By Brennen Finchum
Tuesday was the first time most Trevecca students could vote for a president. The political power that students have was not limited to that one opportunity.
Students vote every day with the choices and decisions they make, according to Shane Claiborne.
Claiborne is a popular social justice activist and author of “Jesus for President” and “Irresistible Revolution.” He took some of his time to answer a few of Micah Mandate’s questions about politics, faith, apathy, and policy.
He started by talking about how he and The Simple Way, an organization that he co-founded, perceived their place in the political scheme.
The backdrop of everything is God’s Kingdom coming on earth.
Rather than endorsing any candidate, we’re asking them to engage.
Engagement is certainly not restricted to one day every four years. We vote every day with what we align ourselves. It’s how we live on November 7th and November 10th.
Rather than seeing voting as casting our vote for a new messiah, we’re actually to do damage control. We’re looking to try and minimize the impact of principalities and powers.
One of the things that we do is that we don’t wait on politicians to solve all of the world’s problems. We get that vision from scripture. “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.”
The real question for us as Christians is what would it look like if Jesus is in charge?
With the early Christians, every time they were saying Jesus is Lord, they were saying Caesar is not.
How we live each day, in Philadelphia, there’s a whole new thing about welcoming immigrants and helping folks get documentation.
There’s 20,000 of us that are trying to help each other get our medical bills paid for each other.
Mother Theresa wasn’t just pro-life. She came alongside kids with teenage mothers. She became known as mother because of that.
To be pro-life in our neighborhood means what do we do when a 14-year old gets pregnant.
To love our neighbor as our self, it affects how we hold our possessions, etc.
I want to know how someone is proactive and how they are going to walk with people.
Students on campus don’t seem to be incredibly interested in this whole election process or politics in general. To some, it could seem apathetic, and to others, it seems like they just blissfully ignore politics. What do you think is really happening in this?
I think there’s a reason especially young people are dissatisfied. There’s a dropout rate from the elections of young people that’s astronomical.
One, I think we remember the culture wars of our parents when it was as if there was only two issues that mattered: abortion and homosexuality.
When you’ve got two parties that are funded by corporations, for a Christian, you get really conflicted because there’s not a consistent ethic of life.
If you think of the Democratic Party, then you have the issue of abortion. If republican, then there’s militarism and capital punishment.
If you’re not voting for someone, you’re voting against someone.
I do think that some of those changes can start to come.
We’re spending $20,000 a second on militarism.
Neither candidate is really talking about decreasing the military budget. Young people are increasingly suspicious of that.
Maybe instead of blowing up the world 10 times, we could just blow it up 7 times.
There’s millions and billions of dollars going to a party race. You might as well just auction it off.
So after this whole movement of Jesus for President and learning about the politics of Jesus in theology class and having really thought through all of this, I think there are some people who really want to vote Jesus for President. But during this election time, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos or we just feel conflicted by voting when we really just want to see the Kingdom of Heaven come down. What’s happening in our hearts when we just don’t know what to do with all of this?
I do think that one of the things that we need to ask is, “Is there a decision I can make on Election Day that I can move things closer to what Jesus wants?”
I’m not interested in dictating whether people should vote or how they should vote, but I do think we should take that decision seriously.
Rather than endorsing a candidate, we’re sort of asking them to endorse the values at the heart of the gospel.
I think we need to advise everybody and endorse nobody.
So many people, secular and Christian, are telling us to be educated and vote our convictions. What do you think is the best way for a Christian to approach this issue of ‘being educated’?
I think that we need to be in touch with the world that we live in. Barth said that we need to read the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
We gotta be careful not to fall to that temptation [of trusting the government over God], but on the other hand, I think that we’ve got to be very balanced where is this the most important
Worrying our life around Jesus is the most important decision in our life.
The world gets changed through the ongoing effort that the church does every day.
What do you say is the place of a Christian university in terms of politics?
One, we should take advantage of the chance of creating robust conversation around things that matter. Especially Christian communities, we should be talking about things like immigration and the death penalty. These things matter. Jesus is talking about the real stuff about the world that we live in.
As we look at those things, that’s our framework for it.
We should disagree well. There’s stuff we can learn from conservatives and liberals. We need to model that in our academic institutions.
Also, what institutions can do is what Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” How do we get the log out of our own eye? How are we paying our workers? What’s our salary scale between our head administration and housing staff? How are we caring for the plot of God’s earth?
Here at Eastern [where he graduated from], we’ve tried to focus on using wind energy. That’s just one way we’re allowing the theology of creation care to take root.
We give out one scholarship a year calling it “The Simple Way” scholarship.
It’s [why people in poverty have a difficult time getting into college] often not anything to do with their smarts, but their resources, which is why a lot of our colleges end up being overwhelming white or middle class.
Claiborne speaks in depth on some of these topics in his book “Jesus for President,” which
can be purchased from Amazon for about $3.