Monthly Archive: September 2006

Rauschenbusch on the church

“The Kingdom of God breeds prophets; the Church breeds priests and theologians. The Church runs to tradition and dogma; the Kingdom of God rejoices in forecasts and boundless horizons. The men who have contributed the most fruitful impulses to Christian thought have been men of prophetic vision, and their theology has proved most effective for future times where it has been most concerned with past history, with present social problems, and with the future of human society. The Kingdom of God is to theology what outdoor colour and light are to art. It is impossible to estimate what inspirational impulses have been lost to theology and to the Church, because it did not develop the doctrine of the Kingdom of God and see the world and its redemption from that point of view.”

Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, 1917.

Mennonites Notes from a Catholic University

  • There is a more penetrating paradox of joy and sorrow in receiving a eucharistic blessing than I have ever elsewhere felt. The gentle yet commanding touch of the priest, the exaggerated sign of the cross he imprints on my body, the quiet murmur of a trinitarian blessing intended directly for me: this is surely how it must feel to be embraced and sent by the church! Yet my fellow faithful have just joined a deeper blessing that not only signifies but embodies their unity with each other, with the whole history of the Church, and most especially with the Christ whom they touch, feel, and taste. The sign of my embrace is the sign of my exclusion, not out of malice or in error but because all we can do from our wounded distance is to touch. To touch is to hope for healing.
  • ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Radical’ tend toward the same root, which is the right praise of God. It is all the same tragedy whether Catholics (by assuming that God is contained in their liturgy) ignore the disruptive grace that emerges from proper doxology, or whether Mennonites (by assuming pretentious airs of ‘newness’) undermine the long history of faithful prayer that encompasses every true justice and every true church. There is no Christian doxology without justice and no Christian justice without doxology.
  • A doctrinaire simplicity will never know the wonder of God’s presence inside a building erected with all the extravagance due God’s name, where every detail is molded with care and every resource is quickly marshalled to express our praise. Unflinching extravagance will never discover that a material renunciation for the sake of each other, for the sake of the poor, makes possible the real presence of Christ among all the faithful who have meanwhile become friends. Neither the cathedral nor the house church can be too quickly rejected. Both are beautiful.

YAR Travelogue from Venezuela No 4: A Chávez Supporter

After 3 blog posts describing conversations with Chávez opponents (or at least skeptics), its about time to offer a different perspective. Fortuantely, yesterday we arrived at the home of Andrés, a long-time friend of Charletta and a devoted Chávez supporter.

But before I get into more big picture politics, I’ll share my first-hand experience with the Venezuelan public healthcare system, the target of Chávez’s Mission Barrio Adentro (I hadn’t heard of it till I found this wikipedia entry). I went to a Integrated Diagnostic Centers (CDI in Spanish) in a poor neighborhood just outside of Maracaibo to have a throat infection looked at. Andrés explained that this was a level 3 clinic (level 1 being a doctor treating people in his or her own home). The system seemed fairly informal, but efficient. There were 20 people waiting in the lobby when we arrived. With no receptionist, Andrés simply went up to a doctor and asked her if they could examine me. She said yes and we sat and waited for 10 minutes. In that time, most of the people in the waiting room were moved through. And nobody paid any one or even talked to a receptionist. (more…)

selective systems of service and poverty

This afternoon I was taking a test for a course called Jesus and the Gospels. I was laboring over questions and getting irritated with myself for not studying more. But there was a time issue – not only a commitment issue. I like Jesus – and the Christian Scriptures that recall the good news that surrounds his stories. I like trying to remember which Gospel is the longest, the shortest, the oldest, the most Jewish. I like trying to recall which Gospel contains what parable and that John’s gospel is the only one in which the hackneyed “for God so loved the world…” passage appears. Some of it is rote memorization for memorization’s sake, but I do like knowing, at least, that Jesus does say “I am the way,” but that he only says it in one of the four Gospels. Only one of the writers chose to put that phrase on the lips of Jesus. I think that is interesting. But this isn’t the point. (more…)

“That which exists is possible”

Today I had the chance to hear Gene Sharp speak at the John Howard Yoder Dialogues on Religion, Nonviolence and Peace at the University of Notre Dame. I was not familiar with Sharp’s work prior to this event, although his most famous book is The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Sharp’s talk, entitled “Principled Non-violence: Options for Action,” was interesting on many levels and, I think, quite pertinent for us YARs. (more…)

an event to attend

In addition to this event that Lora pointed out a few days ago is another event that y’all should consider if you are Mennonite*. I went to the Young Adult Fellowship retreat last year in Ontario and it was pretty cool. This year it is near South Bend, IN and is happening the weekend of October 20. Check it out. I think I’ll be there (along with all the other cool kids) so you should too.

I don’t think that I’ll be able to go to the Hesston thing but would love to hear from those who go. These would both be good places to hype our awesome blog.

*Sorry to those of you who aren’t Mennonite but Anabaptist in the non-Mennonite sense that most of my stuff is rather Menno-centric. That is my connection to the Anabaptist thing and, yeah, sorry. I am also sorry for the run-on sentences and poor grammer that you will see from me as I continue to post.

the queer radical Mennonite conundrum

I’m going to do a spin-off from the speech I pointed you all to last week. So here is the conundrum. I grew up Mennonite. I went to a lovely, nurturing, happy, rural church (East Union Mennonite Church) where I was baptized at 16. I went to a Mennonite summer camp (Crooked Creek Christian Camp) for quite a few years and loved it. I went to many a Mennonite bi-annual conference as my parents were youth leaders for many years and when I was in high school. I went to a Mennonite high school (Iowa Mennonite School) where I learned lovely things about Mennonite history and faith along with the English and Trig. I served for a year with Mennonite Central Committee (SALT) in South Africa. I spent four formative years at Goshen College. I highly value every one of these institutions as they have played a major part in my formation. Those institutions represent an integral part of almost my entire life. The problem arises when I realize that every single one of these institutions would discriminate against me if I were to want to work for them or even volunteer for them as an openly queer Mennonite.

I feel quite a bit of loyalty to the Mennonite Church because it is an important part of who I am. I feel that I am part of the church as much as any other Mennonite who says I shouldn’t be. According to the official membership quidelines and many Mennonites – I shouldn’t teach, preach, or work for any official part of the church or even be a member. To me, it feels like the church is not living the values that I learned from the church. (more…)

YAR Travelogue from Venezuela No. 2

So today I had another opportunity to get a skewed sampling of Venezuelan opinions on Merida´s cable car, the highest and longest in the world. In one of the stations on the way up, Charletta and I struck up a conversation with an professor of computation (accountancy?) and her husband an economics professor. Not surprisingly, they don´t like Chavez. They described his government as violent and polarizing and they said that freedom of press is gradually being eroded and they are worried for the future of democracy in Venezuela. When we asked about all the projects that Chavez is doing to help people (more on this in a later post), she said that they were good ideas, but badly executed and claimed that they were so corrupt that very little of the money actually helped people.

All this was quite interesting, but then some warning lights went off for me when I shared about working in Colombia and they said “Oh, they have a much better government over there”. For those of you who haven’t been following Colombian politics, the country is currently governed by Álvaro Uribe who has promised to end the civil war by beating the guerillas militarily. While I was there working with CPT last year there was a massacre in the peace community of San Jose de Apartado that was likely carried out by the Colombian military. In response, Uribe accused the community of collaborating with the guerillas. Nuff said. (more…)

‘peace play’

those of you around the Goshen College scene have probably heard of, witnessed, or even participated in the famous Goshen College Peace Play Contest. you should have – we’re talking submissions from international playwrights and… well… some fairly major questions about what a ‘peace play’ is.

my least favorite is the “crash” genre – airbrushed silhouettes of complexity. they make us feel all deep on the inside without actually pushing us beyond anything we’ve already thought of a million times. the self-flagellating genre is just as bad, and i’m not even sure about my own submission of the mennonite-woman-interview-play genre a few years back. it was a great interview – but i’m entirely sick of that genre. then there’s the allegory plays and the…
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A White Supremacist Theology of Liberation

A friend recently told me that I should start saying things, whether I have them right or not – that the saying, the conversation is what matters. So, in that spirit, here’s a glimpse into what I consider, along with Robin Hawley Gorsline, to be contemporary white-supremacy. And why we can’t just say white supremacy exists out there, but that all white people, including you and I, are white-supremacists.

I am attempting to discuss a way of living and being – a particular ethic. My deepest hope is that it corresponds as closely as possible with the way of being and living that Jesus asks of us. I’m using theology as a medium to talk about the broader issue of white supremacy that white people continue to enforce (whether consciously or not) in the US (and world) today. So this essay is a theological one in the same way that an essay from George Bush on “a Jesus Ethic” might be a presidential one. Bush could offer an anti-white-supremacist presidential perspective to help us think about our own stories of white-supremacy – presidential, theological, economic, pedagogical, etc.

About the title (and an intro into my thoughts): White supremacy makes me think of the KKK and I really don’t like that organization. Theology makes me think of Karl Barth and Paul Tillich and, on occasion, James Cone (all theologians – two are white and better known). Liberation makes me think of oppressed groups of people empowering themselves toward freedoms. I put them together because they don’t really fit and because, in actuality, this particular combination is exactly what we need to learn to fit together. (more…)

Confessions of a Tattooed Mennonite

Hello, everyone. This blog does the body/soul good! For the past few years, I’ve been addicted to “confessional” forms of literature. As a poet, I just can’t stay away from bringing skeletons out of the closet or mucking through some pretty big issues in my own work. The other young women in my grad workshop don’t see what the big deal is…What I’m finding is that even though my home community was supposedly “progressive” in many ways, I grew up thinking my voice was somehow inferior. I know others will relate to balking at any form of confrontation, too. Well, today I am noticing a silence in our (mostly rural?) “anabaptist” congregations towards issues that once gave us our name and purpose, and as a young woman I want to speak out “firmly but gently.” Poetically, if you will. To hold us accountable, to remind us of a God much bigger than any red, blue, or purple state and what our neighbors think of us. I’m beginning to publish inside the “Menno Realm,” something that’s frightening for me b/c of its obvious audience. But (I think) I’m ready. Grandma, Grandpa, prepare thy ears!

Things Biographical

Ohh…internet blog sites. I’ve never tried one…this is my blog cradle. I will be nurtured here – or shaken out of my comfort to my metaphorical baptism by carpet-burn. And I choose to sign my name to YAR, because I think it’s got potential. The potential to hurt and heal – to annoy us in our comfort, challenge us in our disregard and sooth us in our ailing. It could just be annoying, though. I’ve thought about that. And I’m mostly fine with that too. Especially because recently a friend challenged me to start saying stuff – even if I don’t think I have it right – because, we’re doing this as a community right (like those Anabaptists we keep clinging to), and if I get something wrong, eric or Lora or Michael J will call me on it – and then we’ll have a conversation and someone will learn something.

So, that’s why I’m a young Anabaptist radical – cheap right. Later we might define all those terms. For now: engage as you feel drawn or estranged by any part of that title. I’m still trying to figure out if I like young people or Anabaptists or radicals and when I think of them all together, I get real worked-up. But I’m young and occasionally radical and I try to be Anabaptist – so me blogging here sort of makes sense. I come, at least, from an historically Anabaptist church in Harrisonburg, VA. And they used to be radical, Anabaptists, I mean – but probably my church too.
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Bible verse of the day

One of my old professors teaches a course on international development in which he instructs his students in each of the three theories of development (read: why people are poor and what they need to be not poor). At some point during the semester, he requires his students to decide which theory of development they like best, and use the Bible to back up their position.

We read the Bible through cultural lenses. This explains, to some extent, why there are Christians who swear by free trade, others who’ve literally written the book on liberation theology, and still others who insist that Jesus was a warrior despite that whole bit about loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek. It is in that spirit that we bring you the Bible verse of the day, which may or may not end up being regular feature. We hope you’ll enjoy it, and remember that if the Bible were to be made into a movie, it would probably be rated NC-17.

A gem from Proverbs 31, for all of you who’ve given up on being (or finding) a “Proverbs 31 woman”:

“Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
Proverbs 31:6-7