Controversy at Chapel — Speaker Shane Claiborne discusses protecting life

Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

Shane Claiborne, a Christian activist and author, spoke to Baylor students on Oct. 3 at Chapel, sparking controversy on topics like gun violence and immigration.

“Shane is a champion for grace, which has led him to jail advocating for the homeless and to places like Iraq and Afghanistan to stand against war. He heads up Red Letter Christians, a movement of folks who are committed to living ‘as if Jesus meant the things he said,’” Claiborne’s website says.

Claiborne covered a variety of topics during his talk at Baylor, mainly emphasizing that Christians should fight for the lives of all people and work on bringing heaven to Earth by acting as Jesus did.

“The kingdom of God that Jesus talked about isn’t just something we hope for when we die, but something we bring on Earth while we live,” Claiborne said. “I want people to fall in love with Jesus and become revolutionaries — to catch a vision for this world that’s bigger and better than what we have right now.”

Claiborne has demonstrated this “revolutionary” stance in his own life by flying to India to serve with Mother Teresa and even by getting arrested for feeding homeless people in a Philadelphia park, since this action was technically against the law.

“To say that we cannot feed the homeless is to say that we cannot feed Christ — it’s a violation of our religious freedom,” Claiborne said regarding the incident. “There’s a part of being Christian that is about being holy trouble makers.”

Austin freshman Anna Tabet attended Claiborne’s talk and noted that his speech started to become controversial when issues like abortion and the death penalty were discussed.

“He had very concrete views on topics that many objectively disagreed with but had to sit and listen to,” Tabet said. “Instead of preaching about Christianity, he chose to preach a broader message of love, and accepting all lives and people of different walks of life. That preaching of acceptance was difficult for some people to grasp when it went against their own personal beliefs.”

One issue Claiborne spoke strongly about was gun control, advocating that pro-life is a topic not limited to abortion.

“We need voices to rise up and say that pro-life in America isn’t just to be pro-birth. The issue of abortion matters immensely, but it’s not the only pro-life issue,” Claiborne said. “Immigration, gun violence and the death penalty are all issues where we need to stand on the side of life.”

Tabet noted that she noticed negative reactions from students in the audience when Claiborne spoke about melting guns and using the materials to make other objects like farm tools and instruments.

“It’s a vision of destroying our weapons and creating a new world — part of what it means to be Christian is to proclaim Jesus and say the word of God is coming,” Claiborne said. “The kingdom of God looks different than 90 people a day dying from guns in our country. You can’t carry a gun in one hand and a cross in another.”

Tabet many students appeared to disagree with Claiborne and his views on controversial issues.

“I witnessed mostly negative reactions to the talk,” Tabet said. “I heard a lot of booing from people around me and some voiced disagreements towards his message, specifically about tighter gun control.”

Lake Forest, Calif., freshman Karli Campbell enjoyed some aspects of Claiborne’s talk, but disagreed with his opinion on how to end gun violence.

“To me, he was more humanized than previous speakers — his stories were very relatable,” Campbell said. “I wasn’t uncomfortable, but there were some parts I didn’t necessarily agree with. Gun violence is a large issue that needs addressing, but I disagree about his statement saying that guns kill people. To me, guns don’t kill people, but people kill people using guns — people should be punished, not the gun.”

Campbell also questioned whether Chapel was the appropriate environment to share a message that can stir up controversy among students.

“I think this is a topic that needs to be discussed somewhere, but I’m not sure that Chapel is the best place to do so,” Campbell said. “We take Chapel as a class, and we are required to be there — so I think a topic like this one should be optional to attend because it can get controversial.”

Despite voicing his opinion on topics like gun violence and the death penalty, Claiborne insisted that he has no partisan affiliation or agenda.

“This is not about partisan politics — we’re in a heated political climate, but this is not about left and right,” Claiborne said. “I don’t have any party affiliation. This is about right and wrong and standing on the side of life.”

Ronda Kruse, assistant to the university chaplain, encourages students wishing to voice their opinions about Chapel speakers or services to contact Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director of worship and Chapel, at