Monday, March 31, 2008

More on Irresistible Revolution

This will be the last negative post about the book, Irresistible Revolution. I will write about the many positive things I gleaned from the challenging and convicting book. This is just another aspect that I think Shane overstates (to the point that he is wrong).

This entire story of Jesus identifying with the homeless and the poor is extremely overstated when Shane starts to tell us why Jesus was crucified. Shane states, “Jesus was crucified not for helping the poor people but for joining them. That is the Jesus we follow” (page 144). Earlier he explained the difference between charity and joining the poor. He writes, “Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them” (page 129). It may just be me but it seems to be that Shane is saying that Jesus was crucified because he joined the poor and identified with them. I can’t imagine the Romans (who he almost completely blames for the crucifixion) would crucify a peasant who called for his people to take a new look at the poor and take care of them. The Jewish people of the day had a strong ethic of taking care of the poor. In fact, a statement by one of the emperors which has been applied to Christians originally was pointed at the Jewish people of the Greco-Roman world.
Emperor Julian stated:
“For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans (Christians) support not only their poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
By Shane implying (if not explicitly stating) that Jesus was crucified for identifying with the poor, he ignores two aspects of the intention of the crucifixion. From a purely secular-historical perspective, Jesus was crucified by the Romans because he was seen as a revolutionary who stirred up the crowds and threatened the peace (which the Romans maintained at all costs). Jesus claimed to be a king and that does not sit well with Roman authorities who are not particularly interested in the nuances of spiritual kingdoms versus literal, earthly, present kingdoms.
The Jewish religious leaders also had a motive of preserving the peace as well. Jesus did not only threaten their existence and their authority, but his preaching and teaching was provoking the people and the religious leaders saw this as potentially threatening the peace and ruining their way of life, specifically threatening their temple (see John 11.47-50).
From a theological perspective, Jesus was crucified to redeem humanity as a sacrifice of “atonement” (Rom. 3.24-25; 1 John 2.2). There was much more going on upon the cross than a revolutionary, wandering prophet who identified with the poor and called his Jewish brothers and sisters to take care of the less fortunate.


matt gallion said...

I agree with you that Shane Claiborne tends to over simplify things. In fact, my main critique of the book is that he understates things so dramatically on occasion that his challenge becomes redundant and borderline legalistic at points (I'm thinking specifically where he addresses whether or not one can actually give to a third-party social justice cause and still be a Christian).

But where I side with Claiborne on these issues is that I think the Church has emphasized the cultic aspect of the death of Jesus too loudly for too long. We doctrinally believe that Christ came as a sacrifice, which is absolutely true. But in that very assertion we separate the crucifixion of Jesus from the life of Jesus. I think Claiborne wants the Church to see the crucifixion as the result of the life that Jesus lived.
We are struggling as a Christian community to see orthopraxy demonstrated in very real ways. Perhaps this is because we have theologized the death of Jesus away from his beautiful life. We have taught the strongest substance of the death of Christ was its atoning value. We have made the forgiveness of sins the sole essence of the gospel.
I don't mean to imply that this is not an aspect of the gospel, but rather that it is not the ONLY aspect of this story. It challenges the way we live. It dares us to see the world in different ways. It is more than just the legal forgiveness of guilt, though that is undeniably an act of the grace of God.

Ultimately, Jesus was not the only "messiah" to walk into Jerusalem and to be put down by Rome. Rome put down all sorts of "trouble makers" and "rabble rousers." But there was something about this Jesus that was different. It was in his life that he proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had come (Matt. 12.28; Luke 4.16-20; 11.20). This movement that Jesus started was the beginning of something incredible, and it was something that started before his sacrificial death.

And for me, I tend to think that the thing that made Jesus' life and ministry different (and therefore validating and empowering his death as more than a martyr) was his marked insistence on love and compassion, particularly for the least, the last and the lost. Maybe this is what Claiborne is playing off of so that we as a Church might do more than just celebrate the death of Jesus, but also to begin to live out his life in our own contexts.

And hey, the neo-monastic, emergents and new liberals are addicted to Luke's gospel, and that guy loved poor people and social justice.

billy v said...

"But there was something about this Jesus that was different. It was in his life that he proclaimed that the Kingdom of God had come (Matt. 12.28; Luke 4.16-20; 11.20). This movement that Jesus started was the beginning of something incredible, and it was something that started before his sacrificial death."
I hear what you are saying, but to me the movement gained strength with his death, resurrection and subsequent bestowal of the Spirit. I don't think the movement would have gone anywhere without sharing in the power of his resurrection. My main point was that Shane says on several occasions that Jesus was crucified for identifying with the poor and even from a secular- historical perspective that was not the case.

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