“It is not simply a counterculture reacting to the dominant culture. We are forming a new culture, a society in contrast to the dominant one…We should live in ways that don’t make sense without God. God’s people look strange in a rebellious and fallen world” (239).
Jesus for President
By Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
Honestly, when I picked up this Jesus for President I expected to pretty much agree with everything Claiborne and Haw said. I expected it to neatly support my progressive, liberal, Christian political agenda, and I definitely thought it would not make me incredibly uncomfortable with the way I view the world and the Kingdom of God. However, let me tell you, all of my expectations were completely obliterated. I found myself passionately disagreeing at some parts, and other parts seemed beyond my now seemingly small worldview. The book made me desire the Kingdom way more than this little America kingdom and I wish everyone could at least wrestle a little bit with the heart of this book.
If you’re not much in politics, that’s okay because the book is still challenging to someone who is an American citizen; and even if you are not that, Jesus for President asks difficult questions to anyone in a relationship with Jesus. This is because Clairborne and Haw carefully draw out the history of God’s people from Abraham to the current Church and demonstrate how peculiar His children have been compared to the world. Jesus demonstrated through His life the ways of the Father, and that did not fit with Caesar’s ways. In fact, His ways are often opposed to Caesar.
The authors address American politics head on and challenge our common Christian political narratives. But, I believe the thesis of this book is to go beyond Democrat or Republican, and instead to look at the world through the Kingdom’s perspective and challenge us to swear allegiance not to a flag, but to a King, who suffered and died to show us true love and His Kingdom. And that great Love of God is not compatible with, among other things, bombs or exploitative economies, nor is it compatible with a culture that celebrates those things. Truthfully, one night after reading a passage on different accounts of soldiers in Iraq, I cried. I cried because I felt responsible, not directly, but implicitly, because I agreed with the destruction of human life through war because it had previously felt so justified. But now, after reading those passages, I am forced personally to examine what it really means to love like God, my enemies and all.
The book can be heavy in its content and long, but it is so good. I really am not the same after reading this book and I don’t think anyone can really sit comfortably with what they have been taught since they were kids. I know that you’ll probably disagree with some stuff (good!), but I also think the book asks us, in this hour especially, to step back from the bickering and blaming we see on TV and strive for a higher way. We are called to be strangers in the world certainly, but we are not called to abandon the world either. We offer another, better way to live.
I would love to know what you think if you’ve read it!
P.S. A BIG thank you to Jenna Keiper who suggested such a great read!