Monthly Archive: November 2006

Intro to Jason

I’m someone who’s mostly been away from Mennonites for the past three years, but having the distance has shown me (maybe by omission) the value for me of relationships with young Anabaptist folks — particularly ones who are passionate about investigating what it looks like to try to form our lives and relationships based on taking seriously this faith we supposedly ascribe to.

I was talking with Sarah Thompson — who’s the North American representative to AMIGOS, the Mennonite World Conference’s global young adult network — about those sorts of interests (wanting to get to know passionate Menno young folks, to talk about the church and if/how it fits with us), which is what tipped her off to nominate me for the position I’m now in as the Mennonite Church USA rep to AMIGOS. More specifics will be coming up on AMIGOS, I’m sure, but feel free to check in or ask any questions y’all like. (more…)

some small thoughts

radical self love
a roommate once wanted to start a “masturbate for peace” campaign. he was shot down by everyone he talked to. i now wish i had backed him up. but this isn’t really a post about that…

“love your neighbor as you love yourself.” is that a command or a statement of fact?

make someone happy – buy yourself an iPod.
maybe this is a post about that after all…

world peace
i’ve discovered the key to world peace. (more…)

My Blood Doesn’t End in Me: Learning from West Point

I live with three wonderful women. All four of us are peace studies majors trying desperately to figure out what that means. Our last party was to celebrate the 6th anniversary of the UN resolution 1325, which highlights women in peacebuilding—a bit pretentious, I know, but I take any opportunity I can to have an evening of poetry, singing, sharing, and dancing–especially when it is in celebration of courageous, yet often ignored, women. Our door is open and guests have poured in and out since the beginning of the semester. This weekend we had a more unexpected group of guests. We hosted 6 West Point cadets—friends of friends who needed a place to crash. Life is full of beautiful surprises. We ushered the men in uniform into the guest bedroom—appropriately adorned with “make love, not war” painted brightly across an old sheet, Tibetan prayer flags, and Yoda. (more…)

the numbers game: a cranky opinion

I spoke at a small Church of the Brethren congregation in Napannee, Indiana last Sunday. The church seems to be an older congregation, which was interesting mainly because in Sunday School, a somewhat skeptical older gentleman turned to me, and out of the blue, said that while the numbers of non-denominational churches are rising, the Church of the Brethren (and, he presumed, the Mennonite Church) is shrinking. He asked me why I thought that was. I didn’t say that I think it’s dangerous to assume that growth is always the best indicator of the health of anything (take obesity as a prime example). (more…)

Polygamous Anabaptists

The Mennonite Weekly Review reported this week that the world’s largest Anabaptist Conference, the Meserete Kristos Church of Ethiopa, recently made two groundbreaking (maybe even radical) decisions. One is that women can now be fully active in leadership in the church. My only comment to that one is: well done, the church will be better for it. More interesting to me is the other decision. Polygamous converts can now be baptised into the church without divorcing all but one of their wives. The church is still saying monogamy is the way to go (their “teaching position”) and men shouldn’t marry any more wives once they are part of the church (also probably shouldn’t be leaders).

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Can we find ourselves in Poetry?

Hey, everyone. Tim suggested I post some of what I’m working on, so here goes. This selection was among poetry read at Bluffton’s “Beyond Borders…” writing conference last month, and I’m attempting to publish them elsewhere. I’m really interested in why practicing Menno women are still so wary of certain issues in their poetry. Is breaking from community approval and drawing focus on the creative “self” still so painful? Are we comfortable with the silences demanded of us? Julia Kasdorf and Di Brandt are examples of more “confessional” writers who have not been afraid to keep the church accountable…but both also had decided to leave the Menno dem. before publishing. I’m thankful they’ve opened doors for others to raise up voices and concerns, but where are those creative voices in the current Menno church? Surely some appear in A CAPPELLA, the recent poetry collection. But I’m aching for something more… (more…)

New blog features

Last night I installed some new features for the YAR blog to improve your reading and writing experience.

The main new feature is the new “Related YAR posts” section at the bottom of every post, just before comments. It shows three posts that the computer guesses are similar in content to the article you are viewing. Now that we have 54 posts in the archives and counting, this is one way to introduce new visitors to older content they might not have seen. (more…)

Revival, anyone?

Perhaps I am writing this because where I live, I have to explain at least once a week what a Mennonite is, our core values and goals, and this makes me long to see more of us practicing them. Perhaps I am writing this because I am tired of silences and homogeny of so many different kinds…who knows? I’m just glad that YAR offers a chance to talk…

Here in Athens, Ohio, we take pride in many things: our farmers’ market, fair trade coffee shops, beautiful hiking trails and rock formations, and the obvious diversity in our population: undergrads known for making O.U. the on-again-off-again #1 party school, international grad students, professors in tweed jackets, and colorful Appalachian locals. I revel in the atmosphere of a college town, especially one so “progressive,” at least for Ohio. I have to face it; I like to feel “different,” on the “verge” of something, and Athens allows me to have this faith in Humanity’s ability to create and evolve. Speaking of the “p” word (“progressive,” in case you are confused), one would think that being Mennonite would immediately peg us as “different” in the larger society. But the kind of Mennonite I want to be–actively seeking out peace and justice according to Christ’s example, accountable simple living and community, and heck–maybe even preaching one day– does not involve head coverings or long hair and dresses. So what distinguishes my “sect” of Mennos, those who have greatly assimilated back into the dominating culture out of fear, comfort, or for some other reason? (more…)

Maeyken Wens: One face of Early Anabaptism

There’s been a couple of posts today referencing early Anabaptists and discussing what exactly they stood for. As Jonny pointed out, they are far from homogenous. I always like pointing out the example of the Batenburgers, survivors of the Muensterites who basically turned terrorist. I always like pointing out their infidel-hating, cow-massacring ways to counterbalance any overly pious view of early Anabaptists.

But I’m not here to write more about the Batenburgers. Instead I’d like to look at a woman named Maeyken Wens who was burned at the stake in Antwerp on October 6th, 1573. If you’ve ever flipped through the Martyr’s Mirror, you may have come across the image that goes with her story (at right). Unlike most of the Martyr’s Mirror etchings, its not an image of death or persecution, but of the aftermath. Her son Adriaen is sifting through the ashes looking for the tongue screw that clamped her tongue so she couldn’t sing or testify. I first heard her story from John Sharp, Mennonite historian, storyteller and father of Michael J. If you grew up Mennonite, you’ve probably heard it too and you may have even seen the tongue screw, carefully handed down from generation to generation to remind us of our persecuted past.

But it isn’t the story of the tonge screw that I want to write about either. It’s the letters Maeyken wrote to her husband and her son that interest me most. (more…)

How do we live out our peace witness?

It seems that a few posts have dealt with our Anabaptist identity, specifically regarding peacemaking. So I want in.

I know of a Mennonite church that’s had a lot of problems in the past decade. They’ve split in ’99, fired their pastor in ’02, and now their next pastor is resigning because he feels he can’t contend with the warring factions in the church.

Now, clearly, they have some militant members who see “winning” as the ultimate goal. They seem to want the church to be modeled after them. That’s a problem that’s reared its head every time the church has split or lost its pastor.

But more concerning is the people who believe in peacemaking, yet have expressed their belief by turning a blind eye to the problems, hoping they’ll go away. That is not peace; it is denial. And it’s sad to see our peace witness lived out in such a way. Jesus taught a “third way” of overcoming hostility, not fight or flight but attacking the problem (not the person) head-on. He taught that we shouldn’t use violence, but we should work to expose evil, even when it resides inside of ourselves.

So I want to be part of a new vision for peace. Too often I’ve been one to stand by quietly, fearful of stirring the waters. So I want to change that. Our new vision needs to shun militancy and passivism. We don’t want to destroy our church to win, nor should we sweep problems under the rug. We need the “third way” of peacemaking within our Mennonite churches, so we can tell the world with confidence that peacemaking works.

Mennonite Church (global?) identity

(This was originally written as a response to Eric’s article on “Calling the church to go pee pee,” but I decided that I don’t really want to be associated with Eric, and my post brings up some new issues. So I deserve my own [first ever] post. And since it’s my first post, I apologize if this topic has already been discussed enough. I haven’t been keeping up with all the posts over the past months.)

Good thoughts, bro. Like you, I wonder about the drive to look back to the “original” Anabaptists as a model for our developing church identity. A few weeks ago, Brian McLaren came to Goshen College and hosted a meal for a select group of AMBS and GC students interested in the future of the Mennonite Church. The discussion quickly turned to the developing identity of the Mennonite Church, and the growing feeling among young people that there’s a lack of intentionality about the formation of that identity. Not surprisingly, pacifism was the first thing mentioned as the central point of Anabaptist/Mennonite identity, and Brian encouraged us to emphasize that aspect in the future. There was a clear sense that what the Mennonite Church really needs is to return to the perfect example of the 16th century Anabaptists.

Let’s not be nostalgiac about the early Anabaptists. (more…)

YAR Madlib – Calling the church to go pee pee.

There isn’t actually a YAR Madlib in this post, because I haven’t taken the time to write one, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and someone should. I would love to see the results of our middle-school selves filling in YAR-post blanks with various middle-school crudities, and giggling our little heads off. Yes, that’s a potty joke in the title of my post. Yes, I’m immature.

I have a friend who is becoming a novice member of Reba Place. People do that. And Reba place is radical, right? Emerging church and all that? I mean, it is in Chicago, and has an intentional community attached to it. They are also still fighting over women in leadership – let alone LGBT rights or couples holding hands before marriage. And that’s not something new – that’s all fairly well rooted in Anabaptist tradition.

I can’t really pick on Reba, as I don’t know the details well at all, but sometimes the earnestly ‘Anabaptist’ church scares me as much as the fundamentalist/evangelical. And what really does define the Anabaptist tradition? Is it really a peace-making stance, or is it mainly an obsession with perfection, passive-aggression and boundary-drawing? Our defining issues in history have been buttons, mustaches, pianos, women, divorce, and queers. Keeping the church clean for Jesus. Go us.
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Let America Be America Again

A few years ago, while on a work-related trip in Southeastern Asia, I met with a man who represented the Vietnam-U.S. Friendship Association. We sat and talked for awhile, and he shared with me what was happening in his country. He told me that the Vietnam War (known there as the American War) no longer mattered. Aside from the fact that more than half of the country’s population was born long after the war was over, the Vietnamese people, he told me, were looking ahead. “The past is past,” he said. “We live today and dream of the future.” (more…)

Recommendation for free Election Night soundtrack

A few weeks ago, Nathan suggested that the singer/songwriter Derek Webb was trumpeting Anabaptist values. I haven’t checked out a new artist Christian music field for quite sometime now, but upon looking at his website I discovered that he was offering his all of latest album, Mockingbird, free to download. As a properly frugal Mennonite, I decided it was my duty to download it. Today I finally got around to listening to it.

What I discovered was a pleasant surprise: the first sarcastic Anabaptist “Christian Music” artist I’ve ever come across (though admittedly I don’t know that many). Here’s a sample:

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

(pre-chorus)
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

– from “A New Law”

(more…)