jesus shows us a much more radical Jesus, calling for radical life choices. It talks about love and justice, and how this leads not only to harmony but also requires revolution – real sweat and tears revolution – not armchair revolution. Jesus says “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mat.19:21) Where am I storing treasures? How consistent and radical am I following? This kind of life (and death!)-orienting question disturbingly boomerangs out of this book into my heart.
“Subversive Jesus” does not hide uncomfortable truths leading to radical choices. It leaves me a bit overwhelmed – even if I think to have made constant choices that allow me to be meaningful to poor and un(der)reached people, the example of Craig and Nay is ‘incarnational’ and at a very high standard. At the same time, it energizes me and is bringing another dimension in my relationship with Jesus. Before I got to know Him as Son of God, Jesus was a hero to me, in line with the Che Guevara and Patrice Lumumba’s. Over time this radical side of Jesus became overshadowed with a mellower version. So, after reading this book, I am re-adjusting and finding back the more Marvel side of Jesus. I hope it will inspire me to better and consistent Kingdom choices, and I hope it will inspire you, too.
Buy it - Borrow it - Check it out of the Church Library (if they don't have a copy - donate one)
Honestly - "Subversive" "Justice / Injustice" "Empire" are words that raise my far too conservative radar - that said - let us set our orthodoxies / our holy ruts / our sacred cows aside for a moment (maybe even longer - forever perhaps)
This is an enlightening / transparent / refreshing walk through a mine field of tensions - created by "the way we seem to have always done it" (Soup Kitchens / Shelters / Donations from a Distance) ... to a buffer of grace - a Biblical reboot - a death to our agendas - a shoulder to shoulder walk with the Least / the Last / the Lost
Here is a panoramic view of Praying Through - Living With ... the Poor (in their hopelessness) ... the Trapped (in their addictions) ... the Abused (in their human traffic condition) ... birthed in the Closet & the Crucible
Each chapter probably could stand alone - & does stand alone
You may NOT agree with everything - who does? - but you cannot escape without seeing more clearly from Heavenly Places
READ THE BOOK ...... (reviewed by don bookless on his wife's account)
Subversive Jesus isn’t just another book guilting Christians into helping the poor. It is as much a confession (of the struggles living out a subversive gospel) and story-telling as it is a reflection on the nature of the gospel and the person of Jesus as the New Testament portrays him. The content—yes, the rightfully convicting content—is embedded throughout the book within his family adventures in learning how to live among the poor—and as Christian neighbors. He confesses, “. . . it wasn’t long before we came face-to-face with the messiness of living on the edges of society with those who struggle—for we cannot separate the beauty and goodness of subversive hospitality from its challenges” (55). Greenfield shares their ministry of hospitality, that is opening up his home and dinner-table to the poor, homeless, and messy (and sometimes reckless) individuals who we, too, often turn away in our hearts long before we even have a table to invite them to. We are led into the vulnerability of the Greenfield family as they experience and learn learn some of the tougher aspects of home and hospitality ministry to the poor. He writes, “Those of us who practice subversive hospitality will forever live in the tension between our finiteness, our human limitations, and grace. It will break our hearts when we have to say no or close our doors” (57).
Greenfield does not hold back on the exposition, that is, the power of portraying the Jesus of the gospels. He explains, “I began to understand what this upside-down kingdom on earth might look like. For Jesus’ life was bookended by an empire’s standard response to anyone who is a threat: violence and brutal repression” (24). In fact, he is right to call out church people, exposing how we have tamed Jesus to fit our more suburban (I prefer to say, exurban and nonpoor) lifestyles of home and church:
“Many of our Sunday schools continue to encourage followers of Jesus to embrace a respectable Jesus, an agreeable teacher with pleasant stories to tell about how to be good. But no one would crucify this Jesus. No one would be threatened by such a bland personal morality. Instead, they’d invite this Jesus over for a cup of tea and a chat about the weather” (25).
He reminds us of one of Luke's marks of the church strangely absent today: “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” [Acts 4:33–34, emphasis added by Greenfield] (52).
The stories in the book are not prescriptive, he writes, but are demonstrations of how God worked in his life and, as well, his family’s life. He draws us into the overwhelming sense of hopelessness we can have when we are confronted by the effects of poverty and brokenness:
“Who hasn’t felt like this in the face of our broken world? We can’t help feeling overwhelmed when we hear that on billion people live in slums worldwide, or that four hundred busloads of children die every day from preventable illnesses. It’s hard enough to face the challenges of our own impoverished neighborhoods and inner cities” (50).
Yet, he is quick to point out that we have put too much reliance on non-church organizations and para-church ministries to deal with the poor and marginalized: “. . . we rely on soup kitchens and institutions. Instead of opening our churches and homes to the hungry, we are taught to “leave it to the professionals.” He says, “this is the way of the empire.” There is, however, hope for the poor in God’s kingdom and among Jesus’ followers.
“Jesus promises that even though the empire is a cold and lonely place for the vulnerable, his kingdom on earth will be especially good news for the poor. As followers of Jesus, we need to figure out what that good news looks like as we respond to those who are suffering because of poverty and oppression, whether a beggar on the corner or an orphaned child in a slum halfway around the world” (68).
Yet, we choose to live apart from the poor, separated from the people and the effects of poverty in which they, themselves, must—and mostly not by choice—live their everyday lives.
“As people of privilege, we make choices every day about where we will live, where we will shop, how we will travel, and who we will spend time with. Often these choices isolate us from those on the margins of society. Our isolation from the poor shapes how we understand poverty, and it drives how we respond to it” (107).
Many of us have the power (and platform) to change how we view and approach the poor and the issues of poverty—first in our own lives, then our church life, and, as well, through advocacy and example, in the world around us. But, Greenfield pin points the problem: “Those who hold the most power and authority in society are the least likely to want to change the system that produces poverty” (111). The Greenfield family understands the risk involved with following the subversive Jesus (the Jesus of the New Testament): “We realized at a very personal level that when we align ourselves with the poor and seek to be in solidarity with those Jesus called us to embrace, there will be a cost” (157).
If the gospel is subversive to culture and power, what is it about your life as a Christian that is, well, subversive?
I highly recommend Subversive Jesus for your own edification, perhaps as a small group reading among your church family. You will be convicted, encouraged, at times angered, and you will cry. But most of all, you will be confronted by the subversive Jesus of the gospels and pierced and humbled by a life (the Greenfield’s) caught up in the beauty, messiness, and ministry to the least among us.
This subject is extremely close to my heart as a pastor of a church in a very poor community and as someone who also has wrestled, biblically, with this subject--see my Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Churchs Task of Evangelism / A journey in the Gospel of Mark