Last night, I met Shane Claiborne. Several years ago, I read his book, Irresistible Revolution, and jumped on the bandwagon as many did. But then I went back and read it a bit more critically. The book is a quick, engaging read, and yet I believe there is much to be concerned about with Shane’s message. An online review says it well: “His theology is an unbiblical and incoherent synthesis which might be described as popularized Christian anarchism for young, disaffected, middle-class Americans.” I too have a lot of skepticism with him. Here’s a 90-second summary of why:
He appears to be poor. His ostensible lack of cleanliness, his long dreads, his simple dress code of a white tee shirt and oversized, drawstring pants. Yet, he boards an airplane almost every week to travel. What poor person has ever traveled outside of his hometown? And as far as his travel costs for this week in Chicago, he is either a) receiving a sizable amount of money to be here or b) spending a sizable amount of money to be here. If (a) is true, just his hotel room is $1,000 for the week. If (b) is true, just his hotel room is $1,000 for the week. Sound like a poor person to you?
He appears to love the poor. Especially those in his neighborhood in PA. Yet according to the travel schedule posted on his website, when was the last time he was actually there?
He appears to be a Christian. He appears to share the gospel. Yet, his message is often more about Mother Teresa (and/or himself) than Jesus Christ. I believe Shane has often bent Scripture to fit what he needs it to say in order to support his passion and lifestyle. Also, there are serious implications of Pantheism and Hinduism in his book: “Now God dwelled not behind the veil in the temple but in the eyes of the dying and the poor, in the ordinary and mundane, in things like bread and wine, or chai and samosas.” God dwells in chai and pastries? Come on, Shane.
According to his article in Esquire, “I (Shane) was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, “I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you.” If those of us who believe in God do not believe God’s grace is big enough to save the whole world… well, we should at least pray that it is.” I wonder how this grieves God’s heart. What an opportunity to have shared the Gospel with his friend, instead of his romantic idealized hope. Also, do his words indicate that Shane has become a Universalist?
I love Jesus, and therefore, I’m angered by (and critical of) Shane’s theology. May the gospel message – the message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – be the only message that marks us as radicals in this world.