The more I read Christian books, the more I love Jack Caputo (not least for his award-winning TWOG, which changed my grief, if not my life). I mean, the guy writes beautifully, sees the world artistically, and doesn’t seem to hold anything back (though I’m quite sure he does, since he’s a philosopher of the first order, and I can understand everything he says!). Like Pete Rollins, he boldly asserts his thoughts and opinions, then backs off to leave some space for the reader to explore for her/himself. But the third philosopher that kept coming to mind was from another genre altogether: Ryan Sharp and The Cobalt Season (especially BITY and ISUT), where he covers some of the same ground with more heart and even more artistry. If I worked for Amazon (and I’d like that, very much), I’d bundle all of these books and CDs together.
In the beginning of his latest book, Caputo picks up Sheldon’s In His Steps, following the story and suggesting that in asking ‘What Would Jesus Do?’(tm, made in China), we usually miss the point: our ideas and applications net the same results that we would get from almost any other ethicist or moral philosopher. No, in tweaking the question to ‘What Would Jesus Deconstruct?’, Caputo finds resonance with Jesus, and pushes the reader to consider what is truly unique about Jesus, his world view, and his moral philosophy. In so doing, Caputo shines some light into the cell where the church is held captive by the strong forces of the day: Empire, greed, triumphalism and self-congratulation.
If the very middle of the book is a bit dry, it is only because the author is laying some groundwork for the most powerful moves to come. In the end, Caputo takes up social issues– poverty, war, patriarchy, abortion, and homosexuality– head on, offering some alternate perspectives which are as unusual as they are insightful. So that, in the end, (as he says of two other books he commends) like the message at the beginning of the film “Mission Impossible”, this book itself self-destructs, to that we can get on with the mission ahead.
I relished this book so much that I want to say a lot about it– to organize my thoughts and share some of Caputo’s thinking, or (better yet) to show how my thinking has changed. But doing so would deny the greatest power of Caputo’s work: it, like the New Testament which he so reveres, and like Jesus himself, destabilizes, deconstructs, disorganizes, and makes a lovely jumble of my thoughts and attitudes and assumptions. He shuffles my cards and spreads them on the table so that I can see who I am, and decide if I’d like to change. So undone, I’m not in a big hurry to clean up the mess just yet.