Posts Tagged ‘Shane Claiborne’

A Book Review: nuChristian by Russell E. D. Rathbun

October 13, 2009
Image by: Judson Press

Image by: Judson Press

Recently, I was asked to do a book review of a book called nuChristian (no that’s not a typo…its actually ‘nu’ as in ‘new’) that is a response of sorts, but more so a contribution to the ongoing conversation that resulted from the book unChristian written by Dave Kinnamon (President of The Barna Group) and Gabe Lyon (founder of Fermi Group, now Q) and published in 2007.   Written by Rev. Russell Rathbun, one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the book is practical, pastoral, and conversational and based largely on Russel’s experience in the post-modern world.  As such Russell is upfront about the fact that he is writing from a “highly subjective, extremely relational perspective” (p. viii).  While some may discount his book since it is “subjective” and “relational,” I think it has a great deal of insight to offer and I am thankful Russell chose to write from this standpoint.

In the Forward of the book, Shane Claiborne writes, “I am convinced that if we lose a generation in the church, that loss won’t be because we failed to entertain them, but because we failed to dare them–to take the words of Jesus seriously and to do something about the things that are wrong in the world” (p. vi).  According to Shane, “Russell Rahtburn offers us that dare–to renew a Christianity that reminds the world of Jesus again” (

There is a lot that I could say about this book.  I think Russell does a great job of responding to the data presented in The Barna Group’s study.  And I very much appreciate his straightforward but gracious approach in his response.  I think the two things that jumped out at me the most while reading Russell’s book were his discussion of ‘scapegoating’ and his understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible.

Russell goes into some depth to draw his reader into his understanding of ‘scapgoating.’  While I was familiar with the term, I very much appreciated his efforts to place the concept within our current culture and context.  Early on in the book Russell writes, “The kingdom of God is made up of every kind of person there is” (p. 3).  Though this may result in a response of “well, duh” from many people but let’s be honest…this is not the reality of many churches.  I personally have attended or visited many churches and found them to be demographically and ideologically anemic.  Many write this off as a result of people seeking to be with others who are like them (what Russell refers to as the “homogenous unit principle” as introduced by Dr. Donald A. McGraven [p. 1]).  I personally think this it’s a cop out.  Russell presents the idea that it is ‘scapegoating’ (p. 6).  The bottom line in this seems to be that “scapegoating is when we find someone else like us, and we bond of the shared object of our envy, anxiety, and fear” (p. 6) since “one of us most be wrong” (p. 7) if there is a difference in desires or opinions.  It is harder for me to walk the line between scapegoating and judgement, but undoubtedly blaming any one certain group for the ills of society is unfounded at best.  I appreciate Russell’s efforts to drive the point home that “nuChristians listen to and consider the opinions of others” (p.88).  That coupled with the reality that “human perfections is an illusion” (p.88) makes a great case in and of itself for leaving the judgement of others to God.

As for Russell’s understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible, he first explains that previous generations typically view scripture “as an instruction book, a guidebook, [or] a book of answers” (p.16).  In this line of thing, “there is only one right interpretation of every text in the Bible”  (p.16).  In the eyes of a postmodern person, if this is trued, they “see the Scriptures as something dead” (p. 17).  Instead of thinking of the Bible as an answer book, Russell proposes that we view it “as a book of really good questions” (p.18).  I really like that.  It took quite some time in my own life to see that if Christianity is just about following rules, you don’t need the Holy Spirit.  Or discernment.  Or a brain even.  Machines can follow rules.  Russell compares this to the use of a “checklist” saying, “you don’t need God when you have a checklist” (p.19).  I also found it very intriguing that Russell has found that “in [his] own ministry…highlighting the questions we find in Scriptures gives people permission to voice the questions they have always wondered about” (p. 18).  It’s rather boring, after all, when someone just provides you with all the answers.  Our brains can only take so much of that.  It’s boring, frankly, and it assumes that the person giving the who is on the receiving end of the answers doesn’t have the mental capacity to think through things on their own.  Our curiosity is primed, so to speak, when there is mystery.  And if there is one place there is enough ministry to last us until Christ returns, it’s God and the Bible.  Allowing people to wade through the deep waters that are the Scriptures will surely bear more fruit and cramming answers in their brains.

While I am sure I disagree with Russell on at least a few things, the more I think about it the more I understand agreeing isn’t really important.  It seems to me that Russell is daring us to hold our beliefs loosely and others tightly.  Love of God and Love of neighbor are linked inseparably.  And if loving my neighbor means challenging myself to be more accepting of ambiguity and more realistic about the limits of my own humanity I am all for it.  No one has it all figured out.  We can all learn from each other.  The question is, will we humble ourselves enough to allow that to happen?

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6.8

*for more reviews on this book, visit for a list of blogs included on this blog tour*



March 20, 2009

Lately the Holy Spirit has been convicting me about money.  Money and capitalism.  Money, capitalism, and materialism.  I read Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution a little while back and it really caused me to think about the part that I play in the systems this country and world run on.  The systems idea is from Brian McLaren’s book Everything Must Change.  Brian talks about the Security System, Prosperity System, and the Equity System.  He talks about how they are broken and even more than that, suicidal.  These books have led me to ask the following questions of myself:

  • How much money is stored up in my pantry in order to ensure I am provided for?
  • Even if I am faithful in tithing because it is a good starting point have I landed there with the belief that the other 90% is mine to spend as I wish? 
  • What am I doing with that 90%?
  • While I cognitively know that buying things will not fulfill my desires for peace, security, and fulfillment in what ways do I do that very thing?
  • What have I bought that has been produced by beautiful people all across the globe, mostly women and children, who are not compensated justly for their wages? 
  • Am I clothed at the expense of others being naked?
  • Am I content with enough or do I live under the capitalist manifesto of “more, more, more”?
  • This product is cheap for me but at whose cost?
  • Will I trust in deadbolts and car alarms or the Lord my God? (“Some trust in chariots and some in horses…”)
  • Do I allow God to define me or do I allow myself to be defined in terms of how industrious and efficient I am?
  • Why do we teach our children to not hit each other to resolve problems and then go to war because another country does something we don’t like?
  • Why do we arm the rest of the world so we can “protect” ourselves?
  • Is there hope that we can live another way?

The list could go on and on and on…

I am remorseful that I have contributed so much to the poverty and dehumanization of so many.  All for “the best deal.”  Yeah…if the best deal means I save $5 but thousands of people are enslaved to get it to me.  That doesn’t sound like the best deal to me.

Lord Jesus have mercy on me, a sinner.

Part of the Problem

February 21, 2009

It seems that everyone, including myself, wants to get everything as cheap as possible.  This seems logical and is even spiritualized as being a good steward of the God’s money.  But with some of the reading I have done lately (i.e., Everything must Change, The Irresistible Revolution, etc.) before I buy something at an unbelievably low price I have started to ask myself, “At whose cost?”  As in who had to pay for the cheapness of this item before it ended up at this store for $2.99?  Did a beautiful 7-year-old girl in malaysia work long hours in a sweat shop so I could have this item for such a cheap price?  Was she forced to give up going to school because her mother and father and older brother work at the same sweat shop but are paid such meager wages that her income is needed just to get by?  Did a young Brazilian boy walk miles through the forests to harvest bananas so that I can eat them year round while he is forced to place himself in danger for money that I would

              in a
                  wishing well?

I have more material goods than I need as it is.  And I am willing to pay three times what Wal-mart is charging if it means that all the folks along the way will be paid more fairly for their labor.

I was talking with a couple folks about this recently and one lady asked, “But won’t that just reduce the amount of money going to the folks who already don’t get paid enough?”  I thought about this for a moment and realized that while this may be true at first and if I am the only one taking a stand, if we all decided to control the only thing we really have control over, the overlords who pocket 90% of the profits would start to feel the effect in their pockets and would be forced to change their ways.  What is the one thing I can control? 


And even that’s a farce to a certain degree since there are things I want to do and I don’t do them and the things I dont want to do, I do anyway (echoing Paul). 

BOTTOM LINE: I am part of the problem. 

There are a lot of things I can’t change.  I can’t change where Walmart buys their goods.  I can’t change what country those goods come from.  I can’t change how much Walmart pays for these goods.  And I can’t change how much the seller charges for them.  I can’t change what the seller pays his employees and I can’t change the conditions under which the employees work. 

But I can change me.

I CAN change whether or not I shop at Walmart.  I CAN change what type of products I buy with the money God has entrusted me with.  I CAN buy less of things at higher prices to try and ensure people are treated with dignity and respect.  And if enough of us did that, we could change the world. 

Do you believe that?

I have not thorougly investigated each of these websites yet.  I have collected them from a few different places (to include The Irresistible Revolution) and am posting them here in hopes of providing myself and others a list resource for discerning where to spend the money God has entrusted to us. 

Cheap isn’t always better.  Think about it.

Human Rights Links
Global Exchange
Sweat Shop Watch
Human Rights Watch
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Amnesty International
Not for Sale Campaign (added 3/7/09)
Free2Work (added 3/7/09)

Fair Trade Links
Trade as One
Presbyterian Coffee Project
Equal Exchange
Sweat Free T-Shirts
A Greater Gift/Serrv
World of Good
Fairest Buy (added 3/7/09)

Environmentally Friendly Stuff
Reusable Bags
Electric Sstewardship (For PCUSA Churches)
Eco-Palms (Palm fronds for Palm Sunday)

Just Living

**If you know of other websites that speak to these topics, please leave them in the comments.  And if you know that any of these organizations are questionable, please let me know.  Thanks.**


February 17, 2009

 Pray, then, in this way:Photo by: Ms. Tea
          Our Father who is in heaven,
          Hallowed be Your name. 
          Your kingdom come
          Your will be done,
          On earth as it is in heaven.
          Give us this day our daily bread.
          And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
          And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
          [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] 
                    (Jesus, Matthew 6.9-13)

Let me start this post off by saying that I love the Lord’s Prayer.  my favorite part, by far, is “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  How amazing.  I could talk about that here, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about the words

OUR and US.

Have you ever noticed how many times these words are used in this prayer?

OUR = 4

US = 4

I didn’t realize this until I read Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution.  It is mind boggling to me that I have never heard it before.  He writes about how if there was a food shortage in early Christian communities the whole community would fast until there was enough for all.  And then he moves on to the “ours” in the Lord’s Prayer and says,

To pray for “my” daily bread is a desecration; we are to pray for “our” daily bread, for all of us.*

This is envigorating!  And yet it makes me hang my head in shame.  It makes me hopeful!  And yet I am saddened by how far we are from this.

OUR.  Give us this day our daily bread.   And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6.11-13)

UNITY.   “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “ (Jesus, John 17.20-23)

LOVE.  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

* Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 170.

I’m trying

November 27, 2008

tvAs I write this, I am enjoying a few moments of silence.  I am trying to maintain my sanity during this trip to hang with my family in NC but it is hard for sure.  The TV was on almost the entire evening last night.  I got away with putting Christmas music on for a little while so that was nice.  The TV has been on ALL morning.  Thankfully it is the Macy’s T’giving day parade so at least it is tolerable (in comparison to other rather unsavory choices).  I cannot count the off color jokes that have been made and the multipe references to how unhappy people are that Obama will be our new president.  I even heard one, “He won’t be my president.”  What does that mean anyway?  Maybe next time I should say something like, “Well, what country are you going to apply to for citizenship?”  Hah.  Then there’s the cocophany of nerf guns that are going off.  They are REALLY loud when you cycle through them.  If I have children, I wonder if I will let them play with guns.  At this point, I think not.

So the reason it’s just me and my Grandfather here is that my toe has been acting up lately…I think it has been feeling good to the point of my forgetting I still need to be gentle with it.  There is also a weird place that I wonder if the incision is doing something strange.  I sure hope not.  Interesting that I am in the middle of Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistable Revolution and have been reading here.  More on that later.

All that said, I am not miserable.  I hope everyone out there in the blogosphere is having a great Thanksgiving Day.  And for those of you who aren’t, well, I hope it passes quickly. 

Photo by striatic