Monthly Archive: December 2006

What would you do?

No, this isn’t one those questions intended to corner pacifists. This is a question that I actually have, based on experience I actually experienced, and a question I would actually like to have an answer to, although I understand that a solid answer to what I am pondering is allusive at best.

Here is the scenario: I am a youth pastor, and not too long ago I was at a youth pastor peer meeting with about five other youth pastors. It was a good meeting, refreshing to hear other people’s joys and frustrations that I can relate to. We ended the meeting with a homemade lunch which was really good, but over the lunch the conversation turned towards everyone’s family. One of the younger married youth pastors began telling of how he was just finishing up the adoption process and he and his wife were about to get their first child: a cute little Guatemalan baby, they had pictures, a name and everything. Then one of the other youth pastors chimed in that her sister (or other close relative, I forget exactly) just recently adopted a Guatemalan baby, so needless to say, the table conversation was about Guatemalan adopted babies for at least fifteen minutes. For these fifteen minutes I kept my head down, and didn’t speak. (more…)

a year-end blessing

This year has been a year of transitions for me. I’ve moved twice, changed jobs, started graduate school, left graduate school, and watched the path of my life change in ways I never would’ve imagined when the year began. This is how life goes, I guess: we think we have it figured out and new things come along and we find ourselves all over again. In the past year I’ve learned that there’s a difference between job and vocation. I’ve been reminded that no one really has it figured out, no matter how much it appears that way. I’ve come to appreciate—again—the myriad of opportunities I have in my life, and am continually trying to figure out how to make the most of what I’ve been given.

To all of you, wherever you are and whoever you are, young or old, may the coming year be a year of growth, of challenges, of opportunities. As you celebrate the birth of Christ and enter into the new year, may you find yourself discomforted in ways that move you to work for peace in your own life and in the world. May the light of Christ shine within you and among you. May you find God in unexpected places.

Christmas invitation from Oaxaca, Mexico

For the last three weeks I haven’t been blogging as much because I’ve been doing support work for a Christian Peacemaker Teams emergency accompaniment team in Oaxaca, Mexico. The team of two CPT reservists was invited to Oaxaca because of increasing repression by state and federal police of local people who have been protesting to remove their governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (more on why below). The state government has replied by killing more than 15 Oaxacans and 1 American and imprisoning hundreds of Oaxacans on fabricated charges.

This Christmas, we are inviting you, along with your families and churches to write Christmas and New Years cards of support to the families of those who have been imprisoned. Here’s the story of one of the families:

Bernadita Ortiz Bautista, a 40 year old Mixteca Indigenous woman, was arrested along with her son Alejandro (19) and two of her daughters, Rosalva (12) and Beatriz (14). Rosalva and Beatriz saw the police beat their mother. The Mexican authorities held the children for three days (separately from their mother) before releasing them. They are now at home helping to care for five younger brothers and sisters. Their father, Pablo Ortiz, says he is unable to work, because he needs to be home with the children now that the mother is away. Typical of homes in Campimiento, their one room house is only sixteen feet long and thirteen feet wide.

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Progressive Assumptions and Christian History

The progressive gospel proclaims that even though all history is in shambles, even though all history has been enslaved to enslavement and oppression and violence, we can move beyond. The progressive gospel involves a certain story about history which is a history of violence; we cannot proclaim that history has been really good without also (inadvertently) condoning the injustices we have now overcome, like patriarchy or slavery. Historical heroes are acceptable, abstracted from those moments of overcoming injustice, but history itself is a dangerous source (except for critique). Drawing positively from history reeks of a certain conservatism, a certain reformism, a protection of the status quo, when what we really need is revolution. For it is obvious to us now that the violence comes fundamentally from the system, which has persisted from the very beginning but which we might finally undermine.

A Christian historiography confesses that the Spirit has been at work in the world since the beginning, bringing the body of Christ to perfect discipleship. Where a progressivist history of Christianity knows only several moments—crusades, Inquisition, witch burnings—the church would rightly remember all those hundreds of years between these aberrant disasters. We remember the martyr church of the early centuries, the early fathers attempting to bring an empire (shockingly) claiming to confess Christ into line, the monastic movements being born in the fourth and fifth centuries, the mystical exemplars of the late millennium, the Franciscan and Dominican mendicant movements of protest against an emerging pre-industrialist economy… we can go on and on. Sinlessness the church does not claim for herself—but she is a body marked by gratitude and praise and so marked by a surprising and resourceful moral creativity. The church readily and with much thanksgiving roots herself in her own history, because we believe that this is the cloud of witnesses that will point us towards the crucified Lord of history. What progressives know as the ever-violent system, the church proclaims is the old age of death and violence, and that Jesus has begun a new age of life in his resurrection over death. Here is the real hero of overcoming injustice. (more…)

Pax Mennonita via Flexible Pacifism

It was with much excitement that I read the most recent MCC Peace Office Newsletter (Vol. 36, No. 4), entitled “How do we Protect, Responsibly.” The World Council of Churches had met and released a statement on the “Responsibility to Protect,” hereafter to be referred to by its catch acronym: R2P.

Such Mennonite notables as Mennonite World Conference president Nancy Heisey, German Association of Mennonite Congregations vice-president Fernando Enns, and MCC International Peace Office co-directors Robert Herr and Judy Zimmerman Herr seem to be in favor of said statement, which offers amazing ideas for the current Decade to Overcome Violence. One of these ideas happens to be violence, but we’re going to call it something else: “flexible pacifism.”

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Surrender

“We cannot rest content in ourselves. In the elements and experiences of our life, to which we give meaning, we do not find satisfying light and protective security. We only find these things in the intangible mystery that overshadows our heart from the first day of our lives, awakening questions and wonderment and luring us beyond ourselves. We surrender ourselves to this mystery, as a person in love surrenders to the mystery of the beloved and there finds rest. We are creatures whose being is sheltered and protected only insofar as we open ourselves up to intangible, greater realities. We are at peace in the open, unconquered precincts of mystery.”

~Johannes Baptist Metz, “Poverty of Spirit”

Looking for youth to blog on peace and justice

I got this from Susan Mark Landis, Peace Advocate of Mennonite Church USA, today. Thought I would put it out there…

Friends,
Sometime early next year, my office will be sending postcards to
Mennonite youth in high school, encouraging them to
Choose life!

(If you go to a Mennonite congregation that has given addresses of youth
to the Mennonite Education Agency, your youth will receive the postcard.
If not, you may send names/addresses to LisaA at Mennoniteusa dot org and she
will do a special mailing. The postcard is intended for Mennonite youth,
but we’re glad to send it to high schoolers from other denominations.)

The postcard will refer youth to a NEW! webpage for youth, about peace.
We’re looking for several youth who are articulate, willing to have
their words looked over before posting (it IS a church website),
thinking about peacemaking and willing to write at least weekly. As I
understand, this is called a blog.

Please talk to youth you would recommend and have them send me a note
expressing their interest, telling me what they would write about, how
they feel about the idea. (do NOT click return, please):
SusanML at MennoniteUSA dot org

Peace,
Susan

Help thou my unbelief

I know a woman who has Stage 4 lung cancer. It spread to her brain and to her liver before it was discovered. She is now in the process of chemo and radiation.

She has two young sons and a husband. She’s only 40 years old.

This is not fair.

Of course it isn’t. And it never has been. Any time parents get cancer, or children die before their parents, or grandparents die before they can know their grandchildren it’s not fair. Some people cite this as a reason not to believe in God. Such a screwed-up, unfair world cannot possibly be under the control of a loving God, can it? (more…)

Join the conversation! how do Conservative and Progressive Mennonites present a compelling vision of Anabaptism together?

Anabaptism is cool. There’s no denying it. In this ultra-exciting age of the emerging movement, post-modern transition, and a change of scenery in the American church, buzzwords such as “reformation”, “contemporary”, and “social justice” have crept into the church’s vocabulary. Is Anabaptism just another one of these words that sounds cool but is hard to define or flesh out in every day living?

I wondered these things since early childhood—and I was a child raised in an “Anabaptist” environment. I soon found out that Anabaptism means different things to different people—and not only that, but their view of Anabaptism often influences their view on church and Christianity.

To the “old-orders”, who proudly trace their roots to the first Anabaptist reformers, Anabaptism is a way of life, a frozen set of traditions and doctrines. They sincerely hold on to certain traditions simply “that’s how the early Anabaptists did it”. Only they don’t say it in quite that way. It usually comes across as “that’s how we’ve always done it” to people who may be disgruntled with the traditionalism and culture of the still relatively strict and conservative groups of Amish, Mennonites, Brethren and Hutterites. (more…)

Response to MJS on Coverings and Conservative Mennonites

A few days ago, a woman named MJS replied to a comment by Brian on a post by Laura in which he said, “I’m going to go out on a limb and actually advocate a return of head coverings for women and plain coats for men.” Although he went on to suggest he was mostly joking, MJS says, “let me assure you that being stuck in a conservative setting & being treated like an archaic museum piece everywhere you go is NOT a picnic–it feels more like a prison.” MJS goes on to describe the negative reaction of family and friends at the thought of her not wearing a covering. To those of us who grew up in more liberal communiites, she says “Consider yourselves fortunate that you don’t have to deal with the huge cultural divide between conservative Mennonites & others. It stares me in the face every day.” (more…)

Enculturation?

In some recent research that I’ve done over the past semester of school, I’ve come across some things that have really interested me regarding the early church versus our political situation today.

This all stems out of a paper by Ted Grimsrud entitled “From pacifism to the just war: the development of early Christian thought on war and peace.” The title is really pretty self-explanatory. Grimsrud claims (and I’m inclined to believe him, since he’s way smarter than I am) that the early church writers advocated a completely pacifist lifestyle. This held until the century leading up to Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as Rome’s state religion. The gradual enculturation of the church forced the development of theologies that treat violence, specifically state-endorsed warfare, as acceptable. Since the church was Rome’s religion, it had to be able to excuse Rome’s actions. (more…)

Things we don’t say

I’ve been thinking about things we think but don’t say because we’re still afraid to challenge some parts of the status quo publically and out loud. By “we,” I mean people in general but especially those of us of a more progressive or even radical persuasion. I feel there is a certain amount of self-censorship among us because sometimes if we said what we really think, it might prove all of conservative’s worst fears about us. It may also be that we don’t feel like getting into a big annoying discussion that will really just go around in circles and would be easier to not have. Have you ever tried to explain your faith or politics to someone in your second or third language? It gets confused and difficult and it is easier to talk about the weather because that is what they taught us in high school language class. That is what it seems like to me. (more…)

The God of Coincidence

It seems to me that church folk talk a lot about God doing this or that in our lives, and rightly so I guess. “God told me this or has been telling me that”, is a common utterance, but I’ve been avoiding that terminology for some time now. I guess I am uncomfortable with this assertion at times. Please don’t get me wrong, it is not my intent to discourage anyone who uses these expressions or to imply that they are wrong to do so. Nor am I calling God’s existence or presence into question. I am only expressing my own doubt or lack of understanding in the matter. My questions are of free will, and Divine orchestration. Good stuff happens to bad people and bad stuff happens too good people and vice versa and none of us can predict it consistently. (more…)

Intro to Tom

I have always been wary about getting involved with internet forums, chat rooms, blogs and the like, but here I am. My name is Tom (or Thomas) Dunn, I am a recent graduate of Bluffton University and am currently the youth pastor at Kidron Mennonite in Kidron, Ohio. I have heard about YAR from a number of different places, but most recently was reminded of it by Becca, who was home and at church a couple of Sundays ago. She said she had some poetry on the site about Mennonite sermons, and since I had just given a Mennonite sermon that particular morning, I thought it would be worth my while to read these poems. I read them, and they are good, but I didn’t stop there. I continued to read through many of the various post on YAR and my interest has been sparked.

As I said earlier, I am still wary about posting things on the internet. I’m not sure if it is just me being old fashioned, or the fear of becoming addicted to this and then getting a my space page, a face book page (I actually do have a facebook page, but my room mate from college set it up), and spend all my time blogging and networking over the web. But even deeper than this, I think I have a fear of my virtual self—who will I be on the pages of YAR? Will I still be Tom Dunn or will I become something I’m not. Will I get caught up in projecting myself as an intellectual, intelligent, educated, open-minded, globally aware young anabaptist radical, or can I just be myself? Is it possible to be yourself on the internet? Well, as you may have gathered since you are currently reading all this over the internet, I have decided to post here on YAR, and spark the beginning of my virtual self.

Wealth: A Mennonite’s experience in London

Pedestrians on the London Bridge during the evening commute out of the City of London

I’ve always known I’ve had a problem with The Rich. I had a bias against The Rich for a long time. It also took me a while to notice I was one of them. I had expected to have inner conflicts by traveling to “third-world” countries (low life expectancy, low standard of living, low literacy rates, high poverty) and being faced with extreme poverty – not only an opposite lifestyle than I was used to, but also a lifestyle that was in direct relationship with my lifestyle : my demands had caused their poverty.

I’ve also known that Mennonites have appeared to favor missions and outreach to places with high levels of poverty and have had few resources to spend for missions and outreach to the upper echelons of society. I knew for this reason that living in one of the highest affluent areas in London could prove interesting as a missionary. I hadn’t, however, expected inner conflicts and deep moments of pain and sorrow as a result.

Have you tried living in the world’s most expensive city while having a deep theological and personal foundation of identity in walking with and learning from the Poor of the earth? It’s trying and tiring. (more…)