Monthly Archive: January 2009

A bicycle pilgrimage

Hey! These folks are riding from Harrisonburg, VA to the Asuncion, Paraguay for the Global Youth Summit of Mennonite World Conference. Check them out!

http://americas.bikemovement.org/

As anyone who has been on a bike for an extended amount of time for their primary form of transportation knows, it is a life-altering experience. Godspeed to Lars and Jon and Love to all whom they will visit. I am in the process of encouraging the youth group from my church to bike to the Mennonite Youth Convention in Columbus, Ohio June 30-July 6. I hope it works out…it will definitely be life-altering. Besides saving money and petroleum, getting some fresh air and exercise, biking together is a great self-esteem and group-building opportunity. It generates an equality among races and genders through the creation of a camaraderie and shared intense, rewarding experience.

But there is some resistance. Sometimes I get so excited about something I can’t embrace alternatives. Pray for me as I discern how much to push and where to step-back….And DO visit bikemovement America’s website.

It’s someone else’s problem…or it’s not.

(A Debbie Downer post. Sorry about your luck.)

For several months I’ve been making posts that suggest (though I don’t think I’ve said it), that the idea that people are somehow different than they were before is probably a little idealist. I don’t think people are progressive (as in, moving forward or evolving either physically or emotionally/spiritually/physcologically). Perhaps the best time I’ve come out and said it would be the shit-disrupter of a post I made on Christarchy, Humanity on the Fringes of a Moshpit. Essentially, in a long winded tirade, I compare the progressive anarchist/art-school kids to the famed large browed Geico Spokesmen. Such a thing was a dare, especialy among my more liberally minded brethern. But I did it. I did it because I don’t think humanity is really all that different than it was 2,000 years ago. Or 4,000. Or 6,000. We can pretend lots of things, like those people back then were all stupid, ignorant, inbred maruaders, raping the land for everything it was worth. Besides for the inbred thing, I don’t think we are far removed. (more…)

Inauguration Thoughts: The State is Still the State

Yesterday was truly a big day in U.S. history. The inauguration of the first African-American President is truly a turning point for our nation, especially given our abysmal history on race. Moreover, it was encouraging to hear Senator Dianne Feinstein’s reflections on the nonviolence of Martin Luther King, President Obama’s message that we need not choose “between our safety and ideals” and his call to diplomacy and international aid over sheer violent force and military power, and Reverend Joseph Lowery’s prayer that one day we will “beat our tanks into tractors.”

Nevertheless, I had a difficult time getting too emotional or excited over this change of guard. For, while yesterday was historical from the perspective of the United States, it was a pretty small speck when history is viewed rightly. As John Howard Yoder tirelessly argued, the locus of history is not with the state but with God’s work through his church. The state is merely the context in which the real drama of history can unfold.

So, while the words and symbolism of the inauguration may be moving, the sobering fact is that the state is still the state. Yes, Obama seems more intent than Bush on using diplomatic tactics to secure peace, but his message to our “enemy” was still virtually the same: “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

Not much room there for Jesus’s message to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and turn the other cheek. But this is as should be expected, because the state is still the state.

Ironically, with this change of guard many of us ‘open-minded, progressive’ Christians will begin to forget that the state is still the state. We will start to put our faith in the ideals of the state and our hope in its progress. As blogger Halden recently argued, now more than ever is it imperative (though difficult) to be resolute in our anti-empire polemics. It was far too easy to maintain a prophetic witness to the state when those in charge overtly sanctioned military aggression, torture, and seemingly unbridled increase of personal power. But when those in power seem to share many of our ideals, the temptation will be to give them a pass when they deem military violence necessary in this or that situation. And it will be difficult for us to make the unfashionable charge that those in power sanction the unjust extermination of the least of those among us. Indeed, to increase the irony still further, it may be the conservative Christians who begin to recognize with more clarity the separation between church and state (as many of my students, for example, ponder whether or not Obama is the anti-Christ!). They will now be the ones to speak prophetically, though their witness will be narrow and tainted by their continual use of political means to grasp for power. (more…)

GAH! *@&#, it’s cold!

It is absolutly freezing. Saturday morning brought frost on the car windows and I’m chucking trash into bag at 8 am because I got to cart 3 adults to Philly from Baltimore (The Element is trashed. I blame the kids.). Actually, these “adults” might as well be 13, their behavior will be subpar all day long. In about an hour, Dave Worthless, Brando, Stilts, and I, will be yelling at each-other and telling jokes that would make a sailor blush. This is my band. And it’s cold.

It’s about 13 degrees outside. It’s Saturday. And we have to leave at 9 am to get to Philly by noon because Obama is taking Amtrak from Philly, to Wilmington, then landing in my hometown of Baltimore. It’s usually a 90 minute trip but we expect the I-95 corridor to be packed. (more…)

An Introduction

[NB: This post originally served as my “application” to YAR, and Tim thought it would be good for me to share with you all as well.]

Hi. My name is David Cramer, and I’m the newest member of the Young Anabaptist Radicals.

I’m young because I’m 25 and because I’ve only been Anabaptist for about the last 2 of those 25 years. Before that I attended a church and a college (the Missionary Church / Bethel College, IN) with Anabaptist roots that were remembered by only a few. I still worship in that denomination and now teach at that college and have become one of the few that remember those Anabaptist roots.

It was during my time in seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School that I began to realize, much to the chagrin of many of my professors, I’m sure, that Christianity didn’t make much sense without an Anabaptist Christology and ecclesiology. I have since formalized those thoughts through much reading of John Howard Yoder and the like.

I blog somewhat frequently at http://cramercomments.blogspot.com/, which has been featured on Christian Century blogs (www.ccblogs.org) and elsewhere. My blog traces my subtle transition from a standard-stock Arminian evangelical to an Anabaptist (with an Arminian-evangelical flavor). I have yet to do much explicit blogging on Anabaptism, as I am still learning the ins and outs. Since finishing seminary and moving back from Chicago to Northern Indiana, I have, however, started a local group called the Evangelical Anabaptist Revolution (EAR), which includes other Bethel grads, some Associate Mennonite Biblical Seminary students, and a miscellany from Goshen College, Grace College, etc. If anyone is interested in joining the Revolution, just let me know. (Currently we exist as a “hidden” facebook group, so I would have to befriend and then invite anyone interested.)

My primary interests are in moral theology and philosophy of religion, including nonviolence, gender issues, and religious pluralism. Look forward to interacting with you all.

Peace,

David

Wife Swap looking for one good Mennonite family

This is not satire. Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

This past week, the producers of the Television show “Wife Swap” sent out an email soliciting a Mennonite family to participate in their show. The email, with the subject line “Seeking Strong Families with Strong Morals” says “we are hoping to reach a Mennonite family that would be willing to share their lifestyle and views with another family.”*

Wife Swap is a reality television show that has been on the air since 2003. As the title suggests, the premise is that two women swap households. During the first week, the visiting woman must follow the rules and habits of her host family, which always includes a father and at least one child over seven. The wikipedia article on Wife Swap says, “In fact, the show will usually deliberately swap wives with extreme polar opposite lifestyles, such as a dramatically messy wife swapping with a fastidiously neat one.”

It’s not too hard to imagine who the Wife Swap producers would imagine as polar opposites of a Mennonite family. The email says, “…we are interested in Mennonite families because of their views on peace and their hopeful outlook towards the world.

Anabaptists have been the subject of reality television shows before. You may remember the controversy around “Amish in the City,” a show that took five Amish teenagers and put them in an apartment in the city with “worldy” roommates. Over 50 members of congress wrote UPN to protest the show, which went ahead anyway. It was recieved with skepticism by Mennonite scholars and a luke warm reception from audiences. See the Mennonite Weekly Review article for more: Good reviews, skepticism greet debut of Amish show

(more…)

somasoul’s Blueprint for Change.

I saw Barack Obama’s blueprint for change and I thought since I’m smarter than him I should have one too. You never know when you might become the next leader of the free world, I gotta be prepared. With that said, it’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun since everything has been so grim around here lately. Maybe there is a bit of truth in all of these things, maybe not. So without further adue I present the top “hot button” issues and solve them all single-handedly. Let me know how I did.

War:
In an ideal world only men would fight in wars and only women would declare them.

Illegal Immigration:
People keep crossing the borders for crappy jobs. Meanwhile, we have lots of people on welfare here. I propose allowing one working Latino into the United States in exchange for one person on welfare. This way, our country will be filled with productive people who work while nothing much will change in Mexico.

The whole ‘gay’ thing:
The gays want to get married. Some people seemingly want them to be miserable. Marriage has made plenty of straight people miserable for thousands of years. Am I the only one who sees the “win-win” solution here?
(more…)

Martyrdom Through Hollywood: Book Review of The Purple Crown

Tripp York. The Purple Crown: The Politics of Martyrdom. Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 2007. Pp. 198. $19.99, US.

The Purple Crown is the first book written by Tripp York (Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University) and the second in Herald’s new series, Polyglossia: Radical Reformation Theologies, edited by Peter Dula (Assistant Professor of Bible and Culture at Eastern Mennonite University), Chris K. Huebner (Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Canadian Mennonite University), J. Alexander Sider (Assistant Professor of Religion at Bluffton University), and Jennifer L. Graber (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Wooster College).

Probably the best and worst thing about York’s book is its accessibility—it is easy to read. Clocking in at under 200 pages (including breaks, notes, and index), one can blow through it in an afternoon. It is not encumbered by jargon or technical language academics alone understand. The argument is clear: martyrdom is part and parcel of the Church’s missionary work, which is political by virtue of its unique publicity. Politics is bound up with imitation; who you imitate or follow displays your orientation towards the good. Because Christian martyrs are the ultimate imitators of Christ, they exemplify the ultimate political act over-against the powers that kill them. And yet York is quick to connect the martyr to the church that formed her prior to death, emphasizing the social nature of this politics that makes it possible to enact.

The Purple Crown begins with an account of the martyrs of the early church, arguing that they constitute the political agent par excellence for the church. It examines the body of the martyr as the battlefield between God and Satan, intrinsically connecting salvation with the flesh. York then skips to the 16th century, when Christians martyred other Christians, arguing in favor of the Anabaptists as exemplars for the continuity of the suffering church. It is the Anabaptists that maintain a visibly social distinction from the world’s secular civil organization, yet are simultaneously able to “seek the peace of the city.” The tension of being distinct from yet engaged with the world is the embodiment of a citizenship intended to help the nation move towards its divinely oriented destiny. The final chapter is a biography of Oscar Romero, the El Salvadorian priest who displayed this kind of citizenship through his defense of the oppressed and was “martyred” as a result. (more…)

Amish for Homeland Security

I haven’t read Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President yet, but I borrowed the title of this post from one of the chapters.  This post actually has little to do with the Amish or homeland security, but I wanted to point out two interesting items shared with me by a friend from church.

The first is a blog entry by Greg Boyd (who is mentioned in a previous YAR post) entitled, A Word to My Mennonite Friends: “Cherish Your Treasure!”. Just let’s not let it go to our heads.

The second is a segment from American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith (R) called Evangelical Politics: 3 Generations which features Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this segment and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.