Reflections on Shane Claiborne’s blog

Geez editor Aiden Enns had these reflections after reading a recent blog post on St. Francis by Shane Claiborne.

Our good friend Shane Claiborne has positive words about St. Francis and the current pope. Shane takes a couple digs at capitalism and looks to followers of Jesus to shun materialism and war. I totally agree.

But I also feel kind of stuck. When I consider saints such as St. Francis and heroes (can I call him that?, sure) such as Shane, my day-to-day life as a homeowner and professional “activist” editor feels too comfy.

I like to read stories about the heroes of faith. But, ironically, they often un-inspire me, leave me a little more paralyzed. Some seek to address this by pointing at the small acts of everyday heroes: “I bought fair trade coffee today, I rode my bike, I grew this carrot I’m holding.” But that not only reinforces the hero mentality, it also dances around the larger question of how to incarnate and precipitate the radical change that’s needed. This is perplexing to me.

But, and here is a word of hope to myself: I will not be paralyzed by despairing at the state of the world, by over-informing myself of the obstacles before us, by comparing myself to un-emulate-able heroes. I will turn from aspirations of greatness, admit that I’m stuck, and then simply do what I can. I know it’s not enough, but I keep going with dignity.

This doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility to confront (get ready for the list) racism, capitalist greed, corporate takeover of citizens’ freedom, discrimination based on sexual identity or physical/mental ability, wanton disregard for the preservation of nature, the mixing of imperial aspirations with divine blessing, and so on. I’ve given up trying to be a hero, but I still do what I can to name and address my part in the problems around me.

It’s just that I can’t anchor my self-esteem in my accomplishments. I am sustained instead by a sense of connection to the signs of life around me. This feels silly to say, but I am sustained by things such as the poetry of a puddle that evaporates, becomes a cloud and brings rain. Sure, the cynic associates clouds with hurricanes; I accept that tragedy is a sibling to hope.

Shane reminds us of St. Francis’s connection to the animals; I resonate with that. It’s odd to feel my Christian hope informed less from lessons in church and more from the ministry of creatures around me. The squirrel, frantic at this time of year, scratches in our pile of compost and tucks the cores of apples under leaves. She has not slowed even though this summer another giant elm was cut from our boulevard. As I write, I know that more elms down our street and across the city will succumb to disease, as they have in the province to the east. Still, she scurries.

Aiden Enns
Publisher, Co-editor
Geez magazine

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