Monthly Archive: February 2007

Ins and Outs

It’s a concept I learned in Sociology 101.

To have a group, you’ve got to have a boundary. Something that establishes the “in” from the “out.” What is a group without a clear line of demarcation?

Our church’s lines of demarcation used to be coverings, plain coats, black cars, no TV, etc., etc. Lots of time spent on who was in and who was out, and what defined separation from the world.

It’s not a conversation we have much anymore, but one I feel like we’ve got to have if we’re going to survive as a group. Are there new ways we can define what makes us counter-cultural? Things like the way we spend our money, the way we react to violence, the way we welcome and forgive and share grace . . . but these things are much harder to measure than whether or not someone is wearing her covering. And grace and forgiveness are not the same as apathy and tolerance, but they often look alike.

So what can we offer that is different than what our prevailing culture offers? Do we care enough to do that? And how do we do it without getting wrapped up in legalism?

Just stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides

This week I watched Hotel Rwanda and The Ground Truth. Both films deeply moved me and I highly recommend them to all of you.

Cover of Passage by Andy GoldsworthyBut sometimes I get tired of writing about politics and all that’s broken in the world. So instead I’m writing about Rivers and Tides, a documentary I just watched about Andy Goldsworthy, a British artist whose medium and gallery is nature. He uses rocks, ice, leaves, snow, grasses, flower petals, iron pigment and other found elements to create works that are often transient – washed away, melted or blown into air. The only record of his works are the photographs he takes and shares through books such as Passage (cover right).

The documentary follows his creative process from a beach in Nova Scotia to the meadows of Scotland where he lives. Although I’d enjoyed his photo books before, listening to him talk about his work gave me a whole new respect for his work. He is not just an experimental postmodernist with a clever idea. His vision is rooted in place and time. Like Wendell Berry he is an artist who has discovered the importance of going back to the land and staying put. He talks of the changes he’s seen in the village where he and his family have lived for 12 years: the births, but also the deaths. This appreciation for the process of change is central to his work. (more…)

Anabaptist Radical Needed as Military Counselor in Germany

I’ve spent the last two years doing a job I love, working with American servicemembers who have been changed by their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way that the Pentagon technically has the right to extend a soldier’s active-duty service indefinitely during a time of war, so too do these soldiers have a right to get out early in certain situations. And war has the power to transform people. That’s where a military counselor comes in.

In a time when peace churches are having a hard time finding ways to be proactive in response to our country’s wars, this work gives us just that opportunity. More than protest, more than letter-writing, more than being “against stuff.” We can do better by providing alternatives.

In this position, you’ll learn to understand military law, military culture, and what’s really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. There will also be opportunities to travel in the US and Europe to speak about issues of war and peace, explain what servicemembers who have been in the war actually say about it, and bring the Christian peace witness into the international debate. In the years I’ve worked in this capacity, I’ve had the opportunity to speak in dozens of venues in the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Holland, and Israel/Palestine.

For more information, read the attached documents or e-mail me at mcn@dmfk.de. I’m sorry to be leaving the job, but it’s a great opportunity for someone to bring in fresh ideas and perspective. Feel free to pass this info on to other people who might be interested. For more information about the organization, check out www.mc-network.de.

Introduction, and an offer (or request)

Hi,

My name is Will Fitzgerald, and I am not very young (anyone with an AARP card is clearly past prime), so I won’t post beyond this one time. But I’m Mennonite enough, and maybe just radical enough, to have enjoyed YAR for a while.

Recently, my wife and I, our daughter (14, definitely a YA, and we’re working on her R’ness) and another person started a house church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, associated with the Mennonite Church, although we are by no means a typical ‘church plant.’ You can read a bit about our church at kmenno.org. It’s not unreasonable to think of this as an ’emerging church.’

I’ve also been writing, as a spiritual discipline, a short online commentary on the Third Way daily Sip of Scripture for about a year. Soon, though (around the end of the month) I’m going to move from writing this daily to less often–maybe once or twice a week. The site is called “a simple desire,” and I’m co-writing it currently with John Thomas, from Maine. A third person, Carole Boshart, from Washington state, will be joining us at the end of the month.
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Joy that has a Serious History

(I originally emailed this in some form to some YARites, and TimN, kind soul that he is, suggested that I post here. So here we are, I apologize for the length.)

Part 1: The Introduction

Despite being a member of the Original cast, I have remained in the shadows, a lurker, secretly, greedily taking your thoughts and keeping them, without so much as an insightful comment, an empathetic pat, or a hearty guffaw. But today I join the ranks of YAR, and walk anew into the light!

So, I’m Paco, a friend of TimN. There were some legit reasons for not posting before. For instance, I was living in Afghanistan for more than half of the last two years. But now I am in Korea which is like the internet capital of the world, so there aren’t as many excuses left available to me.

But enough of that, the reason I am posting, aside from merely getting one in, is to introduce this virtual community to my physical one, and introduce myself here, in hopes to meet some of you in person, when I return to tour the US in about a month. (more…)

Introduction, confession and questions

Do I qualify as a YAR? I’m not quite sure. I have the A – I feel strongly about the Anabaptist vision and have committed myself to working for three Mennonite institutions during my thus-far career. But young? Who knows, anymore. At the last church-wide convention, where I went as part of my job, I was turned away by the big biceps at the front desk for having already (if barely) eclipsed the 30 threshold.

I’m Ryan Miller. I write. I take photos. I think about ways to communicate within the church and outside of church structures. I’ve worked for Mennonite Mission Network for the last two-and-one-half years, which puts me in the midst of a church structure – a job that can offer ascending stories of inspiration . Does that leave any room for radical? And do I define radical in terms of conceptual theology or as an action-based, lived-out, grit-under-toenails type of Christianity that not only identifies with the poor and oppressed, but goes out of its way to address their needs.

So I’m not sure if I fit here. And that’s not the confession. (more…)

Our Scapegoating Nature

Jesus came, in part, to stop scapegoating. He used his harshest words on religious leaders of his day, who used their status to come down on other people. The Parisees, for instance, blamed the poor and the “sinners” (whomever they deemed as such) for the Roman occupation, while they claimed to be pure. Jesus’ death, furthermore, was the ultimate rejection of scapegoating: rather than let one group be blamed for it, the Bible clearly indicates that we all bear guilt for Jesus’ suffering and death– every last one of us. No one is left out, so there we cannot say, “it was the Romans!” or “it was the Jews!”

But even though Jesus and the subsequent apostles put a stake through the heart of scapegoating, it has taken Christians far longer to catch on. We still do it. Whatever the problem, you can be sure that one Christian group or another (or one secular group or another, for that matter) will find someone else to blame. I do this sometimes, and so do all of us. But we need to begin looking past our scapegoating nature and look first at the “log” that is in our own eye. (more…)

Saint Agatha

[Icon of Saint Agatha] In the middle of the third century, Emperor Decius of Rome announced an edict against the Christians, the most ruthlessly violent yet. Senator Quintianus, seeing an opportunity, offered to drop charges against one particularly beautiful Christian woman, a virgin, in exchange for sexual favors. When she refused, he sold her to a brothel to break her—but she managed to stave off ‘customers’ there as well. Furious, Quintianus subjected her to savage torture and sexual mutilation; her breasts were cut off and she was rolled on burning coals. “Cruel man,” she cried, “have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” In a vision, St Peter appeared to take away her pain. She was near death when an earthquake struck the city and drove away her tormentors. She thanked God for an end to this terror, for the patience to suffer for the sake of Christ, and gave up her spirit.

Today, February 5, is the feast day of Saint Agatha, whose story has been told since the early days of the church. Pray to her for the protection and deliverance of women everywhere who suffer from abuse, rape, and every manner of sexual offense.

“Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am—you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.” —Saint Agatha

Men Challenging Patriarchy in the Church?

Maybe I should explain where I’m coming from. For a while now I’ve been struggling personally with how to deal with patriarchy in the church – most specifically male language for God, the male images of God I can’t seem to get rid of, and views about sexuality from the church and the Bible that seem to vastly over-represent the experience of men. I’ve been reading Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissent Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from the Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, which has very beneficial in helping me see things like the workings of male dominance and how one woman responds. But as Monk Kidd notes in the book, it seems that for those who have grown up male, the process of challenging patriarchy in our spiritual lives is distinctly different than for those who have grown up female. There may, of course be some overlap, but Monk Kidd suggests that perhaps the journey for the latter category is toward recovering the self, and the former toward humility. So I’m looking for some role models, men who’ve thought deeply and tried to act and live in new ways – because I think men fighting patriarchy has to have a different slant to it than when women do.

For comparison, reading Tim Wise’s eye-opening and personal insights in White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, gave me an idea of what it can look like act as a conscientious white person attempting to be anti-racist. And in that vein, I’m wondering if other folks are aware of well-grounded stories of men writing about what it’s like to confront patriarchy in the church and their personal spiritual lives (preferably confronting heterosexism too, but such texts might be few and far between). I’m interested in male feminist theologians too, but the details of day-to-day life and church seem more pressing to me at the moment. So, recommendations?

The Church of Football

I’m not much of a football fan–I went to a Mennonite high school, so I never really learned enough to fully appreciate the sport, and my Super Bowl tradition consists of rooting for whoever everyone tells me is the underdog and making sure I’m around when the commercials are on. I am, however, slightly fascinated by the role that professional sports (and athletes) play in our culture. It’s a civil religion I’ve participated in on rare occasion; mostly I just observe from the sidelines.

Robert Lipsyte, writing in The Nation, makes several correlations between Christianity and football, including sainthood and the variety of ways in which it is experienced:

Given the chance, I’d watch the Super Bowl with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who knows about Baal and ball. Twenty years ago, in Lynchburg, Virginia, at a Liberty University Flames game, Dr. Falwell told me: “Jesus was no sissy. He was tough, he was a he-man. If he played football, you’d be slow getting up after he tackled you.”

He had me at “sissy.” The rest was revelation. The muscularity of Dr. Falwell’s evangelical Christianity was a perfect fit with football, another win-or-lose game. For Americans, war hasn’t produced a real winner for more than 60 years. That’s why we need football. But let’s get back to Dr. Falwell. “My respect for Catholicism and Mormonism goes straight up watching Notre Dame and Brigham Young play,” he told me. He hoped that, someday, Notre Dame and Liberty, his evangelical college, would meet for the national championship, thus informing the nation that “the Christians are here, we’re not meek and we’re not going to fall down in front of you. We’re here to stay.”

While we wait for his Holy Bowl to show us how to kick the other cheek, we do have the gospels, saints, and rituals of the Super Bowl, arguably the holiest day of the American calendar. Nothing in sports draws us together as surely–not elections, the Academy Awards, disasters, terrorist acts, or celebrity deaths. The Super Bowl is a melting pot hot enough for atheists, Sodomites, and Teletubbies to become one with the Saved, if only for a single Sunday. But that’s a start.

You can find the rest of the article here. Enjoy the game.

In a different spirit

I wrote this yesterday before I read Angie’s post. Her thoughts on Dorothy Day and the church reflect very well my own thoughts. While Angie’s post is thoughtful, mine is angry. Maybe in a few days, I can manage thoughtful but for now, this is what I’ve got:

A Little Stunned

A couple days ago, as I was skimming through the Mennonite Weekly Review. I noticed this item on the front page. My immediate response was to roll my eyes and think, “well, they would wouldn’t they?” and I went on with my day. Now, the more I think about it, the saltier I get. Carol Oberholtzer, the chair of the conference’s Women in Leadership Subcommittee, said she “was a little stunned.” Well, I guess so. I mean, this is 2007, and they are having a vote on whether women can be ordained? LGBT people don’t have a chance there. Here’s what I have to say to all those “credentialed leaders” who took that vote: “well done, the church will be better for it.” No, I’m not just blaming the minority that voted against women and justice but all of them, and the rest of the Mennonite Church with them. (more…)

Split Youth in the Southern Cone

Bouncing directly from Angie’s latest post… always got to give a shout-out to Dorothy! But Last week the passion for exclusion came not from the institution, but from the people themselves, YOUNG people, and a student in seminary…

At the Southern Cone Mennonite Anabaptist meetings in Uruguay last week, there was a large division among the Chilean, Argentinean, Paraguan and Uruguayan youth about what was important about church and our lives as Christians. After a large time of dialogue together as young people, a small group of youth got together and wrote a letter (which was read in front of the whole assembly) about the fact that they were worried about a few themes (of the many that were mentioned in the youth meeting and throughout the conference). They took an anti-dialogue stance towards the mention of issues such as homosexuality, abortion, sex before marriage, and referring to God as Mother and Father/inclusive language. In the letter they invited everyone to do further study of the bible so that it is clear that all these practices are sin and they condemned anyone who practices or teaches these things. (more…)