July 27, 2009

FGC Gathering 2009: Shane Claiborne

At the start of my previous post, I make some comparisons between the first two plenary speakers at the 2009 FGC Gathering, Ben Pink Dandelion and Shane Claiborne.

Here I'll repeat some of the opening remarks I noted in the last post:

Both Ben Pink Dandelion and Shane Claiborne called us to greater faithfulness and greater care to looking at what we possess and what we profess.

Below, as in the previous post, are a number of quips, ideas, and stories I jotted down during Shane's plenary. Too much time has passed between having heard it and writing about it now, so I giving myself permission to type things into a list of what I noted, rather than formulating a cohesive blogpost.

Initial thoughts

In the notebook I took with me to his plenary, in the margins of the first page, I have these words:

    a sort of caricature
    not humble
It's not that Shane was prideful or boastful as much as he was on fire: He believes in what he says. He professes what he possesses.

I short, I think he reflects the George Fox I carry in my mind: How accepted would Shane Claiborne be if he were to start ministering to us 21st Century Quakers out of the silence during a meeting for worship...?

But being a plenary speaker at Gathering provides the speaker with a great deal of advanced forgiveness from the audience of mostly Liberal Quakers. After all, plenary is not a meeting for worship and there must be a reason why FGC and its Gathering Committee invited him in the first place, right?

By the way, FGC will likely have all the plenaries available in CD later in 2009, through its QuakerBooks.

Shane Claiborne

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a preacher. Then they look at me--Shane is a young white man, wears baggy clothes, and has long dreadlocks--and say, "They don't make preachers like they used to." And I say, "Thank God!"

What I love about Jesus is his imagination, like having the idea to turn water into wine, to keep the party going. Or healing a blind man by spitting on dirt. Jesus brings redemption in unexpected ways.

The gospels spread best not through force but through fascination. Jesus doesn't insist on who he is or isn't. When people asked Jesus, "Are you the Messiah?" he would answer "Tell me what you see, what you hear."

These are the current day perceptions of Christians by people who are outside the Church:
The Church must do something in order for Christians to be seen by others as being connected with:
    Justice and peace.

After telling a story about how he bought an ice cream cone for a child in a very poor village, Shane describes how the child called around all of his friends--and the child passes the ice cream cone to each one so each child may have a lick of it. Then Shane says:
Here is the secret of Jesus: Give away the best things in life to others.
Another tidbit from Shane: Mother Teresa would wear the worst of all the pairs of donated shoes so that she would know no one would have a worse pair than she.

Christians have so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives.

How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore a homeless man on Monday?

The reputation of Christianity and the reputation of America are closely linked, especially outside of America. People are seeing things done in the name of Jesus that didn't look like the love of Jesus.

American didn't invent Christianity. It only domesticated it.

An idea for a T-shirt: Everyone wants a revolution but no one wants to do the dishes.

My own afterthoughts

Less of Shane's plenary spoke to my condition than did Ben's. Some of it may have to do with the fact that I wasn't raised in the Christian faith tradition and Shane isn't Quaker. Many of Shane's stories referred to his own Christian practice and belief, not specifically Quakerism. Ben's stories and remarks, on the other hand, were more directly connected to Quakerism.

I also think social class differences between Shane and me impacted my ability to listen deeply to what he was saying. A number of his stories come from his background having grown up in the poorer parts of the South [in the States] and of his life on a farm or of experiences that his farming family and friends had.

All the words in the world can't adequately convey the experiences that we internalize in our youth, and Shane's storytelling, outrageous humor, and personal decisions about his path simply don't correspond to my own. I left the plenary wondering if Shane's voice is authentic, or if it is a ministry or gift he has to be able to share the voice of so many others through his stories?

I won't know the answer but he made me laugh. And he made me wonder about the judgments that I have about "evangelists" and whether I would have been turned off by George Fox or if the Light would have still reached me, despite the words it was cloaked in...



Liz in the Mist said...

Thanks for your reflections!

Shane came to town this spring and it was well attended and I enjoyed hearing him speak very much. His book Irresistible Revolution is worth reading. I like his emphasis on putting beliefs into action, that was the main thing that spoke to me.

I got to eat lunch with him and a friend of his afterward, they were very easy to speak with. They had been to Rwanda recently (where I am going) so it was neat to discuss that.

Mark Wutka said...

Hi Liz,
Thank you for sharing your reflections on Shane's talk. I have listened to a few interviews with him and some clips of his talks. I appreciate a lot of the things I have heard him say, and the things he has done. While I believe he is also trying to live out what he understands Christ is calling him to do, there are differences is how we approach God. I believe we can rejoice in our shared concerns, and in the different ways that God works through people, without giving up our own tradition. That makes it easier to look beyond the places where we differ.

For folks who think of Quakerism as following the testimonies (or a similar outwardly-oriented categorization), I would ask "Is Shane Claiborne a Quaker?"

You wrote: And he made me wonder about the judgments that I have about "evangelists" and whether I would have been turned off by George Fox or if the Light would have still reached me, despite the words it was cloaked in

My first reaction was "yes, it would have", because my understanding is that the Gospel - the power - is not in the words but in the Spirit behind them, and that is what would have reached you. That does not mean that you might still have had a negative reaction to the words. There was a time when I reacted quite negatively to something a friend had written, and yet there was something that stayed with me and grew in me, and it is one of the reasons I found my way back to God. Isaac Penington also wrote of his first encounters with Quakers and how then engendered a loving spirit in him even though because of their differences in doctrine, he said he despised them.

With love,

Robin M. said...

I wonder if the certainty in Claiborne's message also impacts your ability to hear it?

On a side note about Claiborne, I can't bring myself to read his book Jesus for President because it is so overly design-y despite the fact that Chris said it's really good.

Liz Opp said...

Liz in the Mist -

Good to see you here! Sounds like it was a real opportunity to be able to chat with Shane, especially in light of your upcoming trip to Rwanda. Safe travels!

Mark -

I think George Fox's words (among others) could have seeped into me back then had I been relatively "spiritually mature"--that is, not frightened or put off by the outward, zealous nature of another's ministry.

I guess I'll never know, though Shane's talk certainly raised the question for me.

Robin -

I don't think it's Shane's "certainty" as much as it is that I simply wasn't raised with that sort of Christian vernacular, understanding, world view, etc.

And like you, I haven't been able to get past the design of the book. Maybe another time.