Monday, December 10, 2012

Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo


Early in my faith, I remember reading Shane Claiborne’s first book, The Irresistible Revolution, and being completely awed that someone could walk out their faith in such a tangible way. Claiborne made his own clothes, lived in an impoverished community to serve those around him, and even served alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta. I had never before heard of anyone so selfless. I don’t agree with Claiborne on everything theologically, but I have always admired him as a brother in the faith. I was less familiar with Tony Campolo but had heard him speak a few times and knew his general stance on social issues. So, I was confident beginning Claiborne and Campolo’s joint venture, Red Letter Revolution, that I was going to disagree with much of the theology. Rather than entering my venture with this work critically, I looked at it more as an opportunity to engage with someone who viewed things differently than myself.
Red Letter Revolution is written as a conversation between Claiborne and Campolo. Each chapter is devoted to a particular topic such as the Church, Family, Missions, etc. in which Claiborne and Campolo converse about that subject. They leave very little stones unturned and cover some of the hottest and most debated topics such as Hell, Homosexuality, the Middle East, and Islam. While most of the subjects addressed could easily (and usually do) take a whole book to unpack, Claiborne and Campolo never go into too much depth; rather, they offer their views on the given topic briefly in most cases, with most chapters being 8-10 pages.
Let me begin by talking about the things I liked about Red Letter Revolution. I really enjoyed the conversation style of the book. The style made the book feel as if I were eavesdropping on Claiborne and Campolo breaking down all of the current hot-button topics. Also, since the chapters were dedicated to a particular subject, the reader can jump specifically to whatever topic interests them most.
As stated earlier, Shane Claiborne’s lifestyle is intriguing, and in a lot of cases, more Christ-like than my own. I really enjoyed the stories he shares about his own experiences. The love Claiborne has for people seems to be genuine. There is a lot I can learn from him in that way. He shares a lot about his lifestyle in the chapter on Community which I found helpful.
During the chapter on missions I was able to "Amen" many of the authors' points. Too often missionaries, particularly from the States, will hinder a foreign mission field by creating in the local people a dependency on outside help. Ultimately, we should be helping the indegenous people do what they can do themselves.
Now for the things that I did not like about Red Letter Revolution. My main issue with this book is the fundamental premise. I just don’t buy the whole “we’re Red Letter Christians” theology. It seems a bit redundant. If someone is genuinely a Christian (Christ-follower), then of course they follow the Jesus who spoke those red words. But, not while ignoring the rest of the Bible.
My other main issue is with the conversation style, which was also one of the primary things I liked about this book.  It seemed there were some edits that may have affected the flow of the conversation. There were quite a few places where one of the authors would be speaking, and the other author would pick up the conversation as if their counterpart had not said anything; almost as if each author gave their thoughts without ever hearing the other person’s input first.
Red Letter Revolution is an interesting read to say the least. I definitely find myself at odds with some of Claiborne and Campolo’s theology, but I cannot deny that they bring something to the table of which I could use more. The main theme throughout Red Letter Revolution is love. Claiborne and Campolo challenge the reader to love their neighbor and those that differ from us whether religiously, economically, or in sexuality. For those that do not mind being challenged and maybe even a little uncomfortable, Red Letter Revolution might be worth checking out.

I received a copy of this book for free from in exchange for my review.