Christian lecture resonates with Ames community members

Alex Erb

Shane Claiborne is a man of many stories, and listening to these stories is much like riding a roller coaster.

He spoke Tuesday night in a lecture titled “Living as an Ordinary Radical” in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

As he recounted several of his life experiences, the surrounding audience was filled with both hearty laughter and deafening silence — such was the nature of his charismatic speaking style.

Claiborne is a co-founder of the Simple Way, a monastic community in Philidelphia with a heavy focus on minimalism. His plain, loose-fitting attire was a reflection of this focus, as were many of his stories.

He said that the goal of the Simple Way is to live as God wants them to, which means living in ways different than the norm. Claiborne shares everything from a house, a car, a single washer and dryer and even his own money with several others in his community.

He pointed out hypocrisies of American Christian culture, such as the celebration of Christmas.

“We try to celebrate Jesus by buying stuff for people that have everything,” Claiborne said, “when that’s not how Jesus lived. He didn’t have everything. He had very little.”

Claiborne also referenced two of his friends. One was a graduate of Harvard Law School who works as a lawyer in the Deep South, representing the unfairly accused for very little compensation.

“It’s not about if you’re going to be a lawyer, teacher or doctor,” Claiborne said, “but what kind of lawyer, teacher or doctor you’re going to be.”

Perhaps the most moving of Claiborne’s stories was from his time working with the Iraq Peace Team. He described one of the group’s trips through the desert in which their vehicle was wrecked, leaving them stranded and with two people severely injured.

He said the first car to pass was driven by civilians, who took him and the wounded to a nearby town. When they arrived, doctors rushed to the injured. What they said shocked Claiborne.

“They told me that they couldn’t take my friends to the hospital because it had been bombed and the children’s ward was destroyed. But then the doctors said that it didn’t matter if they had a hospital and it didn’t matter that we were Americans, they loved us anyway and they’d help us right there,” he said. “And they did. They saved the two injured men’s lives.”

Keith Schrag, a 73-year-old resident of Ames, said that Claiborne’s ideas really resonated with his own, and for a special reason.

“I’m gay and one of the first people I came out to was one of the two men injured in that car accident in Iraq,” Schrag said. “Now, I live in a similar sharing community while my partner travels. That’s why the stuff that Shane talks about really makes sense to me. We both think that following Jesus is a lifestyle and not a doctrine.”

As Claiborne wrapped up his lecture, he spoke about the concept of community and what it should mean for everyone.

“Community is about surrounding ourselves with people that look like who we want to become,” he said. “It’s not about how you look, but how you love.”