Writing

Remembering Our Identity

We are Anabaptists. We are Mennonites. We are distinct from other Protestants and denominations. We care about peace, justice, community. We are a unique and special people.

Many of us feel this way or at least I know, at times, I do. There is a special quality of Christianity that is evidenced in Anabaptism. Yes, we were persecuted by the Holy Catholic Church, but we were also persecuted by fellow Protestants. There is severity and deep conviction in our confession of faith.

Yet, in truth, too often we rest on the laurels of our Anabaptist forebears. We recall or express nostalgia for the countercultural, anti-empire sentiments and actions of those who came before us, all the while colluding with the current empire on many levels in our life. Some of us (even unwittingly) invest in stocks for pharmaceutical corporations and weapons manufacturers, thus endorsing a system that benefit from death and destruction.

Many persons and whole churches have substituted absolute pacifism with Just War Theory. In that regard we have embraced Augustinean Christianity to the detriment of Jesus’ command to love even our enemies who persecute and abuse us. We claim a Mennonite identity, but too often embrace an American identity or political ideology (whether left or right). We fail to recognize the radical calling upon our lives, which is to root ourselves in a Christ identity.

Some of us need a fresh baptism, a next baptism to awaken us to Christ’s calling upon our lives. We may have been baptized in water, but now we need a fire baptism to burn out the iniquity and inequality that pervades our lives. Like a prairie fire that burns the dead things and promotes richer soil, so too do we need the Spirit of fire to prepare us to live more deeply and richly. (more…)

I once was raised a Feminist, but now I’ve found Feminism

This post was originally featured on The Jesus Event, and is part of a series entitled “I once was raised… but now I’ve found…” where some of the author’s favorite writers, bloggers, scholars, and theologians explain the transitions they have encountered along their own faith journey.

Below is an interview with The Jesus Event’s Tyler Tully and the Femonite’s Hannah Heinzekehr

Tyler- There are a lot of misconceptions out there about being a Mennonite and being raised as a Mennonite. You seemed to have been raised by parents who made room for good theological frameworks. How would you explain what it is like being raised as a Mennonite?

Hannah- Well, for me, being raised as a Mennonite didn’t mean looking “outwardly different” at all. For me, what it meant to grow up Mennonite was that there was always an emphasis on Jesus’ story and what that meant for how we lived. And some of the ways that this got expressed were through baptism later in life — baptism occurred when you were old enough to make a conscious choice that you have to make on your own to follow Jesus. It also included an emphasis on peace and nonviolence as part of the way that we were meant to live in the world. For my family, being Mennonite also meant being pacifist and resisting violence in all its many forms. This doesn’t mean that we are passive — I think we also strongly believed that we were meant to protest against injustice in the world — but we weren’t going to use violence to do this work. And the third thing that I often think of is that being Mennonite, for my family, meant being part of a church community that was active in each other’s lives and not just on Sundays.
I think there was a strong emphasis on communal decision making and being willing to give and receive counsel to one another.

(more…)

Wanted: Stories of Women & Leadership in Mennonite Church USA (which I always think sounds like a sports team)

“I will tell you something about stories . . . They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”
~Leslie Marmon Silko

I truly believe that sharing our stories–including the actual process of writing them out–is one of our most powerful tools–a small act that starts a transformation in ourselves and the world around us. What if sharing our stories could help future generations of both men and women? What if a story could “overturn a table” in the various Temples of our day– including in the bellies of our own communities and congregations? Social media’s given more women affiliated with Mennonite Church USA a chance to get a glimpse of the diversity and reality present in our national congregations and communities–a reality and diversity that’s not always heard or lived out, let alone celebrated.

Let’s change that. Every step and every story counts.

Wanted: Stories from any woman or girl who considers herself Mennonite or shaped by the Anabaptist-Mennonite traditions. Check out the newly launched Mennonite Monologues web site where stories can be told through essays, poems, art, songs, photographs, and other forms of creative expression. The Women and Leadership Project needs stories that speak to your truth and experience: joy and gratitude, as well as stories of lament and pain. Multiple stories are encouraged. Whatever story you wish to tell, it is welcome. All will be collected on our blog and may be submitted with a name or anonymously.

“Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.”
~Adrienne Rich


Prompts to help get you started

-As a woman, what are the stories that have shaped your sense of leadership?
-What are your experiences of being called (or not called) to leadership in Mennonite Church USA?
-How have you been empowered by the church to lead?
-How have you been discouraged from taking on leadership roles?
-Do you think there is a difference in the ways women and men are cultivated to be leaders?
-Did you grow up seeing women in leadership?
-Who were your mentors?
-What is your ideal vision of church leadership in the future? Where do you fit in?

YAR, we need your awesomely radical selves! Thanks for helping to spread the word. ~Women in Leadership Project, Mennonite Monologues team

What We Give to the World: Insuring Our Better Selves

Hi, YAR family! It’s literally been years (years!) since I’ve written to fellow YAR readers here in our online sanctuary. Though I’ve been silent here, know that your existence has buoyed me and challenged me in my Anabaptist seeking.

Why do we write, anyway? To an audience of one, to loved ones and complete strangers? After finally visiting with an insurance agent yesterday (who’d been emailing and calling like I was a close friend who’d been putting off a brunch date), I found that I needed to make sense of my unease and questions about “insuring” a better world as a 21st-century Mennonite. Writing is my go-to in these cases. An act of faith, so to speak.

So here’s something for our collective offering plate: http://tattooedmennonite.blogspot.com/2013/01/insurance-and-wordles.html

Adrienne Rich: Visionary (1929-2012)

Several months ago I drafted a post on Occupy Wall Street suggesting that people interested in thinking through issues of race and gender (re)turn to Adrienne Rich as a wise source. We so often forget those who have gone before us, outside a fairly limited range, and I thought posting a few quotations from one of Rich’s essays might provoke thought and also encourage folks to dig out college anthologies, hunt down books in the library, or do a little web-searching.

I didn’t post the little piece because I wanted it to be Just Right. Then I got busy.

And now Adrienne Rich has died, and I am reminded again of how much she has to teach us.

(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…)

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…)

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…)

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!

1st Year Reflections from a 1st Year Mennonite – Gonna be a long one folks

A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.

And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.

I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.

But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks: (more…)

Things we don’t talk much about on YAR

Today while looking at the category list on YAR I noticed several categories with just a handful of posts. It’s interesting to see which these are. I should note some of these are topics we do address but for some reason don’t categorize our posts as.

But for the others, are these topics that don’t interest you? Would you like to start talking about them more?

Chosenness (2 posts)
New Monasticism (1 post)
Consumerism (4 posts)
Corporations (1 post)
Death Penalty (1 post)
Economics (2 posts)
Education (3 posts)
End Times (1 post)
Environment (2 posts)
Ethics (2 posts)
Ex-Gay (1 post)
Excommunication (2 posts)
Foreign Policy (4 posts)
Gaza (1 post)
God (4 posts)
Guns (1 post)
Hamas (1 post)
Hate (1 post)
Illegal (1 post)
Immigration (3 posts)
Indigenous (3 posts)
Israel (2 posts)
Judaism (3 posts)
Loyalty (3 posts)
Music (4 posts)
Objective (4 posts)
Palestine (1 post)
Peace (4 posts)
Polarization (4 posts)
Poll (4 posts)
Pope (2 posts)
Rape (1 post)
Reviews (1 post)
Schism (2 posts)
Science (1 post)
Sex (4 posts) (Compare this to 8 under “Homosexuality” and 28 under “LGBTQ”)
Sports (1 post)
Stewardship (2 posts)
Stories (2 posts)
Theater (1 post)

On BikeMovement — What spurs our communities to action?

Some recent discussion here has suggested relating posts to action, which is part of what motivated me to post this note here. Many of you all may have heard about BikeMovement (young Mennos biking across the US and talking about church last summer, biking SE Asia this summer), and there’s a documentary on the US trip being finalized in the next month.

I’m writing about it here because I’m working on a study guide that will be sent out with the DVD to Mennonite congregations across the US, hoping to continue and expand conversations we had along the trip — what does it mean to cultivate a relevant community? how does that play out (or not) in church as we’ve known it? where do we go from there?

As I’m working on this study guide, I’ve been thinking some about style and form — how can this be most accessible and useful for the folks who we’ll be sending it to? Impact that a number of the planners are hoping for is that people who use it will feel empowered and hopeful, think critically about their church experience, and want to work for broader and more authentic inclusion in daily lives and the church.

I was wondering what resources, study guides, or Sunday school curricula you all have found useful for working on these kinds of questions — extra points if these do well addressing questions of race, sexuality, age and/or education levels among participants. Cause it seems like there would have to be good materials and models out there which spur churches to critical reflection and action, I just haven’t been around using any to know what they are.

So any tips and links would be much appreciated — and perhaps helpful in a broader sense as we consider what can help new action happen in the fleshy faith communities we find ourselves in.

Garrison Keillor Likes Mennonites?

Today the Writer’s Almanac featured another “Mennonite” poem. You can read it online at the Writer’s Almanac Archive. I will also copy it below:

First TV in a Mennonite Family” by Julia Kasdorf, from Sleeping Preacher. © University of Pittsburgh Press.

1968

The lid of the Chevy trunk couldn’t close
on that wooden console with a jade screen
and gold flecks in the fabric over the speaker.

They sent us to bed then set it up
in the basement, as far from our rooms
and the dinner table as they could get, (more…)