We are Anabaptists. We are Mennonites. We are distinct from other Protestants and denominations. We care about peace, justice, community. We are a unique and special people.
Many of us feel this way or at least I know, at times, I do. There is a special quality of Christianity that is evidenced in Anabaptism. Yes, we were persecuted by the Holy Catholic Church, but we were also persecuted by fellow Protestants. There is severity and deep conviction in our confession of faith.
Yet, in truth, too often we rest on the laurels of our Anabaptist forebears. We recall or express nostalgia for the countercultural, anti-empire sentiments and actions of those who came before us, all the while colluding with the current empire on many levels in our life. Some of us (even unwittingly) invest in stocks for pharmaceutical corporations and weapons manufacturers, thus endorsing a system that benefit from death and destruction.
Many persons and whole churches have substituted absolute pacifism with Just War Theory. In that regard we have embraced Augustinean Christianity to the detriment of Jesus’ command to love even our enemies who persecute and abuse us. We claim a Mennonite identity, but too often embrace an American identity or political ideology (whether left or right). We fail to recognize the radical calling upon our lives, which is to root ourselves in a Christ identity.
Some of us need a fresh baptism, a next baptism to awaken us to Christ’s calling upon our lives. We may have been baptized in water, but now we need a fire baptism to burn out the iniquity and inequality that pervades our lives. Like a prairie fire that burns the dead things and promotes richer soil, so too do we need the Spirit of fire to prepare us to live more deeply and richly. (more…)
August 20, 2014
activism, Anabaptism, antiracism, Biographical, Books, Change, Church, Class, Community, Conscientious Objection, Economics, empire, Martyrdom, Mennonite Church USA, Military, neo-Anabaptism, New Monasticism, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, Social justice, Social movements, Spiritual Life, Stories, Urban Ministry, Writing
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This post was originally featured on The Jesus Event, and is part of a series entitled “I once was raised… but now I’ve found…” where some of the author’s favorite writers, bloggers, scholars, and theologians explain the transitions they have encountered along their own faith journey.
Below is an interview with The Jesus Event’s Tyler Tully and the Femonite’s Hannah Heinzekehr
Tyler- There are a lot of misconceptions out there about being a Mennonite and being raised as a Mennonite. You seemed to have been raised by parents who made room for good theological frameworks. How would you explain what it is like being raised as a Mennonite?
Hannah- Well, for me, being raised as a Mennonite didn’t mean looking “outwardly different” at all. For me, what it meant to grow up Mennonite was that there was always an emphasis on Jesus’ story and what that meant for how we lived. And some of the ways that this got expressed were through baptism later in life — baptism occurred when you were old enough to make a conscious choice that you have to make on your own to follow Jesus. It also included an emphasis on peace and nonviolence as part of the way that we were meant to live in the world. For my family, being Mennonite also meant being pacifist and resisting violence in all its many forms. This doesn’t mean that we are passive — I think we also strongly believed that we were meant to protest against injustice in the world — but we weren’t going to use violence to do this work. And the third thing that I often think of is that being Mennonite, for my family, meant being part of a church community that was active in each other’s lives and not just on Sundays.
I think there was a strong emphasis on communal decision making and being willing to give and receive counsel to one another.
August 10, 2013
Anabaptism, Biographical, Blog, children, Church, Discipleship, Family, Mennonite Church USA, Theology, Writing, Young Folks
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I grew up in Church of Christ, a branch of the Stone/Campbell movement (along with the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ with the Church of Christ being the most conservative). If you think of them as Southern Baptists without a formal denomination structure or musical instruments in worship, you would have a fair approximation. I grew up conflating Christianity with America, the Republican Party (particularly the Libertarian wing) and the military.
Among the strengths of the church were the desire to do the will of God, a strong theology of the priesthood of all (unfortunately just male) adult believers, and the willingness to be counter-cultural. They are officially non-creedal, but they have collected a set of traditions, especially of which parts of scripture are enshrined and which are explained away that can be at least as powerful as any written creed. (more…)
May 25, 2013
Anabaptism, Biographical, Church of Christ, Mennonite Church USA
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As mentioned I did some research on the issue of whether the SBC or Baptists in general were Anabaptists or had any historical connection with them. The following is what I uncovered on the matter.
Years ago, when I started investigating Anabaptistica the Anabaptists were still the pariahs of the Reformation. Church History texts relegated them to the inquisitional dungeons of Christendom in the form of an obscure sentence or paragraph generally accompanied by the terms “heretic” or “aberrant”. Now everyone appears to taking on the Anabaptist moniker as mentioned previously principally the Baptists.
Not too long ago Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary held the Anabaptism and Contemporary Baptists Conference in which the speakers praised Anabaptism and they passionately made the claim that contemporary Baptists were descended from this group.
However, many scholars find very little connection between the two groups in any significant sense. Contemporary Baptists originated from two streams or individuals namely John Smyth (c. 1565 – 1612) and Thomas Helwys (c. 1570 – c. 1615) around the 17th century.
Just because the designation Anabaptist has “baptist” in it that does not signify that, they are associated or originated with Anabaptists. There is not definitive relationship to the “Anabaptists” but the Waterlander Mennonites briefly influenced John Smyth whereas Helwys (Smyth successor of sorts) had reservations about the Mennonites specifically their Christology thus he severed bonds with the group.
April 8, 2013
Anabaptism, Biographical, Conscientious Objection
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It was only recently that I have come to identify with Anabaptist Christianity, and it has only been within the last few days that I have come in contact with Young Anabaptist Radicals. Nevertheless, I have been graciously invited to share my story with you, and introduce myself.
My religious journey really started out like most Americans. I was raised in a home that was culturally Christian. We occasionally went to church (typically Christmas or Easter), were baptized at a young age, attended Sunday school every so often, and were read stories from the Bible. My family was the standard Mainline Protestant American family. Despite my early experiences with Christianity, I never did actually believe in it. Really, I was more of an agnostic on most days, and an atheist on some. I spent most of my early childhood like this.
Despite my secularism, I did eventually develop an admiration for the Buddha, and before I knew it, I was reciting the Three Refuges, reading Buddhist literature, and identifying as a Buddhist. Then, due to by brother’s influence, I developed a small interest in Christianity. I got my first Bible, and I began attending church with my brother. Unfortunately, it was an Evangelical Free megachurch that had an unholy mix of the Prosperity Gospel and Fundamentalism. It is needless to say that I did not last long in that church, but it did have an effect on me. I associated it with Christianity and returned to Buddhism.
This would all change when I came across a book by my favorite Buddhist scholar and activist — Thich Nhat Hanh. His book Living Buddha, Living Christ completely changed my understanding of Christianity. It introduced me to St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Elaine Pagels, and numerous others. For the first time in my life, I was introduced to some good theology. Not a theology of greed or hate, but one of social justice and love. So with this book, I developed an interest in Christianity again.
November 2, 2012
Anabaptism, Biographical, Blog, Community, Interfaith, liberation theology, Politics, Social justice, Spiritual Life, Young Folks
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On May 23, Charletta and I will be leaving Chicago for a year’s sojourn in California. As I sit down to share this with you, I realize that most of my writing on this blog is opinion or analytical. And I usually only post photos on my blog for The Mennonite. It’s rare that I write about developments in my life. But this one is too big not to mention.
Some of you may remember my post, “In the garden after the rain in California,” from more than a year ago. That trip began a discernment process for Charletta and me on whether to move to live and work with Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. They live in Oak View, Calif., a small town on the edge of Los Padres National Forest and 70 miles west (and a bit north) of Los Angeles. To the right is the view of the mountains in the National Forest from their house.
During our year in California, I will continue in my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), web design and photography. Charletta will work with Ched and Elaine as part of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, part time in their office and part time as a counselor with the Peace and Justice Academy in Pasadena. The year will also be a space of discernment about what’s next for the two of us.
April 23, 2012
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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…)
August 22, 2011
Anabaptism, Biographical, Change, Church, City, Civilization, Consumerism, culture, Current Events, Economics, Education, Ethics, Evangelism, Exclusion, God, Group Identity, History, Interfaith, Love, Mennonite Church USA, Mental health, Nonviolence, philosophy, Polarization, poverty, Power, Privilege, Race, Schism, Sex, Spiritual Life, Stewardship, Stories, The Bible, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition, Urban Ministry, Wealth
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Just read this article. I feel misunderstood; but in a way they do call us out on some stuff. It’s called “Mennonite Takeover?.” What do you think?
All these neo-Anabaptists denounce traditional American Christianity for its supposed seduction by American civil religion and ostensible support for the “empire.” They reject and identify America with the reputed fatal accommodation between Christianity and the Roman Emperor Constantine capturing the Church as a supposed instrument of state power. Conservative Christians are neo-Anabaptists’ favorite targets for their alleged usurpation by Republican Party politics. But the neo-Anabaptists increasingly offer their own fairly aggressive politics aligned with the Democratic Party, in a way that should trouble traditional Mennonites. Although the neo-Anabaptists sort of subscribe to a tradition that rejects or, at most, passively abides state power, they now demand a greatly expanded and more coercive state commandeering health care, regulating the environment, and punishing wicked industries.
Even more strangely, though maybe unsurprisingly, mainstream religious liberals now echo the Anabaptist message, especially its pacifism. The Evangelical Left especially appreciates that the neo-Anabaptist claim to offer the very simple “politics of Jesus” appeals to young evangelicals disenchanted with old-style conservatives but reluctant to align directly with the Left. Most famously, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, once a clear-cut old style Religious Left activist who championed Students for a Democratic Society and Marxist liberationist movements like the Sandinistas, now speaks in neo-Anabaptist tones.
November 14, 2010
activism, Anabaptism, Bias, Biographical, Blog, Change, Church, communication, Community, Conscientious Objection, culture, Current Events, Discipleship, Ethics, Evangelism, Group Identity, History, Mennonite Church USA, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, philosophy, Polarization, Polemics, Power, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition
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I just got back from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Our church took a group of 10 high schoolers on a week and a half long service trip. Our primary work was on the Samuelito Daycare building, a project of the Mennonite Churches in Bolivia. Our church here in Harper, Ks has had a relationship with the Bolivian Mennonites for going on 20 years. For a fairly typical rural Mennonite church, it’s a partnership that is pretty special and really quite amazing.
One thing to know about our group is that the majority of the kids that we took aren’t particularly involved in church. Also, most of them haven’t really been out of the state or even our county, let alone to another country. That to say that this trip was the first profound experience of the working of God on a global scale for most of our kids. As with most service trips, yes we did do some amount of good work on the building project. However, we certainly received more than we gave and were changed in some profound ways.
As part of our reporting back to the congregation, I offered the sermon below. Hopefully it’s a helpful reflection. It’s specific to this trip and to Bolivia, but I think it really should to many cross-cultural situations.
Oh, yeah and it’s cross posted here.
I went to the Grand Canyon with my family when I was in High School. As my family toured various parts of the canyon and different times of the day it felt as though I was seeing new things about every 10 minutes. And of course, I felt compelled to take picture of every new thing that I saw. When we got back home and had our pictures developed I remember looking at all of the pictures and thinking, “yep, that’s a hole in the ground. Yep, another hole in the ground.” What had been so vivid when I was experiencing it lost it’s uniqueness when I tried to put it on film. (more…)
June 14, 2010
Bias, Bigotry, Biographical, Change, communication, Community, culture, Faith, Family, Global Church, God, International Relations, Stories, Uncategorized
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Hey folksies. My names Charles. I’ve been lurking on and off here for quite awhile and finally got around to joining this excellent community of quality folk. And thus I have to introduce myself.
But let’s preface some of the particulars of where I come from and where I’m going with a much more fun sense of who I am. I’m a very vocal, people oriented person. I love good conversation and do most of my best thinking vocally while in dialogue with others. Which unfortunately means I’m not a very good writer (hello, text ridden blog world), so part of what excites me about YAR here is a chance to engage in dialogue with intelligent people in a new medium, I think I’ll find that stretching. I like to laugh, I like to smile and I’ll hug just about anyone (though I’m now getting better at recognizing appropriate hug settings :P). I enjoy good beer, fine wine, nerdy boardgames and plenty of other geeky activities (especially those involving other people).
I’m a Mennonite and was raised as such. I spent about six years in the Mennonite education system graduating from Goshen with a degree in Bible/Religion. And I’m going back in the fall for an MDiv from AMBS. I just can’t escape. (more…)
January 29, 2010
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Greetings, my fellow YARs!
As I am the newest and probably youngest contributor to this community blog, I thought before posting stuff here I should introduce myself.
I am seventeen (thus I think I have proven to be young) and I am a Kraut, as American G.I.s came to call Germans, when they occupied Germany after liberating us from fascism, although I rarely eat kraut at all. I was born into a Mennonite intentional community in a small town, which is why I always somehow found it funny when people are so amazed by community living – for me that’s everyday life.
The Anabaptist tradition has been passed along to me by my parents and still I think I can still call myself radical, because I chose it myself in my baptism and everyday life.
My hobbies are rather nerdy: reading, playing chess, Pen&Paper games (I am still working on an Anabaptist P&P set in the 16th century…) and peace.
What more is there to say: Oh yes, the military just sent me a letter, that my examination will be next summer and that I would have very good career options if I became a sergeant (in Germany we have a draft).
Hello, I am glad to be here.
December 6, 2009
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Well I am sitting down, forcing myself to write this. I’ve been back in my community in Perth Western Australia for about 2 months – I guess that’s long enough. The title is a lame attempt to sum up what the content of this entry is – you know like titles used to. I’ve not written for a while a number of reasons; writers block call it.
My wife and I were refused entry to the UK in early September, this event adding further interest to our Sabbath year. (We have been involved in a car accident, were in Melbourne at the time of ‘Black Saturday’, an old friend was murdered, we were not paid for work we did in Australia … I’m sure theres more)
Our experience at Heathrow was another first. We came to the gate at about 6 am local time and after a short conversation were placed somewhere for special people – in detention. After 4 or so hours we had a secondary interview and then told of our imminent return to our last port – Singapore, a cool 12 hour flight.
There was this sense in rubbing up against a beast, so large that even if we pushed with all our selves we would not move it. We resigned ourselves to returning. The beast was the UK’s Home Office.
The Home Office said that we were lying about our intention to come for a holiday for 5 months – that we were going to work. I’m a nine on the enneagram (I think) so I’m great at seeing other people’s point of view. I can see a little of what they meant, in our lack of preparation.
But, they wouldn’t let us access the internet to prove our cash resources, didn’t give us independent advice about our options, were not transparent about either processes or laws and relied on theories of what people will and will not do. I’m white and my first language is English and I was confused and frustrated by my treatment. I cannot begin to imagine the experience of others who were there. We met with people who were arbitrarily detained from Africa, Sri Lanka, and Brazil all of who were allowed in after some hours (their visas were fine only the staff took a disliking to something). Spending time with them was great, we would try to comfort them, explain things to them and talk with them.
November 4, 2009
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Dearest all, my name is Hilary. Perhaps, this will allow you to get to know me a little bit: I love cutting vegetables and baking bread. There is something about getting my hands entangled in earth-turned-food that reminds me of what is important in life. One of my favorite things to do is to come home and sit with my neighbors on their front porches. Becoming entangled in the lives of created human beings makes my own roots grow deeper into the ground. I cannot remember one time in my life (since the 8th grade) when I turned down an opportunity to go dancing! Moving my body, giving my body the right to take space in the world and the space to create its own story has been a tool for healing that has never failed me. And that considered, I have recently been breaking into the world of body prayer… and I am loving it.
COLOR. My soul is suffocated without color. When I was little, I used to refer to different buildings and stores according to the color of the light in them (pink light, yellow light, blue light…). Recently, at a time of extreme stress and hardship in my life, I impulsively went to a convenience store (the sort of store I never step foot in) and bought 6 different colors of bright nail polish (without checking to see if they were tested on animals and without letting myself think about where the money was going..). When I was home and my nails were flaunting the obnoxious hues, the pressure in my bones drained, and my own breath returned. If I could have a canvas the size of an entire wall, and gallons upon gallons of natural paint, the joys of my life.. color, bodies, movement, creation, relationships.. would all fold in on each other in one beautiful act of worship.
I care about lots of things. I care about wholeness in communities, in our congregations, in our global relationships and in our personal selves. I care deeply about respect and justice. Without these, we condemn ourselves to eternal brokenness. (more…)
October 21, 2009
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I am the newest contributor to the YAR blog, and as is the custom here, I was asked to introduced myself. I won’t bore you with my life story. I’ll keep it short and relevant.
My life is a complex journey, as all of ours tend to be in this day and age. I am a suburban southern kid who was raised during the corporate take over my once rural town. I watched the wild playground of my youth become paved and replaced with shopping malls. All the tree forts and hideouts we built as kids were replaced one-by-one with ‘real’ shelters, housing wealthy neighbors with well-manicured lawns. The whole infrastructure of my town shifted, and slowly, so did the income level and mindset of my family. The innocence of my youth was not only interrupted by all the normal challenges of adolescence, but also the rising consciousness of suburbia, consumerism, wealth, competition… capitalism.
For years I have been trying to forget what I know and remember what life was like before the corporate takeover of my town and my mind. Isn’t this the journey we are all on, trying to reconnect with our primal selves, our young innocence, our wide-eyed hope? This search has brought me so many places, literally and figuratively. I am currently living in Chicago, the third largest city in the country. I hate it. It’s a big concrete jungle, devoid of anything wild or natural. What keeps me here is the community house that I live in. But as the winter moves in, I will be moving out and navigating back to Florida, where I grew up. I thrive in wild spaces, under stars, below trees. Though, I will say that as a student of herbal medicine, I love seeing tough healing plants rising between the cracks of abandoned factories. It gives me a glimpse of the coming kingdom of god. “A tree shall sprout in the middle of the city, and it’s leaves shall bring healing.” Revelation 22:2 (more…)
October 1, 2009
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Hello. My name is Josh. And I am an Anabaptist.
Well, pretty sure anyway. Theres only a small number of people using the label of Anabaptism is Australia, tho many more exploring the traditions and those related to it.
I came to anarchism and anabaptism through a marrying of my activism and earlier evangelicalism.
My wife and I live in a small community in Perth called Peace Tree. Peace Tree has been around since ’04, living in a forgotten neighbourhood trying to work out how to live as Christians in a society more interested in security and money. Our community is small, a max population of 8, but perhaps 20 with sympathizers.
My wife (Amy) and I are actually away from home at the moment as well. We’ve been 5 months in Timor Leste (me working on a Permaculture garden and Amy mostly teacing english). This coming weekend we go the UK for 5 months and are keen to catch up with communities and like minded ppl. I came across this blog trying to find out what is happening (I saw another community member – Jarrod Mckenna – being written about as well). So, yeah, hello – I like coffee and gardening.
September 4, 2009
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