Sunday, March 27, 2005

Who is my neighbour?

The Maryville, Tenn. Daily Times has an interview with Shane Claiborne, founder of the Christian activist community The Simple Way:

``The life I have chosen to live and the message I speak come quite naturally from the God and the people I have grown to love,'' he said. ``Dorothy Day (a Christian activist) said it like this, `Don't call us saints. We don't want to be dismissed that easily.'''

In a nutshell, he said his message is about loving God and your neighbor as yourself.

But that's not always as simple as it sounds.

``Growing up in Maryville, around people who looked like me and thought like me, loving my neighbor was sharing a cup of sugar,'' he said.

But when one looks globally, a neighbor is an Iraqi child, an Indian leper -- even a Muslim cleric.

``It's a beautiful vision but it also disturbs us,'' he said. ``Love disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed.''

At times, Claiborne has shocked and disturbed his audiences.

At times, he has come across as controversial.

``Sure, some chapels have boycotted us, but overwhelmingly what I hear most often is `thank you,''' he said.

``We're no longer the anomaly,'' he said of groups like The Simple Way.

Increasingly, he said, Christians feel out of place with mainstream dialogues.

``A lot of Christians look at the media, and they are no longer convinced that, like, Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton, you know, these people that are on TV, represent the average Christian,'' he said.

Claiborne said in his travels he has noticed some of the divisiveness that shrouded the nation during the last presidential election also shows up in communities of faith.

``Conservatives stand up and thank God that they are not like the homosexuals, the Muslims, the liberals,'' Claiborne said. ``Liberals stand up and thank God that they are not like the warmakers, the yuppies, the conservatives.

``It is a similar self-righteousness, just different definitions of `evil-doing.' Both can paralyze us in judgment and guilt, and rob us of life. There are many people who are morally `pure' but devoid of any life, joy or celebration.

``For some this `purity' may mean that we do not touch anything that is `secular,' or for others it may mean that we do not eat anything that is not `organic.' But if it is not born out of relationships, if it is not liberating for both oppressed and oppressors, if it is not marked by raw, passionate love, then it is the same old self-righteousness that does little more than flaunt our own purity by making the rest of the world see how dirty they are.

``No matter where it pops up, this arrogance hinders us from seeing God's image in every human being, be they a soldier or a centurion, a tax collector or a stockbroker, a zealot or an anarchist. No one is beyond redemption.''


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