The Simple Way

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne

A SELF-PROCLAIMED “ordinary radical” from eastern Tennessee, Shane Claiborne is a founding member of the New Monasticism movement, which encourages a life of simplicity, nonviolence, community, and prayer. In 1997, along with fellow passionate friends from Eastern University, Shane co-founded The Simple Way—an intentional Christian community in inner-city North Philadelphia. His books include Jesus for President, Red Letter Revolution, Common Prayer, and Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers. He’s been featured in films such as Another World is Possible and Ordinary Radicals. His forthcoming book, Executing Grace, calls Christians to advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty.

Shane’s first book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, quickly became a foundational text for many young, social justice-minded Christians. Now, 10 years later, he’s updating the world about what this revolution looks like today. Claiborne spoke with Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis by phone in November about what’s new—and what’s not—in his lifelong vocation to be part of the Jesus revolution.

Jim Wallis: This is the 10th anniversary of the publication of Irresistible Revolution, and you’ve just released an updated edition. What new insights can we expect in this version?

Shane Claiborne: After 20 years of living in North Philly, there are things you look back on and you think, wow, that looks different from what I thought it would. So it’s been a surprise and a gift to get to tweak the book a little bit. I wrote notes in the margins throughout the book. Some of them are fun and some of them are to be a little bit more accurate. Then I did a whole section of frequently asked questions. Those run the gambit of “How come you got married?” to “What do you do with ISIS?” I added an appendix, too, about the tradition of civil disobedience in the church. It was fun!

“The irresistible revolution,” you said in the first edition of the book, “isn’t just about going to heaven when you die, but bringing heaven down as you live. ... The revolution we are talking about begins inside each of us and extends to the ends of the earth.” Has that changed? No, I don’t think that has changed at all. What does change are the ways we live that out. When we started The Simple Way 20 years ago, there was the sense that everybody needs to leave everything behind and just live on the streets. What we’ve seen the Spirit doing is much more dynamic and spectacular than that—people are living out unique vocations. We have lawyers, doctors, plumbers, gardeners, or urban farmers—folks who are using their gifts for seeking first the kingdom of God and interrupting the patterns of injustice.

Shane Claiborne 03-22-2012
Via Getty Images.

"The Feeding of the Five-Thousand," Attributed to Ambrosius Francken the Elder. Via Getty Images.

In the Bible, Jesus even goes so far as to say that when we feed the poor, the “least of these,” we are feeding Christ himself. When Jesus speaks of the final judgment he says we will be asked by God, “When I was hungry did you feed me?” Can you imagine if our response was, “Sorry God, the city would not give us a permit?”

One of the stories of the Gospel involves Jesus doing a miracle where he takes a few fish and loaves and multiplies them, feeding hundreds of hungry folks. Jesus didn’t have a health permit to do that outdoor feeding. In fact if Jesus had tried to perform that miracle feeding in Philadelphia under these proposed laws, he would have gotten into serious trouble. As Jesus bids us come and follow – feed the poor, care for the hungry — we are not willing to allow unjust policies to be obstacles to love. 

the Web Editors 12-20-2011

You won't want to miss the great profile of our friend Shane Claiborne and the New Monastics in Huffington Post's Religion section. HuffPo's religion editor Paul Raushenbush tells the story of Shane and his brothers and sisters in The Simple Way spiritual community in Philly.

Raushenbush writes:

"I often say I was drafted by injustice," explains Shane Claiborne, one of the founders of The Simple Way, a Christian community located in North Philadelphia. Tall, thin, with dreadlocks and a ready smile, Shane shares with me the religious experience that changed his life.

In the late 1990s, a group of homeless families squatting in an abandoned cathedral in Philadelphia were threatened with eviction when the local diocese decided to sell the property. The homeless community hung a banner outside the cathedral that asked: "How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday and evict him on Monday?"

Shane Claiborne 10-27-2011

On Nov. 5 folks all over the world will divest from Wall Street and its banks … in order to invest in a better world.

Ideologies alone are not enough. There came a point in the movement to abolish slavery where ideology required responsibility. As one abolitionist said, “The only way to be a good slave-owner is to refuse to be a slave-owner.” To truly be against slavery also meant that you didn’t drink sugar in your tea, because sugar was produced with slave labor.

So on November 5, my wife and I will be joining the “Move Your Money” celebration, moving our money from Bank of America to the non-profit credit union here in Philadelphia.

It is one small step away from the vicious cycle that continues to see money transfer from the increasingly poor to the increasingly rich.

It is trying to take to heart Jesus’ command to “Get the log out” of my own eye.

It is a move towards Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

It’s one little step towards being less of a hypocrite tomorrow than I am today.

Shane Claiborne 10-25-2011

tunics tree of lifeOne of the constant threads in scripture is, "Give us this day our daily bread." Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1 percent of the world owns half the world's stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, "Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream."

Maybe God's dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God's dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.

Shane Claiborne 10-03-2011

Today (Oct. 4) Christians around the world celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the bright lights of the church and one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

The life and witness of Francis is as relevant to the world we live in today as it was 900 years ago. He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war.

Shane Claiborne 08-22-2011

110822-JBICI was in Baghdad in March 2003, where I lived as a Christian and as a peacemaker during the "shock-and-awe" bombing. I spent time with families, volunteered in hospitals, and learned to sing "Amazing Grace"

Will Braun 07-15-2011

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009photo © 2009 World Economic Forum | more info (via: Wylio)Most people know now that Rupert Murdoch presides over the News Corp media empire, and that he is fighting for his reputation after being forced to sink his scandal-laiden British newspaper News of the World, the most widely read English tabloid in the world. But few people know that Murdoch also owns Zondervan, the world's largest publisher of Bibles. For 23 years, the News Corp family has included the leading seller of the best-selling book in history.

Shane Claiborne 06-13-2011

This past weekend, Christians around the world celebrated one of our holiest holi-days: Pentecost. Pentecost, which means "50 days," is celebrated seven weeks after Easter (hence the 50), and marks the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit is said to have fallen on the early Christian community like fire from the heavens. (For this reason, lots of Christians wear red and decorate in pyro-colors. This day is also where the fiery Pentecostal movement draws its name).

But what does Pentecost Sunday have to do with just another manic Monday?

What does a religious event a couple of thousand years old have to offer the contemporary, pluralistic, post-Christian world we live in? I'd say a whole lot. Here's why:

Let me start by confessing my bias. Not only am I a Christian, but I am a Christian who likes fire. I went to circus school and became a fire-swallowing, fire-breathing, torch-juggling-pyro-maniac as you'll see here. So naturally, I like Pentecost.

Shane Claiborne 04-11-2011
As a Christian, Easter marks the most stunning act of grace and enemy-love in human history -- Jesus' death and resurrection.
Shane Claiborne 03-25-2011

Imagine what would happen if a massive popular movement of ordinary Americans decided to voice their concern about military spending -- by withholding $10.40 from their 1040 tax forms this year?

Shane Claiborne 02-28-2011

Growing up in the Bible belt in east Tennessee, I can remember an entire campaign built around "What Would Jesus Do?" There were WWJD bracelets, stickers, and T-shirts everywhere.

Shane Claiborne 12-20-2010

I went into a Christian bookstore the other day and was surprised to see some of the most prominent display space given over to military flags for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. These flags, and a vast assortment of Americana merchandise, were on sale for the holidays.

Shane Claiborne 12-07-2010
Critiquing the thick irony of the Christmas season is fair.
A few years ago, a bunch of activist-types and a bunch of prayer-warriors got together to create a prayer book with the goal of bringing together the Bible and the newspaper.
Shane Claiborne 09-28-2010

The two authors of this blog post have been having a good conversation over the past six months and thought it might interest others as well. First, though, it seems like a good idea to give you a little background about who we are and why we have been talking.

Shane Claiborne 02-26-2010

Something sort of mystical and magical happened after a 19-year-old kid named Papito was killed on our block a few weeks ago. As our neighborhood ached and grieved and cried with his family, we began to create a memorial for Papito where he died

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