Sunday, August 30, 2009
Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers
Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals
© 2208 Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
"As a beautiful flower that is full of hue but lacks fragrance, even so fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practice it." - Siddhartha Gautama, quoted in What the Buddha Taught
Over a month ago, reader Pom Pom suggested that I look into Shane Claiborne. While my library held one of his books, it was then checked out and remained so until last week. In the time since, I've listened to various sermons/talks by Claiborne and find him to be a very interesting personality -- as well as a symphatetic one. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers is written for praying Christians, and would best be deceived by them. While a more naturally-centered person like myself can make Claiborne and Wilson-Hartgrove's message applicable, the book is focused on the text of three Christian prayers found in the Gospels and Epistles.
The two authors both write in the first-person in an informal matter. Content wise, they are most concerned with wedding faith with action: faith is less believing-in-things and more doing things based on beliefs. Instead of bickering over healthcare, for instance, Claiborne tells the story of a community that paid tithes to provide a common pool of money for members who needed it. In the decades that this pool has been in operation, he says, it has provided millions in healthcare support. While prayers are often prayed to God in the expectation that he will fulfill needs, the expectation here is that people step up and take a more active role in living their values. The great mystery, Claiborne says, is that God allows himself to be limited by the actions of people: he chooses to work through people by inspiring them to action rather than by doing it himself.
I like Claiborne for the same reason I like this book to whatever extent I like it: I believe in fulfilling worldviews. I can't separate my philosophy from my politics, or my 'spirituality' from science, or my beliefs from my actions -- and I appreciate movements built on similar commitments Claiborne's approach reminds me of Buddhism's eight noble truths, emphasizing "right livelihood" and "right action" right alongside mindfulness.