Our Weekend with Shane Claiborne

On a Friday night, we sat around the table eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and talking with our houseguest...Shane Claiborne. Shane is an author, activist, and founder of The Simple Way, an intentional community in Philadelphia. 

We first came in contact with Shane’s work through his book The Irresistible Revolution. For Sophie, the book brought together her faith commitments alongside her concern for social issues, giving her more clarity on what to study in college and encouraging her to adjust her daily living to reflect these values. For Jared, the book served as a missing piece in what Church was currently offering and painted a picture for what fully dedicated Kingdom-living might look like now. He had the youth staff at San Diego First Church read the book. For the both of us, Shane’s work was both inspirational and challenging, and helped us shape the values of our marriage around simplicity, hospitality, and justice. 

So, why was Shane sitting in our house? Sophie will take it over…

During my first year in seminary, the state of Georgia scheduled an execution date for Kelly Gissendaner. Though I had advocated for the California proposition against the death penalty in 2012, regularly scheduled executions weren’t a regular practice there, so I hadn’t given much thought to the issue. But this execution was different. People in my community knew Kelly. They had served her communion. They had taught her in theology classes. They had written letters with her. They had received ministry from her. Her story was compelling, because I was learning about a prisoner as a real person. Flawed, yes. Guilty, yes. But also forgiven and transformed. Kelly’s story of grace highlighted for me the absurdity and barbarity of the death penalty. 

Despite a groundswell of support, including a petition of over 92,000 signatures, including many of yours as well as a letter from Pope Francis, the state of Georgia executed Kelly in September 2015. She died singing “Amazing Grace.”

Shortly thereafter, I met Shane at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference, where he told a few of us Candler students about his upcoming book focused on the death penalty, called Executing Grace: How The Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. Shane told us when he did a book tour, he didn’t simply want to come read passages and sell copies. He wanted to highlight the way the death penalty affects real people, and bring alongside family members, ex-felons, and policy makers who deal with this daily. As he said, he chose to advocate against the death penalty, but for other people, the death penalty chooses them. 

Our Candler community had been affected by the death penalty, and situated in Georgia, a state that had the highest number of executions in 2016, we knew it was affecting more communities. Furthermore, because it is our tax dollars and elected officials that enforce this punishment, we realized we were all implicated. As a seminary and students training to go into churches, we were convicted by Shane’s explanation that the death penalty has not existed in spite of Christians, but because of Christians. Situated in the Bible Belt, we wanted to have a discussion about theology, ethics, law, and the personal impact of the death penalty. So we invited Shane to a three city speaking tour called Executing Grace in Georgia: A Faithful Conversation About the Death Penalty.

As we traveled to 3 cities in 30 hours, I saw that this movement is building, and despite the continued operation of this death machine, I have hope. As Shane said in the final event, “Before every movement, they say it’s impossible. After every movement, they say it was inevitable.” Change seems unlikely. Change seems daunting and impossible. Yet we are committed to hope. As Kayla Gissendaner, Kelly’s daughter, said at the panel, “I never gave up hope because my mom deserved every ounce I could give.” If Kayla can maintain hope, so can I. If Kelly can die with Amazing Grace on her lips, we can trust that grace will indeed get the last word. 

(click photos for slideshow)

Sometimes Shane gets dismissed for being too idealistic or too outrageous. But spending a weekend with Shane, doing regular things like driving around Georgia and sharing meals, just revealed to us a person who is all in for Jesus. Shane sees injustice in the world and engages it with his whole self. Hearing about his family and his neighborhood, and the creative ways they are building a world they want to live in, reminded us that what he preaches is possible. More accurately, what Jesus preaches is possible. Shane is, simply, is doing what we’re all called to do as disciples of Christ. Shane is fully committed to loving God with heart, mind, body, soul -  and wallet, neighborhood, and vocation. He’s not special, he is faithful. May we all find more ways to be faithful to our calling. 

The reasons Christians should stand for life and stand against the death penalty are abundant. You can read them in Shane’s book much more eloquently stated than I could recount here, or watch this video series with Shane by our new friend Rex Harsin. And I don’t need to recap the full event - you can watch the keynote and panel discussion at Candler here. To get involved with this movement for grace and life, check out the resources + action steps we recommended at the event.

Taking Trophies from Kids

In case you missed it, last week the defensive star for the Pittsburgh Steelers became the most recent flurry of internet heat. James Harrison was quoted as saying that he takes away the participation trophies that are given to his young kids, and I love it. In a time where showing up gets you praise, James is rebelling against the system. That system produced us current floundering twentysomethings, and not with bad intentions. Our parents, by-in-large, had tough, uncompromising parents. Their parents survived things. They fought in wars. They worked in factories, reared kids, and made a way for themselves. Our parents caught the firmness of the back of a belt, and sometimes the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that came with having to be tough to survive. (This is not an excuse for abusive behavior, just illustrating a general shift in tone for what it meant to be a parent). For previous generations, a life of comfort and following your every pleasure whim were not nearly as socially acceptable as today.

Our parents swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. We were the best, at everything, always. We put drawings on the fridge even if they were not good. We kept “special boxes” of memories that included lots of random T shirts from childhood (actually, the mothers of a couple of my friends gathered all their old special shirts and sewed them into a quilt to they could see all their memories on a special blanket). I actually do think this is kind of cool, and I do wish I had kept my shirts from elementary school, sports, and youth group trips to turn them into a sweet quilt. But that is the problem! (or at least part of it). We swoon, literally, in our childhood accomplishments and we think that showing up warrants a trophy.

In real life, showing up doesn’t get you praised, and in response many of us stopped showing up. Not caring became cool.  Someone famous said that quote about 90% of success is just showing up. Great, but I think where you show up to is the key factor there. I think what you do matters a lot. I like that James Harrison, a man who obviously has a work ethic, is setting the standard higher for his son than just being on the team. Does being on a team take work? Dedication? Conviction? Yes, but those things should be normal things in you, not the things you celebrate. Those attributes should lead you to things worth celebrating, to the formational experiences, and the lasting memories.  

So, can we give trophies? Sure, but how about valuing people for who they really are. At a youth event a couple years ago, we went to a thrift store and bought a ton of trophies from the 80s and 90s. Old bowling trophies. Used BMX bike trophies. Medals given for random field days. When our students won the competitions at the weekend event, we awarded them with the upcycled trophies. Then, the biggest awards of the night went to the people who were “caught being good.” The people who did Christ-like acts of humility, servanthood, and unselfishness got called up and surprised with gift certificates and a huge affirmation.


Action Steps: Maybe the best we can do is call out the ways we see God at work in each other. Often times, I bet others can see God working in and through you before you can see it yourself. This week be quick to notice God at work and tell someone “Amen for your life.” Instead of failing to show up or awarding mere participation, let’s reward the goodness and godliness we see in others.


I Was A Bad Husband This Week

I blew it this week. Sophie got home from a really long day of work (literally serving those who were displaced from the San Diego wildfires). She was tired, had her arms full, and was so excited to be home. Background information: our television cords run across the bedroom doorway. The only accessible outlet is super loose and finicky.

When Sophie walked in, her foot hit the cords, and the tv (which I was watching) turned off. I was way more frustrated than I should be. I expressed displeasure in her actions.

She apologized. Plugged it back in. I go back to watching tv, and I felt that I overreacted.

Literally four minutes later I got a do-over. She moves to unload her bags from the day, and a pair of shorts fell off and hit the cord. **Shpewww**  The television turns off. Did I learn my lesson? No. I was perturbed. Flustered. Annoyed.

Scripture: Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT) 

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

Jewish rabbis suggested forgiving someone three times. Peter thinks he is being extra generous by offering more than double that amount. But Jesus is literally saying, “Forgive infinity times.” Seventy times seven is an unfathomable number, nothing we would practically count. We are not to be limited by a number in the law, but to live in the overflowing of grace and forgiveness.

Why can I pray every day to actively forgive people who intentionally hurt me, but when my wife (someone whom I have publicly committed to love and support for every day I have on this planet) needs forgiveness I blow it?

How can we show more grace to those we interact with daily?

Things I Hate: The Eternal Blinker

Very few things can push me to anger as quickly as an “eternal blinker”. This happened recently, where I was stuck in limbo on the freeway because someone in the lane to my right had their blinker on, but was not moving over. I wanted to be courteous and let them in (no one likes the person who speeds up when they can clearly see you intend to merge into their lane). However, if you are not going to get into my lane, then turn your freaking blinker off.

I was frustrated. “How irresponsible and dangerous of them?” I thought.

When I arrived at my destination an acquaintance arrived behind me and parked at the same time. “Hey Jared,” they said kindly, “You have a brake light out.”

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And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
— Matthew 7:3-5

What are the sins that make you mad in others because you commit them yourself?  (For me it is pride)