I’ve just watched at my youth group a DVD of a talk by Shane Claiborne, an amazing guy, a radical Christian who believes in actually doing stuff, actually living as a Christian. I saw only about the last fifteen minutes of his speech at the Greenbelt festival last week, but that was enough to know that this was a person who makes the kind of speeches that are challenging and discomforting in a good way – that really make you think about yourself and your place in the world.
He’s from Tennessee and, you might agree if you watch the clip below, he looks and sounds a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He’s also pretty funny. But far more than that, his speeches are so impassioned and insightful, filled not just with thought-provoking ideas to make you ponder but with the kind of things that really make you feel like you should act, like you should actually change your life as a result of hearing them.
He draws on a lot of his personal experiences from working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, in Baghdad during the Iraq War and against the outrageous laws against feeding the homeless in Philadelphia, and some of the things he said were really humbling and eye-opening. About how the more you have, the less you are. About how, when a house was donated to Mother Teresa, she told them to immediately get rid of all the hot water, because the poor don’t have hot water, so she wouldn’t either. Or her deformed feet, after years of always choosing the worst of the shoes donated to the family, so that no-one was stuck with the worst pair. With her deformed feet, she bore the mark of years of loving her neighbour, of putting other people before herself.
But clearly not all Christians are like Mother Teresa. According to Claiborne, a Gallup poll in the US showed that the 3 words that most young non-Christians in America associated with Christians were: 1. anti-gay 2. judgemental and 3. hypocritical. That’s disturbing. The fact that it’s not really a surprise makes it even more disturbing. And though people’s perceptions of Christians and what Christians are actually like are not always the same thing, they must have got these ideas from somewhere. And it might not be quite so bad here in the UK, but it’s still not great.
The Bible tells us that love is the most important quality for a Christian to have. Whatever the top result would be in a similar survey here, it wouldn’t be love. But Claiborne’s call is for us Christians to rise up, to be how we were made to be and to be a proper reflection of God’s love to the world. This is what Jesus is going to judge us on, as in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats – “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” It’s the people who truly love God and their neighbour who do these things, and it’s these kinds of people who will inherit God’s kingdom.
Anyway, here’s a video of Claiborne speaking, so you can hear for yourself. I haven’t watched it myself, but with the title “Another Way of Doing Life”, it’s hopefully quite similar to the two (or one and a bit) speeches I’ve seen.