Jamie Arpin-Ricci is what happens when Franciscan sensibilities meet Anabaptist weirdness. Or, it could be the other around. I’m not sure. All I know is that if there is any hope for the possibility of Christian claims coinciding with Christian practices, I somehow think it resides within the aforementioned communities. Although, I’m certainly open to being surprised by a Protestant or two.
Jamie plays an integral role in the Little Flowers Community, an intentional community in downtown Winnipeg, and is the author of the incredibly important book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom.
Given that he is epitome of punk rawk Christian anarchical awesomeness, and he lives in Winnipeg, I hope you will understand the obviousness of question number one of Five Questions with Jamie Arpin-Ricci.
1) Are you as big a fan of Propagandhi as I am? (And if you’re not, I advise you to lie–otherwise, this interview may end here.)
Ok, you’ve discovered my kryptonite. No, not my love of Propagandhi (who I, in fact, had not heard of until you emailed). Rather, my complete lack or awareness of music. Don’t get me wrong, I love music. However, I listen to whatever takes my fancy, whenever the fancy takes me- which, admittedly, is not that often.
Frankly, these days I am being inundated with children’s music, since we just brought home our first child- 3 year old Micah, who we adopted from Ethiopia. I live, breathe and ooze the Wiggles.
2) What are you hoping your readers will take away from your new book, The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom?
This book didn’t begin as a book. Instead, it was the exploration of the Sermon on the Mount that my church (with the hippy-approved name of Little Flowers Community) engaged and experimented in for nearly a year. We explored what it would mean for us to live it together, often drawing on our favorite extremist for inspiration- St. Francis of Assisi. The book chronicles part of that journey alongside exegesis of the text.
My hope is that people reading the book will simultaneously be challenged by the example and teaching of Jesus, as well as by the fact that such a journey, if possible for the rag-tag island of misfits that is Little Flowers, is entirely possible for them. Jesus calls us to an impossibly hard and demanding life, then promises His Spirit- making the impossible possible and the demands well worth it, even to the cross.
Finally, I hope they take away 3 extra copies. No, I am not angling for increased sales, but instead I hope that they take this journey with others. After all, it is about community, right?
3) In previous “Five Questions with . . .” interviews, both Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne expressed a strong love for St. Francis. Francis influenced Boyd to pay more attention to crickets and Claiborne decided to become a dumpster-diver. If you had to name the single most important way in which you have been shaped by St. Francis, what would it be?
The single most important way that St. Francis impacted me- the thing that qualifies him to truly be venerated- was his imperfections. Here is this exceptional guy who changes Christendom (then and now), shaping the lives of millions of people- but it is sin that gets me stoked!
Here’s the thing: thanks to more recent discoveries about Francis, we know he wasn’t the perfect, shining beckon of perfection the hagiographies would have us believe. Instead, he was a clumsy extremist with a penchant for taking things far too literally. He went to an early grave, repenting to his body for the poor treatment.
However, it is in those imperfections that I find the greatest hope and challenge. I’m screwed up, too! So there is hope that I can follow Jesus, too! Of course, that also means that the exceptional things that Francis did in his life are not the product of a super-human, ultra-saint. Thus, my “Get Out Of Costly Obedience Because I’m Not Saint Material” card is null and void. What a gift!
4) Why do you think Christians, especially those influenced by Francis, do not pay more attention to his radical practices in regard to non-human animals? Is it because most people just like eating them?
People tend to either romanticize his relationship with creation or reinterpret it through an modern ecological activism. While we can glean much from both perspectives, the real reasons for his sense of “sacramental ecology” are far too demanding on us. Creation wasn’t something to be cared for or utilized, but instead was as much a part of our being created in God’s image as anything else. After all, were we not made from the dust of the earth and the breath of God? What is communion if not (at least in part) the reconciliation of humanity with God, each other and with creation, explicitly through the fruit of earth, the bread and wine?
Of course, if following Francis meant I had to give up bacon, I’d be hanging up my habit!
I hope this answer isn’t seen as cheating, but I would choose St. Clare of Assisi. Clare and her sisters held on to the radical ideals of the Franciscan movement longer after they had begun to compromise in the all-male first order. In a time when women were valued very little, she wielded the power of service and radical obedience in ways that made kings and popes take notice. And in true humility that extends through the ages, she rarely gets the credit, lost in the shadow of a saint who is more captivating (it seems) simply because he was a dude.
If you consider Clare too close a choice to Francis to count, I would go with Dorothy Day. (What is it with me a Catholic women?) Her commitment, passionate, prophetic voice and life challenge me daily. And like Francis, her copious and admitted imperfections make her example one to be taken seriously.
FOR PAST INTERVIEWS, check out Five Questions with: Amy Laura Hall, Stanley Hauerwas, L.D. Russell, Matt Litton, Jeffrey Pugh, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne. Future interviews include: Debra Dean Murphy, Carol Adams, Marc Bekoff, Eric Bain-Selbo, Becky Garrison, Brooke Wilensky-Lanford, and many others.
In the meantime, pay attention to these spot-on lyrics from one of the most important bands no one has ever heard of. This is Propagandhi’s “Apparently, I’m a P.C. Fascist (because I care about both humans and non-humans).” Those crazy kids. They could be Franciscans or Anabaptists–if they weren’t atheists. Then again, given the current state of Christianity, atheism is probably the most faithful option we have left.
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.