Love

What Does It Mean To Be Anabaptist?

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I’ve got some new friends who had never heard of anabaptism. So I wrote a summary of what I understand Anabaptism to be. Look it over. What would you add or subtract? What would you nuance differently?

And if you aren’t anabaptist, what questions would you have?

The Anabaptist tradition
In 1525 the reformation of the church in the West was just beginning. There was a lot of excitement about Luther’s reforms, not least of all in Zurich, Switzerland. Zwingli was leading the city leaders into a reform there based on Scripture alone, but many of the reformation’s supporters there didn’t think that Zwingli was going far enough. They noticed that when he spoke about certain issues, that he was more interested in his theological point, rather than actually brining the church back into obedience to Jesus. So they baptized themselves in the name of Jesus, making each other citizens of Jesus’ kingdom instead of any kingdom on earth. This movement grew, and they were called ana-baptists by their enemies, because it was claimed that they would re-baptize their members. But in reality, the Anabaptists affirmed that they were spreading the one true baptism—an entrance into God’s kingdom through true understanding and not just assent to the society of the church. This movement has continued to this day.

What Anabaptists Believe:
1. Jesus only
“No one knows the Father except the Son”
Anabaptists hold to no theology except that stated by Jesus himself. Even as Jesus supersedes the Old Testament law, Jesus also rules over all theology that the church itself created, whether that by Paul or by Calvin or by N.T. Wright. And the focus of our belief is not a Jesus we create—such as a glorified, theological Jesus or a model of a historical Jesus or a cultural Jesus—but the Jesus of the gospels. Thus, the four gospels lead us to interpret all things through the words and life of Jesus.
Since Anabaptists affirm the superiority of Jesus, we also recognize the weakness of all things human to achieve truth or justice. Thus, any particular denomination or creed is only in a process of getting closer to or further from Jesus, but no church could ever be complete in and of itself. Various governments may attempt to achieve justice, but they all fail. Schools attempt to teach truth, but no matter how precise they are, they fail to achieve the full truth that Jesus gives us. (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…)

gay/evangelical love

Love is an orientation

Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community
Andrew Marin
InterVarsity Press
Published: March 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3626-0

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…)

A Platform for MCUSA

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (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…)

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…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (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!

living & dying well

I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear. –Dawna Markova

Over the summer, I was asked if I would be willing to teach a Sunday School class at my church on grief and loss. I agreed without any hesitation. When I recently sat down with the pastor, I realized that she had titled the class, “Living and Dying Well.” I had been thinking a lot about resources for loss, but the change in name reoriented me; now I am pondering what it means to live well. I could probably change the name of the class, but I’ve always loved a good challenge and it seems to me that they’re equally important and equally difficult discussions in the Western world.

When I think of living well, I think of laughter, good meals, a nice bottle of wine, practicing resurrection, community that shapes and sustains. But I wanted to pose this question to each of you, as well. As you go about your daily lives, whatever your goals and whatever your place in the formal economy, what does it mean to live well? How does it incarnate itself for you?

“If you need help, DON’T go to a Mennonite”

I just received a post from a man in Pennsylvania who is responding to an essay on “Dehumanization of the Homeless” on the Mennonite Poverty Forum. (This post is edited some, so if you want to read the full post in its context, please go to: http://groups.google.com/group/mennonite-poverty-forum/browse_thread/thread/b4a61d17a32cbe4a)

How would you respond to this? What does this say about Mennonites in general?

Here in my area the Mennonites control my county in all legal aspects and purposely made an ordinance so the poor can no longer eat out of garbage bins at the backs of stores so the food that is edible but past date is left to rot while people go hungry.

Mennonites will never join or become part of your group At least the Mennonites from Lancaster County, PA They are part OF the problem you speak of and work their best to extract every ounce of flesh from the homeless and those who have next to nothing I know I have eaten with the homeless as I am near homeless myself due to physical illness and have seen the inhumanity and how the mennonites and amish treat those in need.

The only people in my area that do a THING for the homeless are the Catholics and that is mostly lip service and a free bowl of cereal but at least that is something!

In my area there is a saying: If you need a helping hand DONT ask an Amish person or a Mennonite and I know (more…)

Ministry to the Outcast

In every society there are the rejected that Jesus is intensely interested in assisting. But the church often is in the place of judging the outcast at the side of the rest of society. Below is my vision, based on Jesus’ ministry, of how the church should look when they are responding to the outcast as they should. These are also the principles on which my ministry is based:
All true ministry has the goal of leading a people to faith in Jesus as Lord and living that out in their lives.

Identification—I Cor. 9:19-23
Some within a congregation that will take on the role of an outcast in order to reach them. Get rid of the separation between the “server” and the “served”.

Offer to be Family—Mark 2:15-17; Luke 15.
Total love of the “sinner”, and an offer to partake in acceptance. This is the major felt need of the outcast—social acceptability. To offer acceptance is not to have the outcast feel that acceptance—this only comes with an acceptance of forgiveness and inclusion in the community. This sense of family cannot be created by a program, but one can use a program as a base-point to increase this acceptance.

Listening—James 1:19
You cannot meet anyone’s needs until you know what they are. Get past the first hurdles in order to discover their real needs (e.g. no one needs money, money is a means to meet the real need)

Benevolence
Trying to meet their needs, but doing so with dependence on God. Those with resources, give what you have (Luke 12:33); those without, pray for healing (Matt 10). To give what we have, may be to offer what God alone has to give, instead of the petty resources we have (Acts 3:1-8). (more…)

2000

In the Wilamette Valley, which includes both Portland and Salem, there are approximately 2000 churches. Some have only twenty members, some have thousands. Given the reputation of Oregon to be an “unchurched” area, there are a huge number of self-sustaining churches.

In the Wilamette Valley, according to the best estimates, there are 2000 homeless people every night. This number fluxuates and there are a lot of varieties of homeless people, but the number is a fair estimate.

Is this coincidence?

If this is correct, then if each church, on average, just ministered to and assisted just one– ONE– homeless person, then the whole outlook of poverty and homelessness would change for the whole Wilamette Valley– for all of Portland and Salem.

I wonder if this statistic could be replicated throughout the United States? If every church in the U.S. would take poverty seriously and just take one one– just one– homeless person per congregation, then the whole landscape of poverty in the nation would change.

And the nation might actually recognize that the church is here to create a positive impact, and not just to suck resources into the personal egos of religious ideologies.

Teach A Man To Fish?

Pam Wilson of Operation Mercy wrote an insightful article about the proverb,
“Catch a man a fish you feed him a meal,
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

http://pastoralblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/teach-man-to-fish.html

Besides the fact that the proverb is sexist, it holds many false assumptions of how the poor should be helped. I have always had a problem with the proverb because it assumes that one should ignore the immediate need. But Ms. Wilson has a better overall approach.

Steve K