Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Challenging Gift of Shane Claiborne

Last week I spoke at the clergy conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Plenary speakers included Stanley Hauerwas (one of North America's most eminent theologians), Shane Claiborne (community organizer and activist), sociologist Stephen Klineberg (who talked about demographic shifts in the city of Houston, which foreshadow national demographic trends), anRev. Canon Chris Russell, Adviser for Evangelism & Witness to the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Not only did I get to hear some fantastic speakers, I also took a sauna, had a massage, took a walk with Twitter pastor David Hansen, and bought some new clergy shirts. Camp Allen is a fantastic retreat venue.

One of the wonders of the conference was meeting the pastor of the congregation who owns perhaps the only pristine native prairie in the country: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/article/texas-church-helps-preserve-rare-prairie

Arcology in action
During my plenary, Shane Claiborne stepped in the back of the room to listen for a bit. Right about that time, I was talking the portmanteau arcology. Although the term is used especially in futuring to describe carefully designed densely populated habitats (see, for example, Paolo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife), I find it a helpful term to describe any kind of design that attends to the ecology of a place in relationship to the architecture.

As a theologian who engages media ecology, I'm particularly interested in how media layers, so the arcology of faith, if engaged with integrity, considers the ways various media "layers" and form faith.

Shane's plenary, serendipitously, included photos of the various ways his community in Philadelphia is expressing the gospel arcologically.  Shane showed the Episcopal clergy group dozens of photos of urban areas in Philly before and after restoration. I had the sense he was attempting to tell the story of resurrection in the present moment.

Immediately after Shane's talk, I looked him up on Twitter. Having heard Shane's presentation in person, I decided to see how he made sense of his public speaking via his social media presence. He had one and only one tweet re: the Texas clergy conference. Here it is:
At Camp Allen
This caught me by surprise. Although there was a line in his talk about the death penalty, and he did in fact say this, it wasn't the centerpiece of his talk. So much more of the presentation was about his community organizing in Philadelphia, reclaiming communities and gardens and properties to embody resurrection in place. 

Pondering some more, I started to evaluate Shane Claiborne (a nationally sought public speaker) in arcological terms. Shane is a prophet. He not only calls local community to new life as community, he also attempts, as best he can, to organize community at the national and global level (most famously in Iraq).

Shane's community turning guns
into gardening tools
I'm guessing, although I can't be certain, that the public speaking gig is not his preferred space. But he realizes its value. It's necessary, and desired. He keeps getting invited to speak.

But communication on Twitter is different than communication in person, or in community.

If he is going to attempt community building on a national level, and in social media, what should that look like? To inspire local communities to replicate his commitment to creating hope in the places abandoned by empire, he needs to keep a laser-like focus on an issue he believes prophetic witness can change.

Right now, this looks to be gun violence and the death penalty. It wouldn't make sense for his national media presence to summarize everything he said or did at the Texas retreat. You can only be so much of yourself on Twitter, or at least, that's how it is frequently used.

But it does have impact to tweet a challenge to Texas clergy to put their lives and reputations on the line to stop the death penalty. So that's what he did.

I wonder who heard it?

Books from the conference

1. Andy Doyle (the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas)

2. Chris Russell

3. Stanley Hauerwas

4. Shane Claiborne

No comments:

Post a Comment