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…)
I am a frequent reader of children’s books. I can’t help it. I have two small children of my own who have voracious appetites for books, so reading and reviewing this book seemed a welcomed challenge.
As many adults can attest there is no lack of books for children and most of it just doesn’t keep you coming back for more – even though such sentiment may not be shared by your child. I dove straight into this book with a willful giddiness because it explored the largely forgotten topic of peace. Not the typical child peace story that takes place during recess, but an actual story of someone engaging in nonviolent action to thwart bloodshed. These are the stories that I want my children to be versed in, exposed to, and ultimately to possess in their own right.
Several months ago I drafted a post on Occupy Wall Street suggesting that people interested in thinking through issues of race and gender (re)turn to Adrienne Rich as a wise source. We so often forget those who have gone before us, outside a fairly limited range, and I thought posting a few quotations from one of Rich’s essays might provoke thought and also encourage folks to dig out college anthologies, hunt down books in the library, or do a little web-searching.
I didn’t post the little piece because I wanted it to be Just Right. Then I got busy.
And now Adrienne Rich has died, and I am reminded again of how much she has to teach us.
So, you have read about intentional community in Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution years ago and new monasticism has now become a part of your everyday vocabulary. Maybe you are nearing the end of your college career, or maybe you are facing another life transition and wondering how to integrate your values in to those exciting next steps. In other words, what now?
Or, perhaps you are someone who has been living “in community” for some time now, but the experience has increased your skepticism and cynicism rather than given you new life-giving perspective. Your expectations were not met, probably because you carried too many expectations with you. Your impression of “community” has officially been sobered. As Bonheoffer says in Life Together, the earlier a community can let go of its wish dream, the better for the community.
This post is for the excited college graduate, eager to combine faith and practice. It is also to the sobered young adult who has already faced some of the world’s harshest realities, and to anyone in between who is still somehow interested in this word (more…)
October 6 marks the 10-year anniversary of the United States’ war in Afghanistan. In response to this event and the stories of woman in war zones around the world, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) in the United States plans to rally “women and thoughtful men” around the U.S. to proclaim that this war has gone on 10 years too long and demand “not one more death allowed” and “not one more dollar spent” on this war. They join the thousands who continue the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and direct-democracy actions in New York and many other cities and towns across the U.S.
The anniversary of this war marks the years of my journey doing feminist anti-war organizing (with WAND, Mennonites, and others). It is a formation that began in the early days of this war in 2001 when, as a senior at a Mennonite high school, I became pen pals with a young woman who lived in Nazareth. She spoke Arabic and English. I spoke English and Spanish. We didn’t know anything else about each others’ realities. Through English-language letters over the next year, we began to paint a picture of daily life across the world for one another.
I never imagined that 10 years later there would still be a U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
I never imagined that 10 years later I would live in Jerusalem, not far from Nazareth. (more…)
Ultimately the controversy stems from the fact that Bell is raising core questions about issues that are central to the Christian faith. He has posed the questions in ways that have led some to conclude that Bell is promoting something called Universalism; a doctrine where everyone gets saved, no matter what. Again, these are all assumptions because none of his critics have actually read the book yet. The only worthwhile critique I’ve read so far is Greg Boyd’s, namely because he actually has read the book. (As a side note, as an Anabaptist, it’s worth paying attention to Boyd partly because he’s grown very close to Mennonites in recent years, even flirting with the idea of joining MCUSA.) (more…)
This week, I finished this lovely book. I’m a bit behind on the bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally got around to it: finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle left me feeling challenged and alive and hopeful.
The book is Kingsolver’s account of a year’s experiment in local eating. She, along with her husband and two daughters, set out to fully occupy their Virginia land, gardening and raising animals, canning and freezing, cooking from scratch, and purchasing what they could not make (with a few exceptions) from sources as nearby as possible. It’s a beautifully written narrative, combining experience and research. Kingsolver’s husband Steven Hopp provides succinct (and sometimes zingy) sidebars on the politics and science of U.S. food economics, and her daughter Camille ends many of the chapters with a young person’s perspective and suggested recipes.
This is the sort of book that makes me long for a bit of land, a laundry line, a nice wide pantry, a chest freezer. Its compelling writing and solid argumentation leave me wondering how most of us continue to deceive ourselves that our participation in widespread profit-driven food practices has no lasting negative effects. The book doesn’t browbeat, but it certainly leaves me with a heavy sense of my responsibility–our responsibility–as well as our possibilities. Does our attachment to convenient, out-of-season, processed, cheap foods in the U.S. damage our own health, the health of soil, the health of local economies (in the States and across the globe), the health of global economies, the health of vulnerable migrant workers, and the health of the planet–thus the health of our children and theirs? Absolutely. Are we all free to up and leave our urban or suburban lives to go claim a bit of homestead? Not really. But are there things we can do? Absolutely. (more…)
The Holy Spirit: Lord and Life-Giver
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3307-8 IVP Amazon
It’s a bit of a low blow to poorly review a literary/artistic work when you are charging it with not being what you expected it to be. For example, when I was 8, my art teacher asked us to draw and color…I think it was a landscape. Now I have never really been a great artist, mostly because I’ve been colorblind since birth (though I did have a brief phase during my adolescence in which I won a prize from a local art gallery for my pencil and black ink rendering of some shadowy, comic book-esque superhero). So when it came time for me to draw a landscape, and I spent the time grabbing any color I felt like and making scribbles all over the place, when our work was done my teacher kicked me out of class, called my mother, and had a conference that afternoon. She told my mother that my work was unbecoming of an eight-year old. My mother blinked at her and said “what’s becoming of an eight year old in art class?”
The story is not directly equivalent, but the meaning shines through ( I hope): it’s not fair for me to set expectations for Satyavrata’s book- that he had no intent of keeping – and then criticize him for not doing so. However, the marketing of this book has made it particularly difficult not to. (more…)
It seems to be assumed that the way we can build a movement in our society is by wring books, building platforms, and then touring around using our amassed social capital to woo large numbers of people to being a part of the movement. This often, it seems to me, leads to a sort of coopted radical space where folks never have to go beyond the figure head who is leading the movement.
As more and more Christians in the US begin to wake up to the radical message, the question of “So what next?” becomes more and more important. Though Mark names Pete Rollins as the inspiration for his post, he just as easily could be talking about Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hart-Groves, the authors of the New Monasticism movement. It seems that every couple of months, I see a new book out from Jonathan or Shane. I’m sure they are all quite good, but I’m not convinced they are pushing the envelope much beyond Irresistible Revolution, a book that clearly reached a new evangelical audience with a message of radical, Jesus-centered Christianity. Many new Christian Peacemaker Teams recruits continue to tell me Shane’s first book was the where they first heard about CPT.
So, you say that social change isn’t about writing books and touring (or blogging for that matter)? Then what is it about?? (more…)
This is a letter to YAR readers from Kathleen Kern, a colleague of mine at Christian Peacemaker Teams as well as a novelist. I was a fan of her first novel, Where Such Unmaking Reigns and I’ve also read the manuscript she describes below.
Last year, I completed a second novel featuring the work of a fictitious group called Reformed Anabaptist Peace Teams. I’ve posted the following on a number of anime websites, and checked with the local anime club at Rochester Institute of Technology, but have had still had no takers for more
than year. A YAR suggested I post my request here:
This year, I completed my second novel, the main character of which, Spike Darbyfield is emotionally invested in only two things: her younger sister, Margie, and higher end Japanese Anime series [the ones I mention the most are Blood+, Samurai Champloo, and Cowboy Bebop.] From others in her family,
colleagues, clientele, and the rest of humanity, she maintains an ironic or contemptuous detachment. When an Iraqi militant group kidnaps Margie while she is working for a human rights organization in Iraq, the crisis creates openings in what Spike has perceived as her invulnerable exterior, allowing
those who care about her to begin relating to her (and her to them) in different ways. (more…)
A high church Reformed Anglican bishop, NT Wright, has just written a book called Justification, which (as you can guess) is a summary of his thought on this much-debated issue within the Western Christian world.
His impetus for the book is a book published in 2007 by Dr. John Piper called The Future of Justification which probes the underpinnings of Wright’s understanding of Paul and if this is a helpful or harmful understanding.
Leaving aside the problems that Piper has elucidated (some of which Wright has not fully answered), Wright does proivde a vision of justification that – perhaps not surprisingly – is more in touch with the understanding of the 17th century Mennonite church than it is with Reformed theology. Perhaps it is a bridge between the two on this issue? Certainly, though, the doctrine of justification is not the strongest the Mennonite church has proclaimed, but it is nonetheless important and present in its confession. (more…)
Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community Andrew Marin
Published: March 2009
If you were to meet Andrew Marin (and providing you have some experience with Evangelical culture), it might strike you that he looks, acts, and talks like the epitome of a twenty-something Evangelical guy. His hair is cut pretty short. When I heard him speak, he was wearing long khaki cargo shorts and an oversized striped polo shirt. He is effusive and outgoing in mannerisms, and when he speaks, he loves to interject words like “awesome” and “pumped up” into his emotional-wallop-packing anecdotes and series of simple, Bible-verse backed points. Stock Evangelicalish phrases seem to work their way un-self-consciously into every other sentence.
In his own words (paraphrased from what I remember), he is what his large Evangelical church in a (quite) affluent Chicago suburb raised him to be: an outgoing, straight, conservative, Bible-believing alpha-male. And he doesn’t just appear to be this. He truly is this, and he fully claims it.
So… this has all been just to set up some tension over everything else I want to say about Andrew Marin, his eight year of work in the GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered) community, and especially his new book published by Intervarsity Press, “Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.” For those who don’t know me, I grew up very Christian and very Mennonite, went through a lot of pain figuring out my sexual orientation, am gay, and currently approach the church and the Bible with a lot of ambivalence over whether they’re fundamentally good or bad (and whether they lead one toward Christ or kill any possibility of actually encountering Christ.) Add that to the tension. (more…)
Since N.T. Wright’s recently released book, Justification, is currently getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere, I thought a review of a less controversial volume of his writings would be a breath of fresh air.
An oft unread – or perhaps undiscussed – letter of the New Testament is Paul’s letter to Philemon, asking him (in subtle but not uncertain terms) that he should free Onesimus, the former’s runaway slave.
It is an interesting letter to consider for those probing the social implications of the gospel message. N.T. Wright’s highly engaging and astute commentary in Colossians and Philemon recently re-released by Intervarsity Press, offers a great starting point for those consideration. I think this is one of the most engaging biblical commentaries I’ve ever read. Wright is exceptionally clear in his writing and thinking. I want to get this out of the way before I say anything more: get a copy of this book. You can find it for less than $11 at Amazon, and it’s well worth the money to better understand the Word of God from an accomplished and respected scholar like Wright. It is a part of the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, a series of affordable and understandable (i.e., you don’t have to be in seminary) commentaries currently under the IVP imprint. (more…)
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…)
Now what? I woke up the morning after Election Day politically disoriented. The empty feeling in my stomach didn’t go away after eating my usual yogurt and granola. What would I do in a world without politics? Do I have to wait another four years to fill that gnawing political void?
Not according to Romand Coles and Stanley Hauerwas in their new book: Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary (Cascade, 2008). Politics is not restricted to something that happens when we vote, they argue. Instead, politics involves all the ways we tend to “common goods” which exceed “settled institutional forms” (3). In other words, politics happens outside the voting booth as well. Politics happens in our neighborhoods, not just in Washington, D.C. Democracy involves “a multitude of peoples enacting myriad forms of the politics of the radical ordinary in ways,” they write (8). For Coles and Hauerwas, democracy is everyday politics that turns us to the importance of “concrete practices of tending to one another” (8).
Coles describes the Civil Rights movement as a story of everyday democracy. He does not focus on the familiar story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead Coles turns our gaze from powerful pulpits to the ordinary African-American churchwomen who gave Dr. King something to talk about. (more…)