Meet Shane Claiborne

The next few ‘Foto Friday’ posts will focus on individuals who are currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Shane Claiborne is a Christian activist and author, who champions the poor and marginalised in society.

He is also an outspoken critic of the arms trade and militarism. During the second Gulf War he travelled around Iraq for three weeks apologising to the Iraqi people about the Coalition bombing, worked with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on his Bombs and Ice Cream project, and in his 2010 tax return he witheld the 30% of his tax that he argues would go towards military spending.

He recently wrote an open letter to non-Christians for Esquire Magazine.

“I am going to Iraq to stop terrorism. There are Muslim extremists and Christian extremists who kill in the name of their gods. Their leaders are millionaires who live in comfort while their citizens die neglected in the streets. I believe in another Kingdom that belongs to the poor and to the peacemakers. I believe in a safe world, and I know this world will never be safe as long as the masses live in poverty so that handful of people can live as they wish. Nor will the world be safe as long as we try to use violence to drive out violence.” - SHANE CLAIBORNE

[More Ideas for ‘making a difference’ in The Year I Saved the World]


  1. Gareth Richards says:

    I was under the impression he was a UK citizen, the US has 10 fully functioning aircraft carriers, we can mange one, but we don’t have any aircraft to fly off it. We have 2 under construction but will under the current plan only finish one. According to this site we spend 6.5% on defence slightly less than we spend on interest payments. So I was wrong but not by much.

    It seems fashionable to criticize defence spending, but if you don’t like defence spending would you have allowed Hitler to conquer Europe? Or Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić to conquer all of Bosnia Herzegovina.

    The US tax authorities are even worse than the British ones, both I guess take the view that it is not appropriate to protest via the tax system. He will be fined for non compliance and charged a ruinous interest on what he owes. One of these odd pro Roman religions said “Pay unto Cesar what belongs Caesar’s.”. It seems certain that all the anti Roman version of this religion were wiped out.

  2. Gareth Richards says:

    He’s a tax cheat and he can’t do math. There is no way 30% of your taxes go on military spending. Real figure less than 5%.

    • I checked this, as I also thought it looked high.

      4.7% of US GDP goes on defence, which equates to approximately 20% of federal spending:

      Some analysts take a more complex view – partly because the US government (like all Western governments) is spending more than they are recovering in tax, but also because some ‘military related’ spending does not come within the defence budget – obviously it depends what you count as ‘military related’ (pensions/reconstruction/overseas military aid/space programme/research etc).

      20% – 30% – who knows.

      Obviously you realise that though I used the word ‘witheld’ he donated the $97 involved to charity. Ultimately he will be required to pay the money of course, but I assume his motivation is to raise awareness of the amount of US military spending – we are now discussing it after all !

      Shane’s visiting the Forest later this month and I’m going to hear him speak – if I get chance I’ll ask him how his tax protest is going.

      • I had the chance to go and listen to Shane speak at a local event a couple of weeks ago an his is both a very challenging and very inspiring figure.

        A few of his more memorable quotes:

        “Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.”

        “We not only need to give people fish, but also to teach them how to fish, tear down the walls that have been built-up around the fish pond and figure out who polluted it.”

        “Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. Usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of my favorite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily”

        “What if Jesus meant the stuff he said ?
        – When I was hungry, did you give me food to eat ? When I was thirsty did you give me water to drink ? When I was a stranger did you welcome me ? When I was naked did you clothe me ? When I was sick did you visit me ? When I was in prison did you come to me ?”
        – Judge not, that you be not judged.
        – You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
        – So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

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