If there is such a thing as a disarming radical, 30-year-old Claiborne is it.
A former Tennessee Methodist and born-again, high school prom king, Claiborne
is now a founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith
communities. His is called the Simple Way, located in a destitute neighborhood
of Philadelphia. It is a house of young believers, some single, some married,
who live among the poor and homeless. They call themselves "ordinary radicals"
because they attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to
Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts.
Claiborne's chatty and compelling narrative is magnetic-his stories (from
galvanizing a student movement that saved a group of homeless families from
eviction to reaching Mother Teresa herself from a dorm phone at 2 a.m.) draw
the reader in with humor and intimacy, only to turn the most common ways of
practicing religion upside down. He somehow skewers the insulation of
suburban living and the hypocrisy of wealthy churches without any
self-righteous finger pointing. "The world," he says, "cannot afford the
American dream." Claiborne's conviction, personal experience and description
of others like him are a clarion call to rethink the meaning of church,
conversion and Christianity; no reader will go away unshaken. (Feb.)
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