Since becoming Mennonite, I have thought more about the ethics of consumption than I had previously as a generically evangelical Christian. I have been challenged to analyze the impact of how I spend my money (and how much I spend), where I shop for clothes, what food I eat, etc. I imagine that–like me–many Mennonites (and other Anabaptists and fellow Christians) had these issues brought to their attention through such classics as Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger or Doris Janzen Longacre’s More with Less cookbook. While I have found the Mennonite emphasis on simplicity to be one of its more attractive (albeit challenging) features, it wasn’t until I met my anorexic friend, Michelle, at our local Mennonite church that I saw the potentially damaging effects this teaching could have on those who already struggle with food-related issues. For those interesting in thinking through these difficult questions, I commend to you Michelle’s new blog, More with Much Less: An Anorexic’s Guide to Mennonite Cooking. In the meantime, here’s hoping that she’ll invite me over for some of Janzen Longacre’s recipes!
Many Young Anabaptist Radicals might have a difficult time accepting evangelicals among our ranks. And for good reason. As a whole, evangelicalism and Anabaptism have some major differences. However, I submit that the boundaries of each group are porous enough to allow for some constructive dialogue and even overlap. (Think, for example, of Ron Sider.)
I grew up in the evangelical church. For better or worse, it is the church with which I still most identify, even given our many obvious flaws. With my recent “conversion” to Anabaptist theology and practice, I’m not yet sure that I would fully fit in with Mennonite culture. John Roth once gave me some good advice: Live your Anabaptist witness in your own church culture. I would give the same advice to others in my shoes.
I have been encouraged by the fact that even the most influential of Mennonites, John Howard Yoder, often interacted with the evangelical world, even making the cover of Christianity Today for a story on evangelical leaders! So, I’ve started a group for evangelical Anabaptists like me, who because of our Anabaptism are something of exiles from mainstream evangelicalism and because of our evangelicalism are not quite at home in mainstream Anabaptism. We call ourselves the Evangelical Anabaptist Revolution (EAR), and recently printed t-shirts with this design. (First printing of the t-shirts are all out, by the way. After you see the design, you’ll realize why. Maybe we can print more if people are interested.)
If the above describes you, drop me a note or contact me on facebook. We’d love to have some YAR representation in EAR. Or minimally, we’d love to have some fruitful dialogue.
[Note: This post was originally posted at Cramer Comments. I understand that its revelation may not be quite as shocking here.]
I have a confession to make.
Some of my friends and colleagues are already fully apprised of what I am about to say. But for many other family members and peers, all they know is what they have heard in rumors or gleaned from suggestive comments on previous blogs.
Today I must put this mystery to rest. Today I must accept myself for who I really am and trust that others will learn to accept me for who I am too. (more…)
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…)
[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.