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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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The Gospel of Guns vs the Gospel of Jesus

Originally published at PCPJ.

I live in a country where there are no school shootings. It’s probably due to us having extremely restrictive gun laws in Sweden, as it is illegal for civilians to carry a gun unless they have a license and guns are required to be unloaded, hidden, and supervised when transporting them.

The United States, on the other hand, has more guns than people, guns are involved in 79 % of homicides (compared with 4 % in the UK) and the gun lobby is extremely rich. Tragically, many pastors and other Christian leaders enthusiastically support the gun industry despite Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and turning the other cheek. As a result, many of them refuse to acknowledge the need for more gun control in order to prevent school shootings like the one in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two adults.

For example, worship leader Sean Feucht warned his followers against seeking political solutions to the gun problem, telling them that the solution is to bring God “back in schools” (which, ironically, is a political suggestion):

In fact, when the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading gun lobby organisation in the US, arranged a prayer breakfast at their national convention just a few days after the shooting, nobody on stage mentioned the attack or prayed for the families of the victims. Instead, they prayed against “Democrats and liberals” who want to have better background checks on those who want to buy guns. After all, this is the same organisation that has actively lobbied against background checks and undermined efforts to keep firearms away from those with mental illness.

Yet, there was a voice in the wilderness, a remnant of righteousness among the gunmongers. Our friend Shane Claiborne, activist and theologian, was there. Not because he is a NRA supporter, but because he wanted to show the people at this prayer breakfast the difference between the Gospel of Jesus and the gospel of guns.

He and some friends started to pray for the victims of the shooting in Uvalde, and immediately were kicked out by the police. Shane writes at Red Letter Christians blog:

I carried with me the Uvalde paper we had picked up. The front page had all those babies’ faces and the two teachers who died with them. We also had a list of all their names, along with the names of the 10 people killed in Buffalo. Our goal wasn’t to get kicked out of the prayer breakfast. Our goal wasn’t event to disrupt it.

We had tickets and waited until there was a space without speakers in the program so we didn’t interrupt. Our goal was singular – to pray for the victims by name, and to invite everyone to join us. With the help of a coalition of clergy around the country known as National Faith Leaders For Ending Gun Violence, we had created a liturgical, call-and-response, prayer. Before reading aloud each name, we say together, “God knows their names.” And after each name, we say, “Lord, have mercy.” Simple, heartfelt prayer.

As we were told that the program would pause, and breakfast would begin, I stood, holding the Uvalde paper, and invited people to join us in prayer for the victims. After the first name, we were told that we would be arrested if we did not leave. So we invited people to join us outside, as we respectfully complied with police orders. It is noteworthy that the police came quicker to kick us out of the prayer meeting than to confront the shooter in Uvalde.

Claiborne also said:

“I’m going to go straight to Jesus and say we cannot serve two masters. And we really are at a crossroads where we’ve got to choose: Are we going to follow Jesus or the NRA? And literally, you couldn’t come up with much more contrasting messages. The gospel of Jesus — turn the other cheek, love our enemies — stands in direct opposition to the rhetoric of the NRA — stand your ground. The gun and the cross give us two very different versions of power.”

[…]

“Idols are things that we put our trust in. They’re not God, but we treat them like they are,” Claiborne said. “We put this sort of sacred reverence into things that should only be given to God. And it’s been said that idols are things that we are willing to die for, kill for, and sacrifice our children for. And literally, by that definition, I think guns would have that sort of unreasonable dedication.”

“Guns are not made in the image of God but children are,” he added.

Amen.

“Kill them all, and let God sort them out” – Why Evangelicals’ Reaction to 9/11 Went so Wrong

20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.

That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):

When Kingdoms Collide

Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.

This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.

I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.

I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.

The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.

A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

Are American Christians Worshipping America?

Tiffany Trump said at the 2020 Republican National Convention:

“God has blessed us with unstoppable spirit. His spirit, the American spirit. My dad has proven to be driven by that spirit.”

Vice President Mike Pence paraphrased Hebrews 12:1-2 but replaced ”Jesus” with the American flag and Christians with Americans:

“So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire.”

Just one year ago, President Trump called himself “The Chosen One”, and thanked someone for ”the very nice words” of calling him the “king of Israel” and like ”the second coming of God”.

If this isn’t blasphemy… what is it?

I’m reminded of Shane Claiborne writing in his excellent book ”The Irresistible Revolution” about when some kids insisted that he should play Jesus in a church play when he did missionary work in a Latin American country.

”Why don’t any of you play Jesus?” he asked.

”You must do it!” the children said, ”because you’re white and come from America!”

 

Claiborne goes on to write:

“Jesus had a new definition of family, rooted in the idea that we are adopted as orphans into the family of God and that this rebirth creates a new kinship that runs deeper than biology or geography or nationality. Rebirth is about being adopted into a new family – without borders.” (p. 188).

The Holy Spirit is not an American spirit. We should fix our eyes on Jesus, not a flag. There is no god besides God Almighty.

This is true regardless of how many politicians wish that they were the center of the universe.

Shane Claiborne: The Gospel of Trump vs the Gospel of Jesus

shane claiborne

Originally posted on PCPJ.

This weekend, activist theologian Shane Claiborne and his friends at Red Letter Christians will arrange a Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, Virginia. That’s right, the town where Liberty University, the world’s biggest Christian university whose president Jerry Falwell Jr. is a passionate Trump supporter.

The Revival will be themed “Jesus and Justice” and include sermons, worship and workshops on how to fight Trumpism by going back to the Sermon on the Mount. I got the chance to speak with Shane Claiborne on this historic event.

– The reason we do the Lynchburg Revival is that Christianity and Republicanism have been fused together, Shane Claiborne says. They have become almost indistinguishable from each other. When you have the First Baptist Church in Dallas singing ”Make America Great Again” as if it was a hymn in worship, when the American flag is bigger than the cross, what happens is that you begin to see a discrepancy between the values of America and the values inherent to the Gospel. (more…)

Why Many Christians are Critical to Abortion (Even Though It isn’t Mentioned in the Bible)

pregnant-518793_640

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.” – Didache 2:2

This verse is from the ancient Christian book Didache, written in the first century. That is, at the same time or briefly after most of the New testament. This is the first time we hear a Christian opinion on abortion, because if you haven’t noticed it – the Bible never mentions abortion! Not even once.

Yes, Psalms 139 talks about how we are created in our mother’s womb and how God looked at our “unformed body” (v. 16) as He created us, and based on this many Christians have concluded that abortion is equal to killing a baby. Technically though, the Bible does not condemn abortion – the Didache is the first Christian writing to do that.

On the other hand, the Didache is extremely early and accurately represents ancient Christian morals and teachings on a great variety of issues, and throughout most of church history it has generally been a consensus in the global church that abortion is immoral and sinful.

“Well, that’s because the church has been run by a literal patriarchy who ignore the rights and safety for women”, some may argue. And yeah, sadly it has. But abortion is not just about women’s rights, since there is also a baby, or a soon-to-be-baby, depedning on how you view it, that is also involved. Some of you may have heard about how the American NGO Planned Parenthood, who run abortion clinics, sell tissues from aborted fetuses:

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Love Doesn’t Stop at the Border: The Problem with Patriotism

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne

I’m not American, but due to the enormous cultural impact US imperialism has brought unto the rest of the world, their national day is one of the few that I actually know the date of other than the national day of my own country. Today’s that day, and according to my WordPress statistics, many of you who are reading this blog live in the United States. I have a challenge for you: before you wave the banner of your empire and enjoy billions of dollars being blown up in fireworks, pray that God will help you love all people, including all those harmed by American consumerism, militarism and racism, and that He will help you pledge allegiance to His Kingdom first and foremost. After all, Scripture says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebr 11:13) and that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are called to love all people as ourselves (Lk 10:25-37) and while the early Christians didn’t revolt against the Roman empire, they were known for pledging allegiance to another king than the emperor, namely Christ (Acts 17:7). I think Shane Claiborne nails it in his altar call on Red Letter Christians about celebrating interdependence day rather than independence day: (more…)

Book Release: A Living Alternative

a living alternative book

I am a MennoNerd, and we MennoNerds have just published a book! It’s called A Living Alternative and is about Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom world. Listen to what Christian activist Shane Claiborne has to say about it:

The world is poised to receive the wisdom of the Anabaptists. We are fat with consumerism. We are tired of war. We are hungry for community. We need an excuse to slow down, turn off the noise, and simplify our lives again. For many of us, progress has also meant disgress. This chorus of wise voices will stir you to imagine what it means to be the peculiar people of God in the 21st century.

Jesus Feminist Sarah Bessey says:

Even though I’m not an Anabaptist by chosen label or tradition, I found so much richness and truth in this book. Deep, challenging, prophetic and conversation-starting, I loved A Living Alternative. If you’ve wondered what your life would look like if you really lived like Jesus, this book will give you an accesible theological foundation for the practical living out of your discipleship particularly in a post-Christian context.

And hipster pastor, apologist and fellow MennoNerd Greg Boyd says:

In this splendid collection of essays readers will find a wonderfully diverse group of people wrestling with an amazingly diverse set of issues sorrounding what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in a post-Christendom world. Perhaps even more importantly, in each of these essays readers will sense the refreshing vibrancy and beauty of the kingdom vision that has captured the imaginations of these authros, and this can’t help but pull readers further into this vision. So, whether you already identify with this kingdom movement or don’t yet know what I’m even talking about, I’d like to challenge you to thoroughly digest this book!

Sounds good, right? My chapter is about combining signs and wonders with peace and justice, Deborah-Ruth Ferber covers singleness, Drew Hart writes about anablacktivism, and so on. You can get the book at American Amazon or British Amazon if you’re interested, and my dear Swedish countrymen and -women can get it on Adlibris. Peace out!

My Testimony

micael grenholm foto Arah Asadi

How rude of me, I’ve let you reading my blog for 18 months without ever introducing myself! Here’s a short presentation of how and why I received my passion to combine charismatic theology with activism for peace and justice, based on an article I’m currently writing for Pax Pneuma, the journal for Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice.

Although being raised in a Swedish Lutheran family, religion never meant very much to me until April 2006, when I was radically born again at a mass in the giant Uppsala Cathedral. I started to pray and read the Bible, and I was fascinated by how the liturgy of my church – that previously was nothing but a bunch of pointless, boring rituals for me – had ancient roots filled with holy meaning.

But I also started to spot differences between church and Scripture. I was surprised that Jesus commanded His disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead (Mt 10:8) – something I had thought were things only Jesus Himself did to prove that He was the Son of God – and I was even more surprised to realize that I was a disciple (Mt 28:19)! “Disciples” was a term that I had thought only referred to the twelve men closest to Jesus, not people today. Now I realized that I was actually supposed to do the things Jesus commanded the apostles to do (Mt 28:20a).

Yet, people weren’t prophesying or casting out demons very much in my Lutheran church, so I started to attend some charismatic and Pentecostal churches. As I grew deeper into the charismatic movement, I saw some differences between church and Scripture here as well though, specifically when it came to peace and justice.

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God vs Wealth, part 10: Now What?

To read other parts of the series, go here.

Christian communism logo

Christian communism? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s finally time to end God vs Wealth. And in this final part, I want to talk about some practical implications of this teaching and adress some questions that I think some of you who have followed the series have.

Question 1: Are you really saying that everyone should have everything in common?

I think economic equality is the goal and community of goods is an effective means to reach the goal. In fact, I don’t really know any more effective way to reach equality than Acts chapter 2. The model most churches use today clearly doesn’t work, and for many of them equality is not even the goal.

Of course, community of goods requires more than one person, so start with connecting with others who has the same thoughts as you. get inspired by New creation Christian Community and The Simple Way, and start building. Remember though that Christians communities should include the really poor and marginalised. Get to know poor folks in your area or neighbourhoods, invite them for dinner, love them, and if they’re up for it, live with them.

Also urge your church to start building international community of goods. Connect with say five churches in other parts of the world, look what common budget you have and split it equally. Then, rich churches will learn simplicity and poor churches will have more resources to meet needs and spread the Gospel. Win-win! (more…)

Why I as an Activist Love the Gifts of the Holy Spirit!

This text is also published at Jesus Radicals today.

Photo: Iris Ministries

Photo: Iris Ministries

The Pentecostal and charismatic movements have a bad reputation among Christian anarchists and activists. There are too many examples of healing evangelists who control the masses through manipulation and hysteria, with promises of supernatural encounters only to gain money and status for themselves. Furthermore, many Pentecostals and charismatics support nationalism, war, discrimination and inequalities. They bless the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, they preach a prosperity gospel where strong faith leads to great wealth, they deny climate change and don’t care about the environment.

Yet, I am totally convinced that every Christian activist should embrace the gifts of the Spirit and pursue signs and wonders. Why? Because the mess I just described is of course not genuine a fruit of the Spirit, it is a result of what I call the Corinth Syndrome, when charismatic Christians portray their own crazy ideas and practices as divinely inspired.

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Jesus for President!

One of the best and most inspiring books I’ve read concerning Kingdom Politics is Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. In it, they write about what it means to pledge allegiance to a slaughtered Lamb and to cultivate political imagination and creativity in a world filled with violence and hatred. Because of the American presidential election this year, Claiborne and Haw are going on a tour to campaign for Jesus. Below are some excerpts from interviews with Claiborne at Read the Spirit and Sojourners:

Shane Claiborne. Photo: Speaking of Faith

Shane Claiborne. Photo: Speaking of Faith

The whole idea of Jesus for President really started back before the 2004 election when we began thinking and talking seriously about making a faithful Christian witness to the State. For years, we had read books, studied this and eventually Chris Haw and I were led to create Jesus for President. It was released as a book for the 2008 election and now [2012] we’re back with a book and a DVD  that was filmed in many of the places we stopped along the road with this message.

Even though we’ve been working on this for some years now, we realize that this message is even more relevant than when we began. This is post-Religious Right America and we are seeing a whole lot of evangelicals and political misfits who are trying to find their way to new decisions about faith and politics. The old evangelical and Religious Right messages just don’t work anymore for a lot of us. And I know that the questions we are raising today are really touching people’s hearts.

There are a lot of good things that have been stirring up conversations across the country. The Occupy movement raised people’s awareness that 1 percent of people in our world own way more than their share of the world’s stuff. Now, people are more aware than ever of the deep and growing disparity between the rich and the poor. You can’t read the Bible and not realize that situation matters to God.

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The Supernatural and Political Kingdom of God

image

I’ve written a lot about how inspired I am by the life and teaching of John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement. The Kingdom of God was the most central concept in his theology, just as it also was the most central concept in the teachings of Jesus. And what Wimber showed quite clearly was that the Kingdom cannot by any means be separated from signs and wonders.

The reason for this is that miracles manifest power. When God does impossible things like raising the dead or multiplying food, it becomes evident that He is an almighty King, and that He alone can save us from sin and death. Therefore, it is not surprising that the gospels tell us how Jesus and the disciples preached about the Kingdom and healed the sick at the same time (Mt 4:23, Lk 9:2). “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor 4:20)

Wimber’s teaching got a huge impact. The Kingdom of God is central not only in the Vineyard but also in other Charismatic movements like New Wine, Bethel Church and Global Awakening. However, I’m afraid that they have missed a very important aspect of the Kingdom that is quite evident in the Scriptures. The Kingdom of God is of course also a political term, with political consequences in our lives.
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