PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 2008
hane Claiborne (and Chris Haw) is back with another controversial treatise. In The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne addressed American consumerism and posited a more communal style of living. In Jesus for President, Claiborne takes aim at Christianity and politics. Of course, his ongoing commitment to the poor informs much of what is written. This time, however, Claiborne calls into question the positioning of one’s political commitments above their commitment to Christ. Jesus for President is a call for Christians of every denominational and political stripe to reorder their priorities, placing Christ back on his throne and allowingHim to dictate our political commitments and ideologies through faithful commitment to Christ’s kingdom.
The book, for anyone brave enough to pick it up, is an astounding read. To be honest, it is significantly better than The Irresistible Revolution. I’m not sure if this has to do with Chris Haw’s presence as a co-author, but the text is great. They do an excellent job of communicating the history of Jesus’ day, bringing out some of the more confusing metaphors, and questioning some of our deeply held notions about what it means to be a faithful Christian today. Many modern Christians intimately connect their political stance to what it means to be a Christian. While Claiborne would not disagree that Christianity has political ramifications, he does ask some tough questions about how Christians have bound themselves to one political party or another to the exclusion of Jesus. Their description of Caesar’s coronation juxtaposed against the mockery of Jesus prior to his crucifixion is worth the price of the book alone. However, the real power of the book lies in the suggestions given towards the tail end of the book of how ordinary individuals (i.e. the readers) can help bring about the changes spoken of earlier in the text. To be honest, they read quite a bit like the suggestions given in The Irresistible Revolution, but they have a better context here.
Jesus for President is also wildly entertaining in its presentation. First, the book is printed on 100 percent post consumer fiber, which means it is 100 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable. Second, the graphic design of SharpSeven is thoroughly engaging. Nearly every page bursts with illustrative pictures that drive home various points the authors attempt to make. In a sight and sound-oriented generation, this is a huge selling point.
The main flaw with the book is that, for all its controversy, Claiborne and Haw have not said anything that can be considered novel by more learned individuals. Other writers have said many of the same things. As a matter of fact, many of those writers appear in the book’s bibliography, such as John Howard Yoder, Walter Bruggeman, and Jim Wallis. What may be Claiborne and Haw’s true contribution to this continuing dialogue is their ability to synthesize and distill the thoughts of such prolific writers for the purposes of mass consumption. Not everyone is going to pick up the work of someone like Yoder or Bruggeman. Their writings tend to be terribly academic, theoretical, and dry. Therefore, Claiborne and Haw provide Christians with a valuable service, presenting thoughts and ideas that rarely make it outside the halls of academia.
Jesus for President should certainly be considered timely. After all, we are currently in the middle of a ridiculously long political season. Not to mention, the process repeats every other year when one considers gubernatorial and congressional races. Politics contemplates one’s temporal existence while religion contemplates one’s eternal existence. Thus, Claiborne and Haw have given politically and religiously-minded individuals much food for thought.