Monthly Archive: January 2007

Wisdom from a Catholic Radical

Dorothy Day started the Catholic Worker Movement, which is most known for the Houses of Hospitality (www.catholicworker.org/) She ran with Eugene Debs, Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket martyrs and other IWW’s (Industrial Workers of the World). She witnessed the framing and killing of dear friends during the frenzy of the red scare. As an atheist, she also got burned out fast. Her conversion came as a result of 30 days of solitary confinement for a hunger strike, leading her, eventually to the Catholic Church.

She came to embody a radicalism that was sustained and founded on orthodoxy and love for the Church, one that inspires and gives me hope today. It was precisely her love for the church that fueled her desire to change the Church. And when I come to places where I am burned and frustrated with the Institution, with decisions like the one made recently in the Lancaster Conference to deny women ordination–decisions that deny imago Dei, that deny humanity to God’s children, I turn to the authentic voices of people like Day. And I am able to rejoice once more in this life, I am able to hope once more, and I am called once again not to leave, but to remain–I am reminded that my love for the Church only intensifies the pain of exclusion and injustice carried out in the scandals of the church. The Church is indeed that which brings “Christ to humanity…enabling us to put on Christ and to achieve more nearly in the world a sense of peace and unity.” (more…)

Church and Young Adults

Young adults and church: I have had this conversation with way to many people way to many times. Everyone wants to know why the young adult (18-?) population is so small in churches, and everyone seems to have a different opinion about this, especially young adults. As much as I don’t want to start up the cyclical, never-ending and frustrating discussion, it has been on my mind a lot lately so I am going to spill my guts onto your computer screen. Enjoy. (more…)

A Different Approach to Apologetics

With apologies to popular apologetics today, I have never found them as helpful as they claim to be. From what I have seen, they attempt through proofs and logic to prove that Christianity is the best and most reasonable religion, and that the Bible is the only and most perfect holy book. There is a place for all of this, of course; having logical reason to see the Bible as true is essential to helping the Christian witness. But insofar as the discipline of apologetics have presented Christianity as a religion, I have not found it satisfying.

Recently, though, I have been reading an interpretation of René Girard’s theories by Gil Bailie, and suddenly it made so much more sense. Bailie gives a Christian apologetic by presenting the gospel of Christ as the thing that came from Heaven to destroy religion, not simply another religion. Here is a rough summary of some of Bailie’s argument: (more…)

Who is our enemy?

This morning a friend sent me a link to an insightful article by Glenn Kessler in today’s Washington post. Kessler focuses on the underlying doublespeak behind the way Bush uses the terms “free”, “moderate” and “terrorist”. While we’re all used to Bush’s buzz words, this article sharply tears away the veil to reveal just how untrue the president’s words are.

Yet Kessler doesn’t resort to to black and white truisms that mirror those of Bush. Instead, he lets the gray areas speak for themselves. First he points out that, despite Bush’s claim that “free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance”:

In the two of the most liberal and diverse societies in the Middle East — Lebanon and the Palestinian territories — events have undercut Bush’s argument in the past year. Hezbollah has gained power and strength in Lebanon, partly at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Palestinians ousted the Fatah party — which wants to pursue peace with Israel — from the legislature in favor of Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction and is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

He also points out that the countries Bush describes as “moderate” such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia rank about the same as Cuba and Burma on the Freedom House rating scale (see links above for their respective ratings).

As Christians, this question of who is our enemy has a special importance because these are the people Jesus calls us to love. (more…)

Introducing the Anabaptist Network

In his post on January 20th, Benjamin Anderson asked for ways we could act on the ideas and values discussed on this blog. Here’s one suggestion: the Anabaptist Network.

In the last few months, I’ve posted some information about a developing networking project aimed at helping Mennonite young adults (a generally transient group) to better connect with each other and with the broader church. We’re starting with a group on Facebook (yes, Facebook) and exploring the idea of a web site, as well. If you have a Facebook page, come find us, and if you don’t, just know that you no longer need an email address with “.edu” in it to sign up for Facebook. We have no idea where it will go, but the project is building on the frustration of talking so much about issues within the church without any tangible ways to address those frustrations. We’re trying.

Hospitality

Christian hospitality is not simply good manners, it is an entire way of encountering strangers: receiving them as Christ, as St Benedict says. It takes a peculiar imagination, of course, to hear a knock on the door and know it to be Christ—an imagination rooted in prayer, in a person who knows the hospitality of the God who welcomes truly, even up into his own trinitarian life. So Christian hospitality, as mutual reverence, has a profound contemplative dimension. (Which is also why, for St Benedict, guests cannot linger indefinitely. There must be space for silence.) And Christian hospitality does not require a home or a table or an abundance of food, since it is primarily an open invitation to enter into life together.

What’s Next?

I really enjoy YAR. There are great discussions about great things here, they are intriguing and they make us think. But what’s next. Do we just continue to talk about these things and hope that some day our churches and our communities will change? Or do we do something. I would love it if we could start discussions about practical ways in which we can do these things we have discussed. But of course, not stop there implement these things in our churches and communities and then report back on YAR how God is working. In this way we can honor our heritage as radical Anabaptists and continue to reform the church in the 21st century.

Mimesis in Violence

One thing I have been studying recently is the nature of violence to be mimetic, which refers to the human propensity to immitate others, espeically if we’re in a society permeated by certain types of actions or beliefs.

With regards to violence in our society, mimesis works most commonly by making violence contagious. The belief in violence and force is immitated from the halls of Congress to the street corner, from the abortion clinic to the execution chamber. It spreads like a disease up and down, infecting every echelon of society. The result is that people in our culture grow up socialized to believe in the effectiveness of violence, as well as having faith in individualism, greed, and upward mobility– even if it means stepping on others in the process.

For instance, we have politicians who advocate war against adversaries in so many circumstances. Force, for them, is a primary way of getting things done. But then those same politicians grope for answers when dealing with the murder rate or the prevalence of school shootings. The usual suspects are mentioned: Marilyn Manson, violent video games, the like. It seems to rarely, if ever, occur to these national leaders that maybe their own actions have something to do with it all.

That is a central reason why, I believe, our society has such a problem with violence on so many levels. We immitate it without even trying to. We believe in it wholeheartedly. So if we ever want to lower our murder or abortion rate, we must take a holistic look at our violence problem in this society; we cannot tackle one problem as if it were isolated.

Luckily for those of us who are Christians, there is something else that purports to be contagious: the Kingdom of God and its ethics. Jesus spoke of His Kingdom as yeast or as a mustard seed, which both start small but subtly permeate everything. So we need not fear the violence in our society, and realize that Jesus has something that is much more powerful. All we need is faith to believe it will work.

Jerry Jenkins

My intention in joining YAR was not to use the rest of you members as my moral sounding board for difficult questions that I am dealing with in my life, but this is what two of my three posts have turned out to be. I’ll try to make my next post more heady and intellectual, but I think you should enjoy the predicament that I will lay out here.

As my first biographical entry said, I am a youth pastor in a Mennonite church. Being a staff member I get to sit in on the elders (the power-players of the church) meetings and occasionally throw my two cents into the discussion. In our last meeting, we had a decision to make, that was somewhat exciting and completely uncomfortable. This is what we had to work with: There is a member of our church (who happens to be my dad) that owns a large Christian giftware manufacturing business that distributes product nationally and globally. Every March this man has a “Dealer’s Conference” where he invites every retailer who sells his product to come and see the manufacturing plant, buy more of his product, see the local Amish population, and overall does his best to express his gratitude and keep his customers happy. A big part of this conference is bringing in a big name speaker to inspire those who come to the conference and the speech is given in our church. This year, the speaker coming to give the inspirational message is Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series. (more…)

living tribute

I learned of Martin Luther King, the hero of the Civil Rights Movement, in school.
I learned of Martin Luther King, the peacemaker, at church.

In both cases I learned about King as an icon. He was like an angel-man, superhuman. King became a real person when I moved to Atlanta.

It was a fall from a pedestal of sorts, when I learned about all of the trials, the fractures, the tribulations, the anguish, and the arguments that went on behind the scenes of the marches and the committee meetings. To listen to lectures by the veterans of the movement, (Former Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery, R. D. Abernathy, Rev. James Orange) all still involved, but some bitter, some who have appropriated the movement…whew! I learned about the hundreds of sidelined and under-recognized women who laid the groundwork for so many of the church meetings, boycotts, and potlucks (Septima Clark, Montgomery Women’s Council, Ella Baker, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson). Most of all, when I saw the struggle of his immediate family to know how to live out the legacy of the father they lost when they were young children, it all became so tangible. (more…)

generic anabaptism and postmodernism

I’ve been reading DreamSeeker Magazine for a few years now, and was struck by two articles in the most recent issue. DreamSeeker is published and edited by Michael A. King, of Telford, Pennsylvania (he’s also the pastor of Spring Mount Mennonite Church). The mission statement says DreamSeeker is “dedicated to publishing ‘voices from the soul,’ meaning writers aching to share passionate and personal dreams of how the void has been or could be shaped into a new creation.” It features predominately Mennonite voices, but stretches the definition of such.

The first article, found here, is entitled “At the End of Ethnic Mennonite Life” and is by Michael King himself. It touches on the cultural expressions of Mennonite faith versus the spiritual practices and the tension sometimes inherent in that.

The second article is entitled “Cultural Agoraphobia: Why Young Postmodern Mennonites Struggle to Follow or Lead,” by David Landis. He writes of the incredible number of options available to young adults and how quickly it can overwhelm, saying “The trick to countering this paralysis is to name the power we have in a way that allows us to trust ourselves and others as leaders. Although this seems like an obvious statement, it’s one I have seen Mennonites and sometimes other Christians hesitant to embrace. Postmodern culture’s default setting seems to be doing a good job at encouraging engagement, but it doesn’t seem to be naturally promoting empowerment.”