A review of Jesus for President: the revival

Last month IsaacV posted a preview of the Jesus for President tour stop in Raleigh. Here’s my review of one stop on the tour, cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled.

Last week Charletta and I spent 5 days at the Cornerstone Music Festival promoting Christian Peacemaker Teams. For me, it was an inspiring awakening to the "Revolution in Jesusland" as Zack Exley calls it. That is, the increasing openness of young American Evangelicals to God’s vision for shalom. It’s an awareness that Jesus’ redemption is not just an individual soul thing, but an invitation to transformation of relationships, communities and creation as a whole.

Cornerstone Fairway at night

Charletta and I joined Jim Fitz at a booth that he has been staffing for the past 5 years. When Jim first started out, no one at Cornerstone had ever heard of CPT. Furthermore people were openly hostile. "Are you really Christian?" was the frequent challenge. Over the years, responses have begun to change. Even the one person who sat down and argued for half an hour about the efficacy of nonviolence told us he gets our newsletter. Part of the reason for this is Jim’s persistant witness. Many people come by with a familiar greeting for Jim. His beard and his hat are well known. But Jim’s perseverence is not the only influence on changing attitudes.

A week ago, Zach Exley posted the story of a young man titled Put one back in the Mennonite column. It’s a story that resonated with many readers of the post (see the comment from Tyler for example). And judging by the conversations I had at the CPT booth, it’s an increasingly common story. One young man told me that he used to thing CPTers were hippies and peaceniks and then he read the The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and now he really thinks we’re doing great work. We talked for 20 minutes and he told me about the challenge of discussions about pacifism with his middle-aged Republican friend.

Chris Haw and Shane Claiborne on Jesus for President at Cornerstone

At least among Cornerstone Evangelicals, Shane seems to be having a major impact. We sold more then 30 books from Jim’s peacemaking/justice/reconciliation library which is about 27 more then he’s ever sold before. We were also able to see the Jesus for President tour first hand. Haven’t heard about it? Read the CNN story. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical myself. Haven’t I heard this all before I though. It took me only a few minutes under the big red and white tent to realize that this was something special. Chris Haw and Shane took turns telling excerpts from biblical story interspersed with music from the Psalters. They brought God’s shalom vision alive in a vibrant, engaging presentation. The central question was: "What is a Jesus-follower to do when the empire gets baptized?" You can see a good summary here. I would call it an Anabaptist reading of the Christian story. Others might call it unpatriotic, anti-imperialist or just “the message of Jesus, put within its actual cultural and political context”.

The Jesus for President big tent revival

Whatever label you choose to describe the Jesus for President, I think any one who was there would feel the spirit of revival at work. The gathering concluded with a 4th of July sparkler liturgy as we sang "When the Saints Go Marching In." These are the heroes we should be celebrating rather worshipping the flag. The tour has two more weeks to go. You can catch them in Albuquerque, Lubbock, Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Durham, Richmond and Philadelphia. See the their tour page for more details.

Mennonites should be paying attention. We can’t affort to sit this one out.

P.S. You can read Shane’s own account of their Cornerstone performance on the God’s politics blog.

Here are more photos from Cornerstone:

A man with many hatsA backstage interview at CornerstoneInterview with JesseThe Jesus for President big tent revivalChris Haw and Shane Claiborne on Jesus for President at CornerstoneThe Jesus for President big tent revivalKatie and Delaney with a CPT hatBible study by the LakeEric and Delaney on the Grease mobileMiroslav Volf works the crowdThe illological spoonsA man in a cow costumeSilhouettes on the stageGuitar and fiddle at the camp siteBoy, lake, boat and the Cornerstone fairway

Comments (26)

  1. somasoul

    I’m a fan of Claiborne and his books. A couple questions:

    “We can’t affort to sit this one out.”

    *What will happen if we sit this one out?
    *What are the short and long term affects to not responding to this “seperate from the empire” mantra?
    *What can be garnered for our faith? How will that empower us?
    *Are we truely seeking to be politics free or are some or all seeking ways to do faith using Earthly political powers?

    On the one hand some seem to like this idea of freeing ourselves from the empire. But some that really buy into this idea in word don’t do so in deed. They still proclaim in voting for canidates to create change or political systems that will grant them favor.

  2. TimN (Post author)

    Somasoul, these are good questions. I’ve been pondering them for a while. I haven’t come up with any answers. Here are two articles I just saw on the God’s Politics blog that speak to these themes:

    Advise Everyone… Endorse No One
    – Shane Claiborne does a good job of emphasizing primarily loyalty to the Kingdom of God.

    Voting is Never Uncritical, Unqualified, nor Unconditional
    Brian Mclaren gently challenges Shane’s post. “Again, even in voting, we must realize that we do so without giving uncritical, unqualified support to our political system.”

    Note that I’m not endorsing these perspectives. :-)

  3. somasoul


    Neither seem to take a traditional anabaptist position. I like a lot of what Shane has to say.

    Basically SHane says this: “Vote for who you like but remember Jesus first.”

    On the flip side Brian says: “While I respect Shane’s opinion vote for the canidate that focuses on issues Christians can agree more on.”


    I think I’ve come to the conclusion that politics cannot help our faith. We have a resonable amount of freedom in this country and nothing besides the war is any sort of imminent threat to humankind.

    I want to stay out of the mess of politics as best I can.

    *Full Disclosure*

    During the Primaries I, as registered Republican, voted for Ron Paul. I was tempted to give Mr. Paul my time for campaging but decided against it. I had to ask myself: “If I can’t give Jesus that time then why should Dr. Paul have it?”

    Obama is simply a liberal calling it “change”.
    McCain is some sort of Neo-Con Progressive disguised as a conservative.

    I can’t vote for either of those guys come November.

    Here’s some questions I have for the canidates (I have more but I’ll only ask two).

    For Barack Obama:

    Your national healthcare insurance seems quite comprehensive. How do you plan to pay for this with the shrinking of the dollar, the federal deficit, the recession, and the war[s]. Also, it seems that healthcare insurance companies, not doctors or patients, is the problem with healthcare today. Your package isn’t about healthcare at all, it’s about insurance which is simply a means to aquire healthcare. Considering that the insurance companies are the problem in and of itself how do you think making them larger with the backing of the federal government will solve the problem? Isn’t this kinda like giving a crazed lunatic with a gun a bazooka?

    For John McCain:


  4. chadthepotter

    Hey Folks. This might be my first YAR post; I can’t remember for sure. Sadly, I feel less young day by day (I was commiserating recently with a friend about how we have to put sunscreen on our balding heads now). And I’m definitely not as radical as I’d like to think…

    Anyhow, about Shane Claiborn. I’m a new Mennonite pastor, and as such, I feel like I’m one of the people who “can’t afford to sit this one out”. Though frankly the sheer volume of Emmergent-type stuff that I feel like I’m supposed to be aware of is far more vast than I can take in these days. I admit that I have not read any of his stuff yet, nor have I been to one of the Jesus for President events this summer.

    However, a friend of mine saw the tour when it stopped at the Union Project in Pittsburgh. She’s late 40s, and remembers similar movements from the early 1980s, like the early days of Jim Wallace and Sojourners in DC. She was very disappointed and concerned about the lack of gender balance at the Pittsburgh event. This could simply be a Pittsburgh thing, but what do others of you observe about the role of female leadership in this 21st-century version?

    I think there is lots of potential where Mennonites intersect with Evangelical leaders like Claiborn, McClaren, Rob Bell, etc. But I think both camps, Mennonite theology and socially-conscious Evangelical thinking, must continue to take seriously the need to cultivate young female leaders and the ongoing relevance and critique of feminist theologians. It seems almost like old news to call attention to this, but I fear it has become passe in some Christian circles to worry about gender and feminist concerns. But, alas, there is more work to be done…

    Any thoughts?

  5. TimN (Post author)


    Though I didn’t mention this is my review, this would definitely be a concern for me too. This seems to be true both specifically and more broadly in the New Monasticism movement. Specifically, during the Jesus for President presentation only Chris and Shane were on stage most of the time. The two musicians were also male, although were occasionally joined by some women musicians.

    I’ve also talked with a female friend who has been part of the New Monasticism movement for years who has pointed out that all of the visible leadership that is speaking and writing. There are definitely women involved in leadership positions, but they tend to be doing logistical support or organizing.

    PAPA Festival would be something of an exception to this where there was more gender balance in the leadership from the stage and in work shops.

    I hope that discussions about these dynamics are happening inside the New Monasticism movement. I think this is an especially important dynamic to watch because the New Monasticism movement is reaching out to Christian groups where male leadership is assumed.

  6. Jonny


    Thanks for raising this. I’m with you in not being as up-to-date on all the emergent stuff as I should be, but gender balance has been one of my main concerns about the “emergent movement” for awhile now. Why is it that we don’t often hear about or from women leaders in the emergent church? What does that say about the nature of the emergent movement?

    My other concern has been a perceived desire within the emergent movement to “move beyond homosexuality” and other such controversial topics simply by not talking about them. That seems neither healthy nor helpful, in my opinion.

    Perhaps others can correct me, or give me some reasons to be more excited about the emergent movement than I am.

  7. chadthepotter

    Helpful responses. My thoughts here are influenced by having just graduated from a rather conservative seminary. My experience there was that lots of people were into the emergent movement, but feminism seemed to be considered passe if not downright wrong. I was very disappointed in this. My experience there seemed to fit my perception of a conservative backlash going on in the church on issues like feminism.

    My impression is, this becomes more than a social issue within the church. It has theological implications like very little conversation about dominant male images for God. Of course in the same circles language for God, as I’ve seen it, is remarkably traditional and almost always relies on trinitarian language of Father, Son, etc. etc.

    When it comes to voices questioning destructive forces in mainstream North American culture, then I think the emergent stuff has been very helpful. When it comes to God-talk, I think this movement has presented very little that is new. In fact, it seems to disregard the creative theological work of the last 50 years and simply goes back to very traditional ideas about who/what God is.

    A final disclaimer. I feel like I just made a whole bunch of big generalizations and relied on unhelpful categories like “conservative.” Sorry. I don’t like that…

  8. somasoul

    A simple note about gender balance………

    Whenever someone brings up the gender identity of God or female leadership in the church this is the conservation I’ve always had:

    Me: “So what do you think about women in leadership in the church.”

    Someone who supports gender equality in the church: “The balance of power traditionally has been men. One must understand the gender dymanics of the culture, past and present, and the oppression of minority groups.”

    The conversation NEVER has been Biblically based. Rather it is always culturally and politically based. When people boil down matters of theology to matters of political power those people seem, well, silly.

  9. dave

    The conversation NEVER has been Biblically based. Rather it is always culturally and politically based.


    I have had numerous conversations about gender identity and gender roles (both within and outside of the church) that have included many, many hours talking about how these issues related to Biblical teachings and Biblical theology.

    Of course… you absolutely cannot talk about the theological and Biblical aspects to this conversation without talking about the relevant cultural and political issues that are directly tied to the theological issues.

    As to the gender issues within both the Emergent movement and the New Monasticism movement (don’t tell Shane/Chris I called it a movement… they don’t like that!), it is a definitely a problem.

    As Tim pointed out, the “spokesMEN” are all men. There are numerous amazing women within the New Monasticism movement whose voices are not being heard. Some of that is by choice – many of the women involved have no desire to travel the country and do book tours, or write on big mainstream religious blogs. Instead they often desire to just do what New Monasticism is – live intentionally and simply in community with other sisters and brothers as they pursue peace and justice together.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a place blogs and book tours and speaking engagements, but I know that many of the women in the movement are not at all interested in doing it.

    But I do have significant concerns with the lack of female voices both within Emergent and within New Monasticism.

  10. somasoul

    “you absolutely cannot talk about the theological and Biblical aspects to this conversation without talking about the relevant cultural and political issues that are directly tied to the theological issues.”

    Then we would disagree.

    Who are people listening to? Why?

    Simply put: “Who has God called forward?”

    You’d think this obvious.

  11. Jonny


    Can you explain a bit more what you’re trying to say?

    If the (fallen) structures that WE have put into place are pushing men into leadership and holding women back from responding to Godde’s call and taking active leadership roles, then don’t we need to talk about the “relevant cultural and political issues”?

    I think we can all agree that this should be obvious. We just think have different understandings about what that “obvious” answer is.

  12. dave

    Then we would disagree.

    Well… being that the Bible was written in a very distinct political, cultural, and power dynamic, I am pretty confident in saying that you cannot discuss Biblical principles without looking at how it related to the context at the time, and in turn how it relates to the current context.

    Simply put: “Who has God called forward?”

    Sure… so what do you when a woman says “God has called me forward” and others confirm it, but an opposing group says, “God doesn’t call women forward.”

    I don’t think that is so “obvious.”

  13. somasoul

    “If the (fallen) structures that WE have put into place are pushing men into leadership and holding women back………..”

    “Sure… so what do you when a woman says “God has called me forward” and others confirm it, but an opposing group says, “God doesn’t call women forward.””

    But that is not happening. Emergent Village was formed on the principal that women should be in leadership roles. And these other “groups”, Steenwyk’s Misseo Dei, and Claiborne’s entities, Wallis’ recent fame, and Bell’s amazing books……….no human put these men on the forefront of this “emergent” thing, they just sort of happened.

    I think some people are more interested in what’s between someone’s legs than what God is doing. Look around, something big is happening, and God happens to be using (mostly) men.

    Have you read the book? What did you expect?

  14. TimN (Post author)


    Here’s a different way of considering this:

    What if God is working through both men and women in the emergent movement and the New Monasticism movement, but because we are fallen and the systems we are a part of are fallen we only notice, affirm and enable the men?

  15. somasoul

    “What if God is working through both men and women in the emergent movement and the New Monasticism movement, but because we are fallen and the systems we are a part of are fallen we only notice, affirm and enable the men?”

    This is, without a doubt, a possibility. While I doubt that emergent itself is doing this it is possible that Christians as a whole are only purchasing books by male leaders because males exude “confidence” or something…….

    But God will do what God will do with our co-operation or without it. More questions:
    Is this new movement faltering due to a lack of female leadership?
    Can the movement complete it’s task without women?
    What is the historical role of women in the church? (I know lots of people will hate that one!)

    Consider this (and I could blog about this in depth):

    Genesis 3:17
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat of it
    all the days of your life.”

    Man was cursed to work tirelessly. To provide for himself, his offspring, and his partner. This is not lorded over him, rather, nature itself demands this of man. That he work lest he die. It is nothing he does to himself, nor does anyone enslave him. It’s a simple truth.


    “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
    with pain you will give birth to children.”

    No one gives the woman pain during childbirth. Childbirth is simply painful. No one beats a woman while in labor. A fact of nature that any woman has.

    “Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

    Perhaps this is not a commandment for men to rule over their wives. Perhaps, like all Genesis 3 curses, this is a fact of nature. Perhaps men don’t lord over woman (though they sometimes do). Perhaps it is ingrained in a woman’s nature to submit to men. *GASP!* I’m not saying men should rule over their wives with an iron fist, perhaps women just defer to men more than men defer to women. And perhaps this isn’t so much cultural as it is biological.

    *awaits stones*

  16. TimN (Post author)

    I don’t have enough time to respond to all of your arguments, but I will take up this question:

    What is the historical role of women in the church?

    I think it’s pretty clear historically that women have tended to take strong leadership in new movements as they emerge, such as the early church, the early Anabaptist movement and the Azusa street revival which birthed the Pentecostal movement. Then as these movements are institutionalized and allow themselves to be assimilated into the culture and climate the leadership becomes almost entirely male.

    I’m afraid the historical reality is the opposite of what you’re arguing. Movements rediscovering the bible through the movement of the holy spirit tend to be much more open to female leadership. Dominant politics and culture (selectively quoting and manipulating scripture) are what lead to patriarchy.

  17. somasoul

    “I’m afraid the historical reality is the opposite of what you’re arguing.”

    For the record, I’m not arguing anything, I’m just asking questions.

  18. TimN (Post author)

    Somasoul, I find your claim to be only asking questions to be evasive at best and dishonest at worst:

    The conversation NEVER has been Biblically based. Rather it is always culturally and politically based.

    That’s an argument and an emphatic one at that.

  19. somasoul

    You could quote me directly, TimN:

    Whenever someone brings up the gender identity of God or female leadership in the church this is the conservation I’ve always had…………The conversation NEVER has been Biblically based. Rather it is always culturally and politically based.

    I’m referring to conversations I’ve had. Not conversations that others have had.

    Sorry if I confused you.

    You can check the site Godde.com for the types of conversations I’ve experienced. Conversations that contain lots of “it makes me feel”s and “My thinking”s and little to no Biblical reference.

    My question: How do our feelings trump the feelings of Paul or Jesus or James or Peter or David?

    I have no problems with the idea of God being both male and female, or neither, or all……..I have a problem when we make God fit into our cultural/political opinioninated boxes.

    I’m an anarchist. I have other anarchist believer friends who try to get God to fit into an anarchist box. Others try to get God to fit into their capitalist box. Still others, a socialist box. The list goes on.

    These people say:

    I believe in anarchy, God must too.
    I’m a feminist, God must be too.
    I like money, God wants me to have money.
    I hate gays, God hates gays too.

    I ‘m sure there’s some edumacated term for this. I’ll call it, simply: justification of our preconceived notions.

    (again, I’m not making any argument that God is anything, merely frustrated by the means people come to their own conclusions.)

  20. Pingback: Menno roundup: How much has your horse had to drink tonight?

  21. somasoul

    HA! Now that’s funny!

    Ironically, it strengthens the position you perceive me to have while weakening the position I supposedly am against!

    That is hysterical!

  22. urbanmenno

    Tim made a good comment on urbanmennonite.com in regards to the above Menno Roundup referencing this post’s discussion and in fairness to all involved, I’ll post it here as well

    Tim’s comment:

    I’m one of the men who was involved in the discussion you referenced on YAR. Initially I was chastened by your comment, but I’ve done some more thinking about it, and I think when it comes to anti-sexism work, women shouldn’t always have to be the ones defending equality. Sometimes men need to confront men about sexism and not expect women to do the work.

    Maybe no one’s going to change anyone’s mind, but blatant sexism and oppression need to be challenged. Silence is not the solution.

    Urbanmenno’s response:

    I actually think there are a lot of men on YAR who do a great job of speaking up for women’s equality and I applaud them. And I don’t have a problem at all with the men defending the good fight. Particularly since it can be really hard as a female to keep having these kinds of conversations over and over again — soul-killing actually.

    I drew attention to the post not to chastise any of the men involved. I saw the post and resulting comments more as another example of where women are talked about and not talked with. It would be interesting to take that particular post and ask the general YAR audience why didn’t women comment on it …

    Is it the ratio of men to women on YAR? Is it a matter of picking your battles and the women didn’t feel like fighting this particular one? Was there some subtle unwelcoming thing?

    “Silence isn’t the solution” is totally accurate … and I’m glad that the men weren’t. But why were the women?

  23. Lora

    I’ve been mulling over a response for a few days now, because my first thought was, “Good grief, are we really still discussing this?” It is, much as Urbanmenno points out, rather soul-killing to keep having these conversations. Somasoul, while this is a response to some of the issues you raise, it is not so much a response to you. I have read your posts and comments for as long as you have been here and I understand neither your logic nor your arguments. This isn’t to say they aren’t valid, just that I don’t know how to engage you.

    Let’s start with this whole “it’s not biblical” argument. Are we agreeing that if something isn’t biblical, that it has no credence for us as Christians? Because Christians believe a surprising number of things that don’t have clear biblical grounding–abortion, for example. Heck, we even tout family values while naming ourselves for someone who once said that if you wanted to follow him, you would have to leave behind your mother, your father, your brother. It’s not that we shouldn’t be in favor of children or families (however that looks), just that we should be wary of what we say is biblical and what isn’t. Just a hundred years ago, there were men of a certain skin color who surely had brilliant minds but spent all their days in the cotton fields because there were people–Christians!–who believed that was their God-ordained place.

    To say that women in leadership isn’t biblical is also to ignore some great stories in the Old Testament, as well as the scholarship on Paul that has emerged in the past 30 years. I recommend starting with The Politics of Jesus–John Howard Yoder argument was basically, in a culture and a time when women were little more than chattel, why would anyone have had to tell them to be silent in the church unless something in the life and manner of Jesus had presented a radically different way of understanding their place on earth and in heaven?

    This is to say nothing of choices made by translators and editors; most biblical scholars agree that of all the books written by Paul (and not all attributed to him were), that even the phrases, such as in Galatians, where it says that women should be silent in the church, were added after Paul wrote the letter. Paul also tells of women who seemed to be his benefactors or were doing work he approved of, but how often do we hear a sermon about them? How much women are mentioned also seems to be, to some extent, the choice of the author–Luke mentions more women than any other gospel. No one, incidentally, ever mentions who cooked the Last Supper.

    If women aren’t speaking up, then you men are missing 50 percent of your potential to solve problems, to empower disciples, to further the reign of God. If women aren’t speaking up, the responsibility is yours. And if the answer you come up with is that someone has to make dinner or stay home with the kids, then you’re so sadly far from the upside-down radical vision of God’s will on earth as in heaven, of the banquet in which there is space for everyone.

  24. somasoul

    “Somasoul, while this is a response to some of the issues you raise, it is not so much a response to you. I have read your posts and comments for as long as you have been here and I understand neither your logic nor your arguments.”

    Neither do I, sister.

  25. JeremyY

    Some of Somasoul’s arguments sound similar to some of the things I’ve heard at seminary. There’s an argument posed by some Anabaptist and neo-Anabaptist theologians (i.e. John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas) that Christians have too often allowed themselves to judge the validity of Christian faith based on criteria from outside of the biblical story and Christian community. They argue that believers should draw from the biblical story to shape Christian life and ethics. I think Somasoul is making a similar point.

    However, I have two questions regarding this argument —

    1) What are the “correct” Biblical interpretations that guide our lives? Who decides what the “correct” interpretations are?

    2) Unless we live in a vacuum, none of us are only formed by the biblical story. We are formed by many many different stories and world views. While certainly some people deliberately put God into an ideological box, I think most of us do so unintentionally. There is no pure reading of the Bible — we always bring ourselves to the text.

    Even my friend Somasoul does this. He may argue the “biblical view” or the “traditional Anabaptist” position on voting or the role of women, but throughout the pages of YAR, he has made arguments that draw not from the Bible or tradition, but from other points of view. His defenses of handguns and “free market” capitalism are not based on a “biblical” view, but another set of criteria.

  26. somasoul

    For the record I have not expressed any position of women in the church. If I have then I made some mistake in my postings and I apologize.

    And Jeremy is right, we all base criteria on things outside of a Biblical context. But while I may have an opinion on say, handguns, I don’t likewise express that everyone else should therefore express the same view, that all should own handguns, or that all should use them.

    I believe in choices, to do right or to do wrong. I likewise believe that God gives us the same choices to do right or do wrong. I’m just as likely to have dinner with Fred Phelps as Martin Luther King Jr. and, possibly, equally likely to enjoy both companies.

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