Group Identity

We pledged allegiance but didn’t know better.

Twenty of us have voted on the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance poll. The question is, “Did you grow up saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school?” So far, the top response is “Yes, but I didn’t know better then.” That’s gathered seven votes.
With five votes each are “No, I didn’t go to public school” and “No, but everyone else did.” Then, “No, I’m not an American” got two votes, and “Yes, and I’m glad I did,” got one. It seems no one doesn’t know what we’re talking about, no one said it reluctantly, no one said it despite not being an American, and no one didn’t but wishes they had.

No poll can completely reflect the myriad of possibilities, of course. I remember saying the Pledge sometimes as a homeschooled student, but most days we got right into whatever we were working on with just a prayer. It wasn’t an issue anyone made a big deal over. But then, my family didn’t start going to a Mennonite church until I was 13. Someone in our homeschool co-op wanted the kids to pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, but that didn’t go over real big. The story I heard was the Christian flag is really more of a Baptist flag, and we’re supposed to be pledging allegiance to God, not to a flag someone made and decided to call the Christian flag. (more…)

Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).

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Practical question for a radical: Yea or nay on pentagrams?

I recently received a pentagram necklace as a well-intended gift from someone who thought it was a Star of David. We both had a good laugh when I told her my first association with it was a pagan/Wiccan/Satanist symbol.

Now, I’m not one of those reactionist people who gets wild-eyed at the mere mention of such belief systems, and I’m not freaked out to see such symbols. I did a little bit of reading online and discovered some Christians in the Middle Ages used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, and five aspects of good health. That’s certainly not how I think of pentagrams, nor probably most who would see it if I wore it.

If I choose not to wear this necklace, I want it to be for an actual, thought-out reason, not just “it’s evil.” It’s a nice necklace. I have no lack of jewelry, though, so I could give it away and never notice its absence. But I tend not to wear religious symbols of any kind unless there’s a specific reason I’m doing it. (Crucifixes are part of my RenFaire costume, for example.)

Thoughts? I realize this is a periferal issue to what we usually talk about on YAR. But, it could bring up how we view pagans, Wiccans and Satanists. That might be a good reason to wear it: it may prompt thoughtful discussion with people I meet. Or then again, it could just prompt eyerolls and disdainful comments.

Young Adults Present Statement of Visions at San Jose

Roxy Allen and Jeremy Yoder present young adult visions at San Jose 2007

The following statement was drafted and presented at the San Jose 2007 Convention in response to an invitation from MC USA Executive Leadership for feedback from BikeMovement and associated conversations regarding young adult visions for the Mennonite church:

Young adults have been called the future of the church. We come before you today to say that the future has already begun.

We come from varied walks of life. Some of us went to Mennonite colleges, some of us did not. Some of us are connected to our home congregations, and others are finding it hard to connect to any congregation. We have built relationships that transcend geography. We are using the new medium of the Internet – including sites like the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog and the Anabaptist Network on Facebook – as forums for conversation, debate, and community. We are seekers in our faith and full of complex questions. (more…)

Meeting the Church

I haven’t taken much time on this blog to talk about myself. I should say that I am an outsider in this church – my last name isn’t Yoder, Miller, Freisen, or Moshier.

I have only been a Christian for 9 months; the Mennonite congregation I attend (a beautiful place that I hope my new-found YAR friends can come see some day) was evangelical merely by their presence – they were spiritually formative by aligning speech and action and desire and vision. I would not want to be any place else.

I am writing from the convention in San Jose; I have been here since yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow (short time, I know, but I’m a busy guy).

I am coming to learn why it is frustrating to penetrate the Mennonite world: there are a lot of people who make money off of being Mennonite. (more…)

Laugh with me on LarkNews.com

I discovered LarkNews.com about a week ago. Thank you, Utne Web Watch e-mail. I have been laughing my butt off since then. LarkNews.com is a parody site much like The Onion, but it focuses on Christian subculture. It uses Christianese to the point of hilarity. Some of my favorite stories have been “Church tries, fails to get through worship time without singing a Matt Redman song” and “Cleveland, Ohio revival linked to scripture on woman’s checks.”

They have T-shirts, too, for those interested in short snippits for chuckles. My favorites are “Jesus loves you. But then again, he loves everybody,” “I want to be a pastor’s wife,” and “I love cheeses.”

http://www.larknews.com/june_2007/index.php

This is perfect for when you’re tired of processing theology or annoying trolls and just need to unwind.

Sexism has never been so much fun.

Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…

I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.

The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)

Bible Reflection – 5/22/07

I have put together the following reflection and prayer on the beauty of diversity in our world (please don’t cringe, I know the term “diversity” gets misused often as “let’s point out all the different stereotypes of different ethnic groups!”). The following passage from Mark reminds us that there isn’t just one way (one denomination, dare i say, “one religion”?) of looking at everything in the world.

Mark 9:38-41

38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

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Global Anabaptism – present reality, realistic goal or hopeful optimism?

I haven’t written into this space for some time now. I apologize for the ways in which that is obvious in what I write below and for the ways it may cheapen my requests from you all. Almost embarrassingly, I’ve been forced to skim over your most recent YAR conversations so that my input doesn’t completely fail to hit some thread of relevancy and interest. Disclaimers…disclaimers… here’s the word I’d like to share:

This is, firstly, a ‘howdy’ from Southeast Asia – northern Laos (Vientiane), at the moment. Secondly, it is a more direct plug for BikeMovement Asia, recently alluded to indirectly on this site by Hinke, Jason and possibly others. Thirdly, it is a suggestion that BikeMovement – in its attempt to draw out individual and collective stories – is one way to approach the theological/social ‘doing’ that is being reckoned with in conversations here. BikeMovement Asia does a lot of talking too. The same sort of talking/analyzing that happens on this sort of site. But we live the stories as well. (more…)

Faith: Nature or Nurture? Is it a choice? Can people change?

I was watching CNN today as I was eating my lunch (black beans and saffron rice with piccadillo and spinach salad – awesome) and they were playing a rerun of an Anderson Cooper special on Christianity and faith. One portion of the show touched on recent findings that a person’s capacity for faith and spirituality may be genetically related. The story was based on the idea proposed by Dean Hamer in his book, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired Into Our Genes. I haven’t read the book, and probably won’t but I did check out a couple reviews of it (Scientific American and Washington Post).

It turns out that Hamer’s science is a little dodgy as it is full of caveats and contradictions and has yet to stand up to the rigors of peer-review. Maybe he should have done a bit more work before publishing, but that’s not really my point. Whether or not Hamer’s work is grounded in what we like to think of as “reality,” it brings up some interesting questions for discussion. And since the blog has been spookily quiet for about two days, I thought I might stir the pot a little (I’m sure you’ve all realized by now that I enjoy stirring it up). If you are game, follow me down this rabbit hole and we’ll see where it comes out.

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Anabaptist radicalism and the life of contemplation

Hello good people
I stumbled upon this site two days ago while doing some thinking about a book chapter I’m writing for an upcoming publication about the conversation about gayness in the Mennonite world. Tim – did you come up with this? It’s fantastic! I’ve read through most of the posts here. I’m also supposed to be studying for the first round of medical boards right now, (taken in the middle of medical school), so it’s also one of those procrastination-inspiration things.

I’ve been rolling those words over in my head and trying them on for size; young is pretty easy, I guess – more the Anabaptist Radical part. I feel a little different than those who I consider my peers in this stage of faith. If I can attempt to draw a generalization first – a number of us might have been through similar phases of a childhood and teenage faith that was uncomplicated in its ability to answer all questions about the world and God, with reference to the Bible and church teachings/tradition; then for one reason or another entered a deconstructive phase where the internal inconsistencies of that (more…)

EXCERPT from “Chosen: biblical texts, group identity and peacemaking.”

Convo talk for Bethel College (Kansas) November 13, 2006 by Rich Meyer

[Rich sent this to me, and not having time to post it himself, I am posting it for him. Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:]

Part of my concern here is with how we process the diversity of voices within the canon – this collection of books that we today call “The Bible,” (singular) as if it were one book. In Greek, Ta Biblia is plural, it means “the books.” What we call “the Old Testament” (singular, again) Jews call “the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.” Names are important, how we name things carries a lot of freight. We all know that the Bible is a collection, a library, and includes a number of voices, voices often engaged in debate. I think it would help our understanding if our vocabulary gave us that picture. Instead we’ve got it all wrapped up in a leather cover.

I think we have wanted to stop short of talking openly and honestly within the church about the implications of this diversity of voices, and what it means if we want to study with intent to get direction. Because that requires us to commit, to weigh in on the Bible’s internal debates. Failing this, we are stuck defending some really damaging racism and sexism, just because it is between leather covers. Rabbi Michael Lerner names it thus: he says that we have, in the Torah, the voice of God, and the voice of accumulated pain and hurt.

[The full lecture, after the jump.] (more…)

Nature vs. Nurture

I’m curious about something here, though it may be something for a later poll.

I am 23 and only recently “became” Mennonite. I had a spiritual rebirth as a result of my attendance at a Mennoniite church and through reading the Confession of Faith, though I was almost enticed to Catholicism because of my fascination with the Catholic Worker movement (though I have serious reservations about particular aspects of Catholic theology).

I’m one of two people in the whole place who are even in their twenties; everyone else is either a teenager, a small child, or mid-30’s on up through their 80’s (most folks being baby boomers).

How many people here grew up in a Mennonite/Brethren family? How many people here came into the Mennonite/Brethren church later in life? For either answer, how do you think this influences you view of the church and your faith, if at all?

Ins and Outs

It’s a concept I learned in Sociology 101.

To have a group, you’ve got to have a boundary. Something that establishes the “in” from the “out.” What is a group without a clear line of demarcation?

Our church’s lines of demarcation used to be coverings, plain coats, black cars, no TV, etc., etc. Lots of time spent on who was in and who was out, and what defined separation from the world.

It’s not a conversation we have much anymore, but one I feel like we’ve got to have if we’re going to survive as a group. Are there new ways we can define what makes us counter-cultural? Things like the way we spend our money, the way we react to violence, the way we welcome and forgive and share grace . . . but these things are much harder to measure than whether or not someone is wearing her covering. And grace and forgiveness are not the same as apathy and tolerance, but they often look alike.

So what can we offer that is different than what our prevailing culture offers? Do we care enough to do that? And how do we do it without getting wrapped up in legalism?

Just stuff I’ve been thinking about.