Completely out of the blue, and apropos of nothing, I got a message on facebook from a buddy I haven’t spoken with in ages:
“I saw you post about wanting to do something meaningful. I have been praying for you the last week or so and all i can get out of prayer is to “tell Paul to read irresistible revolution again.” I know this seems odd but i can’t shake the pulling. every time i read anything this week or pray at all that’s the only thing that will enter my mind. I’m not sure what you will find in it but please read it again so God will leave me alone.”
The fact is, I tried to read “Irresistible Revolution” years ago, and never finished. Shortly after it came out, I happened across and copy but felt the author was doing what all the other Christian authors do, and saying “This is what works for me, you should be doing it too or you’re wrong.” I felt the popularity of the book was largely based in the fact that the “what works for me” portion of the equation was a very hippy-dippy activist style of faith, and we hadn’t seen much of that lately. With a huff of smug superiority, I tossed the book in a pile and promptly sold it to a used bookstore to help finance my purchase of the Naked Gun trilogy. (I’m very deep like that.) Like I said, this all took place years ago. And messages like the above continue to be a rarity, so what choice did I have but to put aside my assumptions give the book another shot?
After five years since my last attempt at reading this book, I’m forced to draw the conclusion: I’ve grown into a very hippy-dippy activist style of faith. This damn book is playing me like a fiddle and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Shane Claiborne is speaking (well, writing) every one of my fears into a head space that is going to require me to wrestle with them until I find an amount of satisfaction.
Here’s the deal… Over the past several years I’ve had the increasing sensation that something is amiss with Christianity. It began a couple years ago when I suddenly started wondering about the traditions of the Church. Much of what we’re taught in the Church is the traditional interpretation of the scriptures as it was first explained by a bunch of Roman dudes. To find out the true meaning and intent, you have to go further back and look at it in a Jewish context. Doing so can radically change the meaning of a lot of things that a lot of people have believed for a lot of years. If we’re not careful, our faith can become like a game of “telephone”; we’re just repeating the things someone told us that someone told them, that someone told them, going back for thousands of years.
I think it may be possible that Christianity, as we know it, has gotten some things wrong. At the same time all of this is floating around in my head, I’ve been experimenting the idea of “Shalom”, the idea of the world and everything in it being restored to way God intended. More and more, I’m finding myself wondering if “the way God intended” encapsulates the American Dream.
And so here comes the pain: Claiborne essentially says that if you are going to believe in Jesus, really truly believe in the things he said and did, that it’s going to WRECK your life. Career aspirations change. The way you live changes. The things that you once worked for become without meaning, and the things you ignored become paramount. Basically, he says that if you have an authentic, true experience with Jesus, that the only recourse is to ignore it or make a lot of changes.
And this scares the shit out of me. I like my life as it is. I recognize that God has given me a lot of good things, and if I’m going to be honest with you, I’m usually asking Him for a few more. As stereotypical a quandary as this may be, I’m genuinely concerned that if I let myself fall all the way down this rabbit hole, that I will be forced to start living in a way that makes Jesus happy but me (and my wife) quite sad. That is the tension this book embodies. I’m only a few chapters in, so I’m not sure where it’s going to take me yet.
I feel like there’s… I hesitate to call it a “middle ground” because Christians are trained to see the word “compromise” as anathema, but some kind of “third way” in which Leah and I are still thrilled with our lives, and Jesus gives us a big thumbs up. I’m not sure what that will look like just yet, but in the meantime I will be reading and living with my eyes open…