Tag Archives: Shane Claiborne

10 books that stayed with me throughout the years…


This was a Facebook meme, but since things disappear faster into nothingness on Facebook than on this humble blog I will post it here too in an ‘extended remix’ with some description for each book in the top-ten.

This was the original FB meme, stolen from a FB friend -I wasn’t tagged myself-:

In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. These are in no particular order. Tag 10 friends, including me so I can see your list.

So I made a list of 10 books that stayed with me. A very diverse list:

Astrid Lindgren – Ronja Rôvardotter
RonjaOne of the books I remember from when I was a child, and one that I’ve reread several as an adult. I also own the Swedish series on DVD.  A story about a young girl living in a magical forests, 2 competing clans of robbers, and love and friendship. You should just read it.

Franquin – Guust Flater (Gaston Lagaffe) series 
Comic series about the completely un-heroic office helper Guust, who is also a crazy inventor.  Maybe I’m too much like him sometimes.

David Wilkerson – the cross and the switch-blade
As a pentecostal kid I read a lot of Christian books, a lot of which I’ve completely forgotten by now and which would not interest me at all anymore. But this story about an American rural preacher who goes to the gangs of New York to preach about the love of Jesus to the unlovable whom no-one wants will always stay with me. It showed me something bigger than this world, and bigger than the meaningless priorities of humans. It made me go on a search for what it means to love God above all and love my neigbor as myself, a search that isn’t finished yet…

Antoine de St-Exupéry – Le petit prince
Not much comment, just read it, if you can in French. If you don’t understand why I like it there’s no way I can ever explain it..

J.R.R. Tolkien – the hobbit
Yes, I like fairytales, and I like ‘the hobbit’ a bit more than LOTR, although that’s very brilliant too. Not much explanation needed I think.

David Quammen – the song of the dodo
This is also a book that everybody should read. About the scientific field of island biogeography, evolution and extinction. But also filled with very interesting anecdotes about weird species, strange scientists and the life story of Wallace, who was working on the same theory of evolution as Darwin and possibly was kind of ripped off by him.
One of the few books I read about evolution in my teenage years that were fascinating (The other one would be Stephen Jay Goulds ‘Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History “, both are much more convincing that any 6-day-creationist I’ve ever read.)

Bill Watterson – Calvin & Hobbes series
Another comic, and one of the most brilliant ones ever made.

C.S. Lewis – the abolition of man
A lot of Lewis’ books stayed with me, but this weird, sometimes almost unreadable philosophical tract might have had even more influence on me in the end than the others. It put things into words that I felt but could not name. But the guy has written a lot of stuff that has influenced me a lot. (The thing I disagree most about with him is gender roles though). It’s probably Lewis who has helped me to not get too modernised..

Shane Claiborne – the irresistible revolution
And here we enter the new millennium, and my clumsy search for love that is more real than anything we can make up as humans.  I was deep into investigating Christian anarchism for a while (Ellul didn’t make this list, but het would be in a top-50).  Shane Claiborne, a dreadlocked new monastic was a bit more practical and down-to-Earth. He also is an amazing storyteller and one of the other examples of people who have sparks of the ‘love that is bigger than anyone we know’ in their life.

Terry Prachett – small gods
Terry Prachett is unique as a fantasy-writer. His books are completely weird sometimes and you shouldn’t take anything serious, way too funny and very intelligent. A lot of stuff to think about though in this one that really expanded my way of thinking about the spiritual world. (And the concept of slavery). Not for anyone with no sense or humour or for anyone who’s easily offended.

Strange and slightly inconsistent list  now I come to think about it…

Note that I wrote the title in the original language, no matter in which language I read the book. Several of them I have read in 2 languages anyway.

Note also that they are more or less in the order that I read them in my life, and that  I’ve read all of them  except for 2 in for the first time the last millennium. The exceptions are “the irresistible revolution’ in the ’00’s and ‘small gods’ in the ’10’s.

And lastly note that I did include comics but not the bible -don’t ask why-, and only added one book/series per author, otherwise it would have been mostly Tolkien ans Lewis. Runner-ups would be more C.S. Lewis books, The Lord of the rings, the Harry Potter series, the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, the Edda, the Flora of the Netherlands and Belgium, Karl May’s Winnetou I, some Brian McLaren and Neil Postman’s ‘amusing ourselves to death’.

And oh, the hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy.

Strange how no book originally written in my own language ended up in the list.  English, French, German and Swedish but no Dutch. I have to think about what exactly that means. I’ve read a lot of interesting Flemish books as a kid (René Swartenbroekx, Jan Terlouw, Thea Beckman, …) that I might need to reread; But they didn’t stay with me.

Also, 9 women and one man. None of my big Ursula Le Guin books made the list for some reason .

so do you have an interesting list?

peace

Bram

How not to defend unborn human life…


The following picture seems to be viral on facebook now. And despite all the good intentions of people sharing it, it makes no sense at all, and will not in a million years convince anyone except those who are already convinced and want to see their message spread no matter how… But I also am afraid that the unconvinced will be more convinced that the ‘pro-life’ stance (more on that word soon) just makes no sense at all.

Again: This is completely NOT the way to defend unborn human life, the reasoning is just bogus! Does anyone realise how bad an idea looks when it’s brought to you in a way that only makes it look ridicule? (That’s what happens to the Christian gospel too all the time, btw)
But let’s imagine the situation described: If a single cell would be found on a remote planet, what would happen to this cell? The cell  being ‘life’ will not prevent it from all the tests science and the NASA would do on it; and releasing one cell back is not something that happens much either… That one cell, and it’s offspring (mono-cellular life on earth pr0creates really fast by cell division, the chance of finding and keeping only one cell is too small) would in the best case be imprisoned in a lab and investigated by a lot of scientists. But treating it like a human being will never come into consideration by anyone…There are different levels of ‘life’ in earthly life, like human, animal and plant life. Yes, every single cell on earth is considered ‘life’, including the micro-organisms you kill when you boil water or ash your hands with something disinfecting. Mono-cellular life is all around and in us, but it still is a lower form of ‘life’ even than plant-life. A single cell, whether it is a bacterium on your hands, a non-terran cell on a planet orbiting sirius , or in the womb of a woman (and let’s not forget here that there are plenty of human and non-human living cells in the womb, and that non-fertilised egg cells and sperm cells are also living cells and ‘life’)
So the text of the image makes no sense at all in the defence of unborn human life, no matter how  a single-cell zygote is viewed, it being considered ‘life’ will not be of any use. We kill ‘life’ every time we wash our hands, or boil water. If you don’t come up with a reason for the zygote being human life we’re not even in a debate. Please, if the subject is that important to you, don’t treat it like this and ridicule it with nonsense reasoning and bogus arguments. You’re killing your own position!
Oh, and now that I have your attention: let’s add that the word ‘pro-life’ as used by American Christians is of little meaning if you care even a little bit about the actual meaning of word: Life is something that includes born people (and all of non-human life too) so claiming you’re pro-life and being pro-war, anti-helping the poor, pro-death sentence, pro-violence and not anti destruction of nature you’ve made the word ‘pro-life’ worthless The same could be said about ‘pro-choice though, which is also a completely bogus term, both are a very interesting use of language to vilify the other at the expense of the meaning of the term!
(oh, and you can’t go further from being ‘pro-life’ than killing abortionists or bombing abortion clinics, just saying!)
I do believe that human life is to be protected. Born and unborn. I do know that when I saw the first echography of my daughter that I was amazed about how much life and energy that little human larvae had, and did something in her moves that we recognised later after birth… So the human being was there already at that age.But I know the debate about when you can speak of human life is more complicated than this, much more. A third-trimester abortion is just barbaric, but the discussion about a single-cell zygote is something completely different from that. And let’s not forget that the bible is NOT clear about human life beginning at conception, sorry… Let’s not sweep all of that under the carpet either with dumb slogans that make no sense and only make us look dumb, please…
If we really want to be able to call ourselves ‘pro-life’, we should think about these words from Shane Claiborne in the irresistible revolution:
I must say that I am still passionately pro-life, I just have a much more holistic sense of what it means to be for life, knowing that life does not just begin at conception and end at birth, and that if I am going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers.
Yes, we Christians should not attack those with ‘unwanted pregnancies’, but help them. We should be known for caring for teenage mothers and making sure that they can make it instead of condemning them. We should win people over with love! Even at the expense of our own western middle-class comfortable life, I think I should add. And I realise I’m nowhere in that…
shalom
Bram

Some Interesting things elsewhere II


every witty quote might offend someone...

Welcome in the second issue of ‘Some interesting things elsewhere':

Eugene Cho on ‘a lifestyle of enough‘ on Godspace. Shane Claiborne on the theology of enough, I think the rediscovery of ‘enough’ instead of more more more is very important, and one of the ways in which Christianity has to be countercultural in a world where growth for the sake of growth (the ideology of the cancer cell) is the norm in economics.

There is a promise in Scripture that there is enough: that God did not mess up and make too many people or not enough stuff.

Another criticism to a core value of contemporary neoliberal ideologies that are very pervasive even in Christian thought is addressed by Matt Stone in his blog post ‘do what thou wilt shalt be the law of the psychopath’, which invokes the infamous  occultist Aleister Crowley! More from the occult department in this very entertaining article by our anti-capitalist friend Tripp York, who finds neo-druids too capitalist, and points out how Satanists are plagued by the same problems as Christians are…

Totally unrelated is this cool technique of moss graffiti, something I want to try one day!

Sometimes the world seems like getting crazier and crazier. This story is quite enraging, and together with this one scatters my last hope that there is any ‘land of the free’ left in the illustrious US of A…: “Health department raids community picnic and destroys all food with bleach” This weird story about a homeless mother sent to jail because letting her children go to school in the wrong place is equally scary though…And the mess the Americans left in Iraq includes this story about teenagers being stoned to death for their emo look. And if we’re talking about the middle-east, this blogger from Bethlehem is worth following, and these ‘writings on the wall’ by persecuted Palestinian Christians are impressing!

At the same moment the state the planet is in isn’t much better: the acidifying of the oceans, a problem most people never heard about, might become one of the serious threats to earthlings in the future, and one we are responsible for! And if the ocean level rises due to global warming, this guy will be a president without a country… And there should be no patents on genes that are found inside of living organisms!

Some things are just weird. The anonymous declaration of cyberspace independence, which can be read here, looks like it’s from a sci-fi movie, but it’s from the real world we’re living in apparently…

did you read anything interesting?

shalom

Bram

teenage flashback: I’m not flirting, but I might need a hug…


I just fell in love with this picture when I saw it. It looks like me when I was younger:

I don’t think I really wanted and even needed more.

I don’t think I reall needed more. Just love.

Friendship-love. Something real. Something not fake like oversexed music videos, billboards with half-naked women and other nonsense like porn.

I was turned off by everthing about sex at a certain moment. The whole of society was trying to sell me as much sex as possible, and I saw no love at all in it. The Christians sometimes seemed to be more interested in teaching how to not have sex than how to love…

Maybe I did scare girls away because they thought I wanted something I didn’t want. I never cared for sex without love. I don’t think I ever will. I have no problem with sex and I quite like it (which is probably good, since I’m a married man…) but I don’t get the hype. Sex is part of a love relationship. It is not an end in itself, and can be destructive if it becomes an end.

to quote Shane Claiborne:

If we are able to have a healthier understanding of sexuality and to celebrate singleness as well as marriage and family, then we can transcend some of this. One of my mentors is a celibate monk, and he says we can live without sex but we can’t live without love. And there are a lot of people who have a lot of sex and never experience love, and people who never have sex [but] have deep experiences of intimacy and love.

That’s what I needed. That’s what everybody needs. Maybe sex can be a distraction and substitute for some people in a way that just could never work for me, but it cannot replace love and cure loneliness.

Are we there for those who need love and friendship?

I’ll conclude with an old Bram Cools song (lo-fi alert:  strange arrangement, poor melody and not so technical vocals), which can be downloaded here. It’s not really a video, sorry.

Why fear non-violence as a christian?


Scot McKnight, who himself self-identifies as an anabaptist, links on his blog to an article from the American spectator that poses the question if a ‘mennonite take-over’ is going on.

Now i’m still a european who doesn’t understand much of American politics, but after reading the American Spectator I sense a bit of fear of what they percieve as ‘mennonite’, even though most of the names they give are in fact not at all mennonites. What they seem to be affraid of is the growing influence of peace church thought and pacifism in christianity, which they for some reason see as agressive.

(I guess they are affraid of the other side of the american 2-party system, and of the ‘socialism’ monster of the cold war indoctrination, but what I see in both Shane Claibornes ‘Jesus for president’ and Greg Boyds ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ is rejecting both parties alike, and not putting much faith in governments at all, and it shows more a down-top grass-roots anarchism which does not wait on the State to do things…)

Most of the names they give, like Greg boyd and Shane Claiborne, are in fact not mennonites, but it surely can not be denied that they are gravely influenced by postmodern neo-anabaptist christian non-violence. Which is why I like them by the way. One of the things I like most about certain parts of the post-evangelical christianity and the emerging church dialogue is exactly that: a commitment to Jesus and His words, the sermon on the mount and to radical discipleship, even to enemy-love.

I do think this ‘neo-anabaptist’ emphasis in post(modern) evangelicalism is not only very important, but also a move of the Holy Spirit and a call to go back to the core of our faith. A call to first be a citizen of the Kingdom of God before being part of the systems of this world (or ‘empire’) I’m not only thinking of Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd, but of Scot McKnight himself, and Rob Bell or even Brian McLaren.

Like Derek Webb sings:

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom

We as Christians need to be serious that our first commitment is not to any nation, but to Jesus, and to the ‘transnational church that transcends all artificial borders’, like Shane Claiborne says in his ‘litany of resistance‘, which the reporter of the American spectator finds “angry and defamatory“. The first Christians were known to be willing to die for their faith, but not to kill. This is a serious way of following Christ, even into a possible death, but it’s also very powerful. It trancends the so-called myth of redemptive violence.

Like Bonhoeffer said, “…when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.” (thanks to JoeyS) Or like Walter Wink says “Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough.”

These are the things that make me want to be a christian. But it seems that exactly these things scare some people, even some Christians… They are too far from our natural human way of thinking. But isn’t that exactly what Christianity is supposed to be. Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be boxed or put before our cart, and neither can any genuine follower.

No we should not completely withdraw from the world, as some anabaptists tend to do (think about the Amish) Neither should we take over all the values of the world, we belong to Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, like light and salt… We are not to take over with violence, but to love the hell out of this world…

Not by might,
Not by power
by my spirit
says the Lord

Shalom

Bram

A call to subversive Love!!!


hi readers

I will start with a quote from Zack’s response to my last post on cross-gender friendshios (which is worth reading, giving a good explanation of the things I was talking about, from the perception of the culture he was born into):

We don’t often find Jesus bending over backwards to not offend His culture. On the contrary, He went against the grain precisely to demonstrate how backwards their culture was, and to reveal to them what God’s love looks like in society.

That’s the context in which I would place the whole subject of cross-gender friendships, but this topic of subversive love is so much broader that this, and it must have a central place in our Christian life if we want it to make any sense at all. Jesus, Paul and the early Christianity did not only summarise the whole law in the ‘Love God above all and you neigbor as yourself’, but they also lived that way, which was not just a choice, but also an orientation, and a lifestyle, a transformation, a whole new way of being and relating to the world.

So when we look again at the story of the woman at the well (see john 4), we clearly see this revolutionary way of lovingly relating at work. No jewish rabbi at that time would ever even think about being seen with a woman of questionable reputation, even if she wouldn’t have been samaritan. There was a great segregation of the sexes, and a looking down on sinners, and the way Jews reacted to samaritans would be considered racist by todays standards. But against all those cultural taboos, Jesus just talked to her, in a friendly and egalitarian way. No matter how we try, we will not realise how subversive and not done such a thing was. And we are called to follow Jesus and do likewise as He did.

The well-meaning intentions of people who are abstaining from stuff like being seen with people of the other sex or sinners or other wrong company might stem from an honest trying to do good, but it’s far away from Jesus’ teachings and example. And it may be much closer to the one kind of people Jesus always rebuked: the religious elite of his time, like the pharisees and sadducees. He was the one who hung out with sinners and the pariahs of his age, with litteral lepers and traitors of Gods chosen people. We are not called to carefully watch our reputation, we are called to embody christs love, and we are called blessed when we are persecuted for that (see the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5)

In our christian communities we should be one, without distinctions based on race, gender, age, musical preference or social class. Neither greek or Jew, male or female as St-Paul calls it. The first christians lived that way, and so did countless other christian communities in all kinds of situations in the last 2000 years, from old to new monastics, from anabaptists to Jesus people communes. And those communities were not only focussed to keep thier love inwards, but also to sharing it with the world, with hospitality, generosity, charity.

A comment here is that, while I do believe that we have to contextualise the gospel and translate it into each culture we are in ourselves, we do not have to let the culture and it’s definitions and taboos, or even definitions alter the gospel. Au contraire, we should let the gospel transform the culture, just as we need to be transformed ourselves! We come as we are, but no way that we will stay as we are, otherwise our good news does not make any sense at all…

And this may come down to something you could call christian anarchism, or better Love-archy. We don’t listen to then written or unwritten rules that try to put boundaries on our love, just like Jesus who talked with the woman at the well as if it wasn’t special at all to do such a thing…

And I know that I fall short in any way. Both in my personal life and in communal life with my brothers and sisters in christ, and I want to repent of that. I don’t want to see the prayer of st-Francis as inspirational but faraway from my daily life. I don’t want 1 Cor 13 and verses like ‘perfect love drives out all fear’ to be hypothetical theory, but I want to learn how to live them.

This is my new motto for my life:

I want to learn how to love, the rest are details.

will you guide me, Spirit of love?

will you join me, my brothers and sisters?

will you be my all, Christ?

shalom

Bram


ps, for some inspiration go look at the revolt collective or read shane Claiborne’s book ‘the irresistible revolution’. Or look at those countless hero’s and examples that we have in the history of our faith who lived a life of subversive love. We are surrounded by a witness cloud!!

a prayer from Shane Claiborne


I was watching a video with some preaching by ‘new monastic celebrity’ Shane Claiborne, a speaker which I like a lot, because he gives me hope for a different kind of Christianity that makes a difference in the lives of people.

I noticed again that he tends to tell the same stories again and again, but I don’t mind, they are strong stories; and his message is something that needs to become real more in my life. So if you have time, watch it. And think about it.

But what I really liked was his ending prayer. It is something to be prayed together by a group, so I wish to pray it together with all my readers, even if we are separated in time and space:

spirit of the Living God
fall on us
mould us into new creations
give us imagination with the way that we live
that we might not conform to the patterns of this world
but that we might be transformed
by the renewing of our minds
give us a new way of thinking about
our lives and our vocations
teach us to be your church

God we pray that all that You are
would take root in us
that the fruits of the Spirit
would so be inside of us
that everyone we come in contact with
would feel the goodness of Your love
that they would feel
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, gentleness, faithfullness, selfcontrol
and all of the things that You are
in the name of Jesus
Amen

I say Amen too

Bram