Shane Claiborne & the New Monasticism

A commentary by Jon Taylor

The Irresistible Revolution and Red Letter Christianity

Shane ClaiborneShane Claiborne is a founder and proponent of ‘The Simple Way’ which originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania though now includes faith communities worldwide. It is a network of friends that place great emphasis on living in communities that claim to take seriously the right beliefs and practices of the Christian faith.

Claiborne has written and co-authored a number of books. Some of the popular ones include ‘The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical’, ‘Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals’, ‘Jesus for President’, ‘Becoming the answer to our prayers’, ‘Red Letter Revolution’, ‘Red Letter Christianity’ and ‘Jesus, Bombs and Ice-Cream’.

It is not easy to pinpoint exactly where Claiborne fits on the theological spectrum. He is greatly concerned with politics, justice, pacifism, environmentalism and defending the needs of the poor and marginalised. He spent a lot of time with Mother Teresa who he greatly admired and was influenced by. In addition, Claiborne readily quotes Ghandi extensively. Claiborne has been on peace delegations in Iraq and Afghanistan and also carried out an internment at Willow Creek Community Church and appears to have mixed feelings about his experiences there.

Though he considers himself as upholding orthodox doctrine and according to his definition is apparently evangelical, in December he will be speaking at the 2015 Ecumenical Stewardship Centre Leadership Seminar. Many of those who he quotes favourably in his writings are anything but evangelical; some are Universalist, mystics or hold other religious world-views. His books themselves are endorsed by well-known Emergent Church figures such as Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. Others who have commended his work include Eugene Peterson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Catholic Archbishop of Galilee Abuna Elias Chacour, Rabbi Michael Lerner and Sami Resouli director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams.

Interestingly Claiborne is a former student of Tony Campolo and co-authored ‘Red Letter Christianity’ with him. They work together closely and offer speaking engagements and share a website called ‘Red Letter Christians’. Particular attention is given to living out the red letters included in red letter Bibles (the ones Jesus explicitly said) and especially the Sermon on the Mount.

This review consists of an evaluation of two books; firstly ‘The Irresistible Revolution living as an ordinary radical’ which is largely biographical though is interspersed with his views, insight and analysis. The second is co-authored with Tony Campolo, ‘Red Letter Christianity living the words of Jesus no matter the cost’. This is a dialogue between Shane and Tony, divided into three sections, ‘Red Letter Theology’, ‘Red Letter Living’ and ‘Red Letter World’ with a brief concluding summary, ‘A Red Letter World’.

The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical

Throughout this book Shane Claiborne frequently makes loaded, generic or blanket statements that simply are not accurate in order to present his views. In his introduction he writes ‘While the voices of blockbuster movies and pop culture cry out for a life outside the matrix of numb efficiency, Christianity often has offered little to the world, other than that things will get better in heaven (TIR p17).

Claiborne’s ‘Christianity’ is probably ‘Christendom’, in other words those claiming to be Christian. Although he does make mention of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 which would be an excellent opportunity to explain the difference between Christianity and Christendom, Claiborne’s interpretation is predictably out of context to suit his line of reasoning.

The above assertion is silent concerning the enormous Christian social-economic input worldwide. To mention a small number, one could include the provision of education, numerous charities for humans and animals, missionary endeavours, medical support, orphanages, care for all peoples, restriction in working hours and the abolition of slavery. Claiborne seems to focus on this life which is important, though in reality is of temporary value when compared with salvation for eternity.

Claiborne continues ‘But most Christian artists and preachers have remained strangely distant from human suffering, offering the world eternal assurance over prophetic imagination. Perhaps it should not surprise us that Jesus says that if the Christians remain silent, then the rocks will cry out…or the rock stars, I guess’ (TIR p17-18).

The reference to the rocks crying out with reference to suffering rather than recognising and glorifying the Messiah is peculiar and out of context and is something which Claiborne seems to make a habit of. Claiborne is antagonised by his experiences of the prosperity gospel and hypocrisy in some churches and rightly so. Nonetheless, this statement fails to give credit where due to those preachers that are all too aware of human suffering and make an effort wherever possible to address that and provide comfort to many. Again his nebular comments comparing prophetic imagination with eternal assurance expose his unbalanced theology.

Claiborne claims to be neither conservative nor liberal viewing both as narrow since he sees the former as primarily focussed about saving souls from sins while the latter try to save the world from the system. True salvation of souls and social action are important, but this is no new revelation. Ultimately, of course, glorifying God and saving souls is paramount, though essentially if we fail to love our neighbour we are failing to heed the second greatest commandment. Nevertheless Claiborne appears to lump in conservative politics with conservative theology and applies the same to liberal politics and theology and offers the ‘new monasticism’ as a kind of revolutionary synthesis since he believes that dualist separation of the spiritual, political, and social has infected the church.

Does Claiborne consider himself an evangelical? He does, though his definition of an evangelical is not very evangelical. ‘If by evangelical we mean one who spreads the good news that there is another kingdom or superpower, an economy and a peace other than that of the nations, a saviour other than Caesar, then yes, I am an evangelical’ (TIR p23). It is almost superfluous to add that the above is more akin to universalism than what Bible based evangelicals would subscribe to..

In his author’s note Claiborne writes ‘The point is not to give you all the answers, but to stir up some of the questions. Some of us haven’t even asked the right questions, or found a church that would let us. I trust that as we ask questions together, the Spirit will guide us along the Way (TIR p31).

Sure, questions are important, as are critically analytical questions and relevant questions. But this concept is typical of the thought paradigm of relativism and post-modernity. The problem is that we do need answers otherwise we will endlessly pontificate more questions without accepting even the most basic suppositions and be none the wiser. Imagine if ‘Answers in Genesis’ was called ‘Questions in Genesis’ and instead of trying to meaningfully address questions, there was an interactive forum that just asked questions regarding questions and dialogued to the late hours though never arrived at any solid conclusions. In the end we would be no nearer to determining an answer than at the beginning!

Mother Teresa, Ghandi and the Mystical Word ‘Namaste’

Claiborne describes his search for finding a Christian who might be asking what if Jesus meant the stuff He said. He cites desert fathers and mothers and then in more recent times mentions the likes of Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa. To cut a long story short, Claiborne longed to meet Dorothy Day, though was able to spend a lot of time with Mother Teresa and spoke very highly of her, quoting her on several occasions.

‘Unfortunately for my hunt, she died a few years back in 1980. Mother Teresa on the other hand, was still alive. She seemed to be giving the gospel a pretty good shot and probably wouldn’t be around too much longer’ (TIR, p72-73).

Mother Teresa’s own words demonstrate ecumenical convictions that are contrary to the gospel however and are in direct contrast to John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and Isaiah 45:5.

‘We never try to convert those who receive (aid) to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men – simply better – we will be satisfied’ (http://www.azquotes.com/quote/685917).

Leaving a leper colony was an emotional time for Claiborne and he mentions exchanging gifts with a certain individual called Kisol who, having being given Claiborne’s watch, presents him with the icon medals from Mother Teresa when she prays for you. Claiborne thinks that Ghandi would have approved.

‘Ghandi would be proud of this little “experiment in truth” that bears his name. The lepers had shown me a glimpse of what God might have had in mind for the world. I remember praying in the leper colony each morning with the brothers, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And perhaps for the first time, there were no longer empty words that I hoped would come true someday’ (TIR p87).

Claiborne seems to be as fond of Ghandi as Mother Teresa, endorsing him in this book readily despite Ghandi’s famous words, ‘I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist and a Jew.’ Therefore Claiborne may consider himself evangelical in some areas and neither liberal, nor conservative and concerned with both theology and social politics, though his views are so diverse that although they may be difficult to define, they are certainly not orthodox.

‘Over and over, the dying and the lepers would whisper the mystical word namaste in my ear. We really don’t have a word like it in English (or even much of a Western conception of it). They explained to me that Namaste means “I honour the Holy One who lives in you”. I knew I could see God in their eyes. Was it possible that I was becoming a Christian, that in my eyes they could catch a glimpse of the image of my Lover?’ (TIR p80)

The greeting of Namaste is common in Hinduism and Yogic practice. It is not a trivial gesture but has spiritual significance whereby divine consciousness is supposedly absorbed into the body. The idea is that there is a divine spark in every individual located in the heart chakra which can release blocked energy.

Politics, Faith, and Peace Making

Claiborne consistently attacks what he perceives to be narrow-minded conservative evangelicalism, representing them as akin to the Pharisees. He blurs distinctions between theology and politics, citing the worst examples while simultaneously endorsing his version of the social gospel. His perception of conservative evangelicalism appears to be based on his experiences rather than on a careful and balanced evaluation of whether the teaching is true, or whether some ‘conservative evangelicals’ are in fact also concerned about loving our neighbours through social action.

It’s a shame that a few conservative evangelicals have had a monopoly on the word conversion. Some of us shiver at the word. But conversion means to change, to alter, after which something looks different than it did before-like conversion vans or converted currency. We need converts in the best sense of the word, people who are marked by the renewing of their minds and imaginations, who no longer conform to the pattern that is destroying our world. Otherwise, we have only believers, and believers are a dime a dozen nowadays. What the world needs is people who believe so much in another world that they cannot help but begin enacting it now.

Then we will start to see some true conversion vans-vehicles that run on veggie oil instead of diesel. Then we will see some converted homes-fuelled by renewable energy-and laundry machines powered by stationary bicycles and toilets flushed with dirty sink water. Then we will see tears converted to laughter as people beat their swords into ploughshares and weld their machine guns into saxophones, and as police officers use their billy clubs to play baseball’ (TIR, p149-150).

Not only is this taking conversion in a biblical sense completely out of context and even twisting it, it is pushing an environmental and social agenda where there is no warrant to do so. Whilst it is a good thing to be good stewards of the world that God has provided for us by caring for the environment and being responsible, and certainly not wasteful, this is dramatically altering the greater message of converted souls by faith through God’s grace (Eph. 2:1-10).

Claiborne has great concern for the poor which is good and also biblical. However, he makes statements whilst on this subject that reveal his political motivations that simply aren’t scripturally accurate.

‘We have never really considered ourselves missionaries to the poor. Jesus was not simply a missionary to the poor. He was poor-born a baby refugee from the badlands of Nazareth, wandered the world a homeless rabbi, died the rotten death of insurrectionists and bandits on the cross, executed by an oppressive empire, buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus was crucified not for helping poor people but for joining them. That is the Jesus we follow’ (TIR, p144).

Jesus wasn’t crucified for joining the poor but for claiming to be the Son of God, since His Jewish accusers believed this to be blasphemy (Matt. 26:63-66; Mark 14:61-64; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:5-7). Claiborne also cites Ghandi as an authority to say who the Christians are and equates them with those who help the poor.

‘I heard that Ghandi, when people asked him if he was a Christian, would often reply, “Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are’ (TIR, p161).

When it comes to faith, Claiborne doesn’t expound what faith in God means from Hebrews 11 but discusses his dictionary definition and imposes his own interpretation to present a particular argument and interweaves his explanation with politics and loyalty.

‘Besides politics, there are other words that sometimes give folks trouble. Christian jargon includes words like faith, faithful and faithfulness that are not easy to wrap your hands around. These are complex words, especially for folks outside Christendom. If you look up faith in the dictionary, most of the definitions revolve around “complete trust, unquestioned loyalty, confident allegiance.” Though it may be a little bit of a stretch for those of us with entrenched Christian minds, let’s try thinking of faith as loyalty (as in a faithful husband). What are we loyal to? Many are loyal to political parties, and most folks are faithful to their friends. Patriots are faithful to their countries. What are Christians loyal to?’ (TIR, p195)

In a chapter entitled ‘Extremists for love’ Claiborne comments on the peace-making interactions between St Francis and the sultan.

‘Francis did accept one gift-an ivory horn used in the Muslim call to prayer, which Francis later used to summon his community to prayer. (You can still see the horn in Assisi.) While the sultan refused to become a Christian (or perhaps did not dare), he did undergo a radical transformation. He became known for his extraordinary humane treatment of Christian prisoners during the war. The transformative power of grace’ (TIR, p275).

This appears to be a heart-warming story but it misses the whole point. Peace won’t arrive purely through inter-religious dialogue and showing mutual respect for your enemies. That is simply humanism and adding on the so called ‘golden rule’. Whilst wherever possible we should peaceably live with all men (Rom 12:18), only our Lord can bring real and lasting peace.

In this next quote, Claiborne advocates a blend of kingdom now theology laced with humanism, in line with his ‘irresistible revolution’. He is using the Scriptures again to support his ideology which is neither balanced nor biblical.

‘And when the Scriptures in Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) say that “the people” will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, the verses end with the words, “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” The transformation begins with the people-with ordinary radicals, courageous mothers and grandmothers like Rizpah. When we begin enacting the new world, the nations will follow. Nations will not lead us to peace; it is people who will lead the nations to peace as they begin to humanize the nations’ (TIR, p307).

Claiborne also recommends using prophetic imagination as an effective and innovative means to resolve conflict. Claiborne doesn’t mention that the individuals he mentions did certain things because they did what God wanted them to do, but instead presents them as using prophetic imagination to ‘get folks to listen to God’ and suggests ways that we could do that in today’s world.

‘We need more of the prophetic imagination that can interrupt violence and oppression. The biblical prophets are always doing bizarre things to get folks to listen to God. Moses turns a staff into a snake. Elijah hits a rock and fire comes out of it, and he brings fire down on an altar (pyro). Jeremiah wears a yoke to symbolize imperial captivity. (He’s eventually arrested.) Ezekiel eats a scroll. Hosea marries a prostitute and stays faithful to her to show God’s love for Israel. John the Baptizer eats locusts and makes clothes out of camel skin. Jesus pulls money out of a fish’s mouth, flips over tables in the temple, and rides a donkey into Passover (and not because he was a Democrat)’ (TIR, p280-281).

Red Letter Christianity

Red Letter Theology

Red Letter ChristianityBy using the term ‘Red Letter Christianity’, Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne claim that they are attempting to put into practice what Jesus said irrespective of the cost involved. That may sound reasonable, even commendable, but this peculiar method of interpretation elevates the words in ‘red letters’ above the rest of Scripture, which obviously contradicts 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:20-21.

In an effort to justify this approach the explanation is initially subtle.

‘Starting in 1899, Bibles have been published that highlight the words of Jesus in red. We adopted the name Red Letter Christians not only to differentiate ourselves from the social values generally associated with evangelicals but also to empathize that we are Christians who take the radical teachings of Jesus seriously and who are committed to living them out in our everyday lives’ (RLC pix).

Later though, it is more overt and is clearly a departure from sound biblical hermeneutics.

‘Christianity Today magazine published a full-page article critiquing our new name, saying “You people act as though the red letters in the Bible are more important than the black letters.” To that we responded, “Exactly! Not only do we say that the red letters are superior to the black letters of the Bible, but Jesus said they were!” Jesus, over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount, declared that some of the things that Moses taught about such things as divorce, adultery, killing, getting even with those who hurt you, and the use of money had to be transcended by a higher morality’ (RLC p5).

Of course, in the next paragraph, Campolo states that the Holy Spirit directed the writers of Scripture so that all of Scripture was inspired by God though makes little effort to consider the context of those factors listed. In a nutshell this system of ‘red letter hermeneutics’ isn’t far removed from elements of the heresy of Marcionism teaching a wrathful God of the Old Testament and a forgiving God of the New Testament.

With this system of interpretation in place it is of little surprise that Claiborne has a misguided view of the church.

‘So I think of the church kind of like a dysfunctional parent. It’s been famously said, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”’ (RLC p22).

The true church is actually the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-23; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-10). In Claiborne’s communities they attend a local parish on Sundays and seem to have no issue with attending Catholic mass (which, inevitably in many cases, will teach transubstantiation).

‘We go to worship at Catholic mass and at the storefront Pentecostal church. The inner city doesn’t need more churches; it needs a Church-a body of people united together to do God’s work’ (RLC p23).

Campolo presents Protestants as being overly critical concerning Catholic liturgy and appeals to Emile Durkheim concerning the basis for liturgy. While this is of interest to sociologists, he doesn’t make a concerted effort to provide a reasoned theological assessment of the Catholic position concerning the substitutionary atonement of Christ and suggests that Protestants would benefit if they took Communion weekly as the Catholics do.

Claiborne who claims to hold evangelical beliefs also likes to pray the rosary with beads and doesn’t seem too concerned that this is not a biblical practice and that some will attempt to pray to Mary or other gods!

‘I pray the rosary or with beads (I like making my own prayer beads). Many different religions use beads as a tool for prayer, and Catholics have a rosary. Creating a chain of beads can help you have a physical tool as you pray throughout the day. Prayer beads aren’t magic but can cure some cases of ADD’ (RLC p37)

Confusingly Campolo states that he is not a Universalist (p48) and Claiborne says that Jesus is the only way to God and even cites Acts 4:12 (p53). The difficulty lies in unpacking what exactly they mean by those affirmations. Both are undoubtedly ecumenical and masters at providing ambiguous responses that generally raise more questions as to what they are actually stating rather than clarifying answers to critical issues.

Red Letter Living

This section includes chapters on the family, being pro-life, environmentalism, women, racism, homosexuality, immigration, civil disobedience and giving. Frequently, specific and relevant texts relating to these topics are ignored or side-stepped.

Campolo will often appeal to his personal logic and experience, though predominately avoids thorough exegesis of passages and weaves in and out of issues in the style of conversation that floats from one topic to the next. He often attempts to justify his position through sociological analysis which can be useful, but is not authoritative, nor scripturally grounded.

Concerning his arguments regarding being ‘pro-life’, he attempts to lump in abortion, euthanasia, pro-death penalty and being pro-military together as being pro-life from the womb to the tomb with the result that he doesn’t provide a well-rounded defence for his overall argument. Blanket terms such as ‘pro-military’ set up the false dilemma of either being pro or anti- military in an absolute sense, avoiding the possibility of a nuanced position. No effort is made to consider the role, words or actions of centurions in the New Testament or make a serious consideration of context such as a ‘just war’ or the concept of war as a last resort. Much of the content appeals and is limited to the extremes concerning the penal system with the United States.

For women in ministry, in addition to some dubious assumptions that he imposes on Scripture, Campolo argues that if women are ‘sharp enough’ to be doctors, scientists, pilots or social workers, then surely they can be pastors. He readily admits that partly because of what his mother experienced, he is a strong advocate of women being pastors and teachers in the church. In essence, Campolo doesn’t examine important passages that would contradict his position in any meaningful depth.

Regarding whether churches should marry homosexuals in church, Campolo’s solution is to let the church decide for itself.

‘Because I am a Baptist who believes in the autonomy of the local church, I think that each church should have the right to decide for itself its own rules and its own regulations concerning marriage. It should be up to the local church to decide who it’s willing to marry.

Consequently, my wife, who believes in gay marriage, goes to a church where they do perform ceremonies to marry gay people, while I go to another church, where they don’t. We are both Baptists and belong to the same Baptist denomination, but we go to two different churches’ (RLC p128)

So instead of asking and objectively answering the question ‘what does the Bible actually say?’, or seriously considering Romans 1:24-32 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Campolo side-steps those passages and argues almost as if it is an insightful comment; that none of the ‘red-letter passages’ include teaching on homosexuality.

‘There are passages of Scripture that people use to lay judgements on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. There are at least seven passages of Scripture that they commonly refer to, but its interesting to note that none of the red letters have anything to say about this issue’ (RLC p131).

Clearly the number of ‘red letters’ comprise a very small percentage of scripture, though all scripture is inspired by God, so in reality this point is in effect moot. Neither Moses nor Paul presented mere opinion for the time and context in which they wrote, since they had both met God and were moved and inspired by the Holy Spirit whilst they wrote.

Concerning what the book of Leviticus states about homosexuality, Campolo’s argument is that this is in close proximity to touching the skin of a dead pig and therefore questions the NFL Super Bowl. This is clearly a straw man argument. Touching a dead pig and the practice of homosexuality are two entirely different matters. If this was taken to its logical and nonsensical conclusion, why not do away with the whole of Leviticus or just read only the ‘red letters’?

Red Letter World

In this third section, the subjects of empire, politics, war and violence, national debts, the Middle East, the Global Church, reconciliations, mission and resurrection are considered. The conversation typically involves looking at the Bible from the perspective of particular contemporary views or more specifically ‘red letter theology’ rather than looking at the world through the lens of Scripture. ‘Belonging before believing’ is a typical perspective on the agenda here.

‘There are far too many Christians who believe that theological conformity is a prerequisite for community. Such Christians want no fellowship with those who disagree with them on such doctrines as the inerrancy of Scripture and their specifics about heaven and hell and who is going where when this life ends. People are evaluating whether or not other people are Christian in terms of whether or not people are Christian in terms of whether or not they dot their theological “I”s as orthodoxy prescribes’ (RLC p219).

The inerrancy of Scripture, heaven, hell and salvation are major issues that will affect everyone. Campolo is trying to equate the above with theological nit-picking. However, Christianity is not just about wearing the same badge and promising to be nice to everyone in a ‘Christian community, otherwise it might just as well be called a ‘community’.

Campolo is eager to embrace and encourage what he considers a more holistic Christianity which really means ecumenical tolerance. He tries to interweave different schools and traditions of theology but doesn’t consider meaningfully whether those doctrines are in reality compatible.

‘The emphasis on right belief given to us from the traditions of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin is being balanced by Pentecostalism and Catholic mysticism. All of these streams of Christianity are coming together, and no matter which tradition you started in, hopefully you are coming to realize that there is something you need very much in the other traditions’ (RLC p220).

This is nothing less than a pick and mix approach which appears to be gracious and ‘forward thinking’ but in reality is self-contradictory. If Luther, Zwingli and Calvin were correct in emphasizing right beliefs, how can Catholicism which they protested about, also be right? One may contend that the latter stresses the importance of experiences though, if the foundational beliefs are wrong, how can the experience be genuinely pleasing to God?

Claiborne also tries to bridge the gap which exposes his willingness to tolerate what he describes as ‘praying with the saints’.

‘Sometimes folks will ask, “But don’t the Catholics pray to Mary and the saints?” Catholics are not praying to the saints; they are praying with the saints. I asked one of my Catholic friends years ago, “Why do you ask the saints to pray for you?” He said, “Don’t you ask your friends to pray for you?” They believe in resurrection. They believe that time and space and death do not separate us from them. So if we ask our friends to pray for us, what’s wrong with asking our friends on the other side of death? They’re alive and cheering us on. They are worshipping on the other side of eternity, but that doesn’t mean we are not connected’ (RLC p229)

The Bible never encourages us to pray to or with dead saints. By opening up a discussion about praying to or with the saints, Claiborne ignores the fact that the Bible teaches that we are not supposed to contact the dead or to contact familiar spirits (Deut. 18:11; Lev.19:31; Isa. 8:19). Saul shouldn’t have attempted to contact Samuel and irrespective of whether someone is trying to pray to or with a saint, they cannot and should not communicate with the dead.

Summary

The reality is that an ‘irresistible revolution’ and ‘red letter Christianity’ are neither necessary, nor biblical. Claiborne and Campolo appear to seek what they consider orthodox doctrine combined with a serious commitment to social action within a context of a community. To achieve this, their theology is compromised to the extent where it integrates Catholicism and borders Universalism, and they appeal to Mother Teresa, Ghandi, sociological analysis from secular studies and their observations in support of that. Their political bias and convictions seem to cloud their ability to evaluate the subjects discussed objectively, and affects their hermeneutics. Red letter Christianity reduces the importance of the vast proportion of the non-red letter parts of Scripture and the concept, in itself, results in poor exegesis. If our understanding of what the Bible means and of how it is interpreted is skewed, the application will inevitably follow on from that.

True, there are occasions when some evangelicals uphold sound doctrine but, sadly, don’t allow it to permeate into their actions of loving their neighbours when it obviously should do. However those individuals would be well advised to do a study on the poor and marginalised in Scripture, look at the Early Church thriving despite persecution. They should be reminded of the likes of Charles Spurgeon who, in addition to a tremendous preaching ministry, was involved in over fifty societies, and George Muller, Amy Carmichael, Lord Shaftesbury and William Wilberforce.

Community and fellowship are good and integral, though unity must be on essentials of the Christian faith. A community for the sake of having a ‘community’ committed to being peaceful, caring for the environment, and having some type of vague belief in God is not real fellowship, and it is not honouring to God. Doctrine is essential; actions are vital. Right fellowship, right doctrine and right practice must be biblically inducted and lived out in the faith since God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

References

Shane Claiborne The Irresistible Revolution (Zondervan; 2006, Grand Rapids)

Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo Red Letter Christianity (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; 2013, London)

Mother Teresa http://www.azquotes.com/quote/685917

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