Out of Context: Shane Claiborne
Shane Claiborne sees mean people.

"If there's anything I've learned from both conservatives and liberals, it's that you can have all the right political answers and still be mean. And nobody wants to listen to you if you're mean. One of the things we can do is learn to disagree well. I think there is a new conversation happening within evangelicalism in post-religious-right America that is much healthier. We can actually learn to disagree well."

-Shane Claiborneis a founding member of The Simple Way, a new monastic community in Philadelphia, and the co-author of Jesus for President. Taken from "Body Politic" in the Summer 2008 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

August 21, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 18 comments


November 13, 2010  3:06pm

I think Shane has an excellent point here. There is too much back-biting going on within the church on different issues. How can we possibly learn to unify and express the love of Christ to people who aren't believers if we can't speak compassionately and kindly to each other? Yes, there are hills worth dying on – fundamental doctrine of God's grace, who we are in Christ, eternal security, etc. But, outside of defending God's grace and the purity of the gospel, I think we need to be really careful about how we speak to one another. Even the apostle Paul told Timothy to speak respectfully with opposition: "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..." 2 Tim 2:24-25. It seems that Paul may be referring primarly to the unsaved, but how much more should we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with respect?!

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August 27, 2008  7:09pm

God's judgment was poured out on Christ the Slaughtered Lamb, who has conquered sin and death, and is bringing all things on heaven and earth under his rule and reign. We're not called to pour out God's justice. In God's mercy he chose to act through a justice of grace to make all things new. Not tell people how bad they are! Jesus pronounced justice and judgment on religious people not the sick and sinner on them he beckoned entry to the Kingdom of God.

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August 26, 2008  5:30pm

Mike, just for you I am willing to quote a little Spurgeon from 1856: "But the cry of the age is, that God is merciful, that God is love. Ay; who said he was not? But remember, it is equally true, God is just, severely and inflexibly just. He were not God, if he were not just; he could not be merciful if he were not just, for punishment of the wicked is demanded by the highest mercy to the rest of mankind."

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August 26, 2008  3:38pm

Seriously. This was interesting, thanks.

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mike rucker

August 25, 2008  9:03am

I would rather hear the truth delivered in a "mean" way and be able to intelligently act upon it than be led to destruction with fluffy, puffy feel good lies. ah, melody, nice to hear your pleasant perspective again. a couple of thoughts (partially directed at todd, too): a) i think the bible says Jesus defeatED sin and death and the grave at the cross, without any qualifier mentioned. b) to believe that God uses 'mean' truth to coerce people into 'worshipping' Him makes Him little more than a 3rd world dictator painting large murals of His face on city walls.

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Todd Burus

August 25, 2008  7:21am

kyle, Thanks for your extensive reply. I agree that I think we'll have to disagree on these things for now. The only thing I would like to comment on is your quote from Bonhoeffer. I agree that "faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience," which is basically straight out of James 2, but what I fear with Bell is that this is not what he's teaching. There is not a "Have faith and proclaim it by your obedience" in his teachings, only a "do good things," which is, in my opinion, for all intents and purposes, is moralism. I have described his theology before as a sort of front-loaded pelagianism. It seems that he finds the work of Christ on the cross necessary, but now that it is done everybody is forgiven and the only thing they have to do to find heaven is to follow some prescribed set of rules, which they can do completely sans Jesus. I keep waiting for Bell to disavow this, but I have never heard his words say otherwise (at one time I saw the Mars Hill mission statement talked about faith, but that isn;t necessarily the words of Bell, as you mentioned yourself). Hope you haven't found me too mean, I definately feel you were fair in your comments. Have a nice day.

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C.K. Tygrett

August 22, 2008  11:57am

what I feared most was the recoil (and I figured it would come) over his use of the word "mean." playground bullies and older siblings come to mind, when it seems as if Shane was talking about something else entirely which is the ability of people who love and follow Jesus (Emergent or otherwise) to used the "scorched earth" approach to obliterate opponents of their position. Notice I said "opponents" and not their "positions." Too often we get in to character assassination over Christian theology, which is the pinnacle of sick humor and irony in my book. I'm going to ask something, and if anyone else on the board agrees please post as such: Ur-Master, in your infinite wisdom please discontinue the Out of Context pieces. Yes, they do get discussion going but in a world in which we already de-contextualize everything from Scripture to the comments political candidates make, I'm pretty sure we don't need to add it to our discourse here. Besides, the only people who really get to read the "context" are those who subscribe to Leadership Journal. I'll let that thought hang out there without commentary. grace and peace

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August 22, 2008  8:22am

This comment reminds me of the liberal accusation of 'hate speech' that was flung at conservatives so much in the late '80's. All one needed to do was be in disagreement and say so to be labeled as mean. Words in the church like 'sin', 'repentance', 'false teaching', etc. are considered such today. Yet it is impossible to read the Bible through, or even just the words of Jesus and find any serious Christian overly concerned about Shane, or anyone else's opinion of whether or not they were "mean". I would rather hear the truth delivered in a "mean" way and be able to intelligently act upon it than be led to destruction with fluffy, puffy feel good lies.

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August 22, 2008  12:51am

Thank God salvation is not contingent on right theology or we might all be headed for hell. Shane has a great ministry going on in Philly. Were he to remain focused on that ministry's commitment to being the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor, we could all rally around him while he leads by example. There is nothing that validates our faith to those outside of the fold as much as good, old unconditional love and mercy. It's when we start pointing fingers, which Shane can be equally guilty of (even if in a nice way), that we get off course. Really, there is way more than enough for us to do as believers through acts of compassion and charity to last us all for our lifetime without wasting time on theological witch hunts. Loving our neighbor will always be the more effective form of evangelism than will breeding divisiveness.

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Paul Dalach

August 21, 2008  8:58pm

Nathan, Not to say that I'm all for rashly blasting the opposition, but have you taken into account when Jesus calls the Pharisees a "brood of vipers", Israel's leaders "blind guides" and "son's of Satan"? I know it's not in vogue to say it, since tolerance is our highest cultural ideal, but Jesus does indeed, quite literally, "demonize" his opposition. So as far as being Christlike, strong rhetoric is the way, I suppose. I think we often don't remember the Apostle Paul's strong words in Galatians calling a curse of hell on those who would change the gospel IN ANY WAY. Again, strong rhetoric.

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