Book Review: Jesus for President (initial thoughts)

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : February 26, 2008

Yesterday, I received Jesus for President (written by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw…and designed by Holly and Ryan Sharp) in the mail. A lot of the themes of the book reflect my own convictions. In fact, they reflect my convictions enough to deflate me a little. This book has huge overlap with my own book project. I mean, at first blush a book contrasting the Kingdom of God and the American Dream called “the Jesus Manifesto” written by a largely obscure neo-monastic radical isn’t really different from a book contrasting the Kingdom of God and the American Dream called “Jesus for President” written by a well-known neo-monastic radical and a lesser-known neo-monastic radical. From what I’ve read, there are certainly differences. And there is always room for publishing books that are somewhat similar to other books (like the myriad books published on the emerging church–on a surface level, folks might think that the latest from Tom Sine, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones are all the same, but they’re not).

Personal anxieties and insecurities aside, I’ve got to say I’m liking the book. I’ve only read the first two sections, but so far, here are my initial observations:

  1. The book doesn’t set out to offer us anything new. Instead, it takes ideas from folks like Richard Horsley, NT Wright, John Howard Yoder, etc. and offers a simple, compelling introduction to radical Christianity with anarcho-flavors.
  2. The best part of the book, far and away, is the design. Without the design, the book would be worthwhile and successful. But with the design the book is stunning and is likely to be hugely successful. Ryan and Holly Sharp (of Cobalt Season fame) who design the book should get their names on the cover, rather than at the back of the book. The design seriously makes all the difference.
  3. My guess is that the end of the book is where all the magic is. A quick peek reveals taht the end of the book contains examples and suggestions and applications of the earlier content. We’ll see.

For the next couple of months, the Christarchy group at Bethel University will be going through the book, so I’ve decided to give the book a different sort of review. Instead of reading each section and giving my own personal feedback, I will review each of the four sections of the book based upon the thoughts generated from the Bethel group. Consider this a road-test approach to a book review.

And so, in coming weeks, we’ll be delving into the four sections of the book. Here’s when you can expect the next installments of the review:

  • March 12: Section 1 (before there were kings and presidents)
  • April 9: Section 2 (a new kind of commander-in-chief)
  • April 23: Section 3 (when the empire got baptized)
  • May 7: Section 4 (a peculiar party)

for further reading . . .

  • None Found


8 Responses to “Book Review: Jesus for President (initial thoughts)”

  1. Jarrod Saul McKenna on February 26th, 2008 6:16 pm

    G’day Mark,
    it’s really encouraging that there are so many of us that are being stirred in similar ways across the globe. It’s amazing that what Yoder was calling us to nearly 40 years ago in the ‘politics of Jesus’ is starting to go mainstream not just in books but in communities that embody the gospel. Thanks for what your crew is doing in witnessing to the kingdom mate, look forward to your book too. :)

  2. Michael Cline on February 27th, 2008 9:15 am

    Imitation is the purest form of flattery right? Or something like that.

    Did you get an early copy or is this out already? I need a copy so I can hang with the Bethel people.

  3. Mark Nielsen on February 27th, 2008 9:38 am

    Thanks, Mark.

    I caught the name Chris Haw in reading your review, and had a “that name sounds familiar” moment. (Not all brain cells die after age 40…) So I did a hard drive search, and sure enough, Chris and Cassie Haw of Camden N.J. were two of the seminar presenters at the Cynicism and Hope conference held at Reaba Place Church last fall. For conference details: There’s a little forum that just got started, to keep the convo going.

    I’ve got some notes on that discussion, but they’re very rough, and may need cleaning up before I share them. Let me know if you’re interested, though. Meanwhile… looks like I have another book to pick up this weekend, along with Everything Must Change.

    I’m still hoping to get up to MN this spring. Who’s working on your Christarchy video with you? I can maybe come for a couple days mid-March, if you still need help. Email me if you want to talk…


  4. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 27th, 2008 1:42 pm

    Mike, it is out already. Just look it up on Amazon.

    Mark…I might be getting some video help while I’m in Seattle…as well as from a friend back in Minneapolis. But you know how these things go…sometimes people want to help but it doesn’t happen. I’ll let you know.

    And I would be interested in your notes.


  5. dlw on March 1st, 2008 4:22 pm

    You cd always diff your product by including a chapter based on a dialogue with a Swedish-Baptist Pietist/Neo-Huguenot.


  6. Mark Van Steenwyk on March 1st, 2008 4:24 pm


  7. dlw on March 1st, 2008 5:28 pm

    Actually, that’d be kinda cool, if we cd agree on ground-rules, which is another issue….

    Keep the Jesus Manifesto title, no doubt!


  8. Amy on March 19th, 2008 7:38 am

    Thanks for your blog post about Jesus for President! I just wanted to let you know there are 2 videos of Shane speaking about Jesus for President, plus audio clips, visuals, and a blog tour at this link:

    Please feel free to join the blog tour.



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