Rethinking Life: Embracing the Sacredness of Every Person

Amy Pagliarella reviews Shane Claiborne's latest book.

Shane Claiborne
Zondervan, 288 pages| Published February 7, 2023

If there’s anyone equipped to speak to a post-Roe vs. Wade America about being truly pro-life, it’s Shane Claiborne. Claiborne is both evangelical and progressive — author and founder of Red Letter Christians, a movement committed to living “as if Jesus meant the things he said.”

In Rethinking Life, Claiborne revisits the “pro-life” label he embraced as a Bible Belt teenager, before taking us on his journey to a more nuanced view. To do so, he walks briskly through thousands of years of history in which “some lives matter more than others.” While a minority argued that the lives of indigenous and enslaved people were equally sacred, Christian leaders aligned their theology with economic and political forces. Claiborne effectively argues that our struggles with guns, racism and punitive anti-abortion laws are rooted in this theology.

For those seeking an introduction to American Christianity’s sordid past, Rethinking Life is an excellent choice. Claiborne doesn’t, however, break new ground. I quickly wearied of descriptions of the brutality of the crusades, European colonialism, lynching and eugenics — not because I wasn’t horrified, but because I have read this before.

Clairborne briefly moves to concluding stories of speaking life — “and grace and love and tenderness” that inspire and uplift. Perhaps Claiborne’s work will reach an audience who finds something new in his claim that “(i)t’s time to tell the truth about America, and to bust the myth of American exceptionalism.” And then perhaps we all – red, blue and purple Americans – will benefit from his grace-filled approach to life.

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