Tag Archives: Shane Claiborne

A Litany to Honor Women

Happy International Women’s Day!  A day to celebrate all of the great women of our past and present, and to raise awareness that the fight for equality is far from over.

I love “A Litany to Honor Women” from Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (the pocket edition is only $5 right now!), which celebrates women heroes of our faith.  The portraits are by Sarah Beth Baca, which can be purchased here to grace your homes with the stories of women used by God in extraordinary ways, as an inspiration to your family and friends.

A Litany to Honor Women

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Deborah

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before,
Mothers of the faith both named and unnamed,
Testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.
They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, poets, lovers and saints
who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,
who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of Esther,
who used her position as Queen to ensure the welfare of her people.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced, who kept and cradled the wisdom of the ages.

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Mary

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood, who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Mary Magdalene,
who wept at the empty tomb until the risen Christ appeared.

We walk in the company of Phoebe,
who led an early church in the empire of Rome.

We walk in the company of Perpetua of Carthage, whose witness in the third century led to her martyrdom.

We walk in the company of Saint Christina the Astonishing, who resisted death with persistence and wonder.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,
who wed imagination and theology proclaiming “all shall be well.”

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Junia

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,
who stood against oppression, righteously declaring “ain’t I a woman!” in 1852.

We walk in the company of the Argentine Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo,
who turned their grief to strength, standing together to remember “the disappeared” children of war with a holy indignation.

We walk in the company of Alice Walker,
who named the lavender hue of womanish strength.

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,
who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.

Amen.


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A Beautiful Kingdom Warrior’s Perspective on Race Relations in America

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Becky and I began The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors this January as a place to empower Christian women and to host redemptive (redemption: n. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil) dialogue on gender issues within Christianity.  We chose to name our blog “The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors” because we believe that our role as Christians is to partner with God in the redemption of the world’s brokenness, restoring God’s kingdom on earth.  When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden, it was as his “ezer kenegdo” (Genesis 2:18, 20; ezer appears throughout the Old Testament to describe God’s help in warfare – i.e. the Warrior bit).

A simplistic summary of the story of the world is: the Creation (all was good, according to God’s plan), the Fall (all is broken and in need of redemption), and God’s Redemption Plan (encompassing all aspects of God’s restoration of His creation to its’ pre-Fall perfection).  As Beautiful Kingdom Warriors, we are not only concerned with reversing the Genesis 3 curse of the subjugation of women, but of all aspects of brokenness in our world.

Approaching the new year, I do not want to move ahead on the blog without addressing racial reconciliation.  Between travelling for three weeks around Thanksgiving and the busy Christmas season at home, I have struggled to find the time or the words to share my heart on this issue.  This is not an easy post to “bang out.”  I am wrestling with my words, fighting to be helpful and redemptive, according to the vision of our blog.

As the national debate on race relations reached fever pitch around Thanksgiving, I was sharing pertinent articles on Facebook and I received a private message saying, “Aren’t you worried about [my friends whose husbands are law enforcement officers]?”  I was a little taken aback, 07ff16ab8af9d0ae6728277d45ceeb61because of course I care about my friends and their amazing husbands!  But I hadn’t connected them to the protests.  I realized I hadn’t been viewing this as a “cops vs. protesters” issue–but many others were.  With a heavy heart, I have read posts (like this one and this one) that these friends have shared on Facebook.  I began to think about how we filter information through our particular lenses, and how conflict escalates in a predictable pattern, with an unfortunate but universal “us vs. them” rhetoric that polarizes people, forcing everyone to “choose sides.”  I firmly believe that reconciling race relations in our nation will be beneficial for everyone – especially our heroic men and women who put their lives on the line to protect and serve us and who are directly impacted and endangered by the heightened tensions and open hostility.  It is also beneficial for all when justice is served against police officers who have abused their authority.  Not even the Church is impervious to corruption, so it is too broad a statement to paint all police officers as “the good guys.”

The reality is that America has a long history of systemic racism and inequality that shackles poor black communities throughout our nation.  There are legitimate issues of injustice that need to be addressed and redeemed.  As Christians, we are commissioned to partner with God in making peace and mending brokenness.

About twelve years ago, I signed up to go to Tennessee to build a home with Habitat for Humanity over my spring break from Gordon College.  There ended up being twice as many students as spots on the bus, and an impromptu Racial Reconciliation trip was formed, for which I was picked at random.  That week in Washington D.C., we spent each day visiting Beautiful Kingdom Warriors fighting for their black communities.  We stayed at The Little White House, a center for racial reconciliation conversations.  We visited local pastors, Congressmen, a domestic violence shelter, a food pantry, a poorly funded school, an after-school program, a non-profit that collects school supplies for local children.  For the first time in my life, I was hearing from black people what it was like to be black in America (according to this article, typically only 1% of white peoples’ social networks are black).  I came back to Gordon and gave a speech in Convocation about my eye-opening experience.  I said that for the first time in my life, I learned that you don’t have to be a Republican to be a Christian (another polarizing “us vs. them” mentality)!  God taught me that it was okay to cross partisan lines and care about a “liberal” issue.

In seminary, I took a “Cross-Cultural Missions” class in which we read Jonathan Kozol’s heart-wrenching book, “Amazing Grace.”   This book grieved me so greatly.

Amazing Grace is Jonathan Kozol’s classic book on life and death in the South Bronx—the poorest urban neighborhood of the United States. He brings us into overcrowded schools, dysfunctional hospitals, and rat-infested homes where families have been ravaged by depression and anxiety, drug-related violence, and the spread of AIDS. But he also introduces us to devoted and unselfish teachers, dedicated ministers, and—at the heart and center of the book—courageous and delightful children. The children we come to meet through the friendships they have formed with Jonathan defy the stereotypes of urban youth too frequently presented by the media. Tender, generous, and often religiously devout, they speak with eloquence and honesty about the poverty and racial isolation that have wounded but not hardened them. Amidst all of the despair, it is the very young whose luminous capacity for love and transcendent sense of faith in human decency give reason for hope. (Source – Amazon description).

Over the years, I have continued to read articles and books about systemic racism in America.  The statistics can be overwhelming.  Currently:

  1. 27 percent of black Americans now live in poverty, a two percent increase since 2009.
  2. According to last month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the unemployment rate for black Americans now stands at a staggering 14.1 percent, a figure well above the already high national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.
  3. White Americans now have 22 times more wealth than black Americans, a figure that has nearly doubled during the recession. According to the Census, in 2010, media household net worth for whites totaled $110,729. For blacks, the figure was $4,995.
  4. From June 2009 to June 2012, real median annual household income for blacks fell 11.1 percent from $36,567 down to $32,498. The drop for whites was 5.2 percent and 4.1 percent for Hispanics.
  5. According to the Census, 26.4 percent of households who report receiving food stamp assistance are African American, despite the fact that black Americans constitute just 13 percent of the total population.
  6. A study by the AARP found that home foreclosure rates for African American borrowers over the age of 50 were almost double those of whites.
  7. High school graduation rates, which strongly influence income and job hiring, continue to vary widely by race. A recent study found the following on-time high school graduation rates: 91.8 percent of Asian students, 82 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of Hispanic students, and 63.5 percent of African American students. (Source)
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“It’s hypocritical to criticize rioters without criticizing the long-standing and systemic injustices that produced the rioting.” Christena Cleveland

Here is a large quote from a New York Times opinion post from economist Joseph Stiglitz that demonstrates how the widening income gap is at the heart of the issue for black Americans:

But Dr. King realized that the struggle for social justice had to be conceived broadly: it was a battle not just against racial segregation and discrimination, but for greater economic equality and justice for all Americans…In so many respects, progress in race relations has been eroded, and even reversed, by the growing economic divides afflicting the entire country.

The battle against outright discrimination is, regrettably, far from over: 50 years after the march, and 45 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, major United States banks, like Wells Fargo, still discriminate on the basis of race, targeting the most vulnerable of our citizens with their predatory lending activities. Discrimination in the job market is pervasive and deep. Research suggests that applicants with African-American sounding names get fewer calls for interviews. Discrimination takes new forms; racial profiling remains rampant in many American cities, including through the stop-and-frisk policies that became standard practice in New York. Our incarceration rate is the world’s highest, although there are signs, finally, that fiscally strapped states are starting to see the folly, if not the inhumanity, of wasting so much human capital through mass incarceration.  Almost 40 percent of prisoners are black.  This tragedy has been documented powerfully by Michelle Alexander and other legal scholars.

The raw numbers tell much of the story: There has been no significant closing of the gap between the income of African-Americans (or Hispanics) and white Americans the last 30 years. In 2011, the median income of black families was $40,495, just 58 percent of the median income of white families.

Turning from income to wealth, we see gaping inequality, too. By 2009, the median wealth of whites was 20 times that of blacks. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was particularly hard on African-Americans (as it typically is on those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum). They saw their median wealth fall by 53 percent between 2005 and 2009, more than three times that of whites: a record gap. But the so-called recovery has been little more than a chimera — with more than 100 percent of the gains going to the top 1 percent — a group where, needless to say, African-Americans cannot be found in large numbers…

Despite rhetoric about the land of opportunity, a young American’s life prospects are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country. And thus, the legacy of discrimination and lack of educational and job opportunity is perpetuated, from one generation to the next.

Given this lack of mobility, the fact that even today, 65 percent of African-American children live in low-income families does not bode well for their future, or the nation’s.

Men with just a high school education have seen enormous drops in their real incomes over the past two decades, a decline that has disproportionately affected African-Americans.

While outright race-based segregation in schools was banned, in reality, educational segregation has worsened in recent decades, as Gary Orfield and other scholars have documented.

Part of the reason is that the country has become more economically segregated. Poor black children are more likely to live in communities with concentrated poverty — some 45 percent do so, as opposed to 12 percent for poor white children, as the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out.

This summer, I read several articles detailing the history of racist legislation over generations in Ferguson (and similarly across our nation).  Legislation that has effectively ghettoized black communities.

Many of these explicitly segregationist governmental actions ended in the late 20th century but continue to determine today’s racial segregation patterns. In St. Louis these governmental policies included zoning rules that classified white neighborhoods as residential and black neighborhoods as commercial or industrial; segregated public housing projects that replaced integrated low-income areas; federal subsidies for suburban development conditioned on African American exclusion; federal and local requirements for, and enforcement of, property deeds and neighborhood agreements that prohibited resale of white-owned property to, or occupancy by, African Americans; tax favoritism for private institutions that practiced segregation; municipal boundary lines designed to separate black neighborhoods from white ones and to deny necessary services to the former; real estate, insurance, and banking regulators who tolerated and sometimes required racial segregation; and urban renewal plans whose purpose was to shift black populations from central cities like St. Louis to inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson. (Source)

White America has come up with a number of rationales for these enduring pockets of despair. An elaborate mythology has developed that blames it on a “culture of poverty” — holding the poor culpable for their poverty and letting our political and economic systems off the hook. A somewhat more enlightened view holds that whites simply fled areas like Ferguson — which had a population that was 99 percent white as recently as 1970 — because of personal racial animus, leaving them as hollowed-out, predominantly black “ghettos.”

But a study by Richard Rothstein, a research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, comes to a very different conclusion. In his report, “The Making of Ferguson,” Rothstein details how throughout the last century a series of intentionally discriminatory policies at the local, state and federal levels created the ghettos we see today. (Source)

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As Christians and Beautiful Kingdom Warriors, we should be concerned about income inequality and the insurmountable challenges that poverty places on black communities in our nation.  Throughout the Bible, “there are more than two thousand verses involving poverty, physical oppression and justice, and the redistribution of resources” (Jen Hatmaker, “Interrupted” pg. 19).  Here are some of the verses we find in the Bible about poverty:

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth (Job 5:15-16).

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “Then I will protect them from those who malign them” (Psalm 12:5).

For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight (Psalm 72:12-14).

The poor are shunned even by their neighbors, but the rich have many friends. He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:20-21).

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? (Isaiah 10:1-3).

“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD (Jeremiah 22:16).

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35).

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5).

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).

As a white American, I cannot understand what black Americans experience.  But I can listen.  And that is what I am urging you to do as well.  Let us not get caught up into taking sides in an “us vs. them” battle that will only lead to more violence and an escalation of conflict, but let us come alongside God in the work of reconciling the world to His perfect Kingdom.  Let us love our black brothers and sisters by listening to them, and lending our influence and privilege to the demolition of unjust power structures.

I will leave you with some powerful stories for your listening ears:

I am a man

“As we listen to Ferguson, we can learn from Ferguson – just as we learn from Montgomery and from South Africa. Many of the worst pits of oppression have later become the brightest beacons of hope. Some of the worst moments of injustice have sparked some of the greatest movements for justice. And those places known for acts of evil later inspire the world towards freedom a generation later – out of these places rise up people like Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks.” – Shane Claiborne


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Book Review: Red Letter Revolution

Last June, my husband Logan and I attended a church conference in the Philadelphia area.  The speaker that most inspired and excited us was Shane Claiborne, sharing about his ministry with The Simple Way among Philly’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  Here is a similar talk on YouTube.  If you watch it, be prepared to weep at the end.  So powerful.

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After his talk, we headed back to his table and bought three books: The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, and Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant what He Said?.  We got back to Maine and were thrust into a stressful, hectic summer season.  Between work, parenting small children, and getting our house ready for the market, I was only sleeping 5 hours a night for months and months on end.  Although I couldn’t find time to read Claiborne’s books, I was watching his YouTube videos while I was working.  I’m telling you, this is the Christianity that I want!  Claiborne’s life has the distinct aroma of Jesus about it.

Red Letter Christians

When we went to spend two weeks with family over Christmas, I jumped on the opportunity to finally read one of his books.  I had grabbed Red Letter Revolution and practically devoured it.  This book is co-written with Tony Campolo and is formatted as a discussion between Shane and Tony regarding a movement they are trying to spark for a Christianity that images Christ, giving prominence to the red letters  of the Bible.

In this essential manifesto, best-selling authors Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo envision issue after contemporary issue in direct light of the Bible’s “red letters.”  The result is a startling look at contemporary Christianity and an inspirational reawakening to the gravity of the words and deeds of Jesus…Red Letter Revolution is a timely call back to the true, radical fundamentals of Christianity.  [dust jacket description]

First thing that jumps out at you when you open this book, is four pages of “Praise for Red Letter Revolution,” from the likes of Bono, President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Eugene Peterson, Phyllis Tickle, etc.  The Contents page shows a division of the book into three parts: Red Letter Theology (On History, Community, the Church, Liturgy, Saints, Hell, Islam and Economics), Red Letter Living (On Family, Being Pro-Life, Environmentalism, Women, Racism, Homosexuality, Immigration, Civil Disobedience, and Giving), and Red Letter World (On Empire, Politics, War and Violence, National Debts, the Middle East, the Global Church, Reconciliation, Missions, and Resurrection), and a Conclusion: A Vision for A Red Letter Future.  This book is jam-packed with Claiborne and Campolo’s thoughts on how Jesus’ words should impact the way we view contemporary issues facing the church and world.  And frankly, much of what they say is in direct contrast to Western Christianity’s cultural stances.

Whenever the word “evangelical” is used these days, a stereotype comes to mind.  Whether or not that image is justified can be debated, but there is little argument that the word “evangelical” conjures up an image of Christians who are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, pro-war, pro-capital punishment, and conservative Republican. [Intro: pg. XI.]

Although Shane and Tony come from different generations, different perspectives on community and politics, etc., they have found a similar passion for “taking action to stop wars, defy unjust political structures that oppress the poor, speak out for the oppressed who have no voice, and endeavor in general to change society into something more like what God wants for it to be” (pg. XIII).  This book is an “invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world” (pg. 9).

I probably could have highlighted this entire book.  I tried to restrain myself to underlining only the most pivotal sentences, but I still marked up every page.  There are also lots of stars and check marks in my margins.  I thought for TBKW blog, I would summarize their chapter on women.  This book is valuable for framing a Christ-like perspective on all contemporary issues, but I need to narrow my review or it will turn into its own book! 🙂

Tony begins this discussion by saying that the roles that women can play in church life is one of the most divisive issues among evangelicals, Anglicans and Roman Catholics.  Tony says denying women the right to be preachers and teachers is diminishing their dignity and thus dehumanizing women.  Red Letter Christians point out that Jesus affirmed women.

He invited Mary, the sister of Lazarus, to sit with his male disciples and study the Torah (Luke 10:38-42).  He broke societal expectations when he sat alone with a Samaritan woman and conversed with her on religious issues (John 4:4-26).  He broke rabbinical law when a woman who was menstruating touched him (Matthew 9:20-22).  The author of Galations makes it clear that “in Christ” the religious hierarchy differentiating men and women has been abolished (3:28). [pg. 107]

Shane points out that the Scriptures are full of women prophets, leaders and disciples.  “Ministry is a matter of call and gifting, not gender, and it would be a great disgrace if we lost half our gifted leaders in the church because we misread a few texts” (pg. 108).

Our brother Ben Witherington has said it well: “It was the original curse, not the original blessing that was pronounced in the following form-‘your desire will be for your husband and he will lord it over you.’  The effect of the Fall on human relationships is that ‘to love and cherish’ became ‘to desire and to dominate,’ which entailed unilateral submission of females to males, something that was never God’s original creation plan. [pg. 109]

You wont find a single statement in Genesis 1-2 about the silence or subordination of women to men.  Eve is simply the necessary compliment and suitable companion to Adam.  What you will find are statements making clear the inadequacy of the man without woman who is the crown of creation, for the text says ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’  Patriarchy is not an inherently good thing, an inherently God thing, and it should not be repristinized and set up as a model for Christian ministry.” [Ben Worthington quote continued in Notes: pg. 264-265.  Here is the link to his full article.]

Shane and Tony make a really excellent point in this chapter – men and women are both fully human.  Jesus was at times “feminine”, i.e. weeping, and also “masculine,” i.e. flipping tables.  These cultural norms limit our full humanity.  “In our cultural value system, we have divided up human traits between the sexes and consequently have denied each sex a part of its humanity” (pg. 110).

Shane and Tony give full support to women being leaders in the church.  They cite the partition in the ancient temple that had divided Gentiles and women from the Jewish men being broken down by Christ (Ephesians 2:14).  Philip’s three daughters are acknowledged as being prophetesses, i.e. preachers (Acts 21:8-9).  In Romans, Paul writes about Adronicus and Junia, a man and a woman, as fellow apostles.  In Ephesians 4:11, there is no indication that the gifts of the Spirit are allotted according to gender.  “Paul tells all Christians–and that includes women–that not to exercise the gifts that are within them is to negate what God wills (I Timothy 4:14)” (pg. 112).

Tony also shares how his mother was a wonderful storyteller and had always wanted to be a preacher, but because she could not, she lived out her calling through him.  “I find it sad that she had to live out her desire to be a preacher through her son because she was not allowed to live it out herself, and it is partly because of what happened to my mother that I am a strong advocate of women being preachers and teachers in the church” (pg. 113).  Here is an interview in which Tony goes into more detail on his views of women in leadership and the story of his mother.

Tony and Shane describe themselves as male feminists, and acknowledge that sexism runs deep in our culture.  “We have an oppressive cultural value system that forces women to think that they are supposed to conform to a society-prescribed weight and have a particular sized bust…In America, women are conditioned to think that they have to look twenty-three forever” (pg. 113).  They link the sexualization and objectification of women as the root of sex trafficking.  “We have to deal with the ugly reality that our society is indoctrinating men with evil concepts of what should turn them on sexually” (pg. 115).

The issues get even more complex globally.  In extreme cases, women are mistreated, or even tortured by being forced to undergo female circumcision.  We must know that these things matter to God.  How women are treated is as important to God as how men are treated.

And while we’re at it, we might also say that the wages that women get paid matter to God too.  Women do so much of the work and get so little of the money and credit…Four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management and that women earn less than men in 99 percent of all occupations.  [pg. 116 – 10 Suprising Statistics on Women in the Workplace]

It’s probably needless to say, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book!!!  I was so fired up after reading it.  Let’s join the Red Letter Christians in revolutionizing Western Christianity to a more Christ-like reality!  Give this book a read and see if some of your perspectives aren’t challenged.  Change is good, my friends!

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