Featured Reviews, VOLUME 3

Featured: ECONOMY OF LOVE – Shane Claiborne, et al. [Vol. 3, #32]

“Let’s Talk about Money

A Review of
Economy of Love:

Book / DVD set.
Shane Claiborne, Darin Petersen and others.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Economy of Love: Book / DVD set.

Shane Claiborne, Darren Petersen and others.

Paperback: The House Studio, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

In this age of overwhelming greed and competition, one of the most radical things we can do together as church communities is to talk about money – how much we make, how we spend it and how that all relates to the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  Toward this end, the network of friends known as Relational Tithe has assembled some resources that are very helpful for initiating these sorts of conversations within our churches.  These resources, a book and a DVD, entitled Economy of Love, challenge us to think differently about the nature of money and how much of it we need.

The structure of both the book and the DVD is a series of five conversations about money and its role among the people of God.  The book itself is sufficient as a guide through these conversations, but groups who would choose simply to follow the book would miss out on the superb video footage produced by The Work of the People, which continues their heralded tradition of simple, raw and elegant video work.  The DVD contains a track to accompany each conversation in the book, and these brief tracks (3-5 minutes each) feature some thoughts from Shane Claiborne.  The book, laid out in an edgy style reminiscent of Claiborne’s earlier book Jesus for President (co-written with Chris Haw), contains the full transcripts of Claiborne’s DVD talks, along with pointed discussion questions and storytelling and commentary written by Isaac Anderson.  The book concludes with chapter written by Darin Petersen narrating “The Story of Relational Tithe.”

Economy of Love is an excellent resource that turns our ideas about the Gospel, money and justice on their heads.  Its greatest asset and its biggest flaw is its brevity, which allows much room for conversation, discernment and local adaptation, but never seems, in the five conversations, to get around to the practical issues of how we embody these very important Kingdom ideas.  Petersen’s epilogue chapter on Relational Tithe goes much further in the direction of practice, and should not be overlooked by church groups that endeavor to make their way through the five primary conversations.  Although Petersen’s chapter does not come with a video segment, I would strongly recommend that groups discuss it as a sixth conversation.  However, for churches that do take on such a discussion of the book’s sixth section, I offer the following caveat.   A network of radical friendships like Relational Tithe, while perhaps useful in the present as a sort of scaffolding to support us in a time of transition and re-formation of our ideas, cannot and should not be a substitute for our local, placed church communities.  To the extent that the Relational Tithe network is a placeless community – above and beyond the placed incarnations of its members – it, like all placeless communities (as Willie Jennings has so poignantly argued in his recent book The Christian Imagination) only serves to propagate the idea of our resources as an abstraction independent of land and place and therefore also to propagate the familiar racial and economic injustices of Western Culture.

So, by all means, read and discuss this excellent work in your churches, and allow it to launch you into deeper reflections about what the scriptures call us to in regard to money and other resources, but always keep in mind that the end is the embodiment of Christ Jesus by faithful communities in particular places all over the globe, and that ideas and networks like Relational Tithe are means to this end, and not the end themselves.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
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