Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shane Claiborne: from saved to unsafe

In the first chapter of The Irresistible Revolution, Claiborne talks about how he went from a safe, "saved" Christianity to a Christianity that, in his words, wrecked his life.

When he converted to Christianity in high school, he was popular, wanted a life of upward mobility and planned to go to medical school. The "pop Christianity" he was exposed to didn't challenge those aspirations. In fact, he says, a lot of his Christianity was about buying: the Jesus t-shirt, bumper sticker, books, movies, candy, etc. He was, he says, a spiritual bulimic, gorging on spirituality but vomiting it all up before it could digest. Really, he says, "all I had was a lot of Christian clutter, in my bedroom and in my soul."

He uses a great image to describe that kind of spirituality: "It's what always happens to the saints and prophets who are dangerous: we bronze them, we drain them of their passion and life and trap them in stained glass windows and icons ..."

Then something happened. He began to take seriously the gospel message, such as that the last will be first. That God blesses the poor more than the rich. That we should love our enemies. As he puts it: "What if [Jesus] really meant it? It could turn the world upside down. It was a shame Christians had become so normal."

He had a true conversion. He started looking at the world through a different set of lenses. He slept out with the homeless and began to experience ordinary miracles: people with nothing feeding each other, people who were abused seeing the good in others. He began to realize the transcendent was all around him, if he only had eyes to see it.

Have you had a similar conversion? What was it like?

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