I enjoyed my maiden voyage to the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College late last week. I took a little heat for referring to the GAC campus as "simultaneously beautiful and bland" on Twitter...but I stand by my initial observation. The benchmark of our trip was to spend the day with Shane Claiborne.
(For those of you not familiar with Shane's work, take a moment to click here, here, and here.)
Shane preached at the daily chapel service and then spent some open Q&A time with a group of a couple dozen youth ministers. He is a person who has the gift to be fully present where he is. I never sensed anxiety or secondary agendas in the conversation. He is compelled by the Gospel to present his case for a radical new (or really old) kind of discipleship. Not once did he urge us to buy his book, visit his website, or donate financially to his cause. Instead, his focus was on honoring our questions and affirming this ragamuffin group of youth ministers for their work.
The group ate pizza in The Dive (an on-campus hangout) and a few of us traveled down to Mankato for relaxing and reflecting. It was a beautiful spring day. We ventured to the campus of Mankato State and soaked up the sun and college frivolity. I read a few chapters from the book of Acts in my Carolina-blue "Lutheran Study Bible"; others napped.
At night, Shane gave a more formal presentation to an auditorium filled with a predominately under-30 crowd. With my computer in the fix-it shop and my phone / voice recorder out of battery, I was forced to jot a few salient points on the back page of the aforementioned Lutheran Study Bible. Here were the money quotes:
Christians should be the hardest people to convince that violence is necessary; not the ones beating the war drums.
Referencing a sign on a church / homeless shelter in Philly:
How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?
The best critique of what's wrong is the practice of something better.
We should lament deeply that the most segregated hour in our nation is 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Addressing accusations that he's a Socialist:
If we learn to love others as ourselves, Capitalism won't be possible and Marxism won't be necessary.
Much of what Claiborne presented aligned with my immersion experiences at the Centro Luterano in Mexico City. I am moved by this message and find myself inspired to make different choices in the way I live. Upon my return home, I re-read my New Year's resolution post about The Year Of Living Simply. Several friends misunderstood my intention for those resolutions. Out of genuine concern for my well-being, they thought I was trying to simplify my life so I would be less stressed and anxious. What I was really getting at, however, was trying to establish patterns that were more congruent with my faith. Embracing rituals, spending less money, and making smarter use of the Internet are a few ways that I can avoid the ruts that are associated with my residence in Suburbia. My road trip to see Shane Claiborne reminded me of the call to take up my cross and follow Jesus...and to joyfully live in response to God's grace.
(It also reminded me how much I like hanging around really smart people.)