by Shane Claiborne
There have been few books that have been as provocative as Claiborne’s book. As one of the primary architects/revolutionaries behind The Simple Way, the book is his group’s manifesto.
In it, you’ll read with edge-of-your-seat incredulity as he describes ministry activities in some of Baghdad’s bombed-out poor neighborhods, in India alongside of Mother Theresa and to lepers and also as an intern on staff at Willow Creek Community Church, one of America’s largest mega-churches.
His observations of American Christianity will have you nodding, and you’ll be amazed at the grace he shows in his assessment of our consumerism-consumed church culture. I would have been far harsher, I think.
However, some of Claiborne’s conclusions are still taking chip shots at my previously-unquestioned assumptions about the poor, politics, war, and church.
Claiborne says, and these will be proof-texted and summarized:
- There is no such thing as “just war” for the follower of Christ. Using Jesus’ examples of non-retribution, Claiborne goes so far as to say that our nation’s response to 9/11 was tragically anti-Christian.
- He says that the prevailing mindset of Christians in our country is unbiblical and continues to unquestioningly support the “arrogant myth of redemptive violence.”
- Claiming that the “monologue of the religious right is finally over,” he urges serious attention to Jesus’ teaching, words, and lifestyle. The biblically-guided believer cannot, he emphasizes, continue in blind support of one political party over the other today.
- American churchgoers are consumed with preserving their own lives and comfort, in direct opposition to Jesus’ words that “he who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Claiborne says that the believers should stride boldly toward the war-torn places on earth, toward the poor and imprisoned, just as Jesus did.
In a powerful quote from one of his college professors,
“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance; just don’t tiptoe.”
- Claiborne also shares stories about intentional Christian communities springing up all over the world to literally practice ministry to the poor, outcast, overlooked and disenfranchised. He has a lot to say about redistribution of wealth, which upon first reading sounded like socialist or Marxist propaganda. However, Claiborne is able to share stirring biblical evidence for the radical importance of our churches’ need to seriously reevaluate our ministry to the poor.
I’m still processing, I confess; however, I deeply appreciate any book, thinker, or leader that simply does that… make me think deeply. While I am not stepping forward to embrace all that Claiborne advocates, I am moving forward. No one can say that they are following Christ and stay where they are.