Author/speaker Shane Claiborne spoke on campus Wednesday morning in a convocation event titled “Jesus Loves the Poor” as part of the fall Spiritual Development speakers series and in support of the university-wide theme, “Wealth and Poverty.”
A native of Knoxville, Claiborne has visited Belmont before, and his popularity among students was evident–the Neely Dining Room had to be closed as the crowd reached capacity for the morning event. “Every time I come to Belmont I’m so excited about what I hear. You guys are an inspiration,” Claiborne noted.
He opened his lecture by showing a newspaper from his hometown with competing and tragically ironic headlines, one describing children starving in Afghanistan while the other focused on the billions of dollars Americans spend fighting obesity.
“There’s a conversation happening about how we connect our faith to the world we live in. I love how Karl Barth said we have to read with the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other to understand how to put those things together.”
Claiborne argued that this world doesn’t look like what God intended, noting the enormous disparity that exists between the “super rich” and the “super poor.”
He then read from Luke 16, a passage he sees as a perfect parable for discussing wealth and poverty in our time. “I’ve heard it said that the true gospel should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed… I’m convinced that one of the biggest tragedies in the world is not that rich folks don’t care about poor folks but that rich folks don’t know poor folks because everything in this world is going to teach you to move away from suffering. But the story of Jesus is about entering in to suffering.”
In closing, Claiborne recounted one of his favorite gospel stories in which a young boy brings Jesus his five loaves of bread and two fish as an offering to feed the 5,000. “God wants your gifts to be a part of the story of redemption and healing and salvation in this world. I think that may be one of the greatest miracles of all, that for some strange reason God doesn’t want to change the world without us. He invites us to be a part of the story.”
Claiborne has worked alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, served at a wealthy Chicago mega-church and lived in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team. He also helped found The Simple Way, a faith community in inner-city Philadelphia that has helped inspire the New Monastic Movement. He is the author of many books including The Irresistible Revolution and Ordinary Radicals.