Jesus Subverting Empire: a ★★★★★ book review

Craig Greenfield grew up with a ‘nice’ Jesus. The Jesus he learned about as a kid, had blond locks and the perfect beard. He was always kind, always polite. As he grew older, ‘nice Jesus’ morphed into respectable-good-citizen-Jesus: the Jesus that would save your soul -without challenging the status quo.

T240_360_book-1913-coverhen when he was twenty-two he went to Cambodia where an interaction with a beggar outside a Khmer Rouge genocide museum sent him on a path where he re-thought and re-examined who Jesus really was, why he came and what it means to follow Him. Subversive Jesus tells the story of Greenfield, his Cambodian wife Nay, and their family as they walked the subversive ways of Jesus. Greenfield journey takes him from New Zealand to the slums of Cambodia, to Vancouver’s Down-Town Eastside and to Cambodia again. Greenfield shares the insights he gained from other theologian/practitioners,  notably folks like Charles Ringma, Dave Diewert, and Dave Andrews; yet this book is primarily about what Greenfield and his family learned as they followed their subversive Jesus by challenging empire,  practicing radical hospitality, and loving and advocating for the marginalized.

Greenfield shares about hospitality and community, learning the place his children had in mission, living vulnerably and non-violently in the midst of a violent neighborhood,  and sharing with and including neighbors. Their family would have a community meals where participants cooked together and shared life around a table. Greenfield maintained a hospitable and welcoming stance toward neighbors and friends, yet he also recognized the need for proper boundaries to sustain life and ministry. Dave Andrews phrase, “Bizarre Behavior is okay. Abusive Behavior is not okay,” became a community rule (56). Greenfield observes that in the culture-at-large, the opposite is usually true (the bizarre are shunned and the abusive are praised for their strength).

Sometimes we may be tempted to think that being a Christian means being a good citizen of our country. Greenfield lives a more robust form of discipleship believing Jesus came to challenge empire and the powers of this age. This has led him to take counter-cultural (subversive) stances and the practice of resistance. Greenfield helps us see away to act faithful to God and governing authorities while resisting laws and aspects of culture that are unjust (submitting to the consequences of our resistance to unjust laws, is still submitting to government authority). For him this includes taking lemonade to drug dealers, organizing flash-mob-protests, starting community gardens, and building relationships among the marginalized.

I like this book a lot and loved hearing Greenfield’s story. This is a thoughtful, theologically rich and biblically sound account, but it is also a story of what it means to follow Jesus in broken places and a call or us also to live more courageously as we seek to follow our subversive Jesus.

One episode that was intriguing was the time, Greenfield’s community painted a pentagram as an act of worship to God and love for their neighbor. Yeah, It is terrible for me to give you that little detail without describing what actually happened or the events leading up to it. I guess you will just have to read the book yourself. I give this five stars. ★★★★★

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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