Shane Claiborne is someone I’ve been following for quite some time—someone who I greatly admire and who I believe is an important, prophetic voice for the church today. If you’ve read his books or heard him speak, you know how provocative and compelling and fascinating he is. In my book on Christian hipster culture, Shane gets more than a few paragraphs mention.
I recently had the chance to interview Shane as an online feature to go along with the cover story for the latest Biola Magazine. You can read the interview by clicking here, but here is a little excerpt:
BM: One of the things you often talk about is how we should live simpler lives and consume less. As Christians, what are some ways that we can live more simply?
SC: There are really concrete things we can do. For example, we can fast in some way – in a way that allows us to identify with poverty and the groaning in the world. We can fast from the things that clutter and complicate our lives, things that we think are necessities but for the rest of the world are really luxuries.
I don’t really believe it’s a call to ascetism out of guilt but rather the call to live life to the fullest, as John 10:10 says. It’s a call that not only brings life to the poor and is a sensible way of living, but it also brings us to life. We’ve chosen patterns of living so that even though we are the wealthiest country in the world, we have some of the highest rates of loneliness and depression and medication. We’ve really lost community and the things that are the deepest hungers of our heart. And in order to remember those things, I think we need to cut away the chaff. We can learn to carpool, or grow our own food, or share our possessions like the early church did. We may be rediscovering this by necessity these days. I’m excited because I see folks saying, “Hey, not everyone needs a washer and dryer. Why don’t we share it with a few families? Why don’t we share a car together? Why don’t we have one lawnmower that our cul-de-sac uses?” I think all those are great steps, and ultimately what you discover is that it’s fantastic to free yourself from this compartmentalized existence where you don’t know your neighbors and think you don’t need anybody else. (read more)
Shane is a super earnest, likeable guy, and though his dreadlocked, homemade-tunic appearance can be off-putting, he’s one of the nicest and most respectable voices of his generation. His passion and commitment to living an unorthodox, counter-cultural life seems to be genuine, and he is the first to say that he is neither cool nor a hipster. He writes in The Irresistible Revolution that his coolness was ruined by “a God who has everything backward,” and that “you don’t get crucified for being cool; you get crucified for living radically different from the norms of all that is cool in the world.”
But this statement is a little paradoxical, because the types of things Claiborne does—serving the poor, fighting consumerism, being green and opposing the Iraq war, etc.—are in fact very cool these days. The “norms of all that is cool” from which he rebels are actually totally uncool commodities of the establishment. So though he is acting very earnestly in his desire to appear uncool, Claiborne is nevertheless inescapably hip. But it’s all good.
That he actively shuns the label only makes him cooler.