Shane Crash: I'm Shane Crash. I write zines and short stories.
KG: Is there a website where people can read your zines or short stories?
SC: You can read short writings and purchase zines at http://www.shanecrash.com/. I'm putting out my first novel on June 1st, through Civitas Press.
KG: What's it called? What is it about?
SC: It's called "Forest Life". It follows a character who retreats from society and his struggle to sustain the will to live.
KG: Sounds interesting. What else do you do with your time?
SC: I work with the homeless and teach on nonviolence.
KG: What kind of work do you do with the homeless?
SC: I'm volunteering at the Portland Rescue Mission and I walk the streets of Portland at night providing clothing, toiletries and food to the homeless people I meet.
KG: So, explain where and how do you teach nonviolence?
SC: I normally submit essays on my website at shanecrash.com, and I also teach on it in my zine "Lost Thoughts" which is available in my web store.
KG: What are your views on nonviolence?
SC: The New Testament commands us never to “repay evil with evil” but instead to “overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:17; cf. I Thess 5:15; I Pet 3:9).
Jesus said, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”(Mt 5:39). He also said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27-28).
I believe that only good can overcome evil and that to combat evil we must love and serve our enemies in the same manner that Christ died for those who persecuted him.
Violence is an unending cycle and is continually perpetuated by nationalistic conditioning in the form of redemptive violence and fear mongering. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is to tell disciples that their attitude toward “enemies” should be radically different from others. “If you do good to those who do good to you,” Jesus added, “what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Lk 6:32).
Everybody instinctively hates those who hate them and believes they are justified killing people who might kill them or their loved ones. In contrast to this, Jesus is saying: “Be radically different.” Like MLK, I maintain that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolence.
KG: What else do you write about?
SC: I generally write on social issues using satire. I prefer the short story format. Right now I'm focusing on storytelling and my own experience as a backpacker.
KG: Let's talk about that. What sort of experience have you had as a backpacker? Did you travel the US or Europe as a hitchhiker? Why did you do that? What did you learn?
SC: When I was twenty years old I was a wealthy salesman at a growing company. I was the lead salesman in my department making a large amount of money. I suffered through a personal tragedy and could no longer carry on living a meaningless existence so I sold all of my possessions, paid out the lease on my apartment and traveled the United States and the Bahamas as a backpacker.
Over and over I scoured the darkest, most desperate parts of Kansas City, of Brooklyn, Los Angeles and almost every major city in the continental US. I observed random acts of violence. I watched hookers get into cars with strangers and I listened to grown men sob alone in the alleys at night because they had nowhere to go.
I hit the road looking for something that I couldn't quite put my finger on so for a while I lived alone in a cabin on Kentucky Lake. I was determined to try and understand life. When I couldn't reconcile the Christian teachings of my youth with the futility of living I tried to kill myself by smashing my car into a median on a highway in Missouri. That didn't work out so I continued searching and drank heavily for the next two years. I was finally able to reconcile the Jesus who hung out with screwed up sinners while speaking with some homeless friends one night in Houston, Texas. Eventually I became content with living and I curved my frustrations with faith and existence to try and benefit others who are enduring similar trials. Now I work with the homeless as much as I can and I advocate for nonviolence.
KG: You've said before that you felt compelled to write about this subject and to examine the problem of suicide and suffering without religious language or faith in the equation. Why did you feel it was important to examine this problem "without religious language"?
SC:I wanted to write an honest novel and frankly I don't feel comfortable using religious language. I'm a human and my struggles have always been very human struggles. I'd rather write an honest, gritty and human novel than sacrifice my intellectual integrity for Christian Catch Phrases.
KG: How is it different from your other projects?
SC: It's my first concise novel. In the past I've only put out punk zines and short stories.
KG: What are your main passions? What is it you most often find yourself writing about?
SC: I'm very passionate about nonviolence and religion/anthropology and the correlation between the two, especially regarding religious culture and the effect it has on humanity. I like to examine the ambiguity of religion in humanity, the way that it brings security to some minds and suffering to others.
KG: Can you explain how religious culture effects humanity. What do you mean by that exactly?
SC: I've always been frustrated that the Christian elite employ gimmicks and ploys to reel in the thoughtless and naive through politics and televangelism, etc. I am frustrated because Christ is very clear that his followers are to practice power UNDER others rather than power over others, meaning Christians should self-sacrificially serve their neighbors and enemies without condition.
KG: I wonder if you could elaborate a bit on what you mean by the phrase "ambiguity of religion in humanity"? How and why does it bring "suffering" and "security"?
SC: Some people find comfort in the ideas of Heaven and Hell, feeling that their beliefs guarantee them eternal paradise and others eternal damnation. Others like myself are nearly driven to madness and inconsolable grief by the fear that people are punished eternally for getting things wrong in this short life. Given the millions of variables that can determine a person's belief or lack thereof. It's hard to reconcile a loving God with the mainstream narrative within Christianity.
KG: So, what are your views on Hell? Are they driven more by a rejection of God's character as one who punishes evil in this way? Or do you base your view of the afterlife on scriptural insight? Or a little of both?
SC: My study of theology has led me to lean toward the annihilationist view. Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence. That view seems to be the most consistent with scripture and with the character of God revealed in Christ. Of course, I'm still working my ideas on this subject out but I completely reject the traditional view of Hell.
KG: I’m leaning towards either annihilationism or redemptive punishment (where unrepentant sinners are punished up to a point and then given an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ after a set time).
I’m still researching the topic at the moment, but after reading Rob Bell’s book (Love Wins) and then reading Francis Chan’s rebuttal (Erasing Hell), and re-reading the words of Jesus on the subject a bit more closely I began to doubt the view of eternal suffering. Then, I discovered that the majority of New Testament Christians never believed in eternal suffering either. The two dominant views, for several hundred years, were annihilationism and limited suffering, or redemptive suffering. The view we all hold today as being “orthodox” (eternal hell) was the minority, or “unorthodox” view for a very long time. I’ll probably have to write a blog series on the topic soon, but that’s another issue.
Why don’t you explain the concept and inspiration behind your Pacifist Army idea?
SC: I'm part of a small group called Pacifist Fight Club. I had the idea to foster a community devoted to nonviolence and enemy-love similar to Pacifist Fight Club. The idea is to periodically raise funds for Christian Peacemaker Teams.
KG: Yes, I started Pacifist Fight Club earlier this year and it was great to have your support as we blogged and Tweeted leading up to that first event.
So, is Pacifist Army an online community, or is it a local gathering of people in your geographic area? What sorts of things to do you do? What Christian Peacemaker Teams are you raising funds for? Why do they need money? What do they do with it?
SC: Pacifist Army is a community of people who discuss and promote nonviolence. I'll be giving small talks regarding nonviolence on my upcoming book tours. I'll also have guest speakers at certain dates. We sell Pacifist Army merch, much the same way that a band would, but the funds all go to Christian Peacemaker Teams. CPT places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God's Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression. The money is used for travel, subsistence stipends, and communications equipment.
KG: So, what are you currently working on or writing about?
SC: I'm currently documenting my experiences wandering through the streets of Portland at night and my encounters with the homeless. I feel most comfortable outdoors with rubbertramps and homeless folks.
KG: Will this be your next book? Or are you sharing these writings on your blog?
SC: I'm sharing these writings on my blog periodically. It's sort of an exercise to pan out my next project, whatever that may be.
KG: One last question, Will we see you at the next Pacifist Fight Club on May 5th in Irvine, California? It would be great to have you join us since our topic is War.
SC: I will be there. I've marked it on my calendar.
KG: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Shane. I'm looking forward to your book and I wish you all the best with the Pacifist Army.
SC: Thank you sir.