Beware the Amish pirates

Laughter is Sacred Space: Memoir of an Anabaptist comedian

December 10th, 2012 by TimN

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

This is the funniest book about the pain of suicide you’ll ever read. It may also be the most profound. By diving deep into what it means to lose your comedy partner, Ted Swartz squeezes us through windows of surprising grace, lubricated by laughter.

Scene 2 of the book tells the tragic story of how Lee Eshleman “succumbed to a fatal illness known as depression” in 2007, as Ted puts it. Lee was the other half of Ted and Lee, the only full-time professional Mennonite comedy company that I’ve ever known. His death sent Ted into a spiral of anger, guilt, debt, depression and holey underwear as his business collapsed, and he got into debt.

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Love Wins - the book review

March 23rd, 2011 by AlanS

This post is a followup to my thoughts on the controversy that preceded the release of this book.  You can read those thought on the wandering road  here, and on YAR  here.  This post is also on the MWR blog here.

An artist is, first and foremost, someone who sees the world differently than other people and helps others to see the world in that way.

Rob Bell is not a theologian; he’s an artist.

Bell’s new book Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of every person who ever lived should be first and foremost understood as a work of art. From the vivid imagery and stories that he uses, down to the careful arrangement of words on the page for visual effect, Bell does a masterful job of evoking questions, providing insights and causing the reader to see age-old questions in new ways.

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A review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

February 23rd, 2011 by CindyW

This review is cross-posted from La Fleur Epuisee

This week, I finished this lovely book. I’m a bit behind on the bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally got around to it: finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle left me feeling challenged and alive and hopeful.

The book is Kingsolver’s account of a year’s experiment in local eating. She, along with her husband and two daughters, set out to fully occupy their Virginia land, gardening and raising animals, canning and freezing, cooking from scratch, and purchasing what they could not make (with a few exceptions) from sources as nearby as possible. It’s a beautifully written narrative, combining experience and research. Kingsolver’s husband Steven Hopp provides succinct (and sometimes zingy) sidebars on the politics and science of U.S. food economics, and her daughter Camille ends many of the chapters with a young person’s perspective and suggested recipes.

This is the sort of book that makes me long for a bit of land, a laundry line, a nice wide pantry, a chest freezer. Its compelling writing and solid argumentation leave me wondering how most of us continue to deceive ourselves that our participation in widespread profit-driven food practices has no lasting negative effects. The book doesn’t browbeat, but it certainly leaves me with a heavy sense of my responsibility–our responsibility–as well as our possibilities. Does our attachment to convenient, out-of-season, processed, cheap foods in the U.S. damage our own health, the health of soil, the health of local economies (in the States and across the globe), the health of global economies, the health of vulnerable migrant workers, and the health of the planet–thus the health of our children and theirs? Absolutely. Are we all free to up and leave our urban or suburban lives to go claim a bit of homestead? Not really. But are there things we can do? Absolutely. read more »

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Chicago Style: More then Funny Signs?

October 30th, 2010 by TimN

DSC_0030

I just got back from the satellite Rally to Restory Sanity and/or Fear here in Chicago. I’ve been reading the confused articles leading up to the rally. Is it all about irony? Is it about moderation? Is it about progressive politics? Is this the millennial generation’s Woodstock?

After spending half an hour wondering around the edges of the rally here in Grant Park, it’s clear that those in attendance weren’t sure either. On the stage were Chicago progressive (trying their best to show enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference in challenging Chicago’s corrupt politics) competing with a Chicago comedians making jokes about sandwiches.

Alongside the stage was a muted jumbotron showing Comedy Central’s live coverage of the D.C. rally. The most unifying cry the crowd could get behind while I was there was shouting, “Audio! Audio!” when Jon Stewart came on screen. That’s right: They’d come to stand with thousands of other people in the middle of Grant Park on a beautiful October day so that they could all watch television together. And the funny thing is that they weren’t trying to be ironic.

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Anawim Theology and Avatar

January 28th, 2010 by SteveK

Anawim theology is the biblical theology of God’s salvation of the poor and outcast. It is strongly linked to anabaptist theology. “Anawim” is a Hebrew term that means “the poor seeking the Lord for deliverance”, is used in the Psalms extensively and is referred to in the Magnificat and the Beatitudes. If you are interested in reading a popular theology of it you can read the book Unexpected News: Reading The Bible Through Third World Eyes or check out this website: http://www.nowheretolayhishead.org/teachings.html

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about Avatar.

I understand that some feel that there is some racism in Avatar, and I can see their point, but it would be deeply embedded and certainly not obvious to the masses throughout the world watching it. However, I believe that part of the reason that Avatar is so popular is because of the open Anawim-like theology involved. There is a general morality throughout the world that the underdog should be supported and that God is on the side of the oppressed. Avatar not only supports this, but has a pretty strong morality/spirituality. As I sat and watched it a couple times, I wrote the following principles down that I think describes Avatar’s basic support of Anawim theology:

There is a empire, ruling the world, and its focus is to increase the wealth of a limited few, even if that hurts others. Everyone within the empire is a part of this system of greed, even if they superficially attempt to oppose it. read more »

Ancient Paths: The Way Forward

October 24th, 2009 by RustyP

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

I just returned from the Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone, an event that took place this last weekend in Philadelphia. The purpose of the gathering was to explore the connections between Anarcho-Primitivism and Christianity. Ched Myers was the main speaker, leading us all through a crash course in biblical primitivism. There is so much I could write about, but I know that in this space I can only scratch the surface. Many secular and religious scholars alike are beginning to read the Hebrew-Christian bible from an archeological/historical perspective. Instead of reading the stories as metaphors or “lessons of old,” many are starting to take them more seriously and view them as factual. The Paradise of Eden is then understood not as fable of moral decline, but as a historical recollection of a time when human animals lived in balance with the earth. As ecological disaster ripens, it becomes fascinating to read these stories through this lens. As we look at it more closely, the bible begins to read like a manual of Anarcho-Primitivism. Of course that term wasn’t around back then, but the principles are so similar that it is incredible. For those unfamiliar, Anarcho-Primitivism is a form of anarchism that takes it’s critique of society all the way back to origins, citing civilization as the culprit of our current crisis. This brand of thinking values indigenous cultures and earth-based people groups as teachers and elders who hold wisdom long forgotten (or violently silenced). Our hunter-gatherer ancestors laid out for us a way of being that is truly sustainable. It was the norm forever, until the rise of agriculture, which changed the landscape of things and paved the way for civilization. As the towers rose and power centralized, most people got the short end of the stick. This is the context in which the Hebrew-Christian tradition developed. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic”. Numbers 11:5. read more »

A Review of After the Mayflower, We Shall Remain

May 20th, 2009 by TimN

Chris Eyre working with cast while filming at Red Clay. (c) Billy Weeks

adapted from As of Yet Untitled

Sunday evening I watched the first episode of We Shall Remain, a five part PBS series you can watch for free on their website. If you have 75 minutes to spare, don’t bother reading this review, just go watch After the Mayflower, the first episode, for yourself.

Contrary to its name, After the Mayflower starts slightly before the Pilgrims made landfall in Plymouth and provides a brief, but rich window into the way of life for the Wampanoag, the local Native American tribe near Plymouth, before the Pilgrims arrived. What was it like to be Wampanoag, the people of the first light, stretched out along the ocean, clearly aware of your place in the continent, welcoming the sun before all others? We also learn about the broad strokes of their political relationships with other local tribes as well as the plague that arrived just before the pilgrims killing 9 in 10 Wampanoag.

The documentary goes on to span the first 60 years of Native American and English relations, beginning with the first treaty between Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag and ending with King Philip’s war, one of the bloodiest wars in North American history proportional to the population. It offers some challenging questions for pacifists. Especially Christian pacifists.

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gay/evangelical love

May 17th, 2009 by lukelm

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.
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The Capricious hand of ICE and Lenten fasting

March 1st, 2009 by TimN

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

On Thursday evening Charletta and I watched The Visitor. Charletta and I watched the The Visitor last night. Friends had recommended it and I expected a quirky, lovable independent film. It’s this, but it is also a devastating portrait of ICE detention centers from the inside and draws us into the story of the way they tear apart families and dehumanize people. Yet its not a depressing film. It combines gritty honesty and playful hope in an strikingly un-Hollywood way.

After the film finished, I thought of my friend Anton Flores (see my profile of him from last fall) whose life work is supporting those who have become ensnared in the immigration system. The next morning I woke up to an email from Anton describing his DriveFast, in which he will abstain from driving at all during Lent. His pledge, however, isn’t just motivated out of green sensibility. Instead it points to the way drivers license restrictions are used to control and dominate undocumented workers in the small town in Georgia where he lives. He’s told me stories of standing besides immigrants as they are belittled by judges for driving without a license, even as they embody the system that is taken that right away. I stayed with a family in his neighborhood who must drive every day without a license because they have no other way to get to their job. They live in constant danger of being pulled over and possibly deported

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Martyrdom Through Hollywood: Book Review of The Purple Crown

January 6th, 2009 by JoeW

Tripp York. The Purple Crown: The Politics of Martyrdom. Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 2007. Pp. 198. $19.99, US.

The Purple Crown is the first book written by Tripp York (Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University) and the second in Herald’s new series, Polyglossia: Radical Reformation Theologies, edited by Peter Dula (Assistant Professor of Bible and Culture at Eastern Mennonite University), Chris K. Huebner (Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Canadian Mennonite University), J. Alexander Sider (Assistant Professor of Religion at Bluffton University), and Jennifer L. Graber (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Wooster College).

Probably the best and worst thing about York’s book is its accessibility—it is easy to read. Clocking in at under 200 pages (including breaks, notes, and index), one can blow through it in an afternoon. It is not encumbered by jargon or technical language academics alone understand. The argument is clear: martyrdom is part and parcel of the Church’s missionary work, which is political by virtue of its unique publicity. Politics is bound up with imitation; who you imitate or follow displays your orientation towards the good. Because Christian martyrs are the ultimate imitators of Christ, they exemplify the ultimate political act over-against the powers that kill them. And yet York is quick to connect the martyr to the church that formed her prior to death, emphasizing the social nature of this politics that makes it possible to enact.

The Purple Crown begins with an account of the martyrs of the early church, arguing that they constitute the political agent par excellence for the church. It examines the body of the martyr as the battlefield between God and Satan, intrinsically connecting salvation with the flesh. York then skips to the 16th century, when Christians martyred other Christians, arguing in favor of the Anabaptists as exemplars for the continuity of the suffering church. It is the Anabaptists that maintain a visibly social distinction from the world’s secular civil organization, yet are simultaneously able to “seek the peace of the city.” The tension of being distinct from yet engaged with the world is the embodiment of a citizenship intended to help the nation move towards its divinely oriented destiny. The final chapter is a biography of Oscar Romero, the El Salvadorian priest who displayed this kind of citizenship through his defense of the oppressed and was “martyred” as a result. read more »

When will they update the 12 marks?

October 29th, 2008 by ST

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. read more »

Jesus for President: An Ecumenical Campaign

September 18th, 2008 by IsaacV

I wrote a report for the office of Interchurch Relations (MCUSA) on our district’s sponsorship of the Jesus for President campaign stop in North Carolina. You can read part of it below.

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The Jesus for President campaign came to Raleigh, N.C. on July 22nd. Chris Haw, Shane Claiborne, and their crew took the stage at 7pm. People started filling the seats at 6:30, anticipating the acclaimed campaign. For two and a half hours, Shane and Chris spoke about Jesus and politics to an attentive crowd. Although our Mennonite district took the lead role in bringing them to town, we were a marginal presence. With no money spent on advertising, we drew around 650 people to a midweek event. Duane Beck, pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, had the idea of inviting the Jesus for President tour to make a stop in our area.

The district pastors (including myself) enthusiastically approved. With the support of our Eastern Carolina District of the Mennonite Church, we explored our ecumenical networks to form a coalition of sponsors. Pastor Spencer Bradford of Durham Mennonite Church approached the North Carolina Council of Churches, which gladly agreed to help sponsor the event. Since our Mennonite churches have small worship spaces, Duane Beck found a partnership with First Baptist Church in downtown Raleigh which agreed to host the campaign. Though the Mennonites did most of the legwork, various churches came together to bring the Jesus for President crew to town.

People of different Christian traditions came to hear Chris Haw and Shane Claiborne preach the gospel of Christ’s peace. In many respects, the evening felt like an evangelistic crusade. One member of my congregation even said that it reminded her of the Campus Crusade rallies she attended as a youth. read more »

The Prophetic Discourse: What We Can Learn From It

August 24th, 2008 by folknotions

Exploring the Old Testament
J. Gordon McConville
vol. 4 - A Guide to the Prophets
Intervarsity Press, 2002

I am new to the Church, as many of you know if you have read any of my previous posts. Therefore, I am constantly grappling with the Church, in ways that I think are different from those of folks who are inside the Church and have grown up in it. A number of folks who have grown up in the Church have had to grapple with the way the Church has treated them in the past and heal from a lot of wounds. Often, I think those wounds stem from how the church teaches its people - as the way the people are taught guides how they act and how they respond to issues of faith.

With that in mind, I have one thing to say that I think gripes me about Church teaching: I have found that the Church teaching on the Prophets is inadequate. As I see it, either the church underteaches the Prophets, ignores them all together, or just picks out those bits which prophesize the coming of Christ. But, I mean, really, when was the last time you heard a sermon on Haggai? And if you have, please let me know so I can start visiting your church!

All that said, there is a great deal of understanding to be gleaned from the Prophets that is simply left aside by the Church. I understand the challenges of reading from the Prophets: 1) You have to talk alot about context, and some folks get bored to death by history, geography, and culture; 2) the Prophets have some really condeming language at times which doesn’t make for an uplifting Bible study; 3) the Prophets are poets and (for some reason) we think poetry is hard. read more »

Jesus for President Report

August 20th, 2008 by IsaacV

As I reported to ya’ll a while back, our Eastern Carolina District of MCUSA brought Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw to town in July for a Jesus for President campaign stop. Laura Graber Nickel from our church in Chapel Hill, N.C., wrote a news piece on the event that ran in The Mennonite this past week (look here). But the editors took out a lot of good stuff. So, with Laura’s permission, below is her full report on the event. Enjoy.

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On a July evening in Raleigh, NC, every one of 500 seats in the First Baptist Church auditorium was occupied. The 200 people without a chair leaned against the walls and sat on the floor. Next door at Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, another crowd gathered to cheer their candidate for president. But back in the church auditorium, through storytelling, song and worship, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw described an alternative political perspective: Jesus for President.

The pair is promoting their co-authored book, Jesus for President, nearing the end of a month-long nationwide tour that has attracted crowds of 500 to 1000 people at every stop. In Jesus for President, Claiborne and Haw ask Christians to think differently about their political and religious allegiance, re-evaluate the church’s role in the arena of American power and politics and examine the way they live their faith day to day. “We’re saying that we see in Jesus not a presentation of ideas,” said Claiborne, “but an invitation to join a movement that embodies the good news with the way that we live in this world.” Their message includes a strong emphasis on peace and puts a high value on communities of believers who reject the world’s ways and live their lives according to Jesus’ teachings; both familiar themes to Mennonites. read more »

Review of The Dictionary of Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings

August 15th, 2008 by MatthewT

Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, eds. Dictionary of Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008. Pp. 967. $35.00, US.

The Dictionary of Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings is the seventh offering in the IVP Academic Dictionaries series. Edited by Tremper Longman III (Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College) and Peter Enns (currently unaffiliated [more of this below]), the dictionary is 967 pages long and consists of about 150 articles from over ninety different contributors from around the world. To make this lengthy work more easily accessible the dictionary contains three different indices: scripture, subject, and article.

The types of articles found within the dictionary range from the literary (for instance, articles on Acrostic, Chiasm, Frame Narrative, and Wordplay), to topics such as Afterlife, God, and Women.

Perhaps the most significant contribution this volume makes is its lengthy treatments of the various biblical books considered to be OT Wisdom, Poetry and Writing. The biblical books included within the work are the following: Ecclesiastes, Esther, Job, Lamentations, Proverbs, Psalms, Ruth, and Song of Songs. What is to me one of the most interesting and helpful aspects of this dictionary is that the treatment of each book is divided into three main sections – a discussion of the book itself, a discussion of the book in relation to its Ancient Near Eastern background, and a discussion of the history of interpretation of the book. This feature alone makes the work worth the money and reflects a growing realization amongst evangelical biblical scholars that the books making up the Bible did not and do not exist in a vacuum. In particular, articles situating the book within its Ancient Near Eastern background help the user determine what sorts of interpretations would have been possible for early readers of these biblical books. From an Anabaptist standpoint this feature should be most welcome, for it will hopefully aid in the difficult task of rendering more and more faithful understandings of Scripture. On the other hand, the articles on the history of interpretation of biblical books show a deep awareness that our reading of Scripture is not done without a connection to how others have read it. This attention to the effective history (or for those who care about German – Wirkungsgeschichte) of biblical books throughout the life of Israel and the church reminds the reader that interpretation is never a solitary experience but must always be done within community – both our local community and the church down through the ages.

So why should the fine readers of YAR be interested in this dictionary? Good question. First, a number of the biblical works discussed in the articles are amongst the most difficult books to appropriate for Christian use. Does Ecclesiastes lead to anything better than nihilism? What comfort can we glean from the book of Job? How can we take Proverbs seriously when it suggests that the poor be given strong drink to forget their troubles (Prov 31.7)? Even more troubling for Anabaptists, how are we to understand Psalms like Psalm 137 that delight in the slaughtering of infants? The numerous articles in this dictionary provide a great entryway into thinking through these issues and point the interested reader to literature that might be of further help.

One final note: while not pertinent to a review of this book, it might be of interest to some readers that one of the editors, Peter Enns, was himself an attendee of a college with Anabaptist roots – Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. His most recent book, Incarnation and Inspiration, has garnered considerable attention in the evangelical world and led to his dismissal (recently upgraded to a mutually agreed upon discontinuation of service) from Westminster Theological Seminary due to what was deemed an insufficient view of Scripture.