April 9, 2008
Live from Shift: Telling Better Stories
Shane Claiborne on grace, Baghdad, and the imagination.
Here at Out of Ur we've been hosting a conversation about the themes found in Shane Claiborne's latest book, Jesus for President (part one and part two). As is evident from this conversation, Shane is a guy who provokes a response in those he encounters. Certainly those at the Shift conference who just heard Shane speak about The Scandal of Grace got a taste of this.
Before proceeding, let me tell you how hard it is to summarize Shane Claiborne. The guy is a non-stop storyteller! Stories about growing up in Tennessee attending youth group. Stories about his home in the rough neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Stories about going to Iraq on the eve of the bombing of Baghdad. On top of his stories, Shane quotes incessantly: Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King JR, and Dostoevsky among others. Consider this a plea to check this post in a couple hours when we can post some video of this session.
Update. Here are some video highlights from this session.
In addition to writing and speaking, Shane is a member of the Simple Way, a Christian community in Philadelphia. It is obvious his experience with this community (identified by some as New Monasticism) has deeply impacted how he understands the role of the church in America. Citing the research found in Unchristian, Shane told this room of youth leaders that those outside the church see them primarily as anti-gay, judgmental, and hypocritical. Against this discouraging research, Shane summarized Jesus' reply to John the Baptist's question in Luke 7. "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."
And what might it look like to be people who are defined not by the research in Unchristian but by the type of grace seen in Luke 7? While for Shane this involves living in a dangerous neighborhood and traveling to Baghdad on the eve of war, he makes it clear that there are many ways to answer this question. What could it look like in your ministry? How do the un-churched students that you interact with describe Christianity? How does your ministry reflect Jesus' words of hope and grace?
One of the conversations Shane had while he was in Iraq was with a Christian bishop. After Shane expressed surprise about how many Christians he was meeting in Baghdad, the bishop replied, "You Christians in America didn't invent Christianity, you just domesticated it." Perhaps one of the antidotes to this domestication is to rekindle our Christian imagination. Looking around the auditorium as Shane spoke, it was apparent that people's imaginations had been captured. In the last session, Mark Yaconelli spoke about how busy and distracted most of us are. This observation was coupled with a challenge to reclaim the Sabbath so that we might have room to hear from God. I wonder if another benefit of Mark's challenge is that we may begin to imagine ways of living within our world that align with Jesus' teaching.
I have heard Shane speak a few times and though his words can often be challenging (and disagreeable to some), it is always clear that people walk away with a sense of what is possible. Despite the magnitude of the global crises Brian McLaren spoke about this morning, the Shift attendees are walking out of the room with their heads full of ideas. As best I can tell, this is a result of our Christian imaginations being stirred.
I wonder if this type of imaginative storytelling happens on a regular basis in our churches and student ministries. Should it?