Death

Family

You may have seen news lately about different countries considering new harsher penalties for sodomy or whatever language they might choose. It’s happening in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya and I’m sure many other places.

These days in the US many queer folk are tracking the lawsuits in each state that are striking down the same-sex marriage bans. It’s exciting for sure and I look forward to June of this year when all consenting adults will finally be able to marry here in Illinois.

In the midst of all this though I see news stories of a strong trend in the opposite direction in many other parts of the world. When I see a young man accused of homosexuality being tried and beaten to death in the streets by a vigilante mob I’m shocked! I never worry about this happening to me when I step outside my home in Chicago. While there are parts of this country I worry that I might be physically harmed for being gay I never expect to be put to death due to my sexuality.

The disturbing thing about these laws is that the consequence imposed by the government for breaking these laws is meaningless. The reality is that that people accused of homosexuality may never make it to court and if they do they may even be killed in the courtroom. This is how intense the homophobia is in some countries.

When I read the article about what happened in Nigeria my mind went certain places and I suspect that many people’s minds and hearts do the same. I think about how terrible these people are. I wonder how they can do these awful things. How does someone cultivate this kind of hatred and violence in their heart? Finally I become indignant! (more…)

The evil, rotten core of US war and empire and why it should make us all angry as hell

Geleyn Corneliss being tortured while his torturers played cards illustration from Martyrs Mirror modified by Third Way Cafe

A page from the Martyr’s mirror depicting Geleyn Corneliss, who was hung by his thumb while his torturers played cards. Modified illustration from Third Way Cafe

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Yesterday, March 6, 2013, we in the US learned in The Guardian that our government put torture and death at the center of our policy in Iraq. According to the article, Jim Steele, who was heavily involved in the El Salvadoran death squads, was called in to replicate the model in Iraq in 2004 with millions of dollars at his disposal. This strategy, known as the “Salvador Option” was apparently known and discussed at the highest levels of the US government and supervised closely by General David Petraeus. These actions are consistent with US policy since the end of World War II: torture and mass murder in support of US economic interests.

This is no aberration: it is the norm for empire. Nevertheless, many will hem and haw, rationalize and suggest this is still a few bad apples, albeit 4 star general apples. Tragically, most in the United States will simply ignore it. But what about us, as Mennonites: as Anabaptist Christians? What will we do?

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Reviving the wake: being present with those who mourn

CRW_0981On Saturday, Feb. 4, Charletta and I had just left a day-long church meeting when we got word from her father that their pastor, Mick Murray, had been killed in a car accident. Mick was pastor at the Kalona (Iowa) Mennonite Church where Charletta’s family has attended for 16 years.

Charletta and I decided to drive home to Iowa to be with her family that night. Not long after we arrived, Mick’s wife Julie died of her injuries. Charletta and her mother attended a tear-filled church service at Kalona Mennonite. Afterwards, we sat down to eat lunch with Gary and Sylvia. Afterwards we sat together in the living room for awhile. It wasn’t dramatic. It was just a space to be with one another. That evening, we drove back to Chicago.

CRW_0997This past Thursday, Feb. 9, I was sitting in my office at Christian Peacemaker Teams when my colleague walked up and told me that Claire Evans had passed away. Five weeks ago Claire was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Two weeks ago those of us in the CPT Chicago office gathered around her bed to say good bye as she moved to Lansing, Mich., to be with her sister and enter Hospice care. Now she is gone.

Claire and I worked on the same floor of our office in CPT Chicago where she coordinated all our delegations. When I came in in the morning, I’d walk past her desk. Claire was a fellow reader. She and I would compare notes on novels we’d read and make recommendations to each other. She also carried with her many stories of CPT’s journey over the last 13 years. She was also part of a small community that deeply shaped my practices around undoing racism through our weekly office meetings over nearly three and a half years. She was never afraid to offer a thoughtful challenge or noticing.

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I refuse to give thanks

This Sunday, I just couldn’t bear church service any longer.

These last days, I followed the horrible news from Japan closely: First, the strongest earth quake, in recorded history causing a tsunami that swept away half a city. Together these two disasters already took at least ten thousand lives. Then comes the nuclear melt down, or not melt down, the news and officials contradict each other, but even the most harmless descriptions of what happens in Fukushima sound horrible.

And then there’s also still Gaddaffi, who slaughters his own people and injustices we don’t even see anymore because we’ve become so used to them. Oh, and I have my Abitur (final German high school exams) coming, which doesn’t really scare me, but should actually have all my attention right now.

So this Sunday morning I’m watching the news and again I’m praying for Japan, praying for the nuclear plant not to melt down but I’m also just f*&%ing afraid of what the speaker is saying next, because all he’s saying conjures a worse and worse picture in my mind. The speaker of the German government talks about how we can’t have a tsunami in Germany and that nuclear power is only a „bridge technology“ meant to be replaced by alternative energies in a few years, but does not say how we ever get passed nuclear energy if we allow the owners of these plants to take all the profits while the state pays for the damages and for the development of alternative energies. The opposition is being critized as „lacking sympathy for the dead and politicising this catastrophe because of the near election“ for demanding we finally shut down our own nuclear plants.

Devastated and looking for solace I went to church – where we sang praise. Songs glorifying God for his awesomeness. (more…)

School of the Americas Protest Coverage

I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed right now, on the personal level. Yet I have this perpetual desire to never let the personal woes and difficulties overwhelm the big picture.

So, in an effort to keep things in perspective, I wanted to at least highlight = lift up for prayer everything that is going on down in Georgia right now, as human rights activists, Catholic Worker members, and really a whole bunch of folks (many of them Christians on discipleship journeys that take them to the gates of Ft. Benning after being with people affected by US foreign policy) from across the country gather to celebrate resistance to the school of the americas (WHINSEC) which has trained a number of people in doing the dirty work of US american politics through the last number of decades. check it out at: www.soaw.org .

Please pray for reconciliation and a decrease in militarism. And pass the world along about this celebration of resistance and mercy. (more…)

Revelations from WikiLeaks

The recent revelations about U.S. and British forces in Iraq uncover a stunning darkness. According to The Guardian, the 400,000 documents made available last week through WikiLeaks reveal “15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths.” The number of deaths kept secret by the leaders of our government exposes the sickening violence of war. While I would rather ignore the stories of killing and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am reminded of the words of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In 1934 he wrote to a friend, “Only complete truth and truthfulness will help us now.”

Here are two stories that I can’t get out of my head as I think about the truth of war. In 2006, in the town 60 miles north of Baghdad, Khalib and his pregnant sister Nabiha were in a rush to get to the hospital. As they made their way down the usual streets, they came upon a new U.S. military checkpoint. The soldiers perceived the approaching vehicle as a threat, so they opened fire and killed Nabiha and the child in her womb. She was 35, and the dead baby was a boy.

War is never kind to women and children, especially to pregnant women. Neither is war kind to the mentally disabled, who are some of the most vulnerable among us. (more…)

“Wow. What a ride!” – in memory of Gene Stoltzfus

Skater_at_the_Prince_Albert

“None of us is promised tomorrow, which makes me wonder if maybe we all shouldn’t be living as if we’re on our final journey home… Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow. What a ride!’ – Barbara Baumgardner in My Fantastic Final Journey

I came across this quote this morning while I was reading an article by Joan Hershberger in the latest issue of the Mennonite. It made my laugh out load and think of Gene. It was such a life he lived. And he died on the first warm day of the year, enthusiastically pedaling his bike to town, back home, and beyond.

Godspeed, brother. Godspeed.

Reflections on the 4th anniversary of Tom Fox’s death

Today is the fourth anniversary of Tom Fox’s death. Tom was killed by his kidnappers in Iraq on March 9, 2006, 104 days after Harmeet, Norman, Jim and Tom were driving back from a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation visit when their car was pulled over by armed men and they were kidnapped. Since I didn’t know Tom personally, I can only really write about my experience of his loss. For a more intimate portrait of Tom, see these eulogies by my colleagues.

I found out about Tom’s death two days after he was killed. It was a Saturday morning. When I walked into the living room at the London Mennonite Centre and Charletta told me "There’s terrible news from Iraq." 

 
Four years later its hard to put myself back in the space I was in when I heard the news. I, along with thousands of others around the world had been working so hard for our colleague’s release. Every Wednesday for months, a group of us in London stood holding  photos of Tom, Harmeet, Normand and Jim and candles in Trafalgar square. At times we had spent days answering phone call after phone call from press and then worked hard to keep the story alive after coverage of our four colleagues dried up. We tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to talk about the thousands of Iraqis who were being held in similar conditions to our four friends. 

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How would you translate Menno’s TEF?

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…)

Love and Smoke

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…)

It’s someone else’s problem…or it’s not.

(A Debbie Downer post. Sorry about your luck.)

For several months I’ve been making posts that suggest (though I don’t think I’ve said it), that the idea that people are somehow different than they were before is probably a little idealist. I don’t think people are progressive (as in, moving forward or evolving either physically or emotionally/spiritually/physcologically). Perhaps the best time I’ve come out and said it would be the shit-disrupter of a post I made on Christarchy, Humanity on the Fringes of a Moshpit. Essentially, in a long winded tirade, I compare the progressive anarchist/art-school kids to the famed large browed Geico Spokesmen. Such a thing was a dare, especialy among my more liberally minded brethern. But I did it. I did it because I don’t think humanity is really all that different than it was 2,000 years ago. Or 4,000. Or 6,000. We can pretend lots of things, like those people back then were all stupid, ignorant, inbred maruaders, raping the land for everything it was worth. Besides for the inbred thing, I don’t think we are far removed. (more…)

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

Bible Verses of the Day: Acts 19:23-29

23 About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”

28 When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29The city was filled with the confusion; and peoplec rushed together to the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travel companions.    – Acts 19:23-29 (NRSV)

(my version of Acts 19…don’t get huffy I’m not translating from the Greek)

A man named Henry Paulson, a secretary who made decisions about currencies, brought no little business to the Senate. These he gathered together, with other wealthy men, and said “Listen everyone, I don’t like to mix in the market anymore than you do. De-regulation has served us well for some time. But you see, we’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a mess. This market, it has served us well for some time and made us all rich and powerful. But, the market needs more – it’s hurting. And we can’t lose the business. Now, a number of so-called “progressives” are concerned about the mortgage crisis – remember those mortgages? Ah, they were good for us weren’t they? Well, now they’ve gone sour. And a number of folks are concerned that everyone is going to lose their homes and be out on the street. But, really gentlemen, I’m much more concerned that, if we don’t act quickly, they’ll not only lose their homes, but we’ll lose lots, and lots, and lots of money. And we don’t want to upset the market – it gives us all that power remember? So, I need you guys to help me out: tell all those bleeding hearts to shut up for a while, scare the nation into thinking that all will be lost, and pass this bill giving me a lot more power to make you and all our friends alot more rich. I know you are concerned now, but you’ll thank me in the long run.”

When they heard all this, they agreed and said “Great are the fudamentals of our economy!” The country was filled with confusion, and bills were hastily past, and many were left wondering what protection was out there for them.

A week later, everyone forgot and Paul went to Macedonia (Acts 20:1).

It’s all meaningless.

It’s been a month since my father died. It doesn’t seem long. When I was told the news by a police officer at my door I thought I’d take this sort of thing in some dramatic way. I’d drop to my knees, arms outstretched to the sky, it would be cloudy, birds would fly overhead. I’d sob uncontrollably. No. I took it like a lot of other things in life. News. Bad news. I called my boss first to let him know I wouldn’t make it to work for a few days. Made my rounds calling uncles and aunts and cousins. I have no siblings.

It was a great service. Lots of people showed up. My father, extremely active in AA for nearly 20 years, had lots of drunks show up. We had an AA meeting during one of the viewings. My pastor said it was one of the most spiritual things he’d ever been too. A kid from church played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the cemetary. It was all very surreal. (more…)