The Problem of Selective Fundamentalism (abortion & LGBT) – Shane Claiborne

What do you think? Some may feel he goes “too far” (conservatives) and others may think he doesn’t go “far enough” (some progressives). I think Shane offers us one kingdom approach to these issues, specifically lgbt issues, that chooses the way of love and discipleship and inclusiveness in community.

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  • Missy

    Thanks so much for posting this.  Love Shane.  

  • Insofar as someone’s opinion is offered through a partisan political label, I don’t much care what they think.

  • Kelly

    Thanks for posting this! This feels like a compassionate and inclusive approach to faith.

  • Davey Jones

    I love the implications of this quote of his: “I had some serious stuff to say about abortion but I didn’t know anybody that had had an abortion. I had some serious stuff to say about homosexuality but I didn’t know any gay folks.” I find a lot of truth and feel a lot of resonation with that sentiment.

  • I actually didn’t agree with much of what he says., or in some cases, felt he was saying some things based on incorrect presumptions. A couple of problems I had with this clip:

    1.  He had some strong things to say about abortion? Well, since pretty much anyone who disagrees with legalized abortion believes that abortion takes innocent life, then we can conjecture that he thought, in his past fundie life, that abortion is the taking of innocent life. And if he has changed his mind since then, simply because he got to know someone who’s had an abortion, then my thought is that that is a pretty crappy reason to change positions on this topic.

    2. Same thing for gay people: once he got to have some gay friends, he decided to show them “love”.  I have never understood this line of reasoning, either. If you believe homosexuality is sin, then the loving thing to do is to express than to someone you care about who’s struggling with that sin, just as you would if your friend were doing dangerous drugs, cheating on his wife, etc.  I’d have more respect for Claiborne if he said he changed his positions on this topic because he saw something in Scripture which allowed for homosexuality to be acceptable in God’s eyes. But he doesn’t say that. He bases his changed position on the fact that he made gay friends, effectively relegating God’s opinion on that topic to the backburner.

    3. He mentions Jesus being one who “invited” sinners, and ties this back to gays. So does this means he thinks homosexuality is sin or not? If it is, then this is a bad analogy, because while Jesus did invite sinners, He never affirmed anyone’s sin. Not once.

    My overall impression of Claiborne’s theology, at least based on this clip and the recent HuffPo piece, is that he chooses to emulate Jesus when Jesus is talking about peace, accepting people, etc., but ignoring those parts where we are told He has an expectation that we strive toward holiness, denying our flesh (including out tendencies toward sexual sin), etc.

    Put it all together, and Claiborne is very selective in what Scriptural directives he chooses to obey. Selective. The very thing he accuses fundies of being.

    • Racheal

      Well said, and a great summary.

    • Do you have any gay friends? They must be thrilled to have someone like you in their lives to forever remind them of their sinfulness. Obviously, what Claiborne is saying is this…it’s easy to ruthlessly hammer abortion or homosexuality until those sins have a face.  Then you (hopefully) learn a little bit about your own sin of graceless arrogance and learn about humility. Claiborne didn’t say a word in this piece about which Biblical ‘directives’ we should or should not obey. 

      • But the issue is this: in any case of sin Jesus laid out a fairly clear call for how to deal with it.  If you have doubts, reread Matthew 18 when Jesus tells us to confront sin: individually, then in small groups, and then with your community of faith (the ekklesia).  It’s not about banishing the person, but being serious about His call to be set apart from the world (aka holy) and doing whatever it takes (seeking out the lost sheep) to help others see that. That’s what the grace of Christ is about: Jesus died to set us free from sin and death, not to allow us to remain slaves to them!

      • Wow. Your tone is unfortunate. I feel my post was respectful even as I disagreed with Claiborne. Please do the same. 
        I have had this conversation before, and I was confronted with the same question: do you have gay friends. I almost chose not to answer at all, because I felt that if I did, I would get blasted, and I did. I replied that I have several gay people in my life who I love and admire very much. Then the inevitable reply: “50 years ago, racists said ‘I’m not a racist; I have black friends.’ Now this guy defends himself by saying he has gay friends. Yeah, right.”
        So in the hopes that you didn’t ask me that question in order to  set me up in a similar manner, I’ll answer you honestly: yes, I do. And I have communicated it to the ones who happened to be professing Christians what I believe the bible says about that. Only did it once.   We still respect each other despite our disagreement on this topic.By the way, I also have friends who have committed adultery, have lusted, have engaged in serious porn addiction, and various other sexual sins. As I understand it, God sees all these sins the same. And by the way,  I have committed sexual sin of my own, too. Now, can we stop talking about me?Back to your comment: I never advocated “ruthlessly” hammering at anyone because of their sin. I did get the notion, because of Claiborne’s wording, that he embraced the fact that Jesus welcomed sinners, but he didn’t seem to place anywhere near as much emphasis on the truth that Jesus never affirmed anyone’s sin, never told them it’s OK to keep in that sin, never ignored the sin. To me, this is being selective about which of Jesus’ actions are worth emulating. And since the point he makes in this clip is that some Christians are selective in what part of the bible they obey, I felt he is missing out on the fact that he’s doing the same thing. As to your point about these sins having a human face: I know that. I am very aware. It’s because I love my friends and loved ones that I am not willing to pretend their sin isn’t sin, since I know how bad it is for their soul. 

        • Disquis doesn’t keep the paragraph breaks? That’s a shame. 

    •  Methinks, James, that you may have missed that nowhere in the New Covenant does it say we Jesus Followers are to hold people in the world accountable and condemn them for NOT obeying the things we must.

      “Fundie’s” as you call them often mix up what they’re called by Holy Spirit in the NC to believe and do with “unconditionally loving the lost” all around us as Jesus commands.

      I hear Shane saying that, at some point, he realized that he was WRONG to project his accurate Biblical fundamentalism onto those with whom he was sharing Jesus’ “Good News”!

      Blessings, Brother!

      • Gary, if it sounded as if I think we Christians are to expect the unbelievers to live by Christian morals, I have done a poor job indeed of communicating my position. 

        I do believe that believers are to hold other professing Christians accountable when it comes to conscious, intentional sin. Even under the New Covenant. My take from this clip (as well as other things I have read by him) is that he believes that  we are to tell gays that they are alright just like they are, that God made them that way, etc. If he didn’t say that outright, I believe it was implied. If not, then I know many people who admire Claiborne who do take that position. 

        I’m just as in favor of loving people as you are. Where we may disagree is what that love looks like in practice. 

  • henbeatsfox

    Before I was a believer, I just assumed homosexuality was fine and so was abortion.  I had known lots of folks who were gay and several women who had abortions.  They were not bad, evil people.  I also assumed that there was nothing wrong with the way I lived.  The ideas of sin and holiness were uninteresting to me.  Then again, I had never really read the Bible or known well anyone who tried to follow the way of Jesus.  Once I began reading the Bible and got to know some very loving people who followed Jesus, I began to change my way of thinking as I realized the Scriptures, as well as the person of Jesus, challenged the idea that I could live for myself and pursue whatever way of life I chose without consequence.  So my views on both sexuality and abortion have changed.  I still love those friends I had before.  I always will.  And they know that.  We have great relationships.  But something new has entered the picture – a better way of living that extends the meaning of love far beyond the consideration of what makes me happy, or makes life easier.  My prayer for those friends is that they one day find this meaning of love as well, and do not get derailed by those who tell them that Christianity is all about transformation, unless you have an area of your life where that is troublesome for you.  

    • Mark

      “I began to change my way of thinking as I realized the Scriptures, as well as the person of Jesus, challenged the idea that I could live for myself and pursue whatever way of life I chose without consequence.  So my views on both sexuality and abortion have changed. ”
      I like this. I think it makes a good point that MOST of the world or maybe just those in our country don’t get. That is that OUR life is not about ourselves. Individualistic thinking shouldn’t be the norm. It should be about God first which then logically follows from that to other people. We are last in line. Thats why I think it so hard to address this subject today. There is always this underlying assumption that we should always be looking out for ourselves first and then others. Society as a whole is rarely even considered. Abortion for instance. There isn’t a “pro abortion” stance, its instead called “pro choice”. The change in how its worded speaks volumes about where each side is coming from with regards to their worldview. The focus on one side is about the woman, the individual making the choice, while the to her side is more about the child, the children, those unable to help themselves. With regards to gays, its similar in my opinion. Those in favor normally say  something like “what they do in their home doesn’t have any effect on anyone else”. Its always about ONE individual or couple. I agree with that. The problem lies when you start looking at how these ideas could effect all of us when implemented on a societal level. What are the long term societal impacts of changing the definition of marriage? Where does that road ultimately lead to? This is without bringing scripture into the discussion. I think our society is so upside down on how IT SHOULD think that when these topics come up in the media, it becomes almost impossible to approach.

  • Racheal

    The only thing I would add, after James post, is this:

    I attended a Southern Baptist college in East TN (as a matter of fact), and I observed the same exchange every year.  My fellow students showed up as freshman with their parent’s faith (Conservative fundamentalism), graduated with their professor’s faith (Liberal/progressive), and called it “critical thinking”.   (That’s merely a statement of observation, and by no means a criticism of either position.)
    Claiborne is reacting to a *way of thinking* about Jesus, and the Gospel verses responding to the Gospel itself. 
    It’s like the religious kid’s form of rebellion against indoctrination by their churches, parents, schools, etc. 
    But praise God that He works their rebellion out for their good.  Otherwise, some of those kids would never meet the real Jesus and continue living their lives as rule following Pharisees.

    Thanks for posting this.  I’m going to go blog about it now.  I needed some fresh ideas.  Lol. 

  • Andrewbauer3

    Somewhat torn in my response. First of all, what I don’t hear Shane saying: He doesn’t say abortion is ok. He doesn’t say homosexuality is ok. Listen again if you need to. What he does say is that there are real people who have real dilemmas and struggles and who live with enough shame over those things without us adding to them. Does that make those things alright? No. But neither does the fact that they’re sin make our judgment alright. We were never given permission to sit in the judge’s seat. But we are given permission to be dispensers of God’s grace and mercy in a world that doesn’t even know what those are. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I know there is a way to love that doesn’t condone and doesn’t judge that leads to life. If Jesus had waited for us to clean up before He let us taste His mercy, we’d all be in trouble. 

    • I agree with your last part. My impression is that he does imply, if not state outright, that we are to affirm those caught up in those two sins. Perhaps I’m reading into it.  But I will say this: there is a middle ground between affirming someone’s sin and being judgmental. 

      • Kotenterprises

        I don’t think there is a middle ground…I don’t look at this in a linear way. Not sure I am making sense here…but I believe I am called to love scandalously period.  I am not to qualify or balance love in any way shape or form. Does this mean I don’t confront sin? I’m sure there is  way to confront sin within a “relational context”.  Before doing so I have to ask myself the questions…Have I earned the right to confront?  Is the person open to my Judgement? What is my motivation for judging?  Is it really to help the person –or is it about power and control for me?  Maybe the most important question is does my judging in this instance further the Kingdom of God?  Sin is missing the mark–we all miss the mark.  I have to say …if someone judged and confronted me on all my missed marks…there would be no time left in the day for work or my family.  I say this tongue in cheek–but you get my point…right?  I should close this post now as I have currently a plank to extricate from my eye.  

        • You have kids? Because if you did, you’d know there’s a middle ground between judging someone and pretending their sin isn’t sin. 

          Yes, we shouldn’t confront just anyone about any old sin. That’s not what i said. But the first 5 books of the New Testament tell us what Jesus and His followers did, and the next 26 books tell us that living the Christian life the right way is important. For me to tell my friend who wants to get an abortion, or who is involved in a sexual relationship outside of the boundaries which God set up is NOT a loving thing to do. IMO, Claiborne’s clip implies that we should encourage/affirm folks in those positions to do what they want to  do, because Jesus’ grace will cover it.  If I am reading him right, I think he’s advocating something that looks like love, but is a very unloving thing to do.

          • Kotenterprises

            I have a 16 year old son that I adore….halfway through getting this plank out of my eye otherwise I’d comment more.  Peace brother– k

        • Paul Clutterbuck

          What you call “[loving] scandalously” sounds a lot like Jacques Derrida, who started with the cosmopolitan view that everyone’s rights are equally important and every person is equally valuable (much like Jesus in the Gospels), then spoke of “forgiving the unforgivable” (again, much like what Jesus taught about forgiveness and loving one’s enemies), but then made the leap to defending the indefensible. Derrida’s defense of the indefensible took the form of not only signing a petition against age-of-consent laws in France, but also actively defending the rights of known pedophiles to have intimate relationships with young children. 

          That’s a step too far for almost all of us, I’m afraid, and it’s also a leap that Jesus would never have made with either pedophilia, homosexuality or indeed any other sexual sin. He said instead, “If part of your body causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it into the fire. It is better for you to go through life maimed than to be cast into Hell.” I’m not advocating castration for gays, of course (although I do for pedophiles), but I think you see my point. Universal love and scandalous forgiveness do not require defending or condoning the actions that are thereby forgiven.

  • Kotenterprises

    @James–Whew–just got the plank out…  I never said we should pretend that sin isn’t sin.  I just think that the Holy Spirit does a better job at confronting and judging than I can.  If God puts on my heart to confront/judge someone about there sin I absolutely will….and I’ll be okay with losing my head (hopefully figuratively but who knows…)  In love…k