Jesus Manifesto - Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola


Title: Jesus Manifesto
Authors: Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year: 2010
Pages: 240


This book makes strange bedfellows of two leaders who writings are typically gobbled up by their respective small tribes of devotees.

Viola has an anti-institutional church bent that he's voiced before (see Pagan Christianity? and Reimagining Church), while Sweet comes across as wishing he were a 15th century French philosopher.

The format of the book doesn't disclose who is writing which portion, but it becomes obvious:
Statements with anti-church sentiments are from Viola, while statements involving quotes from random monks in the middle ages are from Sweet.

Manifestos, typically, are written to be punchy, controversial, and specific - What's wrong? Why is it wrong? Who is wrong? But I found none of that in this book. Instead, I found this book to be cheesy uncontroversial, and vague. They never named any names but only went on ad nauseum with metaphors describing how high and lofty Jesus is. If you had never heard of Jesus and had only this book as your guide, you'd come away not realizing that he was a real human being!

The problem I have with this book is not its call to follow and worship Jesus (and yes, Jesus is presently exalted at the right hand of God), but that they never really spell out which Jesus it is to whom we should ascribe worth.

Is it the "homeboy Jesus" of the Hollywood-types? Is it the "baby Jesus" of Ricky Bobby? Or is it the Jesus who lived during the period of Second-Temple Judaism, was killed in a public execution, and was resurrected within the ongoing story of people who believed themselves to be chosen by God?

In the final analysis, it seems that Sweet and Viola want to challenge the people who are intent on praying and embodying the Lord's Prayer. It seems they want those people to give up that agenda, and instead, become modern-day, middle-class mystics who meet in suburban house churches, chanting to a disembodied Jesus while sipping coffee from Starbucks.

And that is my manifesto against their manifesto. You are free to disagree.

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