Book Review: “Red Letter Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo
Claiborne, Shane and Campolo, Tony. Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Hardback, $22.99.
Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo have collaborated to create an enlightening book that reads like a conversation. The text of the book is a dialogue moving back and forth between Claiborne and Campolo, with each author’s thoughts in a different font so that they can be easily distinguished.
The book is divided into three parts: Red Letter Theology, Red Letter Living, and Red Letter World. These three parts build on each other in order, I believe, to provide an understanding about the process of becoming a Red Letter Christian; namely, that one begins with orthodoxy and then moves to orthopraxy, allowing him or her to positively influence the world.
Red Letter Theology covers a variety of topics: History, Community, the Church, Liturgy, Saints, Hell, Islam, and Economics. Claiborne and Campolo dialogue with each other about these topics in a way that urges the reader to approach these issues with new, open eyes. This is a movement away from the Religious Right and the fundamentalist movement of today (which Campolo specifically discusses in the introduction) to a movement of “Red Letter Christians” focused on what Christ teaches. If you are familiar with how popular Christianity in America as portrayed on the media views these matters, then you will not be familiar with Claiborne and Campolo’s approach.
Red Letter Living moves from discussing what Red Letter Christians believe (or more importantly, what Jesus taught) to how Red Letter Christians should apply these beliefs and teachings in their everyday lives. Such issues as Family, being Pro-Life, Environmentalism, Women, Racism, Homosexuality, Immigration, Civil Disobedience, and Giving are all discussed in this section of the book. The insights that the authors provide are truly eye opening at times.
The final part of the book, Red Letter World, discusses Empire, Politics, War and Violence, National Debts, the Middle East, the Global Church, Reconciliation, Missions, and Resurrection. These chapters basically discuss Red Letter Living on a global scale. The way Campolo understood the Christian’s role in politics during his generation and Claiborne’s understanding during this generation are starkly contrasted, but also seems to fit together quite nicely.
Ultimately, Claiborne and Campolo succeed in covering a wide range of topics and teachings in this book. Most average American readers will be pleasantly surprised by the results. Conservative Christians might be challenged or even slightly offended, which is a good thing (Jesus wasn’t afraid of offending the religious establishment, so neither should his followers). My only (slight) complaint is that the authors are in agreement on everything. They point out differences in method, such as how their different generations approached politics, but for the most part the dialogue is completely in agreement. It would be nice to hear Campolo or Claiborne dialoging with someone who was not in agreement on each issue. Outside of that single complaint, this book is great. I recommend it to anyone who either is a Christian or is curious about the role of Christianity in the world today.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”