"Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society."
Ok, I admit it, I'm becoming a podcast addict. More often than not in the mornings my brain/eyes is not up to reading, and my brain/ears is not really up for listening to music. So I listen to podcasts. The BBC do a good range - all accessible through iTunes and the BBC website - so I get my digest of Woman's Hour, Thinking Allowed and Jonathan Ross's Saturday show (I get funny look laughing out loud to that one). I am also working my way through various lectures from Princeton and Stanford through iTunesU. But recently I was trawling through the various sections trying to find some more religious studies podcasts and I came across the "Speaking of Faith" series from American Public Media. I've now downloaded the 102 back catalogue of podcasts and I'm going to work my way through them. So far I've listened to "Einstein's Ethics" and "Gay Marriage" among others.
Today as my beloved husband was driving us back down from "oop north" (6 hours), when I could bird of prey spot no more (3 buzzards, 1 buzzard/kite (looked too big to be the former), 3 Kestrels, 1 possible Hobby) I tilted the seat back, nestled into my pillow - it really is "Baby, you can sleep while I drive" - and revved up the pod. I listened to a podcast called "The New Monastics - Shane Claiborne". Anyone interested in emerging movements in Christianity should really download it and listen intently if you haven't heard of him. His book is definitely what some of my Christmas book vouchers will be spent on.
Those of you who know my given religious identification - agnostic with Pagan-Buddhist leanings (said with a rye smile) - may wonder why I still think and read so much about Christianity. Well I can give you all the superficial answers about "one of greatest social and cultural influences on human civilisation" blah blah blah etc. and I guess to a certain extent that is true. But something else fascinates me which I can never quite put my finger on... but I guess it comes down to the fact that I quite like Jesus. Biblical Jesus/myriad of historical Jesuses, I'm not fussed, I just like Jesus. I do have a soft spot for Buddha too (so don't get your hopes up guys). I'm also generally fascinated by how spiritual movements turn into religions, which then fracture, and reform and aclimatise to the many cultures that they find themselves operating in - and how would one "get back" to the essence of the spiritual movement if one wanted to operate spiritually but outside of the tradition.
Well that is what Mr Shane Claiborne and his friends seemed to be having a go at doing. Drawing on the New Testament and their own life experiences and taking the "What would Jesus do?" principle to its ultimate conclusion.
[On an aside, I really, really loathe the WWJD wrist-band thing. To me it just felt that it was just a commercialisation and commodification of an extremely deep and difficult concept into a small piece of plastic worn alongside bracelets and watches.... does wearing a band help anyone really get in touch with what living like Jesus actually might mean? I'm generally thinking not.... okay... rant over...]
So they moved away from their Churches - Protestant and Catholic - which they no longer felt were the best way to serve their God. And moved into the poorest neighbourhood in Philadelphia and basically put themselves in the way of suffering - direct, up front, face to face with the worst of 1st world poverty, homelessness and addiction. And that's where they live, and practice their faith, in a small community - of both married and single - and just do their best to live everyday the way they feel their God wants them to.
They've got involved with direct action, with wonderfully ironic causes: fighting the Catholic Church trying to kick out homeless families from an abandoned church which it had no plans to use and the criminalisation of homelessness (lie on a street to long, get arrested! Like that is really going to help).... hence the quote at the top (from Jacques Ellul courtesy of Mr Claiborne).
Anyway, that is enough random ranting and I really must go to bed as it is 1.30am... but here are some more quotes from Mr Claiborne to get you thinking....
"Not long ago, I sat and talked with some very wealthy Christians about what it means to be the church and to follow Jesus. One businessman confided, "I, too, have been thinking about following Christ and what that means … so I had this made." He pulled up his shirt-sleeve to reveal a bracelet, engraved with W.W.J.D (What Would Jesus Do?). It was custom-made of twenty-four karat gold."
"I recently surveyed people who said they were "strong followers of Jesus." Over 80 percent agreed with the statement, "Jesus spent much time with the poor." Yet only 1 percent said that they themselves spent time with the poor. We believe we are following the God of the poor — yet we never truly encounter the poor."