February 10, 2009
Live from NPC: Shane Claiborne
So a comedian, a Jew, and a monk walk into a conference...
Skye and I arrived in San Diego this afternoon for the 2009 National Pastors Convention.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the opening evening of headlining sessions was the variety.
The evening started with a short routine by acclaimed comedian Michael Jr. Michael is a young black performer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who says he operates by a sort of "comedy accountability." Because he performs in bars, clubs, casinos, and even churches (Michael's a Christian), he says "everything I say in a club has to be clean enough to say from a church pulpit; everything I say in a pulpit has to be funny enough to say in a club." His material tonight drew from his experience becoming a Christian and encountering the Bible for the first time.
Next, Andy Crouch interviewed A. J. Jacobs, best-selling author of The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs calls himself a "respectfully agnostic Jew," but his insights into the power of Scripture were really interesting. He decided that the best way to deal with the Bible was "just to dive in. You pretend to be a better person and eventually you become a little bit better person." That's not Christian theology, for sure. But he articulated a profound respect for the Bible and, what's more, for putting it into practice.
The main event this evening was Shane Claiborne, who spoke about the "new economic vision" that God gives his people in Scripture. An important first step to understand Scripture's economic vision is "learning to laugh in the face of things in the world [like money] that don't have real power." He spent most of his time unpacking Mark 10:29-30, by suggesting that, in God's economy, there is enough for everyone because no one has more than he needs. He quoted an early Christians who said that a person who has two coats when someone has none was considered a thief in the kingdom of God; when you give to the poor, you're simply giving back what has been stolen.
He argued that the "end of poverty was one of the signs of the birthday of the church," and that loving our neighbors is not an "act of distant charity" but a matter of entering into relationship with our needy neighbors. This great summary line came late in his talk: "The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away." Then he put his money where his mouth was. Shane cashed the honorarium check that NPC paid him for his sermon tonight into $1 bills. As he concluded, he had someone bring a bag of the dollar bills to him; then he scattered them on the floor and invited everyone to come take one "as a sign of God's jubilee."
I found it difficult to gauge the audience's response to Shane's presentation. They were quiet and subdued; not hostile by any means, but not enthusiastic. I think his message struck home. I, for one, found it deeply convicting.
Stay tuned for more from Skye and me live from NPC.