About a week after I moved to Nashville a woman at my church brought me a book she thought I'd like (based on our one hour conversation earlier in the week). I'm just now nearing the end of the book, and she's sort of right. I like it, but I also don't. The book, which is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, makes me very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the same vein as a liberal arts education or sermon can make you uneasy with the way you're living your life. And the blurb on the back of the book promises no less, stating "This book will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable, and invite believers to change the world with Christ's radical love."
I realize a lot of you may not believe in Christ or have much thought about Him at all--but long before I did, I believed that I had an obligation to other humans as I'm sure many of you feel. And this book challenges me to think through that obligation (albeit in the context of my faith), forcing me to think about whether adopting a child at Christmas, serving as a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and a few little things like that is simply missing the mark (even if those acts did allow me to "check off" community service on my list of things I want to do/should do).
After reading this book, I'm inclined to think that I've been missing at least half the point if not the point completely. Of course, after I watch Silence of the Lambs, I want to join the FBI. Anyway, I've thought of giving and serving in the context of what "they" need from me, realizing that there is great joy in giving and that I'd learn a little along the way (like awareness and understanding). And perhaps I'm doing just enough to satisfy my feeling that I have some obligation to others.
"Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still remain a safe distance from the poor."
Later he writes that "Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No new radical community is formed."
And I think community is what I've been missing out on in my desire to fit my obligation to others into an appointment after work one evening per week--confining them to a neat little compartment of my life so as to not disturb the rest of it. Claiborne lives in community with a diverse group of people in Philadelphia who "wrestle to free ourselves from macrocharity and distant acts of charity that serve to legitimize apathetic lifestyles of good intentions but rob us of the gift of community." And it reminds me a little of my great-aunt. While she never lived in the ghetto, she often got collect calls from prisoners who she'd met in her prison ministry work. I remember thinking that those calls must be incredibly annoying and wondering why she gave them her number--and accepted their calls. But perhaps she was experiencing community, recognizing that the prisoners had something to offer her as well and that God could use them to transform her. She realized that community cannot be created in two isolated hours a week.
So where does all of this thinking leave me? I'm not sure. Part of me just wants to shove the book and the way it makes me feel to a far away place lest it make my life any more uncomfortable. But another part of me can't seem to stop thinking about how Christ lived His life and how very different our world would be if we lived in community with one another (and not just the people just like us who are pretty easy to love) rather than escaping to our homes with our cell phones, televisions, and computers and our neat little lives. And then I think, "nah, I'll just take a McDreamy and white picket fence please." And then I remember that every single time I've trusted the Lord and sought His plan, things have turned out so much better than my (uncreative) mind ever imagined. Alright, off to bed...if this post makes little sense, I apologize:)
p.s. I'm thankful for being challenged and the luxury of considering questions like these.