Nonviolence

Report from CPT Aboriginal Justice Delegation

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

One of the things I’ve noticed in my work as outreach coordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is that the least well known project is CPT’s work with aboriginal peoples here in North America. So this spring I decided to spend time on the Aboriginal Justice team in order to support the team better and understand the struggles of our indigenous partners.

I just returned from Kenora, Ontario, home of one of Ontario’s major paper mills and supply town for many indigenous communities in the area. We also spent a week at Grassy Narrows, also known as (the reserve of the) Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabe.

During my time at Grassy Narrows, for the first time in my life I saw first hand the continuing effects of the 500-year history of colonization and genocide on this continent. It’s a testimony to the effectiveness of white settlement and ethnic cleansing; I had never come face to face with these realities before in a personal way.

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Why I agree with Brian McLaren’s answer (and why it matters that more of us do the same)

Brian McLaren recently published an article addressing the question, “Is God Violent?” In it he makes a case for God’s nonviolent nature that merits a response—both internal and external—from those of us who desire to follow Jesus.

To read McLaren’s article, click here (NOTE: you will be prompted to register in order to view it).

I’ve wanted to respond to McLaren’s essay for a while.

So when the March 2011 issue of Sojourners showed up in my mailbox, I determined it was time to slow down and reflect on his propositions and the nature of God as I understand it.

McLaren frames his essay in response to the notion that God is violent, as is reflected in the Old Testament narrative and which culminates in Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary.

It’s an idea that many Christians (and Jews, and Muslims) hold true, but McLaren identifies how this profoundly impacts how we interact with one another on multiple levels.

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Operation Payback, Anonymous and Wikileaks: A look at tactics, morality and innovation

Nearly two weeks after my first post on Wikileaks, their diplomatic cables and the resulting fall out continue to make the front page news. The arrest of Assange and attacks on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal by “Operation Payback” have garnered far more attention then the cables themselves. The New York Times quoted one Internet guru comparing Operation Payback to the battle at Lexington that started the Revolutionary war in the United States.

In looking at “Operation Payback” and its denial of service attacks, journalists have begun to focus on Anonymous, which is typically described as the group of hackers behind the attacks. Some portray it as a shadowy cadre of internet vigilantes, meeting somewhere out there in the ether, plotting their next strike. Others paint a heroic picture of activists fighting for free speech against giant corporations and governments. Estimates of the number of people (or computers) involved vary widely.

A little bit of history is useful in understanding Anonymous. I first came became aware of Anonymous through their Project Chanology campaign which focused around opposition to Scientology. In their protests outside Scientology offices, they wore masks modeled on that worn by the main character in V is for Vendetta. Along with demonstrations, their tactics used by Project Chanology were a lot like high school pranks: sometimes silly, sometimes crude, often juvenile and always motivated by a strong sense of righteous indignation. The collective culture of Anonymous was born in the /b/ section 4chan, an internet forum worthy of its own lengthy article. Suffice it to say that 4chan thrives on trolling, griefing, digital bullying and generally offensiveness of all sorts.

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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…)

Mennonite Takeover?

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?

An excerpt:

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.

Toothbrush Revolution

Yesterday I was at the dentist‘s and they gave me a toothbrush. Now I hear in the States that‘s not an usual thing, but in Germany it‘s actually really strange and so after the dentist thought she had put her fingers in my mouth long enough and I was allowed to go, I was carrying a toothbrush in the pocket of my jeans and somehow the toothbrush kept coming up in my mind and with it the chorus of a song.
A song my father always sang with us when I was a little boy. It‘s about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he said to kids who also wanted to participate in the demonstrations. He told them they could participate, if they had a toothbrush with them. Because if you get arrested you have to empty your pockets and all is taken away from you. Only your toothbrush you can keep. So keep your toothbrush as a sign of your willingness to go to jail for freedom. The song was written in Eastern Germany and was a famous song amongst Christian youth in the protest movement against the state-socialist regime.

In my head, I heard my eight year old self singing the chorus over and over again, the rough translation would be:”Do you have your toothbrush with you? You will need still need it. Still today people are put in jail who are against oppression.”

I was really amazed by this, on the one hand because I rarely remember anything from my childhood, but on the other hand because of the radical message this song was giving.

It‘s paraphrasing Jesus, “Take your cross upon you and follow me” into words children can understand and that I still remember ten years after I last sang the song…

To me, taking up my cross or carrying my toothbrush around is a daily struggle because although it feels good to be really critical of the state and school and be the radical guy in school who challenges basically every opinion, my radical activity is usually done there (sometimes I also translate stuff for the German CPT branch…). How can I live a life where it makes sense to carry my toothbrush with me all the time, because I challenge the world so much, that it can’t stand me, it wants to put me in prison?

I sometimes lead Sunday school classes in my congregation at home, and I’d love to sing that song with the kids, but I feel like I have to carry my toothbrush with me for some time, till I can do that.

The last line is:”I have my tooth brush with me and I will still need it. Still today people are put in jail who are against oppression.” – this I will try to do…

Young Church of the Brethren Radicals

Things are picking up over at Feetwashing and Four Square, our sister blog started by Nick Miller Kauffman (nicolas here on YAR). I’d particularly commend to you the recent post Anabaptist Fierce by Katie Shaw Thompson. Here’s an excerpt on the relationship between some theories of nonviolence and white privilege:

Bob cited a weak (or rather antithetical) version of non-violent theory he often hears from seminarians as symptomatic of the problem. Concerning Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount commandment to “love your enemies” these seminarians want to claim that we have no enemies, which as Bob cited is not really nonviolent theory at all.

Only someone at the top of the food chain, with all kinds of privilege, could claim that we have no enemies. (more…)

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…)

Levi Miller, peace and justice and the Mennonite chattering class

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Dried Love in the Mist seedpods

For the last few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Levi Miller’s column on "peacenjustice". My first reaction was one of anger and frustration. No wonder the Mennonite church has had such a hard time integrating peace and justice into our whole denomination! The director of our publishing house mocks it as a buzzword and sees it as a product of "cultural chatterers." Miller seems to see shalom (the bible’s word for peace and justice) as a little more then a worn out fad. It was much loved by the Sandinistas and Sojourners in the ’70s, but it is time to grow up and move on.

Over the weeks, I wrote several paragraphs expounding on my outrage at an old white guy maligning a theology of liberation that challenges the unjust status quo. (more…)

Prayer Warriors

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…)

Can radical book tours change the world?

Over at Jesus Manifesto, Mark Van Steenwyck offers a challenge to the social-change-through-book-tour model:

It seems to be assumed that the way we can build a movement in our society is by wring books, building platforms, and then touring around using our amassed social capital to woo large numbers of people to being a part of the movement. This often, it seems to me, leads to a sort of coopted radical space where folks never have to go beyond the figure head who is leading the movement.

As more and more Christians in the US begin to wake up to the radical message, the question of “So what next?” becomes more and more important. Though Mark names Pete Rollins as the inspiration for his post, he just as easily could be talking about Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hart-Groves, the authors of the New Monasticism movement. It seems that every couple of months, I see a new book out from Jonathan or Shane. I’m sure they are all quite good, but I’m not convinced they are pushing the envelope much beyond Irresistible Revolution, a book that clearly reached a new evangelical audience with a message of radical, Jesus-centered Christianity. Many new Christian Peacemaker Teams recruits continue to tell me Shane’s first book was the where they first heard about CPT.

So, you say that social change isn’t about writing books and touring (or blogging for that matter)? Then what is it about?? (more…)

The things that make for peace

This piece is cross-posted from Electronic Intifada

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42

Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem is the name of a church and a site of pilgrimage for many Christian travelers to the “Holy Land.” Literally, Dominus Flevit means “the Lord wept” in Latin and is remembered as the site where Jesus stopped to look out over Jerusalem to weep and ask this striking question to all who would follow him.

An unavoidable question: Do we recognize the things that make for peace? Are they right in front of us, hidden from our eyes?

The language of peace often surrounds us. In a place like Palestine, the language of peace gets thrown around on a regular basis. One can see it when surveying the expanding colonization of the occupied West Bank in recent decades, in particular during those times of “peace” process. Or when one passes through an Israeli military checkpoint and is greeted with “shalom” — the Hebrew word for peace. And one also encounters it on the International Day of Prayer for Peace, where Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike gather to resist the daily violence they experience through prayer and protest.

When I read a text such as this one from Luke’s gospel, I cannot help but feel like Jesus is speaking directly to me, to us. Indeed, these words are a challenge to all of us who would make use of the language of peace.

This is a subversive text. And it reminds me of a story about what the language of peace in Palestine-Israel looks like, a story from Hedy Sawadsky, a relief worker with the Mennonite Central Committee in the Middle East in the 1960s who was challenged by a Palestinian woman: “what you’re doing here is fine, but it is only band-aid work … go home and work for peace and get at the root causes of evil and war.” (more…)

A window into the reality of a 36 hour curfew in Honduras

As you may have heard, Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras and is in the Brazilian embassy. The government has responded to wide spread protests by imposing a curfew that has been extended repeatedly. Andrew Clouse, a friend of mine serving with MCC in Honduras, has a eye opening reminder of how devastating a curfew can be for those with only enough money to buy food a day at a time. From his post, Laying Siege:

Consider that many people here live day to day, buying only what they need for the day because it is all they can afford. Additionally, many people depend on the wages they receive every single day selling tortillas, fruit, vegetables, housewhares, etc., in order to buy the food they need. If everyone is in curfew, they don’t sell. Add to that the fact that many of the corner stores where many people buy their rice and beans are running out of food, because the distribution trucks are not allowed on the streets. This is after only one day.

Supposedly, the curfew is supposed to be ending right about now (6 am Honduras time). It seems like the situation is at boiling point and the future of the coup government will be decided in the next 24 hours or so.

Honduras protest at Brazil Embassy by vredeseilanden

Protests at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 21 by vredeseilanden / CC BY-NC 2.0

I’ve been following the coup in Honduras and the resistance to it quite closely this summer, although I haven’t written much about it since I didn’t feel like I had much original to say. I still don’t have anything profound, but I do have accumulated links, images and videos that you might find interesting.

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Jarrod McKenna hiding in training area to halt US and Australian military training exercises

A few years ago I published an interview on YAR with Jarrod McKenna, an Australian Christian and activist. Since then, Jarrod has occasionally participated in discussions on YAR and I’ve had a number of phone conversations with him as part of building a Christian Peacemaker Teams presence in Australia. He’s a committed and passionate advocate of Christian nonviolence.

The Bonhoeffer 4
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