Well a note of introduction first since I’m new to this blog. I work for MCC, grew up in North Philadelphia, and live in Lancaster. I suppose I count as a Mennonite- chose to be one a few years ago, and constantly in a flux of being in love with the church and embarrassed by it. I guess thats true of what I think of myself too for that matter. Thanks for allowing me to write on the blog- its good to be here.
I’ve been thinking a bit about Anabaptist dogma and the death of imagination. Deep in the blood of Anabaptism is a concern for discipleship, or obedience. This discipleship has changed forms I think over the years, but culturally we are an obedient people- obedient to something. It’s a blessing I suppose in many ways. We as a church have fought hard to work for the kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven. Discipleship values the material and the contemporary. Its an affirmation that what is here, the world, is good but broken and in need of restoration. Its this very discipleship that enables us to be radical in the face of war, capitalism, oppression, and nationalism. It’s a good thing.
What’s troubling about discipleship is that it has turned the Anabaptist church into an economical people. I think we see this in a variety of ways. In my short time in the Mennonite Church I’ve come across many people who are all too convinced they are destroying the environment and causing wars every time we so much as breath. I resonate with this, and often feel this same tempation to think that I am the problem with this world. Its a constant angst we live with. A temptation to despair in the face of injustice. Its an economical lens in which we view the world. And its ironically this cost-benefit analysis thinking with which we are guiding our lives that is driving the very economic systems we are fighting against.
Now certainly I would never say we need to stop worrying about these things and embrace an ethic of eat, drink, and be merry- though Lord knows the Mennonite Church could use a happy hour. My fear is that Mennonite dogma has destroyed the ability to embrace creativity. Our minds have lost the capacity to see the beautiful. We have become an economic people when I believe we need to become an artistic and imaginative people. This economic thinking stands in the way of the imaginative thinking that enables Christians to see new possible and an alternative reality to the reality in which many are living in the world. We are overcome by evil and incapable of embracing the joy of shalom. We have become a people who are incapable of spotting the sacred. We have lost the capacity to enter into the mystical realities of Jesus. I believe the Mennonite church, and us justice-minded people in general, need to intentionally fill our lives with poets and novels. We need to be intentional about spotting what is beautiful. We need to embrace joy and intimacy- and acknowledge what is good. We need to embrace beauty of each others stories. After all as Mary Oliver once said “stories are more beautiful than answers.”
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