My Take: Tearing down the walls
October 28th, 2010
01:51 PM ET

My Take: Tearing down the walls

Editor's Note: Shane Claiborne is an author and activist and one of the architects of a community in Philadelphia called The Simple Way. Shane worked in India alongside Mother Teresa and spent time in Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Team during the recent war. His books include Jesus for President, Follow Me to Freedom, and the best-selling Irresistible Revolution. Check out more at: www.thesimpleway.org.

By Shane Claiborne, Special to CNN

The Church has often been better known for building walls than for tearing them down.

Too often, we Christians are known by what we are against rather than by what we are for. So it was a proud moment for me this week, as a Christian, when leaders of the Catholic Church made an unambiguous statement calling for an end to the Holy Land apartheid.

After a two-week meeting summoned by the Pope, Catholic bishops issued a statement asking Israel not to use the Bible to justify injustices to the Palestinian people. Thanks be to God.

A few months ago, I was able to take a pilgrimage through this ancient, holy land – traveling through Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Iraq. We stayed in the homes of Palestinian Christians and met with Israeli settlers.

We met with Jewish folks committed to stopping the home demolitions of Palestinians, and we met with Israeli soldiers who refused orders they deemed unjust. We saw some of the most beautiful and some of the ugliest things I’ve ever witnessed. There are a few things that have left a mark on my soul as I have visited the area over the years.

One of them is a worship service I participated in about seven years ago, with Christians from all denominations who met to pray for peace amidst the spiraling violence of the Iraq war. Christians from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq sang the Lord’s Prayer in their own language, and sang “Amazing Grace” in Arabic.

Then they led us to the cross and spoke of how the central message of the cross is grace, love, and reconciliation. It is about God’s love being so big he died, even for his enemies, and now we are to join this revolution that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free of hatred and discrimination.

I was so moved, I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I spoke with one of the organizing bishops. I confessed to him that I was amazed to see so many Christians from Iraq and Palestine. He responded with a humble smile, “Yes, brother, this is where it all began.”

We had a good laugh together, but then he went on to tell me that these are urgent times when we need the Church to be the Church – and to remember that we are people of reconciliation and peace in a world infected with violence and prejudice.

It was in the Holy Land a few weeks ago that another priest told us, sadly, if Jesus had tried to make his walk from Bethany to Jerusalem today, he wouldn’t be able to make it through the checkpoints.

We lamented together the wall that so terribly divides this Holy Land.

As I walked the footsteps of Jesus through the land, I was reminded of a story Jesus told about a wealthy man who built a wall and locked the poor outside of it, a story often known as “the rich man and Lazarus.” Both the rich man and the beggar die outside his gated estate.

The beggar (whose name means “the one God rescued”) is saved, brought into heaven, and seated next to Abraham. The rich man finds himself in a lonely, isolated hell, and ends up asking Lazarus for compassion.

The story is loaded with irony, sass, and imagination. One of the interesting things about the story is that the rich man is very religious and knows all about Abraham and the prophets, but his religion had done very little when it came to the compassion folks were starving for on the streets.

The climax of the story is that Jesus exposes one of the incredible truths about walls – not only do they lock others out but also they lock us in. Not only are the poor robbed of community and compassion, but also so are the rich.

One of the most important things I learned in the Holy Land is that both Israelis and Palestinians are being held hostage – they are both locked behind walls. I heard folks on both sides say they didn’t care if the solution was one state or two state or no state – as long as all people were treated equally and with dignity.

The great thing is that walls are never too big to fall. First there was Jericho. Then Berlin. And now Palestine.

One of the promises of Jesus in the Gospels is that the gates of hell will not prevail. I don’t think he was saying there is no hell but I do believe he was saying that there are hells today that hold people hostage. We should be storming the gates to rescue them. And as we do it we will discover that when the walls fall down – both Lazarus and the rich man are better off.

Today, I am proud to be a part of a Church that is not simply building up more walls – but tearing them down.

And in the New Jerusalem, the great City of God, “on no day will its gates ever be shut” (Rev. 21:25). The gates of the kingdom will forever be open.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shane Claiborne.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Israel • Opinion

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Jhessica

    It wouldn't be hard to do a rough calualction of the number of lives saved by global warming. The increase in crop growth as a function of CO2 is well known. The longer growing season in some areas has even been implied by some of the alarmist lit. Together, they provide a lot of agricultural increase which could be estimated. That could be translated into people not starving, simply by dividing by the amount of food that it takes to feed one person. This would be a MUCH more accurate number than their 300k guess. I'll bet it's bigger number too.

    October 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Know nothing about Swiss nor I know what is your nationality, I believe you have your right being a believer or non believer but do not agree to ending belief of God although not so sure about allowing worshipping idols or Satan!?
    As it seems earth is turning towards religion having discovered that secular policies has made humanity reach it's lowest in every morals known.
    We are told that Islam nation is a Neutral Nation between two extremes far right and far left "Judaism" "Christianity" so how about you learn about Quran and bring all to the Neutral position.

    November 3, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  3. HotAirAce

    The best way to "tear down the walls" would be to eliminate the belief in man-made supernatural tribal myths. As I see CatholicMom (the wittiest rcc aplogist) has been here, yes, I do mean all religion, including the sick and criminal rcc.

    November 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • Muneef

      How you propse that to be done? You think every body will stop when told or you suggest to eliminate them or have the forces keeping them on watch not to pray or worship rather than having forces to keep watch out on terrorists and child abusers? Religions are to be brought closer to respect each other wills and wishes am sure will resolve may issues but not those related to political greed that is going on under the cloth of religion beliefs....

      November 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      By doing everything I can to prevent new believers and to de-program current believers. To remove every "free pass" and benefit religion enjoys – eliminate tax breaks and start questioning why we excuse the belief in invisable supernatural beings.

      November 2, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
    • Muneef

      But sorry you are not a God so I doubt if you can do any thing and suggest you would rather hate those using the religion as a cloth for their crimes rather than hating the religion it self and her inoccent followers...?
      After all your country supports as allies two of the most extreme redials in religions so start with them first before you go further?

      November 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      In addition to holding irrational beliefs in man-made supernatural tribal mtyhs created by crazed desert dwellers centuries ago, you are wrong on a couple of other points. I have never claimed to be a god – it would be completely ilogical for me to claim to be something I do not believe in. I do not hate all believers – I hate all their beliefs. I have never advocated violence against any believer – I have stated that I hope to see the end of religion in my lifetime. Before I address your statement about "your country" you're going to have to tell me which country that might be and who the allies might be – just checking to see what assumptions you might be making. But whether you get my nationality right or wrong – I've made my non-support for all conflicts pretty well known. If I had my way, we would be 100% neutral, much like the Swiss.

      November 2, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  4. Muneef


    November 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Iqbal khan

    Hello look what he is saying!

    October 30, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • Muneef

      Do not understand if it is Zionist News which we would expect to be Jew is attacking Jews calling them as Jews Zionist Agenda??
      Any way we were told in the Quran that Children of Israel got divided in to two and that anger and curse was on the people of the Sabbath and that love,acceptance was to those believed Jesus and took him for a prophet of God and his word of guidance..
      So as seems that this article is correct except to the part where it makes of Jesus as God or Son of God...which I am sure was made as envy by Jews to mislead Christian from the correct path they believed in so they have brought up this issue of Jesus being the son of God and only since then Christians became astray from the truth...

      October 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Iqbal Khan.
      We shouldn't be harsh to our cousins from the Jews faith there are many from where I come from living in Israel they are the Yemenites and what a lovely songs they have that they combine in Arabic and Hebrew example Ofrah Haza but she demised some years ago..

      Any way see and hear this.

      November 1, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  6. Leo14

    Can you lend us your Ar.. For that purpose?

    October 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  7. Andrew VA

    You're supposed to BLOW DOWN those walls with trumpets or something. One good fart oughta do it...

    October 30, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  8. mm

    Brought the walls of Derry to Palestine. Good job, Britain.

    October 29, 2010 at 4:34 am |
  9. Jacob W

    Very nice post, I understand it comes from a good place. Unfortunately you don't understand the situation. First off, there is no "Palestine" its Israel and then there is the West Bank, which is probably where you were. Second, that wall, its true, its to keep people out of Israel. But its not because Big Bad Israel hates Palestinians and wants another Apartheid. It was built in response to the numerous suicide bombings by terrorists in Israel. Since the wall has been built, bombings have gone down completely. Now putting religion aside, I am totally willing to inconvenience a few people to insure the safety of an entire country. If the wall is teared down, then suicide bombings will come back. Parents, siblings, spouses, best friends, won't come home from their errands. Why were there lives taken? Cause some ignorant people didnt like that Israel was inconveniencing some people. If any other country were to do this, no one would even blink an eye. But when the country of jews does it for safety, they are Hitler.

    October 29, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • Muneef

      It is being overdone with.

      October 29, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  10. NL

    I wonder if things would have played out differently if more of the Palestinians were christian?

    October 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • Muneef

      Not even if were Jews or Christian Arabs they would have let live with out over taking and slaving them!!

      Strength Is Nothing..More Than How Well You Hide The Pain....    
      The world ain't fair Eat you when you let it so, let's be the devils or let us die...

      Isn't that what is happening today for Gaza and West Banks and AlQuds? And who ever out of those fights for his land and freedom is called terrorist and killed like a dog or thrown out of land if not in mass jails for future exchange against Israeli soldiers...what a life what a freedom,what a human rights,what united nations what all the camouflage we are surrounded with in this unreal world.

      October 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • Muneef

      Understand Friday 29/10 a Church was burnt in Palestine by Zions.

      October 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  11. Peace2All

    Shane Claiborne says in the article--

    "After a two-week meeting summoned by the Pope, Catholic bishops issued a statement asking Israel not to use the Bible to justify injustices to the Palestinian people. Thanks be to God."

    ME-– Really....?The Pope and Catholic bishops asked Israel *NOT* to use the Bible to 'justify' 'injustices.' Now THAT is funny..! While the RCC goes on constantly, along with other Evangelical christian faiths, who use the bible constantly, to "Justify" any "Injustices" against whomever they please. Such as Ohhh.... gays, women who choose to have abortions, any non-believers, etc... Now that was just too 'rich.' They have got to be kidding..! And.... Thanks be to God..? Who is he kidding.

    Shane Claiborne also says in the article(last paragraph)---

    "And in the New Jerusalem, the great City of God, “on no day will its gates ever be shut” (Rev. 21:25). The gates of the kingdom will forever be open."

    Look, I get the whole wanting to build bridges and put an end to wars, equality for all, etc....

    But, then anyone ending with a quote from the most 'insane'(yes, I know, my opinion) book in the bible... the book of revelation, having previously talked about jesus saying there is a hell.... Well, I think that about does it for me.

    Yes... I am a bit opinionated and cranky today.

    Not very Peaceful I guess...

    October 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      October 29, 2010 at 1:51 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Sum Dude

      Say wut..? Ya' got me chucklin' again Dude...! LMAO..! 🙂

      October 29, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • Iqbal khan

      Dear thanks,
      I do write time to time see I am a lazy fellow and due to working full time (thank God). I don't have much time so
      I find it easy to get help from others who have already done the hard work of research and study and in this modern age it really saves time the youtube and computer certainly are plus in educting our self with the least amount of effort

      October 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • Nete

      Amando Posted on para pc tienen que acer..!!a la gente le gusta jugar mas por la pc y van a tener merejos ventas..!!ademas que ay muchas personas que estan esperando este juego y no nos pueden defraudar..para pc tienen q acre si o si..

      October 8, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  12. CatholicMom

    Shane Claiborne,
    I am so glad you wrote about your experiences. You are so young…and can do so much with your life. God bless you in all that you may do to keep walls down between people and between countries.

    October 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  13. Iqbal khan

    Instead of giving them them a little country Israel is building a Wall and no country on earth has any power to say to stop building the WALL and give them a peice of land that they can call their country!
    What a shame billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been lost and we call ourselves civilized.

    October 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Iqbal khan

      He speaks again...OMG...!! Good to hear ya' posting as opposed to just cutting and pasting videos.

      October 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Sum Dude


      October 29, 2010 at 1:49 am |
    • Muneef

      Israel as a new "born il-legal country" now sta-mping on her creator's countries&UN  laws and regu-lations,taking lifes of any "free willed speakers of truth"! Just like did with "Prophets of God and God Laws and Regu-lations through many Generations up to day.
      God" has told us that even to the "signs told of last moments of life" "Resur-rection date",if we had a "date palm trees in our hands" "we are to plant them and serve them until such date".   
      While we find those Bl-ack He-arted Alive are exter-minating removing Olive Fruit & Vine trees until such date? Such sp-ite and en-vy, we do not believe it is becoming of Judaism faith&belief !
      It is more like some thing Blo-odline,Ra-cial, Zio-nism or New advanced Hi-tler tea-chings that gave a feel of superiority filled with ego&hatred over others that are not of same while we see that this scheme is heavily financed internationally for the system to confiscate lands of those considered outer of the Seal&Ring that gather and lead them !??

      October 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • Muneef

      Wonder if such acts are a replicate to what has happened through history of generations overtook lands America,South Africa,Australia from habitants ending up in reservations ?

      October 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  14. Muneef

    The way things are going on globally it becomes to my mind that all countries soon become behind walls just as once was made by the Great Wall of China..
    The becoming walls between North and South of America.
    The becoming walls between boarders of Middle Eastern countries.
    And so on like that either the exuse Al-Q or any others that might be claiming their rights? Think there were films similar to such idea where those surrendered and slaved would live inside the walls while those revolting and free would be living out of the walls. So you see what is happening in Palestine which you call as Israel is an experiment that they are learning from for popularization in the whole of Middle East area.

    October 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.