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on 28 July 2013
My mind is still boggling at Jon Mason's review. And here's why.

I'm new to the church and which church I go to doesn't really matter. If we're going to have an argument as to who is the most Christian, well, Jon wins that one by a country mile. And then some. What matters to me is that my journey into it has been furthered by the works of Shane Claiborne and the Red Letter Christians and their clear-eyed focus on the important things. Claiborne says elsewhere that there are around four references in the Bible that seem relevant to homosexuality but around 4000 references to poverty. Which do we think Christ cares about more? That's right, I'm going with poverty. And when we've solved that, then we have the luxury of talking about the other stuff. Me? I think that'll be a while.

Similarly, Jon says that theology is important. And, generally, I agree, but only where theology is a thorough a deep understanding of the Bible. As to what faction of the church, you're from, I'm not at all sure that God really cares whether you're an Anabaptist or a Pentecostalist. We're called to be Christians, to wit, followers of Christ. And that means the words of Jesus are the thing that binds us together, that we have in common. Your opinions about transubstantiation are fine and no doubt interesting things to discuss, but you're overlooking the thing we have in common and by doing that Jesus is being forced to take a back seat. And that, as Claiborne says, is how he ends up getting lost and drowned out.

A thorough grasp of the gospels and of the importance of salvation are worthy things, but your theology has to meet people where they are in their lives or it lives on only in fine words spoken in church. So when Claiborne says that he has learned more about God in a woman's tears than in just about any other way, he's right. The Bible can be resolved into three words: God is love, and in his love for the woman who weeps, Claiborne is redeemed and in his demonstration of compassion towards her, he's being moved to observe the words of Matthew, where it says that whatever you do to the least of the people, you also do to God. So to ignore her suffering in the here and now in favour of abstract concepts that, for the time being, have no meaning for her. You can talk to her of salvation, but it's more important to her, right now, that she has enough to eat.

And finally, is the criticism that this book is useful to a single man in an American context. To take the first of these, Christianity challenges us, or at least my understanding is that it should do, regardless of who we are and where we are on life's journey. A married man with three children might not be able to go to Calcutta and minister to the sick and dying, but he could use Christ's example in a range of other ways. And as to the American context, well, it's an American book written by an American guy for an American audience. You might as well complain that Pride and Prejudice doesn't show poverty and the depredations of rural life. It doesn't, but that's missing the point of the exercise.

In this humble and unenlightened opinion, it's a fine, fine book, and it deserves to put a firecracker up all our backsides.
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on 16 August 2012
Someone lent me this book and upon returning it to him I bought four copies and am handing them out to friends with the words 'when you've read this, don't give it back to me but pass it on to someone else and be blessed'. I think that says it all really. I don't know where to begin. This book is so amazing. Absolutely incredible. Again I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. This man phoned Mother Theresa (or Momma T as he affectionately refers to her as) and asked to spend a summer with her, which she agreed to. He saw people dying in various hospitals and hospices over there. He went to Iraq during the most recent war there and simply loved the Iraqi people who were being blown up by American (and British and other) soldiers. He also has done a lot of work with the homeless in Philadelphia (where he lives). He is so inspiring (and he has dreadlocks). I found the book so inspiring that I was even quoting from it when I went into work in the mornings! One quote I shared with my team was, 'In 1965 the average American worker made $7.52 per hour, while the person running the company made $330.38 per hour; today, the average worker makes $7.39 per hour, the average CEO $1,566.68 per hour - that's 212 more!. He talks about Fair Trade and trade justice which I love. He doesn't have health insurance (which is a big deal in America), instead he is part of a health co-operative with other people who can't afford health insurance and they cover each others medical bills (with God's help). He invites people in from the street to eat and/or live with them. He occupied a church that homeless people were living in whilst the authorities threatened to kick them out. He is just generally amazing.
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on 23 February 2008
I should say at the outset, I think I'm out on a limb here. Everyone else seems to raving about this book. But I'm not so sure.

First, the good stuff. I think Shane Claiborne (SC) writes boldly and strikingly about various topics. Much of the book is a wake-up call for those who have got used to dull, timid, worldly, 'big', Christianity. He is immensely quotable: "Most of the time when I see Christian superstars like Jerry Falwell or Al Sharpton, I feel I'm watching professional wrestling. There's a lot of shouting and sweating, but the people seem too superhuman, and I'm not convinced all the moves are real." (p27)
He has some excellent material on the value of singleness. (p109-111) That's humbled me, and reminded me that I need to try to promote that in a Biblical way. Then there's some good stuff about the worthlessness of "cool": "...we must be either hot or cold, because if we are lukewarm (an old-school way of saying "cool"), we will be spit out of God's mouth"! (p230) There are lots of other helpful areas too, mostly only a few pages at a time.
He has lots of great stories, many of which would be excellent sermon-illustration material!

Now the bad stuff:
1) It's *very* Ameri-centric. Big chunks of the book are spent critiquing the Christian Right. Most of that didn't resonate with my experience of the Church in the UK. We don't do flags on the platform, singing anthems, rallying our troups into war or party politics. All that felt a bit meaningless to me as a Brit - who am I to criticise Christians living in another country and culture?

2) Because it's the experiences of a single guy, living in community, doing some wild and crazy things, I just don't see how much of what he says relates to me. I mean, I have a wife and 3 kids. I can't exactly move to Iraq for a while, or open up my house as a homeless shelter (not that I think there's nearly so much need here anyway - see point 1!). What he has effectively done is to abandon his entire culture. Now that's great for him, because he was in a position to do it. But the huge, vast, majority simply aren't. I'm not prepared to because I don't see that there's anything inherently wrong with having a house, or a car, or a job, or food. Parts of our culture are good (schools, hospitals, homes). If you want to live outside popular culture, fine. But I'd rather live out the Christ-life within it. Which is equally as difficult, and arguably more so. He's advocating a form of monastic asceticism that I'm not convinced is Biblical.

3) He redefines well-established theological terms. What he means by words like "evangelical", "conversion" and "gospel" are simply not the same as orthodox, Biblical, Christianity. For example: "Conversion is not an event but a process, a process of slowly tearing ourselves away from the clutches of the culture." No it isn't. Conversion has nothing to do with releasing oneself from the bonds of culture. It's the act of repentance and faith, when we repond to the gospel. Forgive me if I can't see the link between historic conversion and SC's. I suppose "sanctification" would be a more correct word for what he's talking about.

4) He caricatures the church.
"...if someone had a heart-attack on Sunday morning, the paramedics would have to take the pulse of half the congregation before they would find the dead person" (p43) OK, very funny. But certainly not my experience of good, Biblical, modern church. He gives the impression that churches are all navel-gazing, introverted, holy huddles with no interest or ability to communicate with the outside world. Well, again, there are loads of churches that care for the poor, the lonely, the disposessed. In Ipswich, UK, we have "Street Pastors" who are out in the clubs and pubs at the weekend, looking after the drunks and the dropouts; there is a pregnancy crisis centre, a drug rehab centre is soon to open. There's work amongst prostitutes and the homeless. We do care. Perhaps not enough, perhaps we could do with being better resourced. But we *are* trying to live out a life of faith in our culture, and it hurts a bit to be told we aren't.

5) He minimises the importance of theology:
"I learnt more about God from the tears of homeless mothers than a systematic theology ever taught me" (p51) Now, I know the guy is a firm post-modern and that post-moderns like stories more than facts etc etc. But, that kind of statement calls into question the whole value of theology. What did the tears of homeless mothers *actually* teach him? That sharing is good? That we should care for each other? Great - but not much about God. What can those things *possibly* teach us about God? We are made in his likeness, not he in ours. We don't learn about God by looking at fallen sinners (no matter how vulnerable or holy); we learn about God from the Word. SC has it the wrong way around.
Again, "When people ask me if I am Protestant or Catholic, I just answer 'yes.'. And when people ask me if we are evangelicals, I...say, 'Absolutely, we want to spread the kingdom of God like crazy.'" Well, I'm sorry, but the differences between Protestant and Catholic theology *are* important. They espouse completely different ideas about how to relate to God, the authority of the Bible, the meaning of salvation etc etc. They're not just minor tertiary issues, they affect the central tennets of the faith. Theology matters!

6) I'm not sure what his "gospel" is. Throughout the whole book, I could find barely a mention of sin, salvation, or the cross. What there was a lot of is loving our neighbours. Which of course, is good. But surely it's not the whole picture? He seems to see Jesus as an inspirational figure, who showed us how to live and love well. But that's not the gospel of Paul, or of evangelicalism. One story will serve to illustrate the point: It was the time when a bunch of his friends slept on Wall Street, New York, as an act of solidarity with the poor. (p118-119) Then at a certain time, they unfurled banners which read, "Stop terrorism", "Share", "Love", and a quote from Ghandi about greed. They drew pictures on the pavements and blew bubbles, and hugged and laughed. And SC describes it as "bringing God and Mammon together". Forgive me, but, if you look carefully, where is God in that? Where is the Biblical gospel in there? Sure, it's a worthwhile enterprise to stand in solidarity with the poor, and to stand up against corporate greed. But don't make out that this was some sort of outreach with the gospel.

If the church adopted SC's ideas, then we would probably be more happy, more loving, more radical, and probably bigger. We would be nicer people. But would those things lead to more being saved from an eternity without God? I somehow doubt it. What we really need is to be motivated by the truth of the Jesus-filled, Biblical gospel, and to reach out to people with the saving message of the cross.
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on 8 January 2008
While I enjoyed reading this book and found it morally challenging, I thought that Claiborne's theology flip-flops too much. I feel he is trying too hard to, as he would put it, neither be a 'liberal' or 'conservative.' The result is a theology that doesn't, at least in my analysis, completely successfully hold together.
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on 28 September 2012
In a world where Christianity has in the grand scheme of things brought much discredit to its founder, Shane brings a message to the church and to the world pointing us back in the right direction. I thoroughly recommend this book to Christians who are aware that there's a higher calling than simply pew warming and attending meetings and I also recommend it highly to people who have become disillusioned with church. Shane I believe points us back to the basic essentials of the faith, the living out of the Sermon on the Mount and the challenge to truly be light and salt. Full of exciting stories and the adventures that spontaneously happen when one makes oneself available to be a holding-nothing-back follower of Christ. It challenged me in the sort of bright way that made me want to re-examine any compromise that may have entered my thinking and made me eager in my own small way to make more of a difference. A great book! Thoroughly recommended!
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on 31 August 2011
Having been recommended this book by a friend, I can honestly say that it has changed the way that I see the world, other people and God. Shane Claiborne seeks to go back to the root of Christianity to show the radical love that God has for us and the need for us to demonstate that love in our lives. There are some amazing stories of Shane's experiences in his ministry, including time that he spent in Calcutta with Mother Theresa.. and at the same time he is an ordinary guy with an endless love for God and for the suffering. A sometimes challenging but always encouraging read, it has left me with the desire to go and do, and has helped me to realise that the little things count. A must-read for followers of God or for those seeking Him!
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on 28 August 2006
I bought this book on a whim having never heard of Shane Claiborne or his book. Seeing the review from Rob Bell on the back sparked my interest and this book follows the same style as his 'Velvet Elvis' which I adore. The book is full of testimony and challenges all backed up by the Bible. Claiborne has had some incredible experiences with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and churches in Iraq. He lives a really interesting life in a community house based on the principles of 'the simple way.' I read the whole thing in 2 days and underlined the majority of it. It is really inspiring and has caused me to question many of my lifestyle choices. I would really recommend this to anyone who is looking to be challenged, it you like Rob Bell or Donald Miller you'll love this book!
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on 3 September 2006
Shane Claiborne is a radical Christian who wanted a more authentic style of living his faith. He spent time with Mother Theresa in India, Iraq and protesting in his home country, the USA, trying to challenge injustice and bringing 'community' into being. He lives in community.

This book details some of his journey linking it to what he has learnt, his ideal of community and Jesus. It covers areas from materialism, the 'poor',politics,Iraq, recycling, and all in the context of community. The style of the book is not academic but it is well written and flows well. His argument is well written.

I found this book an excellent read - not comfortable but very challenging. I have read similar authors like the excellent Jim Wallis but this is the most challenging - it actually got me wanting to live this lifestyle and thinking how I could put it into practice.

The author does not come across as an armchair philosopher but a genuine radical who you can't ignore if you are interested in Faith and Community.

Julian from Norwich
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on 17 February 2015
This little book does exactly what it says on the cover! What an Irresistible Revolution Shane describes and explores with the reader. Lots of cross references to follow up and hundreds of ideas to elicit for Living Simply. It has encouraged me to re read passages such as Matthew 5-7 in a new light. Well done Shane our homegroup is now wiser and delivers more actions because of your influence. If only the rest of the world would read this book it would be a far far better place. Chris Stewart
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on 28 December 2009
I found this book exciting and challenging. It was really interesting being presented with someone who is trying to buck the middle-class christian who doesn't really care about people that much trend, and really get back to grips with what it means to be a follower of Christ - living as an ordinary radical. I highly recommend this book! Obviously I recommend the Bible more - but if you have trouble reading Jesus' teachings and actually living them out, then this book is very useful!
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