Monthly Archive: March 2008

Mennonite Narratives on Heterosexual Privilege

Last Thursday, I had a conversation with a professor and a fellow student that gave me a window on the Mennonite narratives on heterosexual privilege. We had discussed Obama’s speech and white privilege in class. After class, I asked about heterosexual privilege. My prof and classmate both responded that a concept of heterosexual privilege “trivialized racism” since the sufferings of African-American are so embedded in our culture (I guess with the implication that the sufferings of LGBTers aren’t). My prof even claimed that the bans against single-sex marriage and other anti-sodomy laws were not persecution, but just limited the “freedom” of LGBTers.

This was a quick conversation in passing, so I didn’t really have my wits about me to respond. These are both caring, intelligent people who care deeply about social justice issues. Yet, for some reason, they don’t consider queers a persecuted group. I realize that I also don’t know yet enough about the history of this issue to be really comfortable about a response. However, after more reflection and conversation, I do have a couple of responses / observations —

  • I don’t think that my colleague’s response is really about “trivializing racism.” It’s about not defining the queer experience as a social justice issue. As soon as LGBT is defined as a social justice issue, then the Mennonite Church is on the wrong side of the issue. As long as we can keep this just about Scripture and not how Scripture has been used to persecute or block access to institutions, then the Mennonites can have it both ways — we can advocate for social justice and keep the gays out.
  • (more…)

Unnatural Causes

Tonight, as I was half-heartedly trying to do some reading for school and half-heartedly flipping through channels, I came across the first episode in a PBS series called Unnatural Causes…Is Inequality Making Us Sick? I didn’t catch the entire hour but there are three more episodes in the series and what I caught of the first one was very interesting. I thought it seemed loosely relevant to recent discussions here and wanted to point other YARs there. There’s a five minute trailer on the site so you can get a good sense of the series. No commentary and no questions from me right now, just a suggestion to check it out. There is also an independent site for the documentary here.Neurontin
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Mob a local store for the Environment!

Ever wander what the opposite of a boycott is? Wonder no more. An innovative nonprofit called Carrotmob this fascinating new strategy for environment action that remixes those old Hacienda fundraisers where everyone shows up for a meal and 5% goes to your local high school.

In this case, Carrotmob took bids for the highest percentages from various grocery stores. And instead of donating the money, the store commits to using the money to do environmental improvements as directed by Carrotmob. Then everyone and their brother shows up to buy stuff from the store at a appointed time.

Unfortunately it’s in San Francisco, but maybe if the idea catches on, it’ll come to a neighborhood near you!

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Global Discussion on Shaping our Spiritual Life – Una Discusión Global sobre la Formación de una Vida Espiritual

In order to learn from one another’s experiences, AMIGOS periodically sends out discussion questions to be shared among young people connected with Mennonite World Conference. The current questions are:

– What do you do to shape up your spiritual life?
– How do you pray? (for example: times in silence, etc.)

Para aprender de las experiencias de los demás, AMIGOS periódicamente manda preguntas para discusión para ser compartidas entre jóvenes conectados con el Congreso Mundial Menonita. Las preguntas actuales son:

– ¿Qué haces para mantener tu vida espiritual en forma?
– ¿Cómo oras? (Por ejemplo: tiempos en el silencio, etc.)
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Tired

A little while ago, I got an email from Tim relating to the latest poll. He wanted to know if I had any thoughts to share on the issue of gender balance and women’s participation in particular on YAR. This has been discussed some before on YAR but it continues to be an issue. This is pretty much what I sent him, but he’s currently out of the country and I felt compelled to share it now.

As many of you know, I used to write more and now I don’t at all. This is largely due to being back in school and spending a lot less time in front of my computer and thinking about being young, anabaptist, or radical. If I really wanted to, I could make time to read YAR more than I do, even comment and contribute.

But I got tired. I got tired of the same stupid discussions over and over with basically the same person (actually different people, but it started to feel so familiar). I got tired of watching my friends and allies get tired and burned out (sometimes they just got quieter, sometimes they gave up and walked away in frustration), I got tired of having to defend my own existence and belief to straight white men who, as a friend of mine so aptly described it, “come on the blog for a while and do the virtual equivalent of beating their chests and yelling.”* (more…)

I’m not a radical.

I’m not a radical. Not in the sense that some people might see it anyway. The term might be associated with those who espouse a more liberal socio-political worldview. It’s been used that way. And by that definition I am not a radical. Nor am I a “Young Anabaptist Radical”. If young means “under 25 & unmarried” then I’m lacking in the young department (I’m 28, if you want to know). I’m also not an anabaptist. Maybe not one that would generally fit into the traditional “anabaptist” stereotypes (if such a thing exists at all).

I thought I’d come clean.
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The war needs to stop

I can’t even bear to write a post about the war.

This is just to send a word of encouragement to all working to stop the war and build societies of peace and justice. I hope you have found sustainable, life giving ways to resist and create. We must keep speaking up, because as Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. said, “our lives begin to end the moment we are silent about things that matter.”

Mark Gornik and the Fourth Period of Inner City Development?

This semester we read To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City by Mark Gornik in my missions class. Gornik was one of the founding members of New Song Community Church in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on Baltimore’s West Side. Over the past two decades or so, New Song has been heavily involved in the revitalization of Sandtown through their urban ministries and Habitat for Humanity. Gornik’s book makes a theological argument for Christian engagement with the inner city, not as a “mercy mission,” but as faith in action that seeks to revitalize urban spaces and communities.

My reservations with the book are not so much what Mark Gornik writes, but what he didn’t write about. Gornik describes three historical periods of development for inner city neighborhoods — the Segregated Inner City, the Post-Industrial Inner City and the Global Inner City. However, I think we may have entered a fourth stage, the Gentrified Inner City.

To Live in Peace was published in 2002, just as the so-called “Baltimore Renaissance” came into full swing. Until the crash of the housing market, some of Baltimore’s inner city communities were in the midst of rapid gentrification and redevelopment — Inner Harbor, Pig Town, Fells Point, Patterson Park, Dundalk and Canton all experienced a demographic shift as the yuppies moved in and property values rose. I live in a tiny row house in Fells Point, a traditionally blue-collar neighborhood now transformed into a tourist attraction with boutiques and condos. My landlord purchased the property for about $50,000 in the mid-80’s. Last time I looked at the tax records, the property was valued over $300,000. The vast amount of development in Baltimore City over the past decade has not been in the realm of affordable and middle-class housing, but luxury condos, hotels, a new conference center and expensive office space. The urban wasteland around Johns Hopkins University Hospital is being cleared away to make room for hospital expansion and a new biology research park. (more…)

Advocacy Groups are Dumb.

*This article was originally posted on Christarchy.com. The “Ostrich-thing” makes more sense if you visit me there.*

Advocacy groups are dumb. There. I said it. You don’t have to agree with me, especially if you are part of an advocacy group. But someone had to say it and seeing as I’m the only one around here to take notice I had to speak up. (more…)

Tom Sine wants to know what you’re doing

The New ConspiratorsBack in September, Tom Sine emailed me asking if members of YAR could read over the manuscript for The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. I emailed it out to regular contributors and invited feedback. The book looks at four streams of new Christian Expression – emerging, missional, mosaic and monastic. We’ll have a review of the book here on YAR coming soon.

The weekend before last, a bunch of folks (including a few from our sister network, the submergents) got together for the New Conspirators conference in Seattle. You can read Mark Van Steenwyk’s concluding report for the New Conspirators conference at Jesus Manifesto. It sounds an exciting time for folks from many streams to incubate ideas and imagine together. I very much wish I could have been there.

Today, I got an email from Tom with the following request:

Christine and I have been invited to keynote at the Mennonite Conference for North America in July. We would like to share bit of what you and your compatriots in the network are doing. Could you send me concrete examples of projects you are involved with? Could you also send me any creative examples of younger Anabaptists who are creating new expressions of church, community, advocacy, celebration and mission? We want to put older Mennos in touch with what you and other younger leaders are doing.

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Colombia, Ecuador and Chavez

Chavez escalates border tensionsFor the last few days, I’ve been wanting to write something about the news from the region Charletta and I recently left. Today my teammates in Colombia released Border Tensions: A Prayer Request. This statement puts things a lot better then I could have. It also notes some details that I hadn’t heard, such as the claim by the Ecuadorian government that FARC commander Reyes was in “advanced stages of negotiations” with the Ecuadorian government for further hostage releases when he was killed.

I have to admit that I didn’t really shed any tears when I heard about the death of Reyes. Under his leadership the FARC has massacred indigenous people, farmers and North American activists and committed many terrorist acts. They’ve built a drug trafficking empire and lost any credibility as a positive force for change in the region. They’ve become a criminal enterprise acting with a thin veneer of ideology and in the process caused untold damage to Colombia’s authentic movements for social change. But the CPT release is a good reminder that this bombing represents a continued shift on the part of the Colombian government “to deal with the national conflict in a military framework rather than building on civil and diplomatic attempts.”

The team’s statement also mentions the “saber-rattling by neighbors in the region”. I’d like to look at that saber rattling a little more closely. Specifically, the war-mongering coming from the party that was not directly involved in the incident, Chavez. In the fall of 2006 I went to Venezuela on my honeymoon and wrote four posts here (1, 2, 3, 4) documenting some of the reactions we heard to Chavez from people we met along the way. At the time we saw that there were a lot of good things going on in Venezuela, but it was also clear that Chavez’s leadership was problematic. While we were there he made his famous Bush-is-the-devil speech that boosted Chomsky to #1 on Amazon. It was a stunt that brought up conflicted response for me. While it was great to have Chomsky get some exposure, Chavez was clearly setting a polarizing and divisive course for himself and his country. (more…)

“Wait for the Exodus”: Today in Gaza

Palestinian infant injured by missle fire
Maybe we’ve stopped praying for Palestine. Maybe we never cared to start. Maybe it was too hard to ask God for a fix to this complex situation; and, hey, we don’t know the history well enough.

I hear lots of Christians decrying violence in Kenya – cuz, ya know, there are missionaries there. It’s a “save-able” country.
I haven’t heard much Christian response to the remarks made by Israeli deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that if Hamas does not stop its rocket fire, then it will be in for a big shoah and Israel will defend itself at all costs.

What does shoah mean? Well, it can be translated as “big disaster”. But, for most folks who speak Hebrew, shoah generally means holocaust. It is almost exclusively used to describe the mass extermination of the Jews during World War II, and certainly it would not be used by a high ranking official in public for any other reason. (more…)