The Simple Way of Shane Claiborne


It was quite the sight to see Shane Claiborne speak at my church Tuesday night. Here’s a guy wearing a homemade monk’s robe, bandana and dreadlocks (his everywhere outfit), standing on the stage of Bel Air Presbyterian Church. That’s Bel Air… as in Fresh Prince. We are a wealthy, comfortable church, looking majestically over the Valley from our pristine perch atop the Hollywood Hills. It’s not a church Shane Claiborne probably feels that comfortable in… but that’s exactly why he needed to be there—to ruffle our feathers.

As Claiborne likes to say, his message (i.e. the message of Jesus) is meant to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. And it certainly did that Tuesday night.

Speaking to a crowd of about five or six hundred young people (the combined junior high, high school, college, and young adult ministries at the church), Claiborne recounted his conversion from the Christianity of his youth (alter calls, chubby bunny youth group games, televangelists) to the “simple way” that he now follows. He’s been written up in Christianity Today under the headline “The New Monasticism,” portrayed as the leading edge of a new movement of younger evangelicals committed to re-visioning the gospel through the eyes of the poor. Another one of his quips falls along these lines: “Christianity is not about gaining better vision” (i.e. faith healers/prosperity gospel), “but seeing with new eyes.”

Claiborne is a radical guy, and if he wasn’t so earnest and joyful and rhetorically sincere, his radical ideas might be easily written off. Obviously not everyone can (or should) sell everything and start a commune on the north side of Philadelphia (as Claiborne did). Not everyone can take off ten weeks to work alongside Mother Theresa in Calcutta (as Claiborne did). And few have the guts to live and work with maimed children in Baghdad while a war is going on outside (as Claiborne did). But as unthinkable as it all sounds on paper for us practical-minded suburbanites, Claiborne makes it sound not only doable, but desirable.

Claiborne is fashioning a new kind of Christian—in the lineage of Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa—that is radically different than the sort of deep-pockets, high-powered political machine that gets all the headlines these days. This is a Christianity uninterested in all forms of power except that of love… and community in Christ. Though it’s maybe not perfect as an all-encompassing rhetoric of new-school Christianity, it’s definitely provocative, inspiring, and quietly revolutionary.


10 responses to “The Simple Way of Shane Claiborne

  1. “This is a Christianity uninterested in all forms of power except that of love… ”

    I love that part… Thats all it should ever be about anyway!!

  2. shane claiborne is pretty rad. but i have to say that i think we can sell everything we have and live that “simple life”. we can work alongside mother teresa. and we can live amongst those children hearing bombs blow off while they sleep. i think it’s just a matter of choice and a desire to quit the pursuit of living the idealistic north-american life.

  3. Yes, we can do all those things, but some people need to stay in the city and work alongside those in the corporate world or those in the suburbs or those people living on our own streets. You can work among those pursuing the ‘American dream’ without buying into it yourself.
    But Shane Claiborne’s message sounds amazing and as though he’s striving to go back to Christ’s pure message of love and service. I think that’s something we all need to hear no matter where we live.

  4. Believe it or not…there were around 1,000 people there! Crazy. I was one of them. I thought having him at our church to speak was fantastic, I left with so much to think about and I think others did too. I think Shane is sincere to the core, I’m looking forward to reading his book.

  5. Haha, a postmodern monk speaking in front of a church in Bel air. Awesome.

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  7. shane claiborne. what a guy. i dream of hearing him speak. =] sounds like a world-rattling event.

  8. Several friends have read Claiborne’s book and I’m reading it now. Although my friends have been deeply challenged, I haven’t seen evidence of radical movements away from the status quo. As a corporate man, deeply entrenched in middle America, I’m hoping the ongoing influence from Shane Claiborne (and other leaders like him) upon my life, through the book and whatever other input we will have from him in the future, will have an impact that is both internal and external. I hope it impacts both my thoughts and actions, as scary as it is to say so.

  9. Thanks for your blog post about Shane Claiborne! I just wanted to let you know there are 2 videos of Shane speaking about his newest book Jesus for President, plus audio clips, visuals, and a blog tour at this link:

    Please feel free to join the blog tour.



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