The Economy of Love: Shane Claiborne at the PA State Pastor’s Conference

Sometimes, those that discover our bookstore on-line (or who wander in off Main Street in Dallastown) can’t easily figure us out.  We have a vast array of books, some pretty heady, including theology texts, but not only scholarly work; we are clearly not an academic store.  We carry all kinds of stuff (including gifts and music and kids books galore.) We’re pretty down-home and casual, but with an intense commitment to reading. We have both mainstream general titles and religious titles, and, as religious bookstores go, we are pretty ecumenical.  We believe in reading widely, enjoying the company of friends and authors, including authors who our friends like.  We may disagree, sometimes vigorously, but we enjoy learning and enjoy the pleasures of good literature, fiction and non-fiction. From political polemics to poetry to Puritan piety I sometimes say.  We attend a mainline Protestant church, but carry a lot of Roman Catholic supplies, and although we are pretty conservative theologically, we appreciate much in our peculiar mainline circles.  Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue…sorry if this is confusing, but it just makes sense to us. 

51xmsUbGkKL._SL500_AA300_.jpgMuch about who we are can be seen in the last few posts.  We have a great discount offer on the new book by Manhattan PCA pastor, church planter, speaker and author, Dr. Timothy Keller.  We’ve met Tim a time or two and listen to him on line and respect his prolific, thoughtful work.  I highlighted a number of his books earlier in the week to set the stage for describing his new one.  It is called Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Dutton; regularly $19.99 but see the blog special.)  This book means a lot to us as it combines our interests in winsome but classic Reformed theology, combined with the passions for cultural engagement,  social renewal and worldviewish discernment that some call neo-Calvinism with a particular interest in the poor and those plagued by injustice.  In this short book, Keller shows how historic Bible teachings about justification and traditionally evangelical formulations about the faith are not only vital because they are orthodox but they are most fruitful for sustaining commitments to building the peace of the city, for nurturing faithful practices of caring for the poor, and for being people who are advocates of public justice.  It’s certainly worth debating, and I think he is largely correct.

There are deeper, and more thorough books on social change and how to “set the world to rights” as N.T. Wright summarizes the hope of the gospel; we read some wildly creative stuff, too, and sometimes that can be very helpful.  Typical church ways (of the liberal or conservative sort), it seems to me, aren’t fully faithful or very fruitful.  We have to experiment with new thinking, and more faithful understandings and practices.  Of course, we would say we must be Biblical.  But what does that mean?  What does it look like?  One of my all time favorite books is the postmodern, anti-imperial study of St. Paul found in Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (IVP; $23.00) by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat.  It is a remarkable study of Paul’s subversive community who, as followers of the messianic King Jesus, would have naturally resisted the idolatry of the Roman empire and worked for the shalom of their urban centers.  Might the Colossians passages singing glories to the cosmic risen Lord call us to “practice resurrection” today by faithfully witnessing to lifestyles of restoration and hope, stewardship and life?  Might it mean using our sanctified imaginations to think of being a bit subversive to the North American ways, the idols of our time?  With endorsements from the likes of N.T. Wright and Marva Dawn (and yours truly) on the back, this is a very rich work.

Scriptural themes of liberation which are explored with fruitful insight in that study of51LVt7bn16L._SL500_AA300_.jpg Colossians are sounded even more radically in the brand new release by Wes Howard-Brook called “Come Out My People!” God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond (Orbis; $30.00.)  This just came so I am not sure where all he goes with this, but I am sure it will be provocative and helpful as it points towards an renewed socio-political reading of the whole Bible narrative. (Howard-Brook as a similiar study of the book of John!)  Older liberation theology at its Marxist worst could easily be critiqued not only for reading Marxian assumptions into the ancient Bible texts, but for ruling out as uninteresting matters of eternal life, forgiveness of sins, atonement, redemption, piety, and such.  This new generation of Bible scholars are not like that.  And, they are not firstly political ideologues or revolutionaries, but are exegetes studying the socio-political knowledge that frames much of the Biblical story, who offer that to those wanting to be shrewd in following Jesus.  That is, they read the Bible carefully and coherently and having encountered God in its pages, try to live it out.   Again, some of this is pushing some envelopes in terms of traditional understandings of God’s redemptive work unfolded in the Scriptures (wait to you see what he does with Ezra-Nehemiah) but these are important voices and we hope small groups or adult classes discerningly read this sort of stuff and struggle with it.

Similarly, Walter Brueggemann, who has written and taught and preached about
41qo5wXFLKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg the themes of exile and Biblical Babylon as a generative contemporary metaphor for years, has a brand new great collection of meditations (lectures or sermons, no doubt) simply called Out of Babylon (Abingdon; $15.00.) I so enjoy reading Walter, who I so greatly esteem, and intend to sit still with this soon—I can’t wait, as I know I’ve felt my heart quicken and my heart enlarged when I’ve heard him speak this stuff.  Like his spectacular collection of three lectures Journey to the Common Good (WJK; $16.96) that came out earlier this year (see my comments here) this shows Brueggemann working less in the academic guild doing detailed exegesis or serious long-form commentary, but taking excursions into and out of the texts, offering creative and passionate lectures and messages and prophetic calls to mature fidelity.  These are truly amazing books, and we promote them eagerly.  Be ready to think hard and be prepared to live better because of it.

Still, I think Keller gets it just about perfect for starters: solid reminders of the first things of the gospel, and how God’s justification makes us just.  And how we live that out, prudently, wisely, in Christ-centered ways for the good of our neighbor.  Like the folks at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation that I wrote about in the last post, global evangelicals who are serious about personal evangelism and
social renewal, about mentoring young believers and “discipling the nations.”  I don’t know if Keller spoke at Capetown 2010, but he surely could have.  I am a whole-hearted fan of his innovative work in New York, and this great book, a guide into the themes of social reformation, rooted in a conservative theology, a balanced reading of Scripture, and a careful concern about contemporary culture.  Generous Justice is surely one of the most important books of the year, and one we hope you will purchase.  It would be excellent for those who aren’t fully convinced of this “justice” stuff or who have be influenced by the confusing teachings of Glen Beck against relating faith and social justice.

I say all this not only to again promote Generous Justice, but to remind you, fair reader, a bit of our heart, our tradition, who we are, and where we are, as they say, “coming from.”  Keller and Brueggemann.  There ya go. 

And, add to that a bit of our zany anarchist pal, Shane Claiborne.  I cannot tell you how thrilled
homeless_tshirt.jpg we were when his first little powerhouse of a book, Irresistible Revolution: Living as An Ordinary Radical, came out, and then his next, Jesus for President, on an evangelical publisher (Zondervan; $14.99.)  And what feisty little books they are!  The anti-war Catholic priests Dan & Phil Berrigan, the Episcopalian radical lawyer William Stringfellow, heavy-duty Mennonite John Howard Yoder and the Reformed social critic Jacque Ellul all in the footnotes of a fun and funny book, published by Zondervan?!  In my lifetime?!  That these early radical influences of mine were showing up in the work of a new generation of young activists, and being received in conservative churches, written by a guy who worked at Willow Creek for a while (!) was just a thrill to me. We reviewed Irresistible carefully and promoted it widely.  This, too, says a bit of who we are, caring about young guys and gals in alternative communities like The Simple Way–some call ’em The New Monastics.  Wow; didn’t see that coming in the 21st century!

We are very happy that we will be with Shane again in a few days (November 8, 2010) as he is speaking at the annual Pennsylvania State Pastor’s Conference put together by the PA State Council of Churches.  Here is their conference brochure.  You know, if you are within a few hours driving distance from Harrisburg, Shane is always a hoot to be around, so you should come on over; I’m sure you can register at the door.  Eric Law of the Kaleidescope Institute who is speaking on Tuesday is a nationally-know trainer on multi-ethnic churches and will be helping us work through issues of racial reconciliation and being graceful congregations of inclusion and diversity. We’ve stocked all of his Chalice Press books here for years.  I am sure it isn’t too late to show up for a day or so.  Heck, I’m even doing a lunchtime workshop on books and reading, sharing with some clergy friends about a handful of important, off-beat releases, books they might want to know about, and a few of my all-time, favorite, well-written memoirs that can serve as guides on the journey. Or at least bring some perspective.   And, we will have a huge book display set up. (Pray for my severely aching back, please! We’ve got a lot o boxes to unload tomorrow.)

Shane has a brand new book coming any day now—a handsome hardback prayer book called Common61CKWH6zTWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals co-written by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, & Enuma Okoro (Zondervan; $24.99.)  Haven’t seen it yet,  but we’re told it is truly interesting, and very attractive.  Sturdy, in ideas and heart and binding. You may know Jonathan’s many books, but the other co-author, Enuma Okoro, has a new memoir called Reluctant Pilgrim (Fresh Air/Upper Room) which I’m preparing to review, soon.  Amazing!   We hope Common Prayer will arrive next week. We are taking pre-orders at 20% off.  Let us know if you want one by click the “order” link below.

51KSPO2zNGL._SL500_AA300_.jpgThe Economy of Love: Creating a Community of Enough (the House Studio; $12.99)
Shane, his Simple Way community, and a network of other friends in the “relational tithe network” also have a relatively new project that just came out this fall.  It is a small book and a DVD,  a very thoughtful, edgy kind of overview of what they have been calling “the relational tithe.”  That is, they are inviting us to think seriously about generosity, economics and time, relationship and community—sort of the foundations for their shared live there in Camden. These aren’t monastic vows, really, just earnest and risky talk about being more faithful to Christ and his teachings.  Claiborne and company spell it out in Economy of Love—the book comes as a colorful and playfully designed art-format book (not unlike his visually stunning, post-modern graphic book Jesus for President.) Kudos to Arthur Cherry for the hip graphics.  And to Darin Petersen who seems to have written some of it.  Including the stellar line noting that “God is head over heels in love with this beautiful and wretched world.” 

Basically, the thrust of this edgy little handbook—which really goes with the DVD of the same name–is to invite us to experiment with shifting from philanthropy to friendship.  That is, most of us who are firmly middle class don’t actually know many truly poor people, and if we do, we know them as recipients of our volunteerism, not as our friends.  If we were to actually commit to spending less on ourselves, freeing up time to be in friendships with those unlike ourselves, it might just help us move away from our anxieties about things, and towards, well, an economy of love.  Out of Babylon and into the goodness of God’s reign, of Christ’s “beloved community.”  Yep, that’s about it.  Hear some stories of Shane’s friends as they come to know hurting folks, reaching out in authentic friendship to those on the margins.

Here is a link to the Relational Tithe webpage, which includes some articles and some video trailers with Shane.  We suppose that some will find this weird and out of their ballpark, so to speak, and yet others are deeply hungering for expressions of faith exactly like this.  Here is a website about the Economy of Love book and DVD project.     

As we’ve noted, this essential five-session DVD goes
along with the book and is also called Economy of Love. Some of the book has some of the transcripts of the DVD, along with extra commentary and stories that aren’t in the DVD.  (And typed in with circles and arrows and other dumb scribbles are the Bible texts, too.  Older folks might think this looks worse than a rough draft, but younger folks will immediately resonate with the art style that looks like the inside of a sloppy art CD cover.)  The book has excellent and important questions to talk about, which can be done without watching the DVD, but I think if your watching the sessions, you really ought to have some of the book. It isn’t marketed as a “participants guide” but it sorta is.  And it’s sorta not.  They don’t want to insult people’s intelligence and yet they guide us through these hard questions in helpful ways.  Cool, huh?

Want to spice up your young adult class?  Fire up your teens with some fun-loving, hard-hitting, Jesus-following, Spirit-driven subversion?  Conspire goodness, as Shane likes to put it?  Have your mission committee actually think about living missionally? This EoL DVD is highly recommended, very energetic, and well worth having.  Please check it out. 

We have a 20% off discount going on at the PA State Pastor’s conference, so if you can’t be there, we’ll offer the deal as if you were.  We will send it with 51MbX31KEqL._SL500_AA300_.jpga smile you’ll be supporting our indie efforts here, and–yep, you see this coming, I hope–you’ll be supporting an “economy of love.” We are grateful to have such interesting things to sell, such good stuff to talk about and a network of friends and fans who care.  Glad you know us, and thanks for the chance to serve you.

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