In celebration of The Irresistible Revolution’s 10th birthday, we recently asked readers and Ordinary Radicals all over the world to submit stories of their revolutions. We were overwhelmed with the response and are happy to feature the below stories. These folks followed Jesus down unexpected paths and found revolution in ordinary and extraordinary ways. We hope you are encouraged and “spurred on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24)
I read The Irresistible Revolution during my first year of marriage after my husband returned from a month in Ghana where he lived alongside children who were being rehabilitated from a system of human trafficking. Shane Claiborne verbalized so much of the internal conflict we were feeling: we have too much and our neighbors don’t have enough. We initiated a conversation with my brother-in-law, Jack, a sophomore in high school, about youth in America as a source of untapped potential. If money is power, then teenagers have a lot of power, despite not being able to vote, or drive, or live independently. We started praying for Ghana, and Jack began inviting his friends to our apartment on Saturday mornings. Collectively, we asked the question, “If we really loved our neighbors as ourselves, what would we do about human trafficking in Ghana?” The answer was that we wouldn’t stand for it: something would have to be done. We started raising money: high school students stopped drinking pop, wrote things like “my sister is in slavery” on their wallets, and asked if they could rake leaves in exchange for donations. Within a year, we had raised $30, 000. We partnered with Ghanaian abolitionists, bought a house, hired staff, and brought eight girls out of a system of forced labor and into a home with freedom and love. Among the billions of people suffering in the world, the number eight is a statistical failure. But as Shane reminded us (repeating the words of Mother Teresa) over, and over, and over again, “We are called not to be successful, but to be faithful.” We are so thankful for The Irresistible Revolution and its Gospel call to become ordinary radicals.Our lives and the lives of eight girls in Ghanahave been changed by it. Thank you!
I was sent the book in a care package from my wife when I was deployed to Iraq in 2009. I had one of those jobs where you sit and watch for long hours without seeing a single person, so our command allowed us to read just to keep ourselves awake, so I decided to start this book. As you can imagine, sitting at a checkpoint, rifle pointed at whoever might come my way, reading Shane’s words was instantly challenging. I grew up in the church and was raised to equate patriotism with Christlikeness. I would pick up the book and read small sections at a time while looking up to ensure I wasn’t missing anything. The breaks from the book grew longer as I thought about its contents. Sure, I had read about the life of Jesus, but I began to notice that the things I was doing, especially in that moment, were not activities that Jesus participated in. I sat, watching Navy Seals jump in and out of helicopters and thought about Shane’s phrases like, “There are some things to die for but none to kill for.” But I convinced myself the government knew more than I did and I should submit to their guidance. So I closed the book for the remainder of my deployment. After returning home, I got a job at a megachurch. One of the interns at the church often talked about Shane and the Simply Way, and her reminder prompted me to pick up the book again. I sat in my office, adorned with my spoils of war and Marine Corps memorabilia, once again considering Shane’s words‐‐“What if Jesus really meant all that stuff he said”‐‐and thinking, “Jesus was known for love, I am known for war. I don’t want to be known for war anymore, I want to be known for love.” I immediately took down my military decorations and commendations from my office, and got rid of my decorative knives and bullets. Now, Sergeant to Saint is no easy transition, but I am glad to be following the law of Love that Jesus taught.
I was given The Irresistible Revolution prior to a service trip to Honduras during my third year of medical school by my then girlfriend (now wife). At the time, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life and how could I fit service in future career plans, if at all. No book has made such an impact since. It liberated me to realize it was not foolish to abandon the traditional path: the six-figure salary, the ever expanding house, the comforts in a world where so many experience so much discomfort. As I am done with my training now, I took a two-year position to spend six months per year working at a hospital in rural Haiti, and the other six on the south side of Chicago. While in Haiti, my wife, daughter and I live at an orphanage, getting to know the most amazing group of boys you’ll ever meet. Prior to reading The Irresistible Revolution, I would’ve patted myself on the back for such things, but now we just hope and pray we will be given the opportunity to serve more and live with less. Thank you for giving voice to the oppressed, and helping me hear their cries for justice.
How has my life been changed by The Irresistible Revolution? A lot. Or to be more precise: I think that book was one of many steps through which God led me to a certain way that radically change my life. Before reading the book, I heard Shane talking at the “Freakstock” in Germany in 2008. A whole year long, I prayed for God to show me “the way”‐‐what I was supposed to do with my life. I imagined leaving everything behind, never seeing my family again, preaching and serving in a different country and so on. The question was only: which country did God want me to go to? At this talk, I asked Shane a question. I asked him what I should think about my old grandma, who also wants me near her, if I was made to save the whole world out there. He quoted Mother Theresa: Find your own calcutta. And without saying it, he meant maybe my grandma is my Calcutta. I was surprised and not very happy about his answer. Still, I read the book and I started to judge people less, have a much broader horizon, and understand that even our failures can be turned into something good. What I also found so surprising was that Shane found such deep faith and inspiration in the Catholic church or certain people/saints. I think it was one small contribution why I eventually converted to Catholicism. But the funniest part is that two years ago (six years after I asked Shane that question, and many years of living in other countries and travelling) I decided to move near my grandma and take care of her and to live a simple life in a tiny village, trying to raise two goats, some rabbits, chicken, bees etc. It is in fact my Calcutta, the place where I am meant to be and do my small revolution of love.
I grew up in the church, but left it when I was young. I didn’t see the church addressing poverty, something the Bible spoke about a lot. (I also didn’t know where to look to see people in the church who were addressing poverty.) Later, when I was in my last semester of college, thinking about what I might do with my life, one of my friends, who was also an atheist, suggested that I read The Irresistible Revolution. I picked up the book and I didn’t put it down until I had finished it. After reading it, I took a trip to Mexico, randomly, and saw what poverty looked like in the southern portion of the country. I accidentally drank the water and had to make an emergency trip back home to the U.S. I decided then and there to enter seminary and be a part of the transformation of the church, to be someone in the church who cared about people who are often considered the least and the lowly, before I, someday, died. Next, I took a trip to see Shalom House in Philadelphia, where I received my first glimpse of intentional community. Seminary became a whirlwind. I took two years off between my studies to learn from different ministry contexts. During the first year off, I worked in a daytime homeless shelter in Tacoma, WA. For the second year off, I lived and worked in L’Arche Harbor House. After seminary, I became a mission developer. I am now rooted as the pastor of a mission congregation for people experiencing poverty. We love our neighborhood, do everything we can to assist with it, and proclaim God’s love. I credit Christ’s working through my reading of The Irresistible Revolution as giving my life some direction and hope.
I read The Irresistible Revolution in 2007 (for the first time) after a short-term missions team to Uganda. At the time, my wife (Tania) and I were living a very comfortable life in Northern Ireland. The book made us both rethink priorities and our idea of following Jesus. To cut a long story short, in Jan 2011 we left our jobs, family, Northern Ireland, etc., and now live and serve in a Mission Hospital in rural Uganda. Tania helps run a Craft Project for ladies who are HIV+ and cannot find work. She also runs a tailoring school for girls who had to drop out of school. As a medical engineer, my role involves working with a team of men in the background of the hospital–helping them to realize and use their God-given skills to serve people, serve God and provide a future for their families. We make mistakes every day, but amazingly God keeps using us. Thank you for writing this book. Shane, keep going, keep encouraging, and keep looking up. What you’re doing and saying and how you live is making a difference worldwide. God bless you!
Like many, my reading of The Irresistible Revolution coincided with a huge transitional point in my life. I had just spent a year working with the Mennonite Central Committee in Kingston, Jamaica, and had a year left at a small Christian college in Ohio. I struggled mightily with culture shock when I returned home. I was angry at the perceived indifference of others, and at my own impotence to change to growing global injustices. I remember publishing a letter of contempt for the prison in Guantanamo Bay in our school’s student newspaper. This was my chance to “wake people up” I thought. I heard from my brothers and sisters in Christ, but their barbs were directed at me. Christians wrote to defend torturous practices and labeled me a traitor to God and country. Maybe they shouldn’t have, but these responses shocked me into a state of callousness that threatened the foundations of my faith. A friend had been reading IR and on a whim, I picked it up one day. Shane’s stories recounting awkwardness with the Christian subculture of tracts, bracelets, and mints resonated with my experience. Yet, it was his description of this Jesus. This irresistible God of pure love that I had known and dearly loved before succumbing to my personal anger. The pages of IR unfolded with stories of young radicals. These stories catapulted me into a life of proximity to God and man. Today, after nine years teaching in the rural south, I find myself rising each morning to teach a group of eighty students on Cleveland’s east side. Every day, I tell them they were created with purpose and are loved. Still, my students, as beautiful and bright as they are, have a tough road ahead. Institutions rooted in visible, historical, tangible sin seek to thwart my their best intentions. I believe that this time around the Jesus of the Irresistible Revolution cries, “Black Lives Matter!” And my heart teeters dangerously on the edge of callousness as I wait for my Evangelical brothers and sisters to join in the chorus.