Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shane Claiborne: A Quaker

I've finished Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. Claiborne's Christianity looks almost identical to Christ-centered Quakerism. He embodies the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, equality, community and integrity.

Claiborne lives among the poor in a community called the Simple Way. Part of his mission is to spread an anti-consumerist, anti-materialist message. His is the gospel message that we can live simply because God provides abundantly.

Claiborne was part of a peacekeeping group that went to Iraq. Like the early Quakers, he understands that Jesus modeled peace and forgiveness by not fighting back with physical weapons against his oppressors. Claiborne urges us to beat our swords into ploughshares.

He is passionate to keep the community he is part of equal, and rather than seeing it as having layers, which could be interpreted as hierarchical, he likens it to an onion--you can peel the layers away but no layer is "better" than the others.

He is passionate about community and finds living in community essential. He argues in favor of small communities. He writes about the importance of entering into relationships with people rather than fighting for "issues." Our political actions should, he argues, should arise from our experiences with real people, not from ideas or what the early Quakers might call "airy notions." Above all, he calls for loving people. All people. He keeps a poster of Bush on the ceiling above his bed.

He lives out his beliefs.

He wants to find, live out and promote authentic, early church Christianity, which is what the early Quakers wanted to do.

My question: Why are liberal Quakers so reluctant to claim and proclaim this rich Christian heritage?

4 comments:

Allison said...

For me, it's that I associate the word "Christian" with the opposite of what Jesus taught, spiritual condescension. I didn't know "integrity" at the time was one of my values, but I guess it was because I believed that people should walk the walk, not just talk the talk. This is what brought me to Friends.

I am still somewhat resistant to the word Christian because it seems many Christians demand their understanding of Jesus and God and do not allow for other personal interpretations. I find this even among Quakers. When I talk about gaining insight from pagans or Buddhists or the Tao Te Ching, many Christ-centric people make me feel as if I am less a Christian than they are.

Diane said...

Hi Allison,

I feel sorry that some Christians have so tainted the word that others don't want to use it. Maybe Shane will help reclaim it as it was meant to be.

Zach Alexander said...

Hi Diane,
You've asked a pointed question, and I'll be similarly frank in my response, hopefully in a friendly way.

First, most of what you describe -- loving people, being egalitarian, living in community, opposing war, loving your enemy -- doesn't dependent on Christianity. It's what informs him, and historically it's what has informed a lot of other people in that direction, and that's to Christianity's credit.

But you can be interested in and appreciative of what he's doing (I saw him speak at a church here in Mass. about a year ago) *and* simultaneously think that the Society should continue laying down any close association/identification with Christianity, for reasons that I can state if you like (though perhaps it's not necessary).

Does that make any sense?

Best,
Zach

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated Shane Claiborne's book as well. I grew up as a Quaker, but not a Christ-centered Quaker, and have lately been revisiting the roots of Quakerism, and am very taken with working to understand Jesus' power and light. I love Claiborne's energy and his overflowing love for God and Jesus and folks everywhere.

I am very drawn to Claiborne and the New Monasticism, but am also called to question the privileged folks at the center of the 12 marks, as though the people at the margins--to whom Jesus was drawn to be with--cannot be agents or actors. What do you think about this?