Author Topic: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers  (Read 1610 times)

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junkbunny

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Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« on: December 30, 2009, 01:36:31 AM »
Hi all,

Please forgive me if I've put this in the wrong section.

I recently read an article ("Letter to Non-believers" by Shane Claibourne) which I thought was pretty awesome, and I thought you all would really like it, so I wanted to share.

The link is here:
http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209
But just in case links are not allowed to be posted (deepest apologies if this is so!), or if anyone is wary of me since I'm new, here's the full text copied and pasted:

This radical Christian's ministry for the poor, The Simple Way, has gotten him in some trouble with his fellow Evangelicals. We asked him to address those who don't believe.

By Shane Claiborne

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn's Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn't quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don't know Jesus.

Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, "God is not a monster." Maybe next time I will.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, "I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ." A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.

Now for the good news.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our "Gospel" is the message that Jesus came "not [for] the healthy... but the sick." And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.

One of Jesus' most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan... you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I'm sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine... but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.

After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: "The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you." And we wonder what got him killed?

I have a friend in the UK who talks about "dirty theology" that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, "Nothing good could come." It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society's rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion I 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.

Your brother,

Shane

Jerm

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2009, 02:48:21 AM »
Shane Claiborne's a closet universalist, sweet action  :happygrin:

friendofmankind

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2009, 06:24:59 AM »
Be proud you bear that name? 'Christian'.

Im proud to belong to Christ, or at least to know him a little.  But Im not proud to be branded along with the rest of the 'nutters' out there.

You know my dad walked in one day and thought the Christian Network TV was a comedy...THATS how bad it is, a big JOKE.
They use God for money and make me feel physically sick.

This is a great letter, but you know what?  Most of the damage has already been done.

...But lets not forget sin and death and Satan has already been defeated!

junkbunny

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2009, 09:22:51 AM »
It's true that a lot of damage has already been done, but it doesn't mean that there is no hope for things changing.

Offline sven

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2009, 11:23:33 AM »
very interesting, this guy was mentioned in a (German) Evangelical newspaper, he appeared very sympathic to me and I wondered what a person like him believes on the subject of universalism

friendofmankind

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2009, 07:08:11 PM »
It's true that a lot of damage has already been done, but it doesn't mean that there is no hope for things changing.

I agree.  And things really do have to change.  Noone is takeing Christians seriously these days the crazy way they spread the word.  I saw a Christian on utube yesterday tellling everyone theyre going to hell (basically), dressed up as Satan and talking in a slowed-down demonic voice....Obviously everyone was laughing at him...A few may have taken him seriously, but what type of people would they be?  Gullable?  Mentally instable?  It takes a lot of common sense and logic and sound reasoning to reach hardened atheists....Not some wally in a halloween suit.

Hard work this spreading the good news stuff lol!  The battle isnt actually non believers...its the church!

Paul Hazelwood

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2009, 07:16:33 PM »
Shane will get critisism on two fronts at least, there is a resurge of Christians who think it is heresy if a church does not deny an eternal hell to not speak of the eternal damnation of people who do not believe.

He also will get the typical shun from the "love" believing Christians that still will see him as a wolf in sheeps clothing because he does make appeals to Jesus saving the world.

This is what happened to Rob Bell's teachings in a church I once attended,  they were all about his message and DVD's then all of the sudden poof, you never heard his name mentioned.  Not long after that is when I started reading articles that critisized him in the two ways I mentioned above.

Not that I follow Rob Bell or agree with him in all matters, I don't even think he calls himself a Christian Universalsist and I do not believe shane will; make that claim either.

However, both of them lean more towards God having the intention and power enough to believe and pray for that being the case.

This is where a large portion of Christianity differs,  in Christianity you will find the statements that proceed their studies,   "Not all will be saved"  Anyone trying to say otherwise will be rejected.

You can just about teach all the nonsense and lies you want in any church as long as you maintain that there are sinners burning in hell for eternity.


junkbunny

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2010, 02:31:13 AM »
I think the most tragic part of human history has been the repeated misrepresentation of a loving, beautiful God.  Even Christians have turned him into an ugly monster who is no better than humans themselves, if you really think about what is being taught.

friendofmankind, I agree with you wholeheartedly!  We live in a day and age when people want intellectual answers to life's questions, not some guy in the street ranting and raving about hell and God's judgment.  I also agree with you that the hard part of spreading the news is not non-believers but the church itself. 

I have a friend who earlier this year (well last year now -- 2009) took a turn from going to an Arminian baptist church to a Calvinist, Reformed Baptist church.  She said the reason she became uncomfortable with arminianism is because it limited God's power - people can choose not to follow God and it made Him seem powerless to stop it.  What I find hard about this is that I went through exactly the same thing and it lead me to universal salvation - because when I came to calvinism I thought to myself, "okay so calvinism remedies God's powerlessness, but what about his LOVE?".  To me calvinism limits his love, and I've told that to my friend, but she is convinced calvinism is the right belief.  I find calvinism so hard, mainly because when I see it, all it looks like to me is arrogance - and it has really starting coming through in the life of my friend and our other friends who also attend that church.  It makes me so sad.  I have to really keep telling myself to just give the situation to God, because He DOES have supreme power AND supreme love and in the end, everyone will see that and be happy.

(Bit of a rant there... sorry :) )

Paul - I wondered if that were the case with Rob Bell!  I haven't checked out a lot of his stuff but I have had the chance to see a nooma here and there, and read a couple of articles. 
Rob and Shane probably aren't technically Christian universalists yet... perhaps God is leading them down that road, though. 

I think the whole situation that Christianity is in today is very sad.... sad that people who profess to love and follow Jesus will reject the idea of Him saving everyone... sometimes I wonder if it's because (some) Christians need a way to feel that they are better than non-believers in the sight of God.  News flash to them - we're not.  He loves *everyone*.  Perhaps they just can't deal with that..

friendofmankind

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2010, 06:24:15 PM »

You can just about teach all the nonsense and lies you want in any church as long as you maintain that there are sinners burning in hell for eternity.



That is SO true.  ETERNAL TORCHER is a neccessary part of the 'GOOD news' for most.

friendofmankind

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Re: Shane Claibourne - Letter to Non-believers
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2010, 06:28:02 PM »
I think the whole situation that Christianity is in today is very sad.... sad that people who profess to love and follow Jesus will reject the idea of Him saving everyone... sometimes I wonder if it's because (some) Christians need a way to feel that they are better than non-believers in the sight of God.  News flash to them - we're not.  He loves *everyone*.  Perhaps they just can't deal with that..

Great post Junkbunny.

You know the funny thing is that the spirit is supposed to guide believers to ALL truth.

I have NEVER seen two Christians of ANY denomination agree on most things....ASIDE from Universalists.

More and more, it just keeps making sense.