A book I ought to read: Jesus for President

There was a study of a book in Albany called Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Claiborne was even in town, leading some workshop. But I was busy. Then I read this excerpt of the book in my church newsletter:
“Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal and powerful.”

Sounds like my kind of book.

From the preface:

This book is a project in renewing the imagination of the church in the United States and of those who would seek to know Jesus. We are seeing more and more that the church has fallen in love with the state and that this love affair is killing the church’s imagination. The powerful benefits and temptations of running the world’s largest superpower have bent the church’s identity. Having power at its fingertips, the church often finds “guiding the course of history” a more alluring goal than following the crucified Christ. Too often the patriotic values of pride and strength triumph over the spiritual virtues of humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love.

We in the church are schizophrenic: we want to be good Christians, but deep down we trust that only the power of the state and its militaries and markets can really make a difference in the world. And so we’re hardly able to distinguish between what’s American and what’s Christian. As a result, power corrupts the church and its goals and practices. When Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters,” he meant that in serving one, you destroy your relationship to the other. Or as our brother and fellow activist Tony Campolo puts it, “Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream with cow manure. It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream.” As Jesus warned, what good is it to gain the whole world if we lose our soul?

So what we need is an exploration of the Bible’s political imagination, a renovated Christian politics, a new set of hopes, goals, and practices. We believe the growing number of Christians who are transcending the rhetoric of lifeless presidential debates is a sign of this renovation. Amid all the buzz, we are ready to turn off our TVs, pick up our Bibles, and reimagine the world.

Over the last several years, the Christian relation to the state has become more dubious… Professing Christians have been at the helm of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, implicitly or explicitly referencing faith in God as part of their leadership. Patriotic pastors insist that America is a Christian nation without questioning the places in distant and recent history where America has
not looked like Christ. Rather than placing our hope in a transnational church that embodies God’s kingdom, we assume America is God’s hope for the world, even when it doesn’t look like Christ. Dozens of soldiers who have contacted us confess a paralyzing identity crisis as they feel the collision of their allegiances…

I’ll have to get a copy and add this book to my ever-expanding summer reading list.

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3 thoughts on “A book I ought to read: Jesus for President

  1. I would be VERY interested to see what you have to say about this book, since it’s not something I’m likely to ever see, much less read. As you know, I have a real problem with the mingling of politics and religion, and don’t see how anything good can ever come from the current union. This sounds like a different perspective on Christianity and politics, so I’m relying on you to comment on it. No pressure or anything…

  2. I am a firm believer that any politician who claims to be a christian,( or a muslim or a person of the hebrew faith), is using that term for naked political reasons! Jesus would not put them on his right side.

  3. I might want to read the book. It starts by stating the obvious in sympathetic terms toward Christians:

    “We in the church are schizophrenic: we want to be good Christians, but deep down we trust that only the power of the state and its militaries and markets can really make a difference in the world.”

    I’ve always stated the same thing more crudely: If Jesus of Nazareth showed up today and attended church, inside of twenty minutes the good Christians would march him out to the end of the church parking lot and hang His Holy Butt from a light post. Then they’d go back inside and resume praying to the images and justifications.

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