A few weeks ago, I referenced Romans 12:2 in a comment on SteveK’s post on fire codes and faith. Tim B questioned whether this was a relevant passage. This post represents my further thoughts on the passages relevance to bureaucracy.
“In the world, but not of it.” This is a concept long embraced by Mennonites in style of dress and rejection of other “worldy” trappings. But in the last 50 years, the stance of mainstream Mennonites has changed dramatically. Embracing radio, television and lipstick, we’ve come to see our Christian distinctiveness through our dissenting view on war, our commitment to simple living and our Christian service. Unfortunately, in our rush to engage the world on these issues, we have uncritically embraced a piece of this aion (Gk., spirit of this world) far more dangerous then lipstick and ties. That is: institutional structures and bureaucracy.
Tim, you might say, aren’t you being a bit over-dramatic? Can institutional structures really hurt anyone? Aren’t they just neutral tools that can be used for good or ill?
In this first part of my series on bureaucracy and institutionalism, I’ll draw on three writers to make my case. The first is Kathy Ferguson in her book, The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy. (more…)
February 28, 2011
Change, Mennonite Church USA
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I have finally discovered how to beat spiritual oppression. I realize that in this day and age of the trillion self-proclaimed “self-help gurus” that this blog may just fall by the wayside. But my spirit must confess what I have learned on this journey, commonly referred to as life. This is a practice and it is work and sometimes hard work, but I must say that the alternative namely living life angrily, broken-up, passive-aggressively, and above all in a negative fashion is far more draining even if it is less work at the end of the day.
I have noticed that I find it most unbearable to subject myself to people who have entitlement complexes, resentments that they refuse to amend, grudges, burnt bridges, sour grapes, angry dispositions, and in general a loathsome negative approach to their thinking. It is not enough that people who have decided to be negative are themselves negative but unfortunately this adult form of colicky can not seem to help but to alienate whoever has the bad fortune of making their acquaintance. It may seem that I have a lack of compassion for those who suffer from this form of spiritual oppression but that is not the case, it is just that I by birth inherited such a person who happen to come in the form of a parent and several grandparents and so I have been initiated into this horrible lot from childhood and therefore it has been a uphill struggle for me to reclaim my birthright as a Joyful Christian and Defender of the Faith.
February 19, 2011
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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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As part of the conversation that often occurred in response to Mennonites in Northern Ghana, who were asking me “what does it mean to be Mennonite?” I would quote a snippet from Menno’s document. (I mean, only sometimes, when they asked specifically about Simons, because “church founders” are a BIG deal there). But the language was such that I always found myself changing the words. These folks loved Jesus, and they weren’t necessarily asking me about what Jesus had to say about discipleship and prayer, but they wanted to know what Menno had to say. They had only relative familiarity with British English and most are distanced from the written word. I wonder if I translated the following accurately? I wonder if it matters? How would you translate/summarize this part of Menno Simon’s Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539)
“True evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lie dormant, but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto the flesh and blood; it destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; it seeks and serves and fears God; (more…)
February 15, 2010
Anabaptism, Change, Clothing, communication, Community, culture, Death, Discipleship, Education, Ethics, Evangelism, Global Church, God, Group Identity, History, Interpretation, Language, liberation theology, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, philosophy, Poetry, Polemics, Politics, poverty, Power, Prayer, Privilege, Stewardship, The Bible, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition, Wealth, Writing, Young Folks
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There is a fair amount of change on the horizon for me as a YAR. I seek to face the changes with a soundness in mind, body, and soul. When I look back at the times when I was the healthiest and times I was the unhealthiest………I see that one factor is whether or not I was doing one or more spiritual practices.
Do you have any spiritual practices (sometimes called spiritual disciplines or spiritual exercises) that you hope to pursue this next year or the next decade?
I’m thinking about the ones that I hope to do this year (or at least for the next little while) and my challenge is also to “not pick too many”.
January 2, 2010
Anabaptism, Change, Contemplation, Current Events, Faith, Fun, Spiritual Life
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Please, I am wondering if anyone knows of a less militarized way of labeling a group of people who commit to praying for an event or process. I am gathering a group of people to give SERIOUS prayer support to the process of pastoral transition at church. Traditionally, the term “prayer warrior” has been used. I like the sense of commitment, power, authority, determination, and passion that this label carries, but it is just too violent. Warriors kill and train to dominate and decimate their enemies. We are pacifists and so need a better term…one that connotes all these qualities above but isn’t war-like. (more…)
December 5, 2009
Change, Church, communication, Contemplation, Group Identity, Language, Military, Nonviolence, philosophy, Spiritual Life, war
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Since I last wrote, Allan has provided this info that completes the reporting from the Winnipeg meetings. (Thanks Allan)! A document entitled “Recommendations from September 2009 Inquiry Task Force Meeting” has been posted on MCC’s website that gives further context, and charts a path forward in addressing the concerns that were named. I would encourage each of you to read this.
MCC relates to what you are about as Young Anabaptist Radicals, and this process is significant for MCC and the broader church community.
MCC is a radical organization: it is about living out our basic values as Anabaptist Christians, rooted in the teachings of Jesus, Scripture, and in the Anabaptist church community. It is important for the broader Anabaptist community to be aware of and speak into this New Wine, New Wineskins process that is engaging MCC stakeholders in discerning God’s direction for the organization. This in-depth listening and evaluation has been guided by three core questions: (more…)
September 22, 2009
activism, Anabaptism, Change, culture, Current Events, Global Church, MCC, Young Folks
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The “final” meetings of the New Wine/New Wineskins Inquiry Task Force (ITF) committee were last weekend in Winnipeg. I thought some of you may want to know about it. MCC is trying to deepen existing bonds of connection and respond to world in a new way through modification of its vision, mission, priorities, values, and approaches…as well as its structure. The New Wine/New Wineskins process was a broad consultation to help think through how we do this.
A number of church leaders, former MCC directors, and others invested in this process have expressed concerns around:
· the fragmentation of international program into national entities. How can we maintain (and improve) MCC’s ability to carry out its mission if international program is given to national MCCs?
· denominations not having sufficient representation on the governance of the proposed national MCC entities, nor the central entity.
· The fact that MCCBN and MCCC tensions have not been adequately addressed in order to be able to move forward. (more…)
September 17, 2009
Anabaptism, Change, communication, Ethics, Global Church, Leadership, Loyalty, MCC, Wealth, Young Folks
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The Global Anabaptist Wiki is an interactive community of Anabaptist-Mennonite groups from around the world. Initiated by the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, the site is committed to helping individual groups: 1) tell their own story; 2) post and preserve electronic archives; and 3) become better informed about other groups in the global Anabaptist fellowship. Like all wiki-based projects, this is a collaborative venture that relies on the local expertise of many people.
This project is still in its early stages of construction. John Roth and others led a workshop at Mennonite World Conference Assembly Gathered (Paraguay 2009) about it…listening to perspectives and discerning whether or not it was a good idea. What do you think about the idea? Will you use it as a resource?
I think this is a good idea because everyone around the world can contribute to create collective knowledge. Some of the things written by people in their home churches about themselves may make North Americans (perhaps especially mission agencies) uncomfortable. This could be a good thing for dialogue. Wiki creates a space that is not owned by anyone. Following up on Alan’s initial post, this decentralization of “ownership of the story” could be a healthy thing. Since young people are more tech saavy, it can be a way that we connect to the background stories of our Anabaptist friends from around the world.
If you want to collaborate with the project in a substantial way, (it needs volunteers to help monitor it and encourage posting) feel free to contact John directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
August 9, 2009
Anabaptism, Change, communication, Education, Global Church, Group Identity, Power, Stories, Technology, Young Folks
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First things first. Being Mennonite has nothing, repeat NOTHING, to do with ethnicity. Being Mennonite, or any other version of Anabaptism, has to do with a particular understanding of faith, religion and God.
That being said, I offer the following observation on the use of the term “ethnic” within the Mennonite Church.
One one hand: I am an “ethnic” Mennonite.
I grew up in central Kansas. Within a 50 mile radius from the Hesston/Newton area there were over 100 different Mennonite settlements. Each of these groups came from various parts of Europe during the 1860’s to 1890’s. They could hardly be described as a homogeneous group, even though today they all happen to all be seen as white/european/Americans. To be fair, the central Kansas Mennonites are also not the same as the northern Indiana Mennonites, which are not the same as the east coast Mennonites. Nevertheless, I grew up knowing that I was part of a group known as “ethnic” Mennonites. In my childhood consciousness that meant, primarily, that we ate weird food, had weird last names, kept track of genealogy to the 14th generation, had grandparents that spoke German and a variety of other things. Above all, however, the term “ethnic Mennonite” referred specifically to a group of white people who emigrated from Europe to the United States.
On the other hand: I am not an “ethnic” Mennonite. (more…)
July 17, 2009
Anabaptism, Change, Church, communication, Race, Theology
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New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112
This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)
June 25, 2009
activism, Anabaptism, Awesome Stuff, Change, children, Church, City, Civilization, Clothing, communication, Community, Conscientious Objection, Consumerism, Contemplation, Corporations, culture, Current Events, Discipleship, Economics, Education, Emerging Church, End Times, Environment, Ethics, Evangelism, Faith, Family, Food, Foreign Policy, Fun, Gender, Global Church, God, Group Identity, Healthcare, History, Immigration, Indigenous, Interfaith, International Relations, Leadership, liberation theology, Love, Loyalty, Mental health, Music, New Monasticism, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, philosophy, Polarization, Police, poverty, Power, Prayer, Privilege, Race, Roman Catholic, Science, Spiritual Life, Stewardship, Stories, submergent, Technology, Television, The Bible, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition, Travel, Urban Ministry, war, Wealth, Writing, Young Folks
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Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
Every once in a while, I stumble across a bunch of links all at once that don’t quite have the coherence to link together in one story, but each offer a compelling perspective. Here are the links that caught my eye this week with brief summaries of the stories:
- Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back – I first became aware of Douglas Rushkoff last month after he published two of the best articles on the financial crisis I’ve read (here and here). Now he has a new book out on corporatism that lucidly illuminates the ruthless role of corporations in our economy as they extract maximum value while giving as little as possible in return. The article above includes brilliant excerpts from chapter 8 and chapter 9 of his book.
- Onward, Christian Soldiers – GQ magazine got their hands on cover sheets from Donald Rumsfeld’s reports to Bush featuring bible verses superimposed on images of war machinery. I don’t use the term lightly, but these images are sickeningly sacrilegious. In the lower left hand corner you can see the dates of each report. They were used during the first days and months of the Iraq invasion. These images go along way to cement the invasion in people’s minds as the face of US Christianity.
May 27, 2009
Awesome Stuff, Change, Corporations, Nonviolence, Politics, US Military
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adapted from As of Yet Untitled
Sunday evening I watched the first episode of We Shall Remain, a five part PBS series you can watch for free on their website. If you have 75 minutes to spare, don’t bother reading this review, just go watch After the Mayflower, the first episode, for yourself.
Contrary to its name, After the Mayflower starts slightly before the Pilgrims made landfall in Plymouth and provides a brief, but rich window into the way of life for the Wampanoag, the local Native American tribe near Plymouth, before the Pilgrims arrived. What was it like to be Wampanoag, the people of the first light, stretched out along the ocean, clearly aware of your place in the continent, welcoming the sun before all others? We also learn about the broad strokes of their political relationships with other local tribes as well as the plague that arrived just before the pilgrims killing 9 in 10 Wampanoag.
The documentary goes on to span the first 60 years of Native American and English relations, beginning with the first treaty between Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag and ending with King Philip’s war, one of the bloodiest wars in North American history proportional to the population. It offers some challenging questions for pacifists. Especially Christian pacifists.
May 20, 2009
Change, Civilization, History, Reviews
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So I am really in love for the first time in a while. He’s a radical activist. He’s Mennonite. He’s brilliant. He would probably read and write on this blog if he was from the USA. But there is a big problem, he smokes tobacco (a lot). Or is that not a problem? I need your help, my radical friends…to help me think through the issues of smoking and tobacco usage. I can only really take love advice seriously from people who are in the movement for positive social change…people who understand a deep commitment to values that call us to put our “personal” love lives in perspective with the greater struggle of promotion of love and justice all over the world. I listen to others who I feel are be people of integrity on all levels of life.
What follows is what I think about smoking/what I’m struggling with/the questions I have. Please, if you have any wisdom to share…SHARE IT. As a feminist I am willing to put this out in the public because I do believe the personal is political. And I know that the relationships that individuals have also effect the collective.
I realized again that I’m a “God-geek” when I wanted to know something marriage a few weeks ago and so I looked at C. Arnold Snyder’s chapter titled “Anabaptist Marriage” in Anabaptist History and Theology textbook. My point was to see how these young activists handled marriage in the context of an intense social movement. (more…)
May 15, 2009
activism, Anabaptism, Change, Civilization, communication, Community, Conscientious Objection, Consumerism, Contemplation, culture, Death, Discipleship, Ethics, Faith, Family, Gender, Mental health, Nonviolence, Palestine, Polemics, Power, Prayer, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition, Young Folks
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