Monday, March 30, 2020

"Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness in a Broken World" - Craig Greenfield

I've had some encounters with "Subversive Jesus" author Craig Greenfield on Twitter, though for quite some time I was out of the reading rhythm and had never gotten to his book.

In late 2018, I really got into reading again and have continued into 2019. Thus, I've been going after a lot of these authors whom I've encountered via social media or whose writings I've simply heard about and wanted to read.

A relatively short book, "Subversive Jesus" is an immersive experience that takes you inside Greenfield's immersive brand of Christianity that is radically relational, subversive, vulnerable, and aimed at being alongside those whom society, including churches, often forgets and/or ignores.

Greenfield acknowledges having been born into affluence and aiming for the good life as a corporate exec in a successful tech start-up. He was well on his way until an Asian experience led to his feeling called to live his life in a radically different way. He moved with his wife Nay, a former refugee from the Khmer Rouge into a Cambodian slum where the two lived alongside the vulnerable children in the slum. This experience led to the developing of Alongsiders International, an organization that has continued to spread across Cambodia along with a dozen countries across Asia and Africa. After many years in Cambodia, Craig and Nay felt God calling them into what could have been an entirely different type of setting - Vancouver. However, consistent with how they were living their lives the two ended up in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside "a 2km stretch of decaying rooming houses, seedy strip bars and shady pawnshops. In Vancouver, they started an intentional community called Servants Vancouver where they practiced the radical hospitality of Christ with people struggling with drug addiction, homelessness, and prostitution. Easily the poorest section and least safe section of Vancouver, they began encountering fellow radicals who helped them widen their reach and begin such things as the Pirates of Justice flash mobs.

Early in 2013, they returned to Cambodia.

"Subversive Jesus" is filled with Greenfield's raw, vulnerable experiences alongside those most vulnerable everywhere he went. At times, his actions are challenging and at times you're likely going to find yourself shaking your head thinking to yourself "Yep, that's how it should be." Greenfield shares successes and, with great humility, those challenging experiences where lessons are learned and faith is challenged.

While I was definitely convicted at times, I'll also admit there were fleeting moments when I felt like Greenfield was perhaps too easily dismissive of the outreach of others. While I understood his points, and often agreed with them, the tone at times, especially in a chapter on subversive charity, seemed just a tad too harsh.

However, there's simply no denying that Greenfield is convicted to live into a radically subversive faith journey and that he grounds that conviction deep within scripture and within the results he's seen as he lived over the years in these places. He grows obviously tired of charities and churches that fail to build relationships with those they "serve" and isn't hesitant to state that many times this serve is as much, and maybe more, about the church than it is about those being served.

It wold be nearly impossible to not have some convictions, some challenges, and some issues with a book so passionately and honestly written as "Subversive Jesus." However, these things have simply made me more glad to have connected with Greenfield via Twitter and to now learn more about his ministry and Alongsiders International.

While "Subversive Jesus" is a relatively short read, it's far from a breezy read. I was reading the book last night in a local restaurant and someone walking by gave me a thumbs up and said "Great book!"

I agree.

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