I’m now in the first breakout session. Lots to choose from, but that’s where I’ll just have to order CDs to I can listen in to what happened elsewhere. We’ve chosen a session with Shane Claiborne. Shane is author of The Irresistible Revolution and founding partner of The Simple Way, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in Kensington, North Philadelphia. Shane grew up in northern Tennessee, which is about as far as you can get from inner-city Philadelphia. He grew up thinking that good people go to church. Some do, but it’s not so simple. Sociologists say that those who go to church are more likely to be racist, pro-militaristic, etc. than the general population. We did a word association game and asked people what they thought of when they heard a word. When we said church, they came up with words like bigot, hypocrite, hatred, boring. They did not say love, grace, community. Some of what Shane said: I volunteered on the Bush-Quayle campaign. I was pro-life but didn’t offer to take in unwanted babies. I was against homosexuality but didn’t know anyone who was gay at first. My struggle has been to humanize what I’ve talked about. I began to see the world differently. I remember a church that was evicting homeless people from their property. Someone hung a banner over the church: How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday? All of the issues of social justice have bubbled up from my neighborhood. We don’t choose issues, we choose people to come alongside. The issues come out of that. Only in living among people did I see the image of God alongside brokenness. I used to leave my credit cards in my dorm room so they wouldn’t get stolen when I was with the poor. Then someone broke into my dorm room, stole them, and used them at TJ Maxx. I was afraid of the wrong people. I minister in Kensington, called the badlands, the poorest district in Philadelphia and one of the most beautiful. There is a lot of prostitution. 700 abandoned factories, 20,000 abandoned houses. There are more abandoned houses in Philadelphia than there is homeless people, and yet the waiting list for affordable housing is huge. I began to see how broken our society is, and yet how God can move in this brokenness. I met a prostitute. I was sheltered back then and didn’t know how to react. My wife and I invited her back and she recognized us as Christians. She said she used to be a Christian but lost all of that on the hard streets. We didn’t hear from her for weeks until she knocked on the door one day. She came to thank us for praying with her, and said she’s clinging to Jesus. She’s been brought to life, has a husband and a kid now and her own house. We can’t just tell people that God loves them unless we’re willing to get dirty with them, get into the sewage of the world and deal with what’s destroying people. We can care about the poor but remain distant. Mother Teresa said it’s fashionable to talk about the poor, but not as fashionable to talk to them. Like the story of Lazarus: do we know the name of the beggar at our gate? Someone’s said that we can ask the poor who the Christians are; they know. We lose our focus. Example: a Christian with a 24 karat WWJD bracelet. Everything in our culture pushes us toward putting up walls. My mother didn’t always understand. I didn’t condemn her; I just invited her into what I was doing, and now she loves the people and is committed to social justice. She used to pray that I would be safe; she now prays that I would be used by God. Maybe the most dangerous place to be is our places of safety where we’re not living for God. 20% of the people has 80% of the world’s stuff; that means that 80% of the people only has 20% of the world’s stuff. There’s enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed. The great tragedy in our church isn’t that rich people don’t care about poor folks, it’s that they don’t know any poor folks. Mother Teresa said that poverty wasn’t created by God, but by you and I because we haven’t figured out how to love our neighbors as ourselves. The early church figured this out. This doesn’t come out of guilt. It comes mostly from the realization that the gifts of God are too good to keep to ourselves. The best things to do with the best things in life is to give them away. We’re not socialists. When we live like Jesus, corporate capitalism won’t be possible and Marxism won’t be necessary. We also need to learn about how to live in a global village. It means asking who the hidden and invisible people are behind my clothes and way of life and learn their stories. We don’t just need to protest; we need to pro-testify. We began to think about how to live together counter-culturally. Who are the people even in our lives, cleaning toilets in our buildings, who are living on minimum wage and whose names we don’t know? The more I live in my neighborhood, the more I see the power of people’s stories. My Dad was in Vietnam, and I had views on war. It was only in the ghettoes when I saw kids hitting each other that I realized we can’t teach kids not to hit when we’re trying to bring about God’s peace through violence. This is what led me to Iraq with others as peacemakers when the bombings began. When I got back from Iraq, people boycotted me when I spoke at chapels. When I told the stories about the kids, they were so compelling that even soldiers came forward who fired the missiles into Baghdad. They talked about feeling like they were living with two masters. We didn’t demonize the soldiers either. Every person has the image of God in them. God is moving through communities of faith, but it doesn’t begin with grand visions. It begins with small acts. Bonhoeffer said that if we fall in love with our grand visions, it tears people apart, but if we are committed to love, it builds community everywhere we go. Who knows how many nameless people there are suffering from brokenness, but I have faith that there are people of God loving them. God isn’t saying to the poor, go find the church, he’s calling us to serve him by serving the poor, the prisoner, the least of these. God, give us a heart for social justice, but let us burn out of love from people we know. Give us eyes to see.