More Baby Steps as We Crawl Toward Reconciliation

By Shane Claiborne 09-02-2008

[see all posts in this conversation on New Monastics and race.]

In addition to the steps mentioned in my previous post, I also wanted to share some things that go beyond our local community to the broader New Monastic movement and my role in it. As I said before, I don't want to give any impression that we've figured this out, or to boast "look at all I'm doing!" It certainly has been difficult and not without much sweat, tears, and mistakes. But here goes:

  • Countering whiteness. We have currently initiated several projects to work against the homogeneity of "the movement." Every month we host a gathering on radical discipleship (for four days) that is limited to around 20 folks to insure diversity (old/young, male/female, ethnicity, denominational). This means that we have to limit the number of white folks (and end up saying no to about 20 for each white participant who comes). We also have different communities hosting every month to give exposure to the many beautiful, diverse forms community takes, and we have been especially excited to celebrate communities led by people of color.
  • Affirmative Action. As a speaker, I regularly turn down speaking engagements that do not have women or people of color in the lineup, and I let the organizers know why. I believe that every critique I give comes with the responsibility to try and suggest alternatives, so I also recommend women and people of color who are dynamic communicators to speak in my stead. I give priority to events organized by people of color and speak regularly at events such as Urban Youth Workers, CCDA, Pentecostals for Peace, etc., and I find these are a great place to listen and learn (not just speak).
  • Economics. All speaking events we organize are free or on a "suggested donation" basis so as not to exclude anyone for financial reasons. We give away all proceeds of my books and resources, prioritizing "local revolutions" -- groups living among and led by folks in poverty (such as Coalition of Immokalee Workers, homeless coalitions, etc.).
  • Politics. Our communities tend to be fairly peculiar in how we engage the political scene. Traditionally, we often resonate with the history of Christian anarchism and movements like the Anabaptists. We have also become very aware that there is a great degree of "privilege" that accompanies decisions like principled non-voting. We wrestle with this in Jesus for President, but many of us have also taken steps to submit our political voice to people of color or undocumented folks here in the U.S. A friend in the NAACP has said, "Affirmative action for white folks in the election is asking black folks who they should vote for." So many of our communities are doing exactly that.

All this is still certainly not enough -- but God is good to fill the gaps and work through the cracks of our feeble attempts to be faithful. So, again, I want to thank Vonetta and Jason for being the catalyst for reflection, and to cause me to take the pulse on where we are in the "active pursuit of a just reconciliation," to celebrate the steps we have made, and to insist that it is not enough. I guess that is why we begin with "lament." I leave today for a one-month sabbatical, but I eagerly look forward to hearing what others have to say in this conversation and will now "pass the mic" to others.

Shane Claiborne is the author of Jesus for President, 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.

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