I received a comment in my comments (lol, obviously, Kim!) from my sister, Jenny, who wrote quite the response. I was going to respond in the comments, but the response grew and grew, so I decided to just turn it into a post. Jenny, I welcome anything more you have to say, as your response got me thinking! Anybody else have any discussion points? Below is my response.
Hey! Thanks for the response. Why would I be offended, sis? I enjoy a scholarly debate like the rest of them! And regardless, I’m glad you felt like you could engage me =)
I’m gonna cop out and respond paragraph by paragraph, because I don’t think that I could write a comprehensible response another way!!
i read the .pdf chapter of his book & while his ideals are impressive, it makes me wonder why he thinks that his form of Christianity is the only “version” (in 2000 years) that promotes selflessness in the form of community oriented sharing?
I’m not entirely sure from where you got this idea – that is certainly not what I got from this chapter! The chapter (downloadable from his website, linked in the original post below) is the chapter “Another Way of Doing Life”. He’s quick to say that they have “been very careful at the Simple Way never to claim that we [they] have the corner on the market for ‘radical Christianity.’ Nor have we [they] ever tried to spread a brand or model.” (Claiborne, p. 137). What I understood from this chapter was that he and his community are attempting to go back to the early Christian days. Of course there have been other “Acts” Christians in the last 2000 years, but if you’re honest with yourself, how many Christians do you know living in community? How many do you know invite the poor into their homes? Having grown up in the church and having continued to go throughout my teen years and early adult years, I can tell you that there are too few Christians who live out of a true desire to love the poor and marginalized.
further his point about not agreeing that some people can’t speak for themselves made me feel like he doesn’t understand “status” outside of his community. for example, women in Muslim countries really don’t have a voice – or if they find the courage to use it they are often killed or tortured; just like victims of abuse in western society often find their voice silenced by bureaucracy, where the abusers have more rights than the victims do – this is where the strong HAVE to stand up for the weak and why is that so wrong? wasn’t Jesus the voice for millions of his followers, just like Moses before him?
Again, Claiborne doesn’t say that they don’t stand up for the “voiceless”. The point he was making (if I may be so bold as to share my interpretation) was that it saddens him that people are seen as “voiceless” – he believes that they do have a voice, whether society hears them or not. You said it yourself – “silenced by bureaucracy” – the word “silenced” means that there is noise being made, right? Claiborne is not saying that there aren’t people who aren’t heard – he’s merely saying that he is not a voice for the voiceless – that it was not his intent to become that. Of course there is a place for the strong to stand up for the weak – what I read from his words is that we wouldn’t have to stand up for them if we would take our hands off our ears and just listen! And regarding Jesus being the voice for millions of his followers, He wasn’t – heck, Jesus didn’t even *have* millions of followers! Moses was a voice for the Jews to Pharaoh, but that was God’s purpose for him. Moses was a man. Jesus is God, and therefore is the voice of God. People came to Him to hear Him speak about the Kingdom of Heaven and about how they should live – He didn’t speak for them, He spoke to them.
“Our way of life was typical in the days of the early Jesus movement.” because they had no other way of life! thats what gets me. does the pope live in a gold house? yes. is that right? no, i don’t think so. but it is what it is. evolution happened along with the birth of society but it doesn’t mean that caring (emotionally or financially) for yourself or those you love is wrong. whatever happened to hospitality of the heart?
Actually, I’m going to disagree with you here. They *did* have another way of life! Yes, people lived more communally than we do now (heck, up until 50 or 75 years ago, we all lived more communally than now), but they still lived very individualized lives. There was more of an emphasis on family, yes, but people didn’t live and freely share resources with those outside of their families. Until Jesus came, and in the book of Acts (chapter 2, verse 44 – 45): “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” This was *not* normal in their time, and neither is it normal in ours. That doesn’t mean that caring for yourself or those you love is wrong, I agree. However, I do believe that it is my responsibility (as a person trying to follow Jesus) to care and provide for those who cannot care and provide for themselves. Hospitality of the heart is fine, but if someone’s starving to death, it won’t fill their belly. Hospitality of the heart only goes halfway – if that – if I’ve got extra food in my cupboard and 1 in 5 (in Hamilton) are hungry.
“Many of us who find ourselves living differently from the dominant culture end up needing to “despectacularize” things a little so that the simple way is made as accessible as possible to other ordinary radicals.” how can he not see that what he’s written about in this chapter, all over his website, through his online presence, is the very thing he’s speaking out against? he is “spectacularizing” a culture of “living downward” & probably making a tidy profit from it! by alienating himself from main stream society, by asking people to give up their possessions and follow his “new way” of living Christianity, he is doing the very thing he’s speaking out against.
First off, Claiborne is NOT asking people to “give up their possessions and follow his ‘new way’ of Christianity”. NOT AT ALL! He’s asking people to re-read their Bibles, where time and time again, Jesus invites people to give up their possessions/sell their things/leave everything and follow HIM! Claiborne is merely sharing how *he* has lived out this call – and I might add, is quick to say – if not in that particular chapter, than at least in the rest of the book – that he doesn’t think that his kind of life is for everyone. He is hardly “alienating himself from mainstream society”, he is choosing not to live in it – and this decision is hardly something he thought up himself. In John 15:19, Jesus says “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” Jesus doesn’t want Christians to live in the same manner as non-Christians – what then, would be the point? re: “making a tidy profit” – Since only Chapter 5 was available, I’ll share that in the foreward to the book, Claiborne states that all of the profits from the book are being given away. In appendix 1, all of the organizations to which he is giving the profits are listed.
after all, Jesus didn’t ever ask for followers did he? they followed him because they loved him and wanted to be close to him, not because he asked them to “think outside the box”
Actually, Jesus *did* ask for followers! In Matthew 4 alone, Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples. Throughout the Gospels, He calls people to Him to follow Him. Some, like the disciples, do. Others, like the rich young man (Matthew 18) do not follow Him. The whole time through, Jesus is continually saying to people, “Come and follow me.” And regarding “thinking outside the box”? That’s all Jesus did! All four Gospels are full of parables whose sole purpose was to make the Jews think about what they were doing. Every sermon Jesus gave turned what they thought they knew on it’s head. Like the parable of the mustard seed – the Jews were used to the Kingdom of God being compared to a huge tree – Jesus compared it to a weed – not a very big seed, but one that quickly grows into a spreading bush which takes over everything. That, for the Jews, was being forced to think outside the box!
i think its sad that he truly believes all rich people hoard their stuff; that he thinks that being wealthy = being lonely. that he really believes wealthy countries have the most depression, suicide and loneliness; his conclusions are taken out of context. if he compared the “mass” of people he’d see that these numbers are higher in wealthy countries simply because we have more people. if you compare the depressed populace of Port Dover with the depressed populace of Toronto, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which city winds up on top – Toronto, because of its sheer volume! but that doesn’t give us any concrete conclusions & it certainly doesn’t give him the right to stereotype one sect of the population (much like he’s hoping no one will stereotype him)
I haven’t read the study he is referring to in this section, so I can’t really comment on how accurate either his or your opinions are in this matter. There are many studies, however, that discuss wealthy vs. non-wealthy and charitable giving. Non-wealthy individuals consistently out-give than wealthy – proportionally. For example, “While individuals with higher levels of household income gave more in absolute amounts, those donors with the lowest levels gave a greater percentage of their income than others,” (Statistics Canada, p.11 – Highlights from the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating)
There are lots of things he says that i truly do believe? Example: “Why would I want a fancy car when I can ride a bike, or a TV when I can play outside with sidewalkchalk?” there really is “enough to go around” if we all gave some of what we had.
don’t get me wrong, i’m all for grass roots movements, community oriented culture, freedom of expression, religion, life & love, but reading his writing was painful b/c, while it raises some excellent questions, i didn’t find it gave me usable answers. maybe thats why it got to me. i know he’s not here to provide answers, but if you’re not even going to try to make sense of what you’re trying to say, why bother saying it?
Well, one needs to consider whether or not the purpose of Claiborne’s book was to answer the big questions. I don’t believe that’s his purpose – in the foreward he states that the purpose of the book is to “speak the truth in love” and to tell a part of his story as being involved with the Simple Way. And, as one often does in literary discussion, one needs to consider the audience. It is my belief that he is writing to those who are fed up with “health, wealth, and happiness” Christianity and therefore perhaps it didn’t give *you* usable answers, but I know that it sure did point me in the direction of some excellent scriptural points that I’ve glossed over before. After all, as Christians, we believe that God’s Word has all the answers in it – Claiborne’s book served, for me, only as a springboard from which to further study the Bible to discover how Jesus wants His people to live. And, of course, I believe that he did try to make sense of everything he said – but it took the whole book to do it =)
i really don’t know whether i should be posting this. i hope you don’t get mad.
I’m really glad that you did post it, and I’m not at all mad! I love you, Big Sis, and I hope that we can continue to have good debates!!