Monthly Archive: September 2008

Newark, DE & Elkton, MD

For the past 4 weeks I was rotating at Christiana Care Hospital in Newark, DE.  During that time I was able to reconnect with a high school friend of mine who lives in the area.  He & his wife introduced me to a group of people with Anabaptist roots/connections/interests who have been meeting together informally and hope to start a church of sorts given the lack of a Mennonite church in their area (that’s not in Wilmington and/or in a “conservative” conference).

Anyway, last Monday I joined them for dinner & fellowship and learned of their interest in finding more participants and connecting with other congregations in the area (and in the Lancaster and Atlantic Coast Conferences) as they pursue organizing more formally as a church.  The person who has been the catalyst of the group is Scott Calkins – a former U.S. Marine turned Anabaptist who lives with his wife in Elkton, MD.  For anyone interested, they have a website & blog at the following links:

http://www.paxmin.com
http://www.paxmin.com/blog/blog.htm

MCC Restructure: When does the hard part begin?

Hello. I attended the MCC New Wineskins Summit in Winnipeg, Ca last week. Read more about me below if you want to know why I attended. Read on for my brief opinions and McCain maverick-like move at the end.

I am not an alarmist and believe in moderation but I am afraid of the future of MCC. That’s strong, but I’m serious. I don’t think in 40 years MCC will be as we recognize it today. That is a good thing. I am not afraid of that. Its programs and missions need tweaking because of globalization, but they are generally executed with the right attitude and necessary risk-taking (and all in the name of Christ, of course).

I am afraid of the decision-making process it will take to get us there. It could be ugly but turn out OK, much like the Democratic primary season. Already those established in power are being shown up by uppity, young community organizers who don’t look like the faces on a U.S. 20 dollar bill. I was hoping for a little less politics in the MCC change and decision-making system, but we all know that’s not going to happen! (more…)

Can anyone not do better then Palin on the bailout?

So no one’s written anything here yet about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the US economy. I don’t think I have anything profound to say, but I suspect there might be some YAR readers out there with some opinions. I bet you can do better then Governor Palin did with Katie Couric yesterday when asked whether the bailout is a good idea:

That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade—we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today—we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. (as quoted in Christian Science Monitor)

So consider this an open thread for any insights or thoughts you have to share on the current state of the US economy or the intense politicking/backstabbing/nose rubbing going on today in Washington.

Ministry to the Outcast

In every society there are the rejected that Jesus is intensely interested in assisting. But the church often is in the place of judging the outcast at the side of the rest of society. Below is my vision, based on Jesus’ ministry, of how the church should look when they are responding to the outcast as they should. These are also the principles on which my ministry is based:
All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.

Identification—I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.

Offer to be Family—Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast—social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance—this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.

Listening—James 1:19
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)

Benevolence
Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8). (more…)

Chicago police, racism and the powerlessness of the gun in Rogers Park

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

This afternoon I was sitting in my office downstairs from our apartment when I noticed the yelling volume outside had gone up significantly to a low roar. I looked out the window and saw that the number of kids walking home from nearby Sullivan high school had grown to a critical mass. Either something had already happened or was about to.

I walked out the front door and saw that one of Charletta’s big plastic planters was broken, dirt and plants spilled out on the ground. On the corner of Pratt and Bosworth, 30 or 40 kids were milling around. One squad car (car number 9602) was there, but the officer was still sitting in his car, smoking a cigarette.

As I walked toward the corner I watched a swirl of motion erupted as four or five kids took swings with their legs and fists at a sixth boy. As I continued walking toward the corner, the officer sitting in his car did nothing but sit and smoke his cigarette. By now the victim of the attack was on the ground as the other kids took turns kicking him. As I got closer, the officer began to back his car up, almost running over the kid on the ground. Then as soon as it had begun, it ended. The kid on the ground was apparently not hurt too badly as he was also quickly away from the scene.

After it was clear that the violence was over, the officer finally got out of his car. (more…)

Jesus for President: An Ecumenical Campaign

I wrote a report for the office of Interchurch Relations (MCUSA) on our district’s sponsorship of the Jesus for President campaign stop in North Carolina. You can read part of it below.

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The Jesus for President campaign came to Raleigh, N.C. on July 22nd. Chris Haw, Shane Claiborne, and their crew took the stage at 7pm. People started filling the seats at 6:30, anticipating the acclaimed campaign. For two and a half hours, Shane and Chris spoke about Jesus and politics to an attentive crowd. Although our Mennonite district took the lead role in bringing them to town, we were a marginal presence. With no money spent on advertising, we drew around 650 people to a midweek event. Duane Beck, pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, had the idea of inviting the Jesus for President tour to make a stop in our area.

The district pastors (including myself) enthusiastically approved. With the support of our Eastern Carolina District of the Mennonite Church, we explored our ecumenical networks to form a coalition of sponsors. Pastor Spencer Bradford of Durham Mennonite Church approached the North Carolina Council of Churches, which gladly agreed to help sponsor the event. Since our Mennonite churches have small worship spaces, Duane Beck found a partnership with First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh which agreed to host the campaign. Though the Mennonites did most of the legwork, various churches came together to bring the Jesus for President crew to town.

People of different Christian traditions came to hear Chris Haw and Shane Claiborne preach the gospel of Christ’s peace. In many respects, the evening felt like an evangelistic crusade. One member of my congregation even said that it reminded her of the Campus Crusade rallies she attended as a youth. (more…)

Technology, violence and the myth of progress

Part 2 of Isaac’s post on worship and technology and the resulting discussion inspired me to crosspost of my review review of What a way to Go: Life at the End of Empire.

Recently I watched the DVD What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire which simply and succinctly points out the fatal flaws in the myth of salvation by progress and growth that are at the core of our culture. It lays out the case of why the North American life style is unsustainable for humans and all of creation through interviews with scientists, artists and activists.

I believe it’s imperative that we hear and understand the message of this movie. So for those of you who won’t watch it, I’ll summarize some of it’s key points. The first section is a look at four different ways in which we are reaching the limits despite our best attempts to ignore them.

Peak Oil

Peak OilThe concept of peak oil is one of the simplest of the four to explain and the most difficult to deny. Oil companies are not finding enough new oil to make up for how much we’re using. At some point in the in the next few years, oil production will flat line. In other words, peak oil is the day when we will not be able to produce more oil then we did yesterday. Oil will still be produced, but it will not meet the ever increasing demand of our ever increasing consumption.

(more…)

2nd Anniversary Post: Remembering the Power of Prayer

Written by Elina (from Indonesia, in Singapore).

ST got me into your website and I read many articles with great interest. I wish there was this much dialog about “things that matter” in my Asian constituency. Many young people in Asia are busy building their careers, doing well at school, putting up an image and conforming to norms of society—to the point that it prevents them from speaking up and sharing things that really matter. Although, I’m not sure if this issue is specifically Asian …

However, in reading the articles, I don’t see a lot on prayer. Yes, prayer. It’s the one thing that Jesus did every single morning before he did anything else. The one thing that every great person in the Bible did throughout their journeys. (more…)

just starting…

well, i’ve never been a part of a blog before – not for travelling, for politics, or for random thoughts – but this one was too tempting to pass up…

i am a canadian mennonite living in ontario. i grew up in winnipeg manitoba – probably the closest one could get to a mennonite geneva. my grandfather was a missionary, my father is the executive director for the canadian conference of mennonite brethren churches, i went to a mennonite high school, college… well, you get the idea. borscht courses through my veins.

and yet my experience with the mennonites has been tumultuous. my home church in winnipeg was as evangelical as most of the other non-denoms (similar to how matt t described his situation in his opening post). it was unclear to most in the congregation what it was about this church that made it different from others. i moved to the usa to start graduate studies – a master’s in theology – and attended a mennonite church of a different sort. i was able to see how mennonites could be different. however, when i brought some of these ideas and opinions back home, i was met with hostility (including being black-balled from the mb canadian periodical. the senior editor there wants nothing to do with me – i guess that’s what makes this blog so attractive: everyone gets the floor).

currently i am having problems attending church. there is only one menno church in my city and it is neither young nor radical. i am doing a phd in religion and politics, so i like to think through the significance of mennonite practices in a politically hostile world (even canada is in afghanistan). i hope to contribute and be intrigued with conversations via yar

joe

Sexual harassment as disease and political tool in Egypt

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.
Yesterday in my daily BBC feed I came across six horrifying stories from Egyptian women who experience regular sexual harassment. The psychic effect on women comes through in heart breaking clarity:

I get harassed 100 times a day. I tried everything to stop it but it doesn’t stop. I wear loose clothes, I don’t wear make up, I spend more than an hour in front of the mirror everyday thinking of ways to hide my body.

The stories also point to a wide spread acceptance of harassment among men in Egyptian society:

Another time I was walking home and this guy unzipped his trousers in a car next to me. I screamed, but he shouted back very aggressively, saying ‘Who do you think you are? Why would I even look at you?’ People in the street gathered around us and to my surprise they were not sympathetic with me. They supported him. They all defended the guy because they do the same thing.

Most of the women share their own attempts at coping or resistance strategies, few of which seem to have any affect. (more…)

technology and worship: part 2

Part 2 (look here for part 1)

If Marshall McLuhan’s dictum, “the medium is the message,” is helpful (as Shane Hipps argues), then we must go all the way down; we must dig into the materiality of the medium. We must investigate the conditions that make possible the process of production. Hidden powers are physically remembered in the pieces of technology we use.

Most popular discussions of technology and worship fail to explore the realities of material production–the where, when, why, and how of invention and assembly. From reading these books on media and worship, one would assume that technologies magically appear–created out of nothing. Since electronic devices are available, we have to figure out ways to make them liturgically productive. The problem, according to Eileen D. Crowley, is that “Most churches lag at least twenty years or more behind the art world in the kind of media art they create or purchase and in how they imagine that media might be integrated within worship” (32). Our churches are not on the cutting edge of media. Our liturgical media is passé. We have failed to encourage the development of artists who makes use of anything at their disposal to lead us into an “experience of the Holy” (32) (more…)

Body Image and Second-Hand Pants for Big Men

I’m going to start by saying that everything that follows is totally disputable, as in the words of Paul:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” – Romans 14:1

Mark Van Steenwyk has written a series on “hipster” culture and what he calls the “style of subversion”, over at Jesus Manifesto. It’s great and I highly recommend it, it has been helpful for me (thanks Mark).

Something that struck me was in Part I, when Mark notes:

You see, I came of age in the mid 90s. The commodification of the counter-culture was well under way, but it could hardly be called mainstream yet. Because of this, most of the “alternative” folks that I knew were social outcasts, or at least were socially akward. Like me. To put it indelicately, most of the counter cultural types I knew weren’t academic enough to be nerds, weren’t athletic enough to be jocks, and weren’t attractive enough to be popular. The counter cultural types tended to hang out together with all the other lower-order social groupings. And since I was unpopular (in fact, one poll that the girls did in junior high put me as the 3rd from the bottom in the social pecking order).

So, my brain was confounded by what I saw at PAPA Fest. Most of the 20 something crowd was attractive. There were young men aplenty with chiseled, shirtless, chest throwing footballs in a perfect spiral to other young men with similarly perfectly chiseled chests. In fact, if it weren’t for their dreads, I would swear that they were jocks.

Mark goes on to say:

Members of a majority or dominant group may (perhaps) achieve alterity by being ostracized as a subversive or deviant. However, we live in a culture where it is easy for mainstream twenty-somethings (and younger) to embrace the style of subversion. And because they speak a certain lingo, wear certain clothes, and use certain products, it is socially understood that these stylish subversives care about social outcasts, the poor, and the downtrodden, even if no tangible evidence exists of that care. In other words: it is great when people begin to challenge the status quo as they pursue justice and mercy, but how excited should we be when it is very easy in our society to look, sound, and act radical without it costing anything?

Even more, what happens when hipsterism gets so tied into consumer capitalism (you know: Messenger Bags, Hot Topic, Ipod, Apple, Moleskine, American Apparel…) that you become a radical in appearance, but a profound reinforcer of the status quo in your way of life?

I want to take this in an entirely different direction than Mark might have taken it but his thoughts got me thinking. Up until two years ago, I was a fat guy. I was 6’3 and 280 pounds. I was not healthy and it had a lot to do with a cycle of poor body image mixed with eating to feel better and drinking alcohol excessively to forget how hopelessly unattractive I felt.

But a couple of years ago, I was called by Christ, and have lost a lot of weight and stopped drinking heavily (no… this is not one of those “testimonies”, I’m just telling it like it happened). (more…)

Conspiracy to commit civil disorder and “Old tires (for burning)”

cross posted at As of Yet Untitled

I came back today from a weekend away to headlines reporting on multiple raids throughout the weekend of activist convergence spaces at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul/Minneapolis. Here are a few excerpts from reports on the raid:

The police presented no warrant at the time of the raid, but claim that they have a warrant to search the space for "bomb-making" materials. No "bomb-making" materials were found. Rather, the police barked orders for everyone, including a 5 year old child, to get on the floor with their faces to the ground. Everyone inside was put in handcuffs." (Illegal Police Raid on Anti-RNC Convergence Space in St. Paul)

(more…)