Economics

Mennonites on the Bowery

Photo of Weaverland Choir by CharlieK

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…)

Grace for donations

Three weeks ago I was at Freakstock, the annual Festival of Jesus Freaks, a German protestant church made up primarily by punks, hippies and other subcultural types. It was a great experience and I’m a bit sad I didn’t go there before. It is exactly this community of alternative and happy Christians my age I’ve been looking for. All the other people I could relate to were either my parents’ generation, non-Christian, or people who lived elsewhere – like the readers of YAR.
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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…)

Does size really matter?

People have asked me if I grew up in the country or in town.  Well, kinda.  I technically lived within the city limits of Goessel but I could see a wheat field from my back yard.  In addition, while Goessel was an official town (signified by it’s own telephone prefix and a post office) the booming Mennonite metropolis of roughly 500 people isn’t exactly what I’d call “urban”.  Being the biggest football player, not only in my high school but my entire league, I followed the natural progression and went to Bethel College in North Newton, Ks to play ball.  Eventually I wound up with a Bible and Religion degree.  After college I worked for Buhler Mennonite Church as a youth pastor as I began studies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary Great Plains Extension (AMBS).  After four years at Buhler I finished up my degree at the AMBS main campus in Elkhart, In.  This last spring my wonderful, and patient, wife and I moved to Harper, Ks where I now work at Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church as the solo pastor.  Even though Harper is three times the size of my hometown (1,500 people) living here would still place us firmly in the rural category.  My wife works as a nurse at the local hospital which has a whopping 25 beds and an emergency room that is literally has a sign “ring bell for service”.  We’re not quite in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from where we live.

That being said, if you have never been to the prairies to witness the great expansive and dynamic sky, then you are really missing out.  One can hardly question the awesome power of God watching a massive thunderhead develop in the hot summer evening.  With beauty comes power.  These storms that give life through their rain and are so beautiful to watch from a distance are also the same ones that have been known to destroy entire towns. (more…)

Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
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…)

Of Playgrounds, Chicago Housing and Ning

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Last Saturday I rode my bicycle out to First Church of the Brethren for meetings. along Van Buren Street. As I biked away from the loop, west along Van Buren St., commercial properties gave way to the brand new condos where young urban professionals have recently arrived from the suburbs. As I went farther west I began to see a mix of older, more run down housing mixed with blocks full of brand new condos, a combination typical of neighborhoods in transition driven by property speculation and developers. I was reminded of the abrupt halt that the economic crisis has brought to the gentrification process. For some this has meant a major loss of invested capital, for others it has meant welcome breathing space on the brink of being pushed out of their homes due to rising rent costs and property taxes.

Just after the last block of new condos, I noticed remnants of an apparently under construction playground abandoned amidst dead tree branches and litter:

Playground at former Rockwell Gardens site

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Christians: the vanguard of American anti-capitalist sentiment?

Shane Claiborne breathes fire

I’ve been wanting to write up a longer introduction to this link for two weeks, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Zach over at Revolution in Jesusland was visiting European lefties and told them that Christians are on the vanguard of American anti-capitalist sentiment:

So when I bring up the “Revolutionaries” of the American church, people over here completely freak out. They cannot believe it. They will not believe it. Their faces wince up, because they know I can’t be making this up completely, but it’s just too much to process. They dismiss it. There’s a strong stereotype of the “ignorant protestant preacher” and they can’t reconcile it with what I’m saying.

Somehow, eventually, these two mainstream forces that are questioning capitalism on both sides of the Atlantic will have to get to know each other, but that’s probably a while off.

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Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Recession Revolution

This is part of a discussion on the PNMC Peace And Justice Forum:

I think it is time for the church to reconsider its politics.. I’m not advocating that we all try to get elected or take over the government necessarily. But I do think we might be entering a 1930’s scenario where if we think things have been bad for the middle-class and poor through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I know I’m going to hear it from those who like to keep Jesus out of politics (and I do still harbor many healthy anabaptist political hesitations myself) but I’m becoming equally angry with a church that seems more interested in building new administrative centers and benefiting from our MMA retirement portfolios (well, up until 6mo. ago at least), but seems less interested in walking the neighborhood, asking how people are doing and searching for real ways to bring hope and healing to those who know first hand what it feels like to search for scraps beneath the “master’s” table. I’ve recently been inspired by reading about church leaders of the 1930s who searched for ways to move beyond insular spiritualism to both care for the poor AND passionately advocate for significant social change. I wonder if the coming revolt might need some committed nonviolent Mennonites who can help keep it nonviolent.
-Matt F.

I think, Matt, that you’re barking up the wrong tree. I feel I can say this as a person who is deeply involved in my communities here in Portland. I personally think that the governments and corporations and banks are so full of their own self interest, especially in maintaining whatever status quo there is, that the system itself is unreliable. I believe that if we as Christians took over the system, then we would do no better than those who hold it now (or previously). Part of the problem is the structure of the system itself, whether that be the U.S. government, capitalism, the banking system, or modern labor being controlled by large corporations. What is needed is a complete breakdown of the systems– which we will get when Jesus returns. (more…)

Destruction of the World Corporate Structure

I wrote this for a group of hard core youth who were into anarchy:

Injustice reigns in the earth. Capitalism is corrupt, only granting freedom to the wealthy, while the poor get ground in the dust. The 200 wealthiest people in the world, all heads of corporations, control 40% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 20% of the world live on 1% of the world’s wealth. The 40 wealthiest Western nations have 85% of the world’s wealth.

Perhaps such disparity in the world today wouldn’t be so bad if the governments and corporations of the world were concerned with justice in the world and providing equity for the poor. Instead, the wealthy of the world use their economic power as the whip on the backs of the oppressed.

The developing countries of the world are required to pay a huge amount of interest on loans, and so unable to pay back the loans, and thus their people starve. On the other hand, the United States has a trillion-dollar debt that they can refuse to pay, if they want. The corporations of the West use Chinese labor to do the menial tasks that the workers of the West find demeaning or that don’t pay enough. Then the Chinese oppress their people, telling them where to work, how to worship, where to live and how many children to have. The world corporations are creating oppression as well in Vietnam, Mexico, Haiti, Bangladesh, Singapore, and multitudes of other developing nations. And all this, while not discouraging them to cease the oppression of ethnic, religious and political minorities. (more…)

A bicycle pilgrimage

Hey! These folks are riding from Harrisonburg, VA to the Asuncion, Paraguay for the Global Youth Summit of Mennonite World Conference. Check them out!

http://americas.bikemovement.org/

As anyone who has been on a bike for an extended amount of time for their primary form of transportation knows, it is a life-altering experience. Godspeed to Lars and Jon and Love to all whom they will visit. I am in the process of encouraging the youth group from my church to bike to the Mennonite Youth Convention in Columbus, Ohio June 30-July 6. I hope it works out…it will definitely be life-altering. Besides saving money and petroleum, getting some fresh air and exercise, biking together is a great self-esteem and group-building opportunity. It generates an equality among races and genders through the creation of a camaraderie and shared intense, rewarding experience.

But there is some resistance. Sometimes I get so excited about something I can’t embrace alternatives. Pray for me as I discern how much to push and where to step-back….And DO visit bikemovement America’s website.

The Secret Millionaire

“I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” says the young, well-dressed, middle-eastern man. The camera focuses in on the pained expressions on those he is speaking to in that shaky, fast cutaway style of those Jason Bourne flicks. Intense, dramatic music plays in the background. The editors let this cliff-hanger like suspense build for, well, seemingly forever. I guess, in reality, 10 seconds.

This is the Fox network, the network that, when drama doesn’t exist enough for the producers, they go ahead and make it up. Young married couples on an island with a bunch of hot singles. The screaming, shrieking Gordon Ramsey. The Fox network, God bless ’em, takes decent ideas for shows and makes the dramatic effect linger like a sky-diver in mid-air. Then they find talent to pump that drama up. It’s all really unnecessary. The material is good, let it be.

But here we are. “I haven’t been entirely truthful with you…” “…” “…” “…” “…” “I’m really a multi-millionaire.” SHA-BANG! And, lo-and-behold, the victims of what Fox believes to be a cruel joke could give two shits. Who would? The lying millionaire has been a part of their lives for six whole days. (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…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

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).