During this “political” season, characterized by powerful and wealthy people seeking to exploit our system to expand their power and wealth, this book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, comes as a very welcome breath of fresh air.
As is likely obvious by the title and the publisher (Zondervan), Jesus for President, is written by two young Christians aimed at a Christian audience. And this book needs to be read by Christians. However, many people of good will who have written off Christian faith may find this book an eye-opener and inspiration.
While the writing is accessible and colloquial, the book rests on solid scholarship and actually presents a pretty sophisticated argument for the political relevance of the biblical story (including the Old Testament). The kind of politics the Bible presents is peaceable, compassionate, concerned with care for vulnerable people–pretty much the opposite of the kind of politics the “Christian” right advocates in the US right now.
Claiborne and Haw carry the story beyond biblical times, giving a perceptive account of how biblical politics were transformed into empire politics–that is, how the Jesus movement became Christendom. They conclude with some hard-hitting proposals for a social philosophy for the present that includes a preferential option for the poor and an thorough-going commitment to pacifism.
All in all, a terrific book. It is encouraging to see Claiborne and Haw attract a large audience with their uncompromising advocacy of the politics of Jesus (yes, John Howard Yoder is an important source for them).