Jesus For President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne & Chris Haw
All candidates for president have supporters who don’t really represent their character or understand their political worldview all that well, and Jesus Christ is no exception to this rule. To be sure, the authors of this book do not entirely misunderstand Jesus’ political worldview, but their understanding of the political implications of Christianity are greatly harmed by a marked leftist bias. Had the author been less excessively leftist, and more interested in exegesis than eisegesis, this would have been a far more enjoyable book. Unfortunately, it is lamentably all too common, not least in the author’s own body of work, for the progressive thinking of the author to be far more important than the specific content of the Bible that is to be presented in a balanced fashion. To be sure, the author is not alone in these tendencies to show a marked bias and a tendency to cherry pick scriptures and interpretations in order to support a pre-existing and non-biblical political worldview, this book is certainly a flamboyant offender when it comes to such matters and is likely to be of interest mostly to readers who already agree with the book’s thesis or for those who want to use this book as an example of the sort of material that is published by those with leftist political worldviews.
This book is a bit more than 300 pages and is divided into several sections. The authors aim in the introduction to provoke the Christian political imagination and push it in a leftist direction. The authors spend a great deal of the early portion of this book giving a people’s biblical history by discussing the period of early Genesis (1) before there were kings and presidents, and then a compressed and predictably incomplete look at biblical history and the problem of authority in ancient Israel (2). After that the authors correctly note that there were major problems that resulted when the Roman Empire was baptized into a superficial Christianity (3), but they fail to note the problems of Hellenism that had started long before then. After that the author talks about how believers are to be political, waffling somewhat between a desire not to be partisan but in practice showing a political program that is predictably leftist, as if often the case for phony nonpartisan Christian writers like the authors (4). Finally, the book ends with a series of four appendices that view Israel’s history as anti-imperial (i), look at pluralism and uniqueness (ii), give a twisted view of Romans 13 (iii), and talk about the authors’ views of political resistance (iv).
As is often the case with a book like this, the authors provide plenty of ways for the reader to find out about how they misread scripture and about how they think and believe, but the book does not include a great deal of insight into what the Bible actually says. And although this book is fairly predictable in terms of its political perspective, it does not seem to be aware of how predictable it is, nor do the authors appear to be aware that the leftist social gospel adhered to by the authors disregards some key elements to the biblical worldview that cannot be jettisoned, especially with regards to personal morality, which matters to God as much as social morality does. We know, of course, that Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish his kingdom (by monarchical and not democratic principles), but that kingdom will look a lot different than the one imagined by these authors, who seem more interested in setting up a people’s republic than in living according to the laws and ways of God’s kingdom.