US Military

Made for such a moment as this?: From Fundamentalist to Anabaptist

This week in my seventh post in my ongoing Anabaptist Camp Followers series, I interview Benjamin Corey. He is a retired US Air Force instructor turned Anabaptist speaker and writer. He blogs at Formely Fundie and is author of the upcoming book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

photo of Benjamin L. Corey Can you share about your first encounter with Anabaptist thought and practice?

I first encountered Anabaptism when I was studying church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, but it was only in the context of their role in Church history— we didn’t get much into Anabaptist thought and certainly didn’t delve into the existence of Neo-Anabaptism, so at that time I had no idea how deeply I would connect with it.

As I continued to make my way through seminary I went through a massive paradigm shift as I realized that even though I had been a Christian for more than 20 years, Jesus himself was the missing aspect to my faith. Once I made this realization, I went through a reorientation of my faith not around Christian religion but simply around Jesus— a process that is the topic of my upcoming book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. During this reorientation, my views on a host of issues changed— I embraced nonviolence, gender equality, rediscovered the need to live out faith in authentic community and a host of other new discoveries.

I had no idea what to call myself anymore- I felt like a misfit in Christianity because I knew I wanted to follow Jesus, but didn’t know where I fit in. One day I picked up the book Naked Anabaptist and started reading about the tenants of the Anabaptist Network and it was a lightbulb moment for my wife and I, because it articulated our new worldview in a way that felt like someone was inside our head. In that process, we realized that Anabaptist ins’t necessarily something you become but something you realize you already became. Being able to "label" who we were was incredibly freeing for us and helped us realize that we weren’t alone anymore.

What are some of the ways you’ve connected with the wider Anabaptist community that have helped you feel like you are not alone?

Once I realized that I had been an Anabaptist all along, I started to seek out others like me and stumbled upon MennoNerds and folks like my friend Kurt Willems. While an online community is often a poor substitute for real-life interpersonal community, the Anabaptist community online is pretty darn good. It’s the first "tribe" that I’ve ever had where I felt like I belonged and like I was accepted— flaws and all. I think what I love about it is that it is diverse enough to allow for a "big tent" feeling yet we all share several core values to our faith that keep us all linked together. It’s something I haven’t quite experienced before— there’s definitely a kinship factor with the Anabaptist community. Ironically, the only other place I’ve ever experienced this was during my ten years in the military.

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How Should a Christian Respond to Syria?

This post originally appeared here.

These last few days have been exciting, but not necessarily in a good way. On the one hand, we have had a celebration of Martin Luther King’s legacy, but on the other hand, the dogs of war are snarling again, this time for Syria. Our politicians are simultaneously celebrating one of Christianity’s greatest prophets, while also considering military action abroad (again). Considering this interesting coincidence, I think it can be helpful to consider what Martin Luther King would have thought about the current military actions of the United States.

There is an episode of The Boondocks called “Return of the King” that actually tackles this exact question. In this episode, instead of being killed, King slips into a coma after being shot, and he wakes up in the year 2000. King learns that not as much has changed as he would have wished, and he becomes greatly disillusioned. There is one part of the episode, however, that is really relevant to our current wars and our inevitable involvement in Syria. (more…)

Beware of the Ministry-Industrial Complex

Occasionally, I end up going to one of those “Christian” stores, or I get some sort of advertisement from them. Where I live, they are called “Family Christian Stores” with an emphasis on the family part. In other parts of the country, such stores also exist, but with different names. We have all been to those kinds of places. When I was an evangelical, that was where you went to get a Bible or some accessory for it, but I still occasionally end up going there for one reason or another. These stores have books by Sarah Palin and Joel Osteen, and entire walls devoted to American flags and New International Versions. We all know the type.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an advertisement catalog from one of those stores, and for some reason I looked through it. First, there was a bunch of customized Bibles. Sort of like some sort of collector’s item, there was a bunch of needless varieties of Bibles for purchasing. I always see this whenever I go to any bookstore – people treating the Bible like some sort of fashion statement. What really annoyed me was when I saw this. They have this line of patriotic clothing, but it is not just patriotic. They mix Christianity into their patriotism in an amazing way. They even have a “Jesus Saves” shirt stylized to read “JesUSAves.” They literally made Jesus an American and linked Christian salvation to Americanism. They are mixing Christianity, capitalism, and the American state into one single chimera. Now, this is not new. I have known that they were doing this for a long time, but this example proved to be the ideal opportunity to bring up the issue. (more…)

The evil, rotten core of US war and empire and why it should make us all angry as hell

Geleyn Corneliss being tortured while his torturers played cards illustration from Martyrs Mirror modified by Third Way Cafe

A page from the Martyr’s mirror depicting Geleyn Corneliss, who was hung by his thumb while his torturers played cards. Modified illustration from Third Way Cafe

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Yesterday, March 6, 2013, we in the US learned in The Guardian that our government put torture and death at the center of our policy in Iraq. According to the article, Jim Steele, who was heavily involved in the El Salvadoran death squads, was called in to replicate the model in Iraq in 2004 with millions of dollars at his disposal. This strategy, known as the “Salvador Option” was apparently known and discussed at the highest levels of the US government and supervised closely by General David Petraeus. These actions are consistent with US policy since the end of World War II: torture and mass murder in support of US economic interests.

This is no aberration: it is the norm for empire. Nevertheless, many will hem and haw, rationalize and suggest this is still a few bad apples, albeit 4 star general apples. Tragically, most in the United States will simply ignore it. But what about us, as Mennonites: as Anabaptist Christians? What will we do?

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Violence Begets Violence

“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” — Matthew 26:52 (KJV)

‎”Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… ” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.” — Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

I was originally going to write today about something to do with Liberation Theology. I am currently doing a research paper on the subject, and I figured that it would be worth writing about here. In fact, Thomas Muntzer is seen as both a founder of Anabaptism and a forerunner of Liberation Theology. So, it seemed like a good idea for something here for the Young Anabaptist Radicals. God, however, did not want me to write about that subject today.

When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do — I went onto my social networking sites to see if there was anything new. Well, there was, and it was not something that I am happy about. Israel reignited its military campaign against Gaza in its so-called “Operation Pillar of Defense”. Israel, backed by the United States government, has continued its senseless bombings of Palestinians.

As with any international issue, social networking and news sites blew up with this news of the latest military strikes in the region. There were many who say that the Israelis are justified in their actions. They say that they are more civilized than those terrorists in Gaza. On the other hand, there are those who say that Palestine is oppressed, that we should support groups like Hamas. I, however, find myself strangely in the middle. (more…)

The plank of the Forgotten War and the splinter of Muslim rage

Hiding behind the hillCrossposted from As of Yet Untitled.

Two weeks ago, Newsweek published a calculatedly inflammatory cover story in response to the “Innocence of the Muslim” protests in the Middle East. The cover featured a photo of protesters faces contorted in anger with the caption “Muslim Rage”. Newsweek also started an accompanying Twitter hashtag: #Muslimrage. Newsweek was fueling the flames that we already there: U.S. righteous disdain and disgust for the anger of Muslim protesters in response to a Youtube video.

For those of in the United States, I think this is a Matthew 7:5 moment. It’s comforting to settle into our moral high horse as we look at the killings in Libya of the U.S. ambassador. Certainly these deaths are tragic and wrong. But let’s consider what the plank in our own eye might be in this situation.

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DADT: Why I’m Surprised

So I’m a Christian, a Mennonite: anti-war, anti-violence, anti-military. My Dad would say I’m a good liberal Mennonite (since those two words are, in his mind, synonymous) but I’m also gay. So I was surprised when I watched the video on YouTube entitled “Telling my dad I am gay- Live” (see below) and I was excited for the guy. Sure it’s not strange that I’d be excited to hear a guy, heart racing, scared to death, come out to his Dad and that I’d be even more excited when I heard his Dad say the words “I still love you” and “this doesn’t change our relationship”. The part that surprised me was that I was such a big fan even though this guy is in the military.

I have to admit that since I became convinced of Anabaptist theology sometime after college I’ve never been a fan of any man in the military. In fact I cringe at the thought and I’m very uncomfortable around such people. Even still on Wednesday when I watched this video I was thrilled and encouraged. To be fair my reaction had little to do with the fact that he’s a soldier and more to do with the response he received but nonetheless I became a fan of a soldier.

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Thunderbirds and Airshow Evangelism for Empire

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

This weekend has seen the death of 10 people in two different crashes at air shows. My own experience at the Chicago Air and Water show this summer has had me reflecting on this cultural phenomenon and its importance to U.S. patriots. If you want to skip the philosophical background, you can jump to the Thunderbirds as Evangelists section below.

This summer I read the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. I’ve found his lens of the five moral foundation theory to be a quite useful framework over the last few years for understanding liberal and conservative morality. In this book he looks at the things that make for happiness, drawing on ancient religious texts as well as the philosophical traditions juxtaposed with modern science and changing views of human psychology.

Haidt, a Jewish atheist, also looks at the emotions and sense experienced in conjunction with our sense of the divine, a sentiment closely linked with that of purity. Divinity and purity are contrasted with those things that are disgusting and unclean. This is a vocabulary that is familiar to Christians from the Levitical purity codes all the way through Revelation.

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Peace Chaplain, Part 1

A seminarian contributed this chapter about learning to love her enemies after a direct action at a military base to Radical Peace: People Refusing Waredited by William T. Hathaway. Because of her activism, this piece is posted anonymously to Young Anabaptist Radicals.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day the military base near my seminary held an open house, a public relations extravaganza to improve their image and boost recruiting. They invited the public in for a marching band parade, a precision flying show, and a sky diving demonstration. They even offered free lemonade and cookies.

A subversive seminarian, namely me, decided to disrupt the festivities and remind people that the military’s job is murder. I bought a jump suit and dyed it orange like the uniforms the prisoners in Guantánamo have to wear. I bought two U-shaped bike locks, three diapers, and a pair of rubber underpants.

All suited up, I had a friend drive me onto the base before people started arriving for the celebration. She dropped me off at the traffic circle just inside the main gate, kissed me on the cheek for good luck, and drove back out the gate. In the center of the traffic circle stood a flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes. I ran to the pole, fastened my foot to it with one bike lock and my neck to it with the other — pretty uncomfortable — and started shouting, “Close Guantánamo! No More Abu Ghraibs! Free the Prisoners!” People gawked as they drove by, some laughing like I was part of the show, some waving, some giving me the finger.

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Wikileaks’ Cablegate as a threat to empire: Cyber Command scrambles

Today Wikileaks began its release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables in conjunction with media outlets around the world. I believe the work they are doing is on the emerging edge of resistance to US imperialism. The releases not only unmasks the powers in meticulous detail, but threaten the very mechanisms through which empire seek to influence, control and coerce. After all, if client states and their leaders know their collaboration with the U.S. could be published all over the world, they may be less ready to go along with imperial machinations.

For example in Newsweek, Christopher Dickey describe a cable in which Yemeni leaders promising to lie to their own people and parliament. He goes on to complain, “That bit of dialogue is not just embarrassing, it’s going to make the covert war against the most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise that much harder to wage.”

For once, it is the empire that it is on it’s back foot, scrambling to respond. (more…)

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…)

Revelations from WikiLeaks

The recent revelations about U.S. and British forces in Iraq uncover a stunning darkness. According to The Guardian, the 400,000 documents made available last week through WikiLeaks reveal “15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths.” The number of deaths kept secret by the leaders of our government exposes the sickening violence of war. While I would rather ignore the stories of killing and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am reminded of the words of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In 1934 he wrote to a friend, “Only complete truth and truthfulness will help us now.”

Here are two stories that I can’t get out of my head as I think about the truth of war. In 2006, in the town 60 miles north of Baghdad, Khalib and his pregnant sister Nabiha were in a rush to get to the hospital. As they made their way down the usual streets, they came upon a new U.S. military checkpoint. The soldiers perceived the approaching vehicle as a threat, so they opened fire and killed Nabiha and the child in her womb. She was 35, and the dead baby was a boy.

War is never kind to women and children, especially to pregnant women. Neither is war kind to the mentally disabled, who are some of the most vulnerable among us. (more…)

A Poem for Hiroshima Day

The Necessity of Hiroshima: why we must believe

Act I

in The Year of Decisions, our savior Harry asked

"a committee of top men"
                                    Men all carved from the same superior
                                    Aspen, carefully lathed of their
"to study with great care"
                                    care. Eviscerated as children, smiling
                                    beneath strange fruit. They died for
"the implications the new"
                                    the new; our idolatrous messiah. Our
                                    silicon steel colossus will consume
"weapon might have for us"
                                    us, our civilization. As surely as
                                    Saturn Devouring His Son.

the scientific advisers of the committee reports:

"We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war;
we see no acceptable alternative to
direct military use."

Act II

And so, 65 years ago today, an orange cloud blossomed above a city full of them for our salvation.

DSC_0243-1

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Corporations, Scriptural Sacrilege and Saucepan Revolutions

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Every once in a while, I stumble across a bunch of links all at once that don’t quite have the coherence to link together in one story, but each offer a compelling perspective. Here are the links that caught my eye this week with brief summaries of the stories:

  • Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back – I first became aware of Douglas Rushkoff last month after he published two of the best articles on the financial crisis I’ve read (here and here). Now he has a new book out on corporatism that lucidly illuminates the ruthless role of corporations in our economy as they extract maximum value while giving as little as possible in return. The article above includes brilliant excerpts from chapter 8 and chapter 9 of his book.
  • Onward, Christian Soldiers – GQ magazine got their hands on cover sheets from Donald Rumsfeld’s reports to Bush featuring bible verses superimposed on images of war machinery. I don’t use the term lightly, but these images are sickeningly sacrilegious. In the lower left hand corner you can see the dates of each report. They were used during the first days and months of the Iraq invasion. These images go along way to cement the invasion in people’s minds as the face of US Christianity.
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Military Counseling Network seeks Young Anabaptist Radical

In a time when peace churches are having a hard time finding ways to be proactive in response to our country’s wars, this work gives us just that opportunity. More than protest, more than letter-writing, more than being “against stuff.” We can do better by providing alternatives. In the same way that the Pentagon technically has the right to extend a soldier’s active-duty service indefinitely during a time of war, so too do these soldiers have a right to get out early in certain situations. And war has the power to transform people. That’s where a military counselor comes in.

In this position, you’ll learn to understand military law, military culture, and what’s really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. There will also be opportunities to travel in the US and Europe to speak about issues of war and peace, explain what servicemembers who have been in the war actually say about it, and bring the Christian peace witness into the international debate.

For more information, e-mail mcn@dmfk.de. Feel free to pass this info on to other people who might be interested. For more information about the organization, check out www.mc-network.de.