The Ordinary Radicals

Jamie Moffett has recently come out with a documentary that follows Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw on their Jesus for President tour that took place earlier this year. The movie essentially tells stories of regular people who have decided to embody the politics of Jesus and live as “Ordinary Radicals.” If you’ve read J4P then it’s a great one to watch simply because you get to put a face to some of the stories that were told in the book. It proposes a lot of great ideas and tangible ways we can live as loving representatives of the Kingdom of God. I do have one objection to the movie and the “Jesus for President” movement as a whole. This movement has begun in reaction to the church’s over-emphasis (I emphasize “over” simply because I believe a healthy emphasis is good) on the redemption of the soul when it comes to salvation. Basically, it’s a group of people who were tired of hearing Christians talk about just going to heaven after we die as opposed to doing something here and now or bringing God’s Kingdom to “earth as it is in heaven.”

I agree that this overemphasis does miss a huge part of what Jesus came to do. Jesus entered into the world to redeem every aspect of humanity. He desires to heal us physically, emotionally, intellectually, sexually, financially, and yes, spiritually. To overemphasize just the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ healing is to miss the rest. But the pendulum seems to have swung to the other extreme within the Jesus for President movement. This, I believe, is clearly illustrated by a quote from The Ordinary Radicals film itself. It’s a quote from a guy named Zack Exley, a secular progressive attempting to work with the J4P movement in hopes of making amends with the religious community and working together towards a common goal. Here’s the quote:

“I heard this guy…give this sermon about who’s in and who’s out. Who’s going to heaven and who’s not. And he went through every single passage that said anything about heaven and it was pretty clear–we’re not going to heaven. Jesus is coming here. Heaven is coming to earth. Now they don’t care about converting people. They just care about building this wonderful, beautiful community.

The J4P movement has slid from one extreme to the other and lost sight of sound scriptural theology. It seems very obvious to me that the New Testament emphasizes the need for conversion. There needs to be some sort of spiritual awakening that takes place in order to be saved. The book of Acts is a story of a group of believers proclaiming the gospel message (and living it out by sharing, serving, and loving the community) so that those who didn’t know Jesus would come to know him.

Jesus himself says in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Prophesying, driving out demons, and performing many miracles in Jesus’ name. All very honorable acts. But the deciding factor is whether or not these people knew Jesus. This is what we need to be praying for. That we would truly know Jesus. That we would personally experience Jesus face to face. And that those we come in contact with would experience him as well. Yes, let’s serve those around us and love them with our actions, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” as we show people that Jesus wants to meet every one of their needs, including their physical ones. But when all is said and done, what matters is whether or not we have a relationship with him. A deep, intimate, love relationship.

Anywho, a fair bit of thought stirring has occured within my mind since watching the film so I’ll go ahead and extend it as a recommendation.

Here’s the trailer just to wet your appetite:


A Jubilee Celebration

In Shane Claiborne’s most recent post on God’s Politics he tells a story that I thought was especially relevant and thought stirring. He touches on the concept of Jubilee, a Biblical celebration discussed in Leviticus 25 in which there is a redistribution of land and cancellation of debts. It’s a celebration that is had for the marginalized of a given society; a chance for people to be freed from their financial bondage and remember that ultimately, YHWH is the owner of all earthy possessions. This video is a glimpse of what it may look like today:

Eight Things To Remember This Election Season

With the upcoming election happening in less than a month I can’t help but post something on the topic. I have been reading Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Why the Right is Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. Earlier this year I read Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. As a result, I’ve gained some new insights that I would like to share as well as some insights of my own:

  1. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Contrary to popular belief, this is indeed the Biblical truth. Although the Republicans, over the last few decades, have somehow claimed the exclusive right to Christian spirituality (albeit a muddled version of it), there are “religious” and “moral” issues on both sides of the spectrum.
  2. The church is a counter-cultural voice in a world that puts everything into the two extremes of left and right. The politics of Jesus turned the world upside down. People must have been amazed to hear teachings like, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, “Turn the other cheek”, and “Do not resist an evil person.” And then there are Jesus’ economic policies of Jubilee which seem to be especially foreign in a country that promotes the rich and oppresses the poor. These politics do not fit into the traditional “liberal” or “conservative” ideologies. As members of the church we are to devote ourselves to the teachings of the Slaughtered Lamb, not the teachings of the Elephants or Donkeys.
  3. This November we are voting for a President, not a Messiah. In a country that upholds the belief that ultimate change happens through D.C. alone, this truth can be easy to forget. We can choose to vote for either candidate, knowing that that particular candidate will not change the world in the way that Jesus came to do so. Taking this truth into account, we need not withdraw from voting simply because “neither one matches up to the politics of Jesus.” Although this is true, we should recognize that the reason we are voting is not to advance the Kingdom of God through the president. Only the church, under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, can do this.
  4. Protest is good. Advocating an alternative is better. Complaining about how the government goes about doing things doesn’t help anyone or solve any problems. If we disagree with the actions of the “Religious Right” over the last eight years then we are to take that protest to the voting booth. Let us be the change we want to see in the world.
  5. As Christians, we do not vote in a way that merely promotes our own well being or even our own country’s. We must vote in a way that takes everyone into account, for we are all God’s children. The beautiful thing about the Good News of Christ is that it embodies itself in love. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus our love for people grows as well. We must care for people, especially the poor and marginalized. It is also important to remember that we are apart of the global church. The bride of Christ is something that transcends national boarders and our ultimate allegiance lies with the church…not America. We must not forget about our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Japan, or Mexico. These truths should significantly impact the way we vote.
  6. God is not pro-war. The teachings of Jesus clearly indicate otherwise. The Sermon on the Mount makes it unbelievably clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The foreign policy of the Bush administration has been one of American imperialism, preemptive war, and unilateralism and has led to the death of almost 100,000 innocent Iraqi people. Any theology that supports such action is a bad one, to put it lightly.
  7. God is not pro-rich. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. May we not forget that the Kingdom belongs to the least of these. Beside idolatry, poverty is the most talked about issue in Scripture. We have been commanded to care for the poor and we must take them into account when we vote.
  8. God is not a selective moralist. Homosexuality and abortion are religious issues. But so are war, poverty, how we spend our money as a nation, torture, racism, etc. How did the two issues mentioned above end up being the only issues considered in a debate concerning morality?

May we go into this election prayerfully and thoughtfully, never releasing our gaze from the King of kings and our true Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ.

A New Look at Prayer

Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey

I’m being challenged by Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? I’ve found much of the book to be very insightful and quite profound which leads me to extend it to all as a recommendation. In it Yancey attempts to answer many of the questions that are commonly asked concerning prayer: Does prayer change God? Why do bad things happen to good people? What difference does prayer really make? Pretty heavy stuff.

I want to share a thought with you that I found to be especially profound. Here’s an excerpt:

“In prayer we stand before God to plead our condition as well as the conditions around us. In the process, the act of prayer emboldens me to join the work of transforming the world into a place where the Father’s will is indeed done as it is in heaven. We are Christ’s body on earth, after all; he has no hands but ours. And yet to act as Christ’s body we need an unbroken connection to the head. We pray in order to see the world with God’s eyes, and then to join the stream of power as it breaks loose.”

I have come to realize that we are the answer to many of the prayers that we pray. How often do I pray, hypothetically, “God, please provide for my friend who is struggling financially,” when I have just been given a pay raise? The truth is, we are God’s hands on earth and from the beginning He has chosen to accomplish His will through us as His chosen people. The election of the nation of Israel is a great example of what I am getting at. In the Old Testament there are countless stories of God using the nation of Israel (in its early stages), a group of sinful, fallen people, to carry out what many would call ethnic cleansing. Ultimately, the nation was established and Jesus, the Savior of the world, is born through her. God, being all-powerful and altogether sovereign, could have chosen to accomplish all of this without force or even further, the nation of Israel but the fact of the matter is that God has willed it that we be His instrument of grace. God chose to use a group of sinful people (hence the war, violence, and bloodshed) as a vessel of His grace back then and it is the same today. I understand that this example may require a discussion in and of itself but I believe that it illustrates what I am trying to say at least somewhat clearly.

I’m reminded of an interesting thought that is shared in Shane Claiborn’s Irresistible Revolution: We are so quick to turn to God and ask Him why people are starving in the world or why there is war and violence and oppression. Maybe God looks down on us and says in response, “You tell me. You are my hands. You are my feet. I have equipped you with my Holy Spirit so that you may take on such tasks with worlds of strength.”

God is transforming the way I view prayer. Perhaps instead of asking God to miraculously intervene (which I believe is a good thing to pray for in some circumstances), I should be asking Him how I could come along side Him in His Kingdom work and change the situation I am praying for myself by the power of His Spirit within me. Maybe I am the answer to some of my prayers and I just haven’t realized it yet.