In the first article of this series, I did a broad overview of the bureaucratization trends in the Mennonite Church. In the second article, I looked specifically at the philosophy of institutions put forth by J. Lawrence Burkholder and practiced by James Brenneman and Howard Brenneman as presidents of Goshen (Ind.) College and Mennonite Mutual Aid respectively. In this third part I’ll look at the history of this thought in the Anabaptist tradition as well as Mennonite and feminist critique of Neihbur and Burkholder. I’ll continue to draw heavily from The Limits of Perfection: A Conversation with J. Lawrence Burkholder as well as The Feminist Case against Bureaucracy.
“Community”, “Radical Discipleship”, “Prophetic Witness”: An urgent and self-giving Christianity has taken hold of the imaginations of a new generation of the faithful. Group houses of sincere young folks earnestly desiring to live for Christ and serve the poor are springing up like daisies after a summer rain.
It is humbling to witness the movement of the Spirit in their work. Yet it is mournfully apparent that the language, aims, and means of our Christian communities are often defined by a narrow contingent of the movement or what might be the movement if our communities were accountable to anti-oppression work and in solidarity with those under the foot of kyriarchy in its many forms. In fact, the voices of women, queer people, people of color, those of immigrant or non-North American status, the economically disadvantaged, and the disabled are often secondary to the voices of celebrated white heterosexual North American men. And while certainly, our God’s cause is the cause of the poor, there is something troubling about our communities’ rhetoric and movement “to the margins”: it is a dangerous sense of entitlement that gives some of us the notion to obtain property and create ministries and services- often while lacking training or outside accountability. Many community houses have been started without the members having first developed a meaningful relationship with the community leaders and projects already underway, without having been invited to come nor having undertaken a serious analysis of the kinds of unjustly gained power that make some service providers and others receivers of services.
Yes, our God’s cause is the cause of the poor and the inspiration to give one’s life for God’s people- especially the most obviously vulnerable among us- is right and good. But the desire to give one’s life must not overcome a commitment to give that gift with a holy indifference that might lead one another way. (I am reminded of priests on foreign mission returning home, having been told that it was in disarming U.S. imperialism that they could best care for their beloved congregations abroad.) And while the lack of representation- and accountability- in our movements is casually acknowledged by many (“Sure, we’re mostly white, middle class, and male”), acknowledging it without committing to changing it perpetuates the unexamined privilege that underlies so many of our communities. It feeds the supremacy of whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality and class privilege in our most compelling “radical” North American Christian experiments and recreates the dynamics of oppression we name as sin.
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…)
October 29, 2008 activism, Anabaptism, Awesome Stuff, Change, Church, Civilization, communication, culture, Current Events, Education, Ethics, Exclusion, Faith, Gender, Group Identity, Interpretation, LGBTQ, liberation theology, Love, New Monasticism, Reviews, Sex, Sexism, Spiritual Life, Theology, Tradition, Young Folks 6 Read more >
crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.
Yesterday in my daily BBC feed I came across six horrifying stories from Egyptian women who experience regular sexual harassment. The psychic effect on women comes through in heart breaking clarity:
I get harassed 100 times a day. I tried everything to stop it but it doesn’t stop. I wear loose clothes, I don’t wear make up, I spend more than an hour in front of the mirror everyday thinking of ways to hide my body.
The stories also point to a wide spread acceptance of harassment among men in Egyptian society:
Another time I was walking home and this guy unzipped his trousers in a car next to me. I screamed, but he shouted back very aggressively, saying ‘Who do you think you are? Why would I even look at you?’ People in the street gathered around us and to my surprise they were not sympathetic with me. They supported him. They all defended the guy because they do the same thing.
Most of the women share their own attempts at coping or resistance strategies, few of which seem to have any affect. (more…)
I have a confession to make: I’ve never looked at porn. Okay, that’s a lie. But here’s the truth…….I’ve never sought out porn. Ever. Sure, there have been times in High School when a guy flipped me a rag, or in college when I went to a party and some guys were watching porn. And, like the rest of the 21st century world, I’ve accidently googled it from time to time. But I’ve never bought it, rented it, or pay-per-viewed it.
When I admit this fact about myself I get asked “Don’t you like it?”, “Are you not into chicks?”, “What’s the deal?”. Honestly, I never thought porn was good thing. I became a Christian at 19 so I had plenty of heathen years to look at this shit but I never thought it was right. Yeah, I’d probably like it. I’d probably like crack too.
I consider myself lucky. I’ve never met a guy who is in my position; who by 28 has been so “clean” of the stuff. Women might not know it, and maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag here, but nearly all guys, universally, look at porn. Sorry to blow your cover fellas.
Anyway, an old Pastor of mine moved out to Arizona a couple years ago to start yet another church. He met this girl who used to be a very successful porn star. She comes to his church and is very vocal about her past. I’d post her myspace and what-have-you but I don’t feel like it’d be appropiate. So my old Pastor likes to make movies and they thought it’d be cool to make sort of an “inspired on a true story” type flick about this girl. They posted a “making of” online. (more…)
Last Thursday, I had a conversation with a professor and a fellow student that gave me a window on the Mennonite narratives on heterosexual privilege. We had discussed Obama’s speech and white privilege in class. After class, I asked about heterosexual privilege. My prof and classmate both responded that a concept of heterosexual privilege “trivialized racism” since the sufferings of African-American are so embedded in our culture (I guess with the implication that the sufferings of LGBTers aren’t). My prof even claimed that the bans against single-sex marriage and other anti-sodomy laws were not persecution, but just limited the “freedom” of LGBTers.
This was a quick conversation in passing, so I didn’t really have my wits about me to respond. These are both caring, intelligent people who care deeply about social justice issues. Yet, for some reason, they don’t consider queers a persecuted group. I realize that I also don’t know yet enough about the history of this issue to be really comfortable about a response. However, after more reflection and conversation, I do have a couple of responses / observations —
- I don’t think that my colleague’s response is really about “trivializing racism.” It’s about not defining the queer experience as a social justice issue. As soon as LGBT is defined as a social justice issue, then the Mennonite Church is on the wrong side of the issue. As long as we can keep this just about Scripture and not how Scripture has been used to persecute or block access to institutions, then the Mennonites can have it both ways — we can advocate for social justice and keep the gays out.
I’m really sad today. I often become sad when I read the NY Times.
I wasn’t sure which article I should write an urgent post about, there were so many. Women are being destroyed in Congo as rape has become the most common tool of war and the crisis has reached unprecedented proportions. I was sure I was going to blog about that–as soon as returned to the computer from a session of weeping–crying out and pleading with God that people in every country would respect women’s bodily integrity. Here is that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/world/africa/07congo.html?th&emc=th
But, I couldn’t write about that one because I got overwhelmed by the next article. Rape and pillaging in wars will never stop as long as long as people in the imperial center do things like spread the gospel using Halo3, a dichotomizing, bloody video game. The article is copied into this post. Here’s an excerpt.
Witness the basement on a recent Sunday at the Colorado Community Church in the Englewood area of Denver, where Tim Foster, 12, and Chris Graham, 14, sat in front of three TVs, locked in violent virtual combat as they navigated on-screen characters through lethal gun bursts. Tim explained the game’s allure: “It’s just fun blowing people up.”
Once they come for the games, Gregg Barbour, the youth minister of the church said, they will stay for his Christian message. “We want to make it hard for teenagers to go to hell,” Mr. Barbour wrote in a letter to parents at the church. “
HOW–with what words, passages, or guiding principles–can we speak to our christian “brothers and sisters” about this? YAR has been a community of support for speaking truth to power. Words of advice, comfort, or challenge as we welcome many more christians by way of accepting Jesus as their savior while they were aroused by the massacring and tag-team destruction they just did?
October 8, 2007 Change, Church, Consumerism, Current Events, Education, End Times, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Gender, Global Church, God, Group Identity, Guns, Hate, History, International Relations, Journalism, Military, Nonviolence, Peace & Peacemaking, Polarization, Politics, Power, Privilege, Race, Rape, Schism, Sexism, Stories, Theology, Tolerance, Young Folks 4 Read more >
It’s father’s day, and I wanted to post something that was shared at my church service this morning that I found helpful to hear. I recognized it is limited in it’s patriarchal view of God, and I recognize that as men we have failed women in seeing them as equals (as well as failed them in many other ways). And I recognize that the attribute described are not limited to males, and that not all of us will agree with what “maleness” means. But this is not what this post is about.
This post is to the guys out there to say, it is OKAY to be male. Because of our historic power imbalance in our culture with our female counterparts, we have a huge responsibility to figure out what it means to be radical Anabaptist men seeking after what God intends for us while rebuking harmful stereotypes.
This is a day set aside to honor fathers. But we at Dayspring want to extend this honor to all men. Today, we want to celebrate your masculinity…your manliness that was patterned after the divine image of our Heavenly Father.
We rebuke stereotypes that hurt and hinder you…. that seek to destroy your competence and question your value.
We celebrate with you instead the Christ-centered model of manhood that embraces your sense of adventure, your love of nature and the wild, your need to do battle for justice and your call to protect. We celebrate by echoing the voice from Heaven that Jesus heard at his baptism:
“This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
If you’ve seldom heard those words from your earthly father, we ask that you hear them with your heart now:
“This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”
From 2001 to 2006, workers brought nearly 40,000 pay discrimination cases. Many such cases are likely to be barred by the court’s interpretation of the requirement in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that employees make their charge within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.”
In a vigorous dissenting opinion that she read from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the majority opinion “overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination.” She said that given the secrecy in most workplaces about salaries, many employees would have no idea within 180 days that they had received a lower raise than others.
According to NPR, one of the cases cited as “precedence” for this ruling has been overturned by congress. If you find the details, link it up.
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…)
Taken from the online edition of The Mennonite
LANCASTER, Pa.—More than 60 people from nine congregations gathered at the James Street Mennonite Church on May 16 to discuss how they might respond to a recent decision by Lancaster Mennonite Conference to not allow ordination for women (see Recommendation to Ordain Women Fails on page 19.)
“Very low on the list of options was to leave LMC,” said Linford King, overseer-bishop for the Lancaster City District, “and join another conference or start a new conference. There was a strong move to stay connected to LMC and go ahead with ordinations. The Lancaster district of LMC has formed its own ‘credentialing committee’ to interview candidates. The major impetus to move in this direction is the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, our full participation as members with Mennonite Church USA, and the recent Executive Board Affirmation for the Gifts of Women. The group did not engage in the ‘administrative arrangement’ with another conference. There was also some talk of ‘taking a leave of absence’ from LMC and entering a ‘safe house’ free of conference policies and participation.”
James Street Mennonite church is planning for a service of ordination on June 24 for Elizabeth Nissley.—Posted at 10:30 a.m. on May 22 by Anna Groff
I suppose this begs the question: What do Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton look like?
Our poll on white, non-gay men in ministry is now closed. In the month it was up, we received 30 votes of which 5 were abstentions. So of 25 votes, there were 15 yes votes. That is a encouraging 60%. Unfortunately, it is also two votes short of the 2/3 super-majority needed so I guess it’s too bad for you white, non-gay, males out there.
In the past several months, whenever the issue of gender equality has come up in conversation, I’ve heard several of my white male twenty-something friends express frustration at the guilt they feel about being white men. A good friend once said to me, “I feel like I have two strikes against me: one for my ethnicity and one for my gender.” I don’t think anyone knowing these men would say that they don’t have something (perhaps rather significant) to contribute in all of this, and yet the question persists: in our attempts to diversify and enrich our churches and organizations, how do we avoid disempowerment? I’m uncomfortable and dismayed whenever feminism is used as an easy scapegoat, but I’ve never really known how to respond. This post, however, touched on something I’ve been trying to articulate for a few years now: “Men are in trouble because of the feminist movement, but it’s not feminism’s fault.” I’m particularly interested in what the men who read and contribute to this blog think. Some of you have put way more time and energy into this topic than I have. Thoughts?
As someone who raised a bit of a stink about the whole Lancaster Mennonite Conference-vote-to-not-ordain-women thing, I want to direct your attention to some good news. There was also a letter from the bishops recently to people in the conferece that I would also call hopeful.
So, to the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board, I want to say “Thank you.” I must confess, I wasn’t sure you had it in you, but with a little time for pondering and for the dust to settle, I see hope, strength, and wisdom in this resolution. I guess I had too little faith. Well done, the church will be better for it. I’m curious to see how this will play out.
To the bishops – you are asking some good questions and bringing up some important issues and I’m also curious to see where this will go.