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.


Book Review: Simple Spirituality by Christopher Heuertz

Christopher L. Heuertz, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World. InterVarsity Press, 2008. Pp. 159. $15.00, US.

I wish I read this book more slowly. It’s a very accessible read, but that doesn’t mean it should be read quickly. Heuertz wrote a vulnerable book, one that puts his heart on display, and I couldn’t help but want to let his words do work on my soul–but that takes more time. Heuertz doesn’t claim to offer any secrets to spiritual success. Instead, he shares what God is teaching him through his friends, who happen to be the poorest of the poor. Through the ministry of Word Made Flesh, Christopher and his wife Phileena have discovered God’s love poured out in the poor, God’s presence in brokenness. Heuertz is on a wandering journey, learning to see God among the hungry in Brazilian favelas and the children sex slaves in Thailand. Can we see what he sees? As Jesus asks, Do you have eyes to see?

The book is organized around 5 virtues, each of which are chapter titles: Humility, Community, Simplicity, Submission, and Brokenness. The threads that bind these together are Heuertz’s engrossing stories about his friends. They are the context. His spirituality isn’t a call to close your eyes and think about God; instead, friendships with the poor make friendship with God possible. Solidarity is primary: “We literally live among the dying as an act of solidarity with our neighbors and our God” (20).

But Heuertz doesn’t start there. His beginnings are steeped in American evangelicalism. (more…)

Review of the New Conspirators

This is an expanded version of my review that first appeared on As of Yet Untitled. Available here with exclusive additional quotes from the book!

To put it simply, Tom Sine’s The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Timeis an encyclopedia of the new movement in the Evangelical church in Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States.

I received a review copy of The New Conspirators: just before leaving for Vietnam a month and a half ago. I carried the book with me through 3 long train journeys, fully intending to read it on each one. Then, quite unexpectedly I found myself with a large amount of time in a clinic room while my traveling companion recovered from a collapse due to altitude sickness.

We were in the mountain village of Sapa (see photos). A fog hung over the region the whole day, broken occasionally by rain. Indigenous people were the main clients of the medical facility and their colorful woven clothing gave the place a distinctly exotic feel. I found the setting infused my reading of The New Conpirators with a certain immediacy. His chapter on “Coming Home” stood out to me in particular. (more…)

No Country for Old Men and the Depravity of Violence

No Country for Old Men is released today in select theaters, which leaves me wanting to live in a more important city.Nonetheless, I have only to wait two more weeks before the nationwide release.

Reviews are already rolling out and I highly suggest to all of you that you see the film if you are able. I have been anticipating this one for quite some time. Los Angeles Times movie reviewer Kenneth Turan describes the moral underpinnings of the film:

The story of stolen drug money and the horrific carnage it precipitates, “No Country for Old Men” doesn’t celebrate or smile at violence, it despairs of it, despairs of its randomness, pervasiveness, its inescapable nature, of the way it eats at the soul of society and the individuals in it.

No one should go into “No Country for Old Men” underestimating the unnerving intensity of its moments of on-screen violence, its parade of corpses and geysers of spurting blood. But as the story unfolds with the awful inevitability of a modern myth, it’s clear that the Coen brothers and McCarthy are not interested in violence for its own sake but for what it says about the world we happen to live in. “I got it under control,” a confident deputy says, and in moments he is dead. He didn’t have anywhere near the mastery he imagined, and in this truly despairing vision, neither does anyone else.

Commenting on the transience of life – particularly in the context of the war in Iraq, AIDS crises in Africa, and the genocide in Darfur – is an apt reflection on our current condition.
I think ‘No Country for Old Men’ will turn out to be a ghastly film filled with horrid violence. But that’s it’s exactly why it should be seen by Americans – who too often forget that war entails blowing someone’s head off, repeatedly. This is a call to renewal in our understanding of the depravity of violence, to understanding exactly what violence means: without romantic, cathartic, or exciting character.

Watch the Trailer here

“Up From the Rubble”

“The epic rescue of thousands of war-ravaged Mennonite refugees”

Due to a desire to go back to my spiritual roots, I decided to spend free time this summer reading books about Anabaptists. So far I’ve only read one. I stumbled across it unintentionally and am glad I did because I hadn’t come across it in my online searches (which have been few) for books related to Anabaptists and Mennonites. Months ago, I had mentioned this summer reading goal to a YAR friend of mine, and he asked if I would write reviews on whichever books I read. This review is more of a summary and reflection, a smattering of thoughts I had while reading. Let me say, first of all, that I recommend it. It is a very poignant story of a group of people trusting God’s faithfulness and provision despite heartache, persecution, hunger, fatigue and seeming hopelessness.

Some of you may be familiar with Up From the Rubble, written by Peter and Elfrieda Dyck. I had never heard of the book nor the story it tells. My Mennonite lineage is Swiss-German whereas the Mennonites in this story are from Russia. I don’t know anyone (or anyone’s grandparent) personally who went through this, but I felt a connection due to being a Mennonite, and that connection served to make the story seem all the more real as I read and digested it. (more…)