Monthly Archive: August 2011

I Have Power

Yesterday, on my way to take my ten year old son to camp, I was telling him my plans for the day.I was driving to Harrisburg from Philadelphia with a van full of Mennonites (white and non-white, citizens and undocumented) to oppose the attempts of some State Representatives to make it a crime to be undocumented.

My son’s response was surprising, and a little funny—“Mom, who invented power?And I’m not talking about electricity here!”I’ll admit that I was proud of his question and his outrage.I’m glad that he can recognize that power is being abused, and used to perpetrate violence and hate.

I reminded my son, who is prone to violent flashes of anger, that power is neither good or evil, what’s more important is the way you use the power you have.Case in point, a ten year old raging about needing to practice his cello certainly wields a lot of power in our house.So can his loving response to his little sister who just needs some big brother hugs.

I’m not the kind of person that meets with my state representative or writes letters to politicians.It’s not my style—I’m not articulate under pressure.I do better with some time to craft a statement, or in one on one conversation. But yesterday, I went to the Pennsylvania State Capital to support the Dream Act, and to oppose the attempts of legislators to make it more difficult for my undocumented friends to live in country we all love.I sat in hearings where we heard testimony from law enforcement, and from tea party activists, who called my friends “aliens”, “illegals”, and “those people”.They said that my friends didn’t care about this country, but only wanted to drain our welfare and social security system.They said my friends were murdering, raping, and stealing from citizens. The testimony was so distorted, so shockingly racist—I couldn’t make it up if I tried.

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Herding sheep and video games

This morning the sheep got loose here on Crazy Rooster Farm. One figured out that the fence wasn’t electrified and the rest followed it over. Rounding them up was harder than I expected, but also much more fund. It got me thinking about video game mechanics and the way they reflect real world challenges that our brains love handling. Four or five of us struggled to strategicall walk and yell so as to get these independent but herd-minded sheep to go into a pasture they didn’t want to be in (because they’d eaten all the grass they liked the day before).

I re-imagined the scene as a four player game played against 31 sophisticated AI sprites with a carefully calibrated mix of herd behavior, desire for fresh grass and fear of herders. Throw in lots of movable fences and a mysterious stampede threshold and you’ve got hours of entertainment.

The video is from yesterday. This morning I was too busy chasing sheep to film it.

Bioregionalism, peacemaking, fig trees and vines

Tree in Pasture at Sunset

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

Earlier this month I was talking with my friend Chris about a talk he heard last weekend by Ched Myers on bio-regionalism. One of the key concepts from the presentation was: “You can’t save what you don’t love and you can’t love what you don’t know.” In other words, instead of thinking of abstract ideas like “environmentalism” we need to get to know our own place or “bio-region”.

Ched touches on similar themes in his recent blog post titled with a similar quote: “We Won’t Save Places We Don’t Love…”. He compares the way suburbanites relate to their place to the way farmers and indigenous communities relate to the land they live and work on.

Chris has been working with Christian Peacemaker Team’s local partners in Colombia since August 2008 when he graduated from the first training that I helped with after joining CPT. He pointed out that our local partners are not struggling for abstract concepts like justice or environmentalism. They are fighting for places that they know intimately. (more…)

Letter from Jeju Island


Caption: Villagers and Protestors chant for the release of village leader Kang on Jeju island during the events described below

This letter was sent out by Paco this morning in an email to supporters of the campaign to Save Jeju Island in South Korea. I’m posting it under Paco’s author account here on YAR – TimN

Hello Again,

Things have gotten very crazy around here. Yesterday we had a 10 hour long stand off against around 300 riot police. I apologize for bad grammer and spelling but I’m very tired.

Here is a short summary of the last 23 hours of our still on going struggle. If you want to follow more closely, as well as see pictures and videos, check the facebook links that I gave you before [http://www.facebook.com/groups/Saveprofyang/], or if you are a twitterer follow #gangjung or #savejejuisland (many of the posts are in korean but there are also pictures)

None of this is sensitive information so it can be shared freely.

Shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday the navy/police made what we believe to be a trap to arrest Village Leader Kang. They began assembling an illegal crane in the construction area. This led Village Leader Kang and several activists and village people to the area where they began to argue that this crane was illegal. (more…)

YAR Tag line contest for 5th anniversary

As we approach our 5th anniversary (August 31st), I’m please to announce a tag-line contest. For the last 5 years, our inconspicuous tag-line has been “A Metaphorical Molotov.” I’ve decided its time for something new and I’d like your help coming up with something suitably funny and incisive. So between now and August 26th, post your ideas here in the comments. On Friday, I’ll post the suggestions in a pole and you all get to vote on your favorite. If you no one else has any ideas, we can just spend the next 5 years watching out for Amish Pirates.

Also, think of something interesting to write about on August 31st.

Mennonites on the Bowery

Photo of Weaverland Choir by CharlieK

There’s a building boom on the Bowery these days. It’s been happening for a while, but the last couple years have witnessed an escalation in development, turning the neighborhood into a hip destination point.

Fifty years ago the Bowery was the largest skid row in the world. There were gin joints and flophouses on every block. That’s all gone now, thanks to the forces of gentrification. In their place are condos, art galleries and upscale eateries. Only one skid-row relic remains: the Bowery Mission.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting behind the Mission’s pulpit in the 1960s, looking onto a sea of expectant faces while my father preached. In retrospect I realize the men behind those faces were awaiting the sermon’s conclusion so they could get their grub. (more…)

Grace for donations

Three weeks ago I was at Freakstock, the annual Festival of Jesus Freaks, a German protestant church made up primarily by punks, hippies and other subcultural types. It was a great experience and I’m a bit sad I didn’t go there before. It is exactly this community of alternative and happy Christians my age I’ve been looking for. All the other people I could relate to were either my parents’ generation, non-Christian, or people who lived elsewhere – like the readers of YAR.
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What the London rioters and the early Anabaptists have in common

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.

Tottenham High RoadTottenham High Road by Nicobobinus Some Rights Reserved

Last week, riots and looting moved through neighborhoods in London that I know well. The broken windows, fires and shouts of “I want a satnav*” were juxtaposed with a familiar map that I bicycled through to work for nearly two years. I found myself turning to Facebook to reach out to friends in those neighborhoods and processing my thoughts through comments on my favorite blog.

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Saving a denomination

This is a reflection about the MCUSA national convention in Pittsburgh shortly after I returned home.  On the urging of a fellow YARer, I offer this reflection here and would ask for your perspective.

Originally posted here on July 12, 2011

I have a variety of reflections from the Mennonite Church USA national convention that was held in Pittsburgh, PA this last week.  This is just one, hopefully there will be more coming yet.

I went to this convention not knowing for sure if MCUSA would survive past the convention.  The reason was because it felt like there is currently an abnormally large amount of tension in the denomination right now.  There are a lot of issues that are causing tension but the big one is homosexuality, mainly because of one particular situation. (more…)

Young Adults & Church: BikeMovement 5 years later

Five years ago I joined a group of young adults called BikeMovement that biked from the Pacific Coast in Oregon to the Atlantic Shore in New Jersey. We stopped at churches along the way holding conversation about what it meant to be a young adult in the church. The journey started July 10, 2006 and ended August 25th, 46 days, 23 churches, and 3,585 miles later.
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MCUSA, what keeps us together?

After spending some time visiting some member congregations of Mennonite Church USA (see Life of the Body), I’m trying to think through what unifies the denomination. How do we describe our belonging to the same body of faith, the same Christian tradition?

One way that’s quite popular these days is the essentialist approach. Stuart Murray seems to be the current instantiation of this perspective. In his book, The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010), Murray wants to find an “Anabaptism [that is] stripped down to the bare essentials” (15). He continues: “it is legitimate, and often helpful, to strip back the historical and cultural accretions from traditions that have persisted through the centuries” (44). His work is an “attempt to distill the essence of Anabaptism” (44). Because Stuart thinks he can strip away the husks of contemporary Mennonite communities and get to the Anabaptist kernel, he finds no reason to be in institutional communion with flesh and blood Anabaptists: “I will not become Hutterite, Amish, or Mennonite, but I am grateful that the principles of ‘naked Anabaptism’ are sometimes clothed in Hutterite, Amish, and Mennonite dress” (158-159).

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Christian Peacemaker Teams 25th anniversary celebration

I haven’t posted anything in the last month, partly because I’ve been doing planning and prep work for our upcoming Peacemaker Congress this fall (October 13-16). The theme is Re-imagining Partnerships for Peace: A 25th anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a wonderful opportunities to connect with others who care about peacemaking on the margins and help CPT think about its next 25 years. Come join us! http://www.cpt.org/participate/peacemaker-congress-2011.

Speakers and presenters include: Tony Brown, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, Elaine Enns, Ched Myers, Fathiyeh Gainey, Angela Castellanos and Mohammed Salah.

The event will be hosted by Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois, USA.