R?

There has been some concern about the Y in our name being exclusive to aging Anabaptist Radicals. Of course, all three of the letters are meant to narrow down the target contributers. Interesting to me is the breakdown of how much we care about each letter. According to an earlier poll, we care most about the A, quite a bit less about the R, and almost not at all about the Y.

There’s a lot of talk on here about being Anabaptist. As that is what differentiates us from all the other young radical blogs out there, I won’t act too surprised. But I am a little surprised. The R seems fairly central to why this blog exists. Or am I wrong? As a founder, I know that was a main reason for starting it – a forum for radicals among the Anabaptists. The Y and A were more descriptive of ourselves and our context (we were all young Anabaptists) than purpose in my mind.

What about that R? Does it matter to you? Are you radical? What makes you radical? Would you join a YAM for moderates or a YAC for conservatives? Do you care?

Comments (13)

  1. Trini

    Well besides the fact that Yams are a type of ground provision eaten by people in different parts of the world, and Yacs sounds like an bovine roaming the Himalayas.. I’d have no problem with those two.

    On a more serious note, Radical means ‘arising from the root’ from the radix. I would like to think that the root we’re talking about is mere Christianity here, and radical might seem different but is always connected to the root, not always in the status-quo sense of things however. The Y (young) I think we can ditch…

    Then we’d be ‘We are AR’… AR we?

    Reply
  2. folknotions

    I think asking a question of what is most important to you, being young, being anabaptist, or being a radical, clearly the most important there would be the Anabaptist element.

    Radical tends to be applied depending on where your critical lens is (my girlfriend thought when I said I joined an Anabaptist radicals blog that I was going in the direction of her grandparents who wear prayer caps and only black cars and don’t vote).

    Young. Whether or not I’m young (and again, this is relative) is less important to me than my faith in Jesus Christ and his teaching and message of complete nonviolence.

    Plenty of young radical sites around. Go to crimethinc.com, indymedia.org, jesus radicals, anarchist people of color……ad nauseum.

    Plenty of old radicals too. I think of Old Reds personally, who think everything is class war.

    Not so many Anabaptists. Not so many young Anabaptists. Even less Young Anabaptist Radicals.

    MCUSA acknowledges that this is an aging church. It has been unable to bridge a gap between conservatism in our faith and newer, younger, and sometimes more radical voices.

    Hence, a blog for YOUNG ANABAPTIST RADICALS (all three) might be a good place for folks in MCUSA to swing by from time to time to learn about what the heck is going on with the youth. And to be reminded that our faith is a radical faith.

    Conservatism looks towards tradition. Wearing prayer caps, driving certain cars, not voting, eating certain food, women doing this work and men doing that work because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

    Radicalism looks to the root. The root of the teaching was nonresistance but noncompliance; bravery and strength not complacency and acquiescence.

    the young anabaptist radicals have a message for our church, a message which is being overlooked. If older folks want to participate I invite them to. But it must be understood that young adults in the church are seriously lacking in outlets for expression in this church, which may be a reason why they are moving away.

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  3. Katie

    To illustrate folknotions point about the aging MCUSA a little bit…thanks to a survey recently done by Conrad Kanagy about the Mennonite Church: 30% of Mennonites surveyed were between the ages of 18 and 45. This is a pretty big age group that the church is rather worried about. The church is perplexed as to where they (we) are.

    Well, from our survey, it looks like they (we) are here at YAR. As of our 42nd vote, 91% of those surveyed on the YAR blog are between 18 and 45.

    So, yes, folknotions, it seems you are correct. It might be worth it for MCUSA folks who are worried about the aging church to swing by every now and then.

    Just a little illustration of why this is YAR instead of AR.

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  4. Maria

    While we don’t flat out say it a whole lot, I think the R is pretty important to this blog, too. A lot of comments on here are not exactly mainstream Anabaptist. there has been significant conversation about inclusion of the GLBT community, for example (not to mention breaking off from the church, which is even more radical a suggestion). To people who make suggestions such as these they may seem fairly average, but we have to remember that part of the church is still struggling with the idea of women in ministry. To me, we count as Radical Anabaptists.

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  5. jdaniel

    I like what folknotions has to say.

    Conservatism looks towards tradition. Wearing prayer caps, driving certain cars, not voting, eating certain food, women doing this work and men doing that work because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

    Radicalism looks to the root. The root of the teaching was nonresistance but noncompliance; bravery and strength not complacency and acquiescence.

    The point for me is not so much to be a self-proclaimed radical, but to live and think honestly; to challenge ways of thinking/doing/being and to be challenged myself.

    For me the root of the matter is to take our faith in God and commitment to the way of Jesus seriously enough to pay more than lip service. I don’t think the early Anabaptists set out to be called ‘radical’ – but what they did was radical – and that is exactly what folknotions is talking about, I think.

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  6. eric (Post author)

    Just to be clear: this was an honest question, not an accusation. Do you see yourself as radical and how? Is being radical important to you?

    Some good responses so far, keep ‘em coming.

    When I think “radical” I don’t think “root,” but it is an interesting piece of nomenclature. Do others think of radical this way?

    Why I was surprised:

    Anabaptist, to me, is a cool word that stems from a sometimes spot-on and sometimes questionable movement (unlike most movements). My beliefs are shaped by growing up in an Anabaptist context, and I love claiming a historic peace church, but beyond that… Why should my belief in Jesus necessarily make ‘Anabaptist’ an important identifier for me?

    I do see faith as rooted in community, but I think of that in even more local terms than a historic collection of various international denominations. I also think of it in broader terms than a church building. Anabaptist is part of my heritage, and it’s influence is great, but it doesn’t define me.

    Young is not something I care much about one way or the other.

    Which leaves radical. My faith is rooted in the creativity and growth, moving forward, loving, learning and changing. I believe in making mistakes for the sake of progress and a better world for everyone. I believe Jesus called us to be radical, to question assumptions and challenge the status quo. Yes, even change for the sake of change. Because it is always a good idea to be reflecting and re-questioning your assumptions.

    I guess “root” is in there: I believe in addressing things at their root. The dictionary calls this “thorough or complete reform” as a definition of radical.

    My faith doesn’t call me to be Anabaptist. My faith does call me to be radical. That is the more important term for me. Does anyone else associate with that?

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  7. Katie

    I feel like my Anabaptist informs my radical and my radical informs my Anabaptist. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. Like Eric, I don’t usually think of roots but I guess I could make that stretch. I connect the Anabaptist history I learned as I was growing up with a radical faith that questioned the status quo. The roots I learned about growing up were non-conformist, brave, radical, creative, peaceniks. Maybe it is all a myth now seen through the lens of my own radical faith.

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  8. benjamin.paul

    I resonate with eric’s post (#6) in which he says “My faith doesn’t call me to be Anabaptist. My faith does call me to be radical. That is the more important term for me. Does anyone else associate with that?”

    I can be accurately labeled both “young” and “anabaptist.” But for me, both of these categories merely reflect an historical reality; they do not express the roots of my faith. For me, the importance of radical Christian discipleship is its constant call to challenge the status quo and work for justice. This can lead to disagreement, but I (again like eric) question whether we should cling to unity at the expense of justice. Faith means justice–encountering the incarnated Christ in the daily struggles of the oppressed. So where does that leave a church that ignores fundamental justice issues (such as violence and discrimination based on race, class, gender, sexuality)?

    While “radical” is the most important label for me, I hope that it someday can be dropped. Because , in the words of Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, “by then all theologies will be liberation theologies [radical theologies] in their own way–otherwise they will not be Christian Theologies” (Introducing Liberation Theology, 92).

    Reply
  9. folknotions

    Hmm. Eric makes a good point. I probably would toss the Anabaptist out the window if it stopped remembering what that means. I think the Anabaptist identity for me is rooting it in the first and second generation Anabaptist thought. That is the root.

    For example, when the Hutterites moved into an isolated community of goods, they had a full understanding of what that means and what they would be sacrificing. I think probably now many Hutterites , Amish, and conservative Mennonites continue to practice their particular community traditions because “that’s how it’s always been” and they fear what changing would mean in the eyes of their neighbors.

    There’s much fear there and fear breeds conservatism (and liberalism) rather than a dynamic faith that accepts others as they are but does not subject itself to others in the face of danger.

    How radical would it be if MCUSA finally said “ya know what, Mennonites and Brethren should no longer pay taxes. We are not being good stewards of our money if we continue to fund the government’s sinful actions”. Imagine how many Mennonites would be in jail! But imagine the power of a Christian Witness like that!

    And as Thoreau said, the only place for a just man [sic] in an unjust society is a prison.

    Maybe Anabaptists have gotten too comfortable and its time to shake em up. I think for folks in the church who are much older, many of them won’t accept a lot of things we have to say, it goes against tradition (and I’m sure older folks on this blog know that their radical ideas aren’t well received by their peers). But that’s what it meant to be Anabaptist. It meant being radical, but not for the sake of being RADICAL, but for the sake of remaining faithful.

    Thanks for that Eric, made me think things through a bit more.

    And, too, I think I agree with Katie about the mutually affirming nature of my Anabaptism and Radicalism.

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  10. Brian Hamilton

    ‘R’ is largely irrelevant to me, just because the word is so ambiguous. In your opening post, Eric, you might it sound like radical is equivalent to leftist (not moderate or conservative)–which remains part of an entire system, enlightenment liberalism, that I want to distance myself from (even if, within that system, leftist politics are infinitely more appealing than the other options). If radical, like your dictionary says, means complete and total reform–then complete and total reform of what? If everything, a constant questioning and a constant severing of ourselves from our roots, then I’m not at all radical–I place more trust in the hard-won wisdom of the centuries than in the newborn and still inarticulate musings of a new generation. (Or is it ‘conservative’ to think that our ancestors might have thought through things well and faithfully rather than merely doing everything by rote? Are we the first ones to think?)

    On the other hand, if Christian radicalism means semper reformanda (always reforming) according to the root which is Christ, then I’m on board. This is the only way we could call Jesus a ‘radical’–he neither questioned for the sake of questioning nor changed for the sake of changing but did both according to the law and the prophets, to fulfill the law (not to abolish even a letter!) and call Israel anew to obedience. The faith of the church has one root, Jesus Christ her Lord, who does not change but remains forever constant. If the constancy of Christ makes obvious the endless need for change in ourselves and in our world, it nonetheless marks the one changeless foundation–apart from which every change devolves into degradation.

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  11. benjamin.paul

    Brian,

    The Question: How do you view the “Y” and “A”? How do these categories inform your move toward radicalism as semper reformanda?

    The Tangent: I’m also skeptical about questioning for the sake of questioning. However, there is enough wrong with the systems we’ve inherited that we may never stop the questions and criticisms.

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  12. Skylark

    Like others have said, the definition of radical I use isn’t an opposite to conservative or moderate politics. To me, it just means getting something done in a new way or for new reasons. It conveys an excitement or passion that “young” and “Anabaptist” may not.

    But that only matters if we do more than talk about what we believe. We can write on YAR till Farmer Yoder’s proverbial cows come home, but it means little until we back it up with action and attitude change.

    I had to laugh when I read Trini’s line, “Then we’d be ‘We are AR’… AR we?” because “AR” stands for “animal rights” in other groups in which I circulate.

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  13. Trini

    To refine what I meant about ‘arising from the root’, I didn’t mean stuck in the root. There is a difference.

    So to answer the question: I consider myself a radical in the sense that I, growing up in the world, formed by Evangelical thought, am able to embrace Anabaptist theology as I study it, challenge it and allow it to challenge me. I can’t vote in this country, so if anyone wants to infer liberal biases on me… sorry, you can’t.

    As a man with unique heritage of peoples from around the globe, I consider it radical that I can even consider myself an Anabaptist. As my unique heritage doesn’t include places that would include me in the ‘Mennonite’ games that people play at weddings. No, my second cousin is not related to you!

    I’ve been hurt, and I’ve been loved by people who call themselves Mennonite, in my journey to know more about this expression of faith. I’ve been excluded.. and I’ve been welcomed. In some ways the Mennonite church is not as unique as it would like to seem. But what is unique to me, is the intentionality by which some Mennofolk whom I’ve been around try to live. Of course your mileage will vary with each congregation. The struggle that they perpetually live in as they live in this world. I consider it radical that I gave up the ignorance that I could’ve had to embrace the suffering of Christ.

    Do I care about any of the labels, the Y-A-R? Not really, if I’m simply just a child of God, I’ll be happy. We could all be COGs…

    Reply

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