Shane Claiborne on War & Violence

Shane Claiborne graduated from Eastern University, and did graduate work at Princeton Seminary. His ministry experience is varied, from a 10-week stint working alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to a year spent serving a wealthy mega-congregation at Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago.

Shane, who was raised a fundamentalist from East Tennessee, is a founding partner of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped to birth and connect radical faith communities around the world.

Shane writes and travels extensively speaking about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus. Some his books include: The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, and his most recent work, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?, coauthored with Tony Campolo.

With tears and laughter, Shane unveils the tragic messes we’ve made of our world and the tangible hope that another world is possible. Shane believes that we should see a world “poised for resurrection.”

I recently had the privilege of hearing Shane speak at ATCO Houston about tearing down the walls that keep us from creatively ministering Christ to our neighbors. I believe Shane is helping spur the church on to imagining and acting out the Kingdom of God in our own communities.

What would it look like if God were running the show?

During the recent war in Iraq, Shane spent three weeks in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team. In the following video, Shane discusses the seen and unseen effects of war, bad theology, and the need for radical discipleship.

Please watch and listen with an open heart.

What do you think about Shane’s call to follow Jesus in non-violence? Do you think Christians have failed to follow Jesus in his teachings to love our enemies (Matt 5:38-48)? In what ways do you see that our national identities compete with our identity in Christ and his Kingdom?

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

6 responses to “Shane Claiborne on War & Violence

  • jimpuntney

    I have a dear friend that I have wept with, and mourn with. She lost her only son in Iraq. The emptiness, and sadness she experiences is profound.

    I don’t have answers, but just a few questions, and a observation.

    When we trumpet our “just war” what do we use as the foundation? Do we use our ‘christian nation’ card to validate our action? Have we bought into national identity that can be reconciled with the teaching of our Lord?
    How do we mix this violence with loving our neighbor?

    It seems clear to me we have been asked to pick up our cross, not our sword. The cross crucifies our flesh, the sword crucifies our neighbor.

    “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”

  • PrayerPunk

    Can you imagine how different our world would be if our Christian president had given a speech forgiving the attackers on 9/11?

  • Cathy Coon Bitikofer

    When we embrace biblical nonviolence we need to accept that there will be some terrible consequences. I think we also need to have a plan of action that is not just “pacifism” but active nonviolence. I’m inspired by snippets I read from “Martyrs’ Mirror”, of early Anabaptists who lived and died for their faith. (Snippets… because the entire book is the size of a cinder block!) Hard thing to comprehend these days, when even we Christians who embrace nonviolence live easy lives.

    I love my dad’s take on biblical nonviolence. He was a Marine, but eventually became a Mennonite pastor. His reasoning was “if Jesus died for everyone, why is it still ‘OK’ to kill them?” He did delve into the subject more, but that’s one sound bite I take to heart, especially when I’m tempted to hate or treat someone badly.

    And on yet another note, our Sunday School class is studying “Jesus for President.” Even we “veteran” Anabaptists are learning from Claiborne’s parallels of Biblical and modern culture. I recommend the book!

    • David D. Flowers

      Good stuff, Cathy. Thanks for sharing about your dad.

      I agree. Pacifism can be utilized by non-Christians, like Ghandi. Theoretically, you can hate your enemies and be committed to not doing violence to them. But instead, Jesus said love your enemies (doing good to them), and pray for those that persecute you. Maybe calling ourselves “reconciliationists” or “redemptiionists” is a better fit. It isn’t that we simply believe in not doing violence, but in doing the good of the Kingdom by attempting to reconcile others to God in Christ.

      Sounds like an interesting Sunday School class. 🙂

  • jaredcburt


    In continuing our ongoing discussion regarding passivism and the role of government I would just say that Boyd and Claiborne seem to avoid is the teachings of Paul, Peter, and the OT. In an attempt to be Christ-centered in interpretation it seems as though Boyd and Claiborne are saying Paul and Peter weren’t. When Jesus talks about turning the cheek He seems to be talking about seeking personal revenge – not the role of government. The verse must be put in context and not used as a proof-text. He isn’t even giving a command at this point, but illustrations of Christian conduct.

    All that being said, I do think Claiborne exemplifies the heart of a disciple of Christ. His Bonhoeffer illustration is wonderful in this regard. Christians should absolutely be grieved over war, should pray and work for peace, and not seek revenge.

    If I do ever get in a fight, I hope it’s with a passivist! 🙂


    • David D. Flowers

      Jared, I guess you and I will never be fighting then, or you will just be hitting on me. 🙂

      I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I think Boyd and Claiborne have understood the teachings of Paul, Peter, and the events of the OT in a way that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus, i.e. at least they have attempted to reconcile what may seem to be contradictory to some people. As you probably know, Boyd is coming out with a huge book next year on violence in the OT. I would put that on my wish list. 😛

      I’m not real sure though why you believe this presents a conflict between Jesus, Paul, and Peter. I think we disagree with what Jesus meant when it comes to loving our enemies. I believe Jesus teachings are for his followers, wherever those followers may live, work, serve. These teachings are not for the government or the US Defense Department… they’re for Christ-followers.

      I see a clear contrast between Christians living as agents of love in Rom 12 and the state being “agents of wrath” as described by Paul in Rom 13. There are two kingdoms at work here. We saw that clash of kingdoms in Jesus’ conversation with Pilate.

      Christians are called to follow their king in the way of love, which precludes any violence done in the name of the state. The teachings of Jesus were not for Caesar or others who Paul considers as agents of wrath, though they are invited into the Kingdom. If they want to embrace the teachings of Jesus they must leave their former way of life to follow Christ in this new way of love.

      So, it’s not a proof-text when you hear Jesus saying this to his followers, and those followers are distinct from those colluding with the kingdoms of the world. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not. But from this perspective it is not a proof-text that is being used here. It’s simply keeping the two kingdoms separate from one another.

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