Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo
There are times where reading the dialogue between friends creates an enjoyable reading experience, where the familiarity of the conversation partners creates an intimate mood. Then there are occasions like reading this book, where a chummy atmosphere between readers is the last thing one wants where one disagrees strenuously with the point of view of the authors in question. This is the sort of book where the problematic ideas on hand would have done better to be dealt with from a fair-minded but fierce interrogator rather than a fellow social gospel adherent . Given the adversarial treatment the author gives towards being called fundamentalist or evangelical, and the adversarial feelings of many people (myself included) for such obviously left-wing poseurs in sheep’s or shepherd’s clothing, this is a book that should have used that adversarial feeling to its advantage. Instead, what we get is two fake Christians having a chummy conversation with each other as if they are genuinely following Christ and everyone else is a fake or a hypocrite. It is extremely off-putting.
The contents of this book consist of slightly more than 250 pages of dialogue between the two authors about various subjects. Mercifully, most of the dialogues are short and there are at least a few worthwhile insights that can be found here. The authors manage to hit at least one appropriate target when they point out the dangers and problems in viewing political figures as saviors and when they criticize American civic religion for viewing America, and not God and Jesus Christ, as the last best hope of mankind. Not all of the authors’ targets are as well chosen, as the authors show a marked anti-Israel bias and fail badly in their attempts to wrestle with aspects of personal morality in light of our corrupt contemporary culture in that regard. The book as a whole is divided into three parts: Red Letter Theology, Red Letter Living, and Red Letter World, and within these parts there is a total of twenty-six dialogues where the authors pontificate on various subjects and show themselves to be, in the main, not as close to following the example of Jesus Christ as they would like to fancy themselves.
As a whole, this book suffers mightily from the attempt of the authors to be well-liked by the world. Rather than bearing the shame and reproach that comes from being falsely accused as evildoers by the corrupt in the world, as we are commanded to do in the Bible, the authors want to be well-liked by those corrupt people and so engage in all kinds of compromise where they water down what the Bible says in order to appeal to others. If the authors are revolutionaries at all, they are the sort of pro-Palestinian, antinonimian, pro-Occupy sort of leftist revolutionaries that are all too common in our contemporary world. Their attempts to be hip with degenerate social activists and sharia-friendly Islamists leads them to be poor examples of defending the content of Christian thought, and the fact that the authors have a poor backing in the corpus of biblical law means that their attempts to appropriate Christ for their own political worldview go particularly strongly off course. Ultimately, this book is not an entire waste of time but it is far from the triumph the authors intend. This book can be read profitably, but for most potential readers it will be read in an adversarial fashion, as it deserves.
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