YAR Madlib – Calling the church to go pee pee.

There isn’t actually a YAR Madlib in this post, because I haven’t taken the time to write one, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and someone should. I would love to see the results of our middle-school selves filling in YAR-post blanks with various middle-school crudities, and giggling our little heads off. Yes, that’s a potty joke in the title of my post. Yes, I’m immature.

I have a friend who is becoming a novice member of Reba Place. People do that. And Reba place is radical, right? Emerging church and all that? I mean, it is in Chicago, and has an intentional community attached to it. They are also still fighting over women in leadership – let alone LGBT rights or couples holding hands before marriage. And that’s not something new – that’s all fairly well rooted in Anabaptist tradition.

I can’t really pick on Reba, as I don’t know the details well at all, but sometimes the earnestly ‘Anabaptist’ church scares me as much as the fundamentalist/evangelical. And what really does define the Anabaptist tradition? Is it really a peace-making stance, or is it mainly an obsession with perfection, passive-aggression and boundary-drawing? Our defining issues in history have been buttons, mustaches, pianos, women, divorce, and queers. Keeping the church clean for Jesus. Go us.

Pastor Mommy (my mother, a Mennonite pastor) blames Menno Simons and his Divine Flesh theology for the whole pure-church ideal that has been central to Mennonite and Amish tradition ever since. We’re talking hard core Anabaptist roots on that one.

But when was the last time you heard Jesus talk about the spotless church? Jesus didn’t argue over who was in or out – Jesus stayed up late partying with prostitutes. Oh, and tax collectors. We’re not just talking about the marginalized, but the marginalizing. We’re also talking about alcohol, and lot’s of it. So much that they ran out and Jesus had to magic some more of it into being. Quite a party trick, for quite a party-animal. Make a pure church out of that one. Where is the Mennonite church or intentional community committed to getting smashed with friends and enemies alike on a weekly basis? Where’s the accountability on that one? We should be running bars, not charities.

According to the current poll results (so far), the majority of us identify mainly with ‘Anabaptist’ out of ‘Young Anabaptist Radicals’. I suppose that is the most distinctive feature of the site. Young is a somewhat broad group, making it much harder to care about membership. Even radical doesn’t have a lot holding it together – so Anabaptist does seem to be the niche clincher.

But why Anabaptist? What’s in it for you? Is it just an ethnic thing? We’ve never learned how to be normal people, or fit in anywhere else, so we cling to our YAR support group? That wouldn’t be a bad thing – I’m all for support groups – but it seems like no one ever wants to say it. Because we want to downplay the ‘ethnic’ thing so we look more inclusive? Why? What’s so brilliant about inclusiveness? If we’re mainly defined by our ethnicity (and by that I don’t just mean birth, but culture and way of thinking) then why not admit to that? I’ve never heard of any other support group wanting to be inclusive to members from outside the defining criteria.

I’m drawn to my Anabaptist family, a bunch of people who have grown up with a similar world view to myself, but the tradition is a mixed bag – just like any other religious tradition. Catholicism is a mixed bag, as several people have pointed out.

As for calling the church to go pee pee, I’m not quite sure how we can call the church to anything in particular, besides discernment meetings or bible studies. The mission of the church seems so vague and diluted – pandering to individualism, inclusiveness and ‘the movement of the spirit’ – that I’m not sure how the church could function as anything more than a support group. Is this a problem with what church has become, or is this exactly what the church should be? What is the mission of the church, and how can it be held accountable to that mission?

Comments (5)

  1. Pingback: Young Anabaptist Radicals » Mennonite Church (global?) identity

  2. Nathan Eanes

    Interesting post. This challenges us to the depths of our tradition. You’ve raised a lot of issues.

    For myself– I identify with Anabaptist values because I’ve been in a fair number of church settings and I’ve come to believe that our tradition, while quite flawed, has something special that I believe we should perpetuate. I’m not talking about traditions here, but a commitment to peacemaking and a particular way of understanding the Bible that could really change things for the better.

    But we shouldn’t “hold onto” these things because of fear or because we need church purity. Then our values are worthless. I believe in peacemaking, for example, not because of piety but because the more I study conflict, the more hazardous I realize militancy is. We need a new way. Let’s forge something into the future!

  3. Ric H

    Hi Katie,

    I just wanted to speak up to clarify that Reba Place today is quite different that than the Reba Place you describe in your post. We stopped arguing about women many years ago, and even though we are not an openly affirming community we are not as narrow as your post indicates. You would always be welcome to come and visit. Shalom.

  4. Katie

    Actually Ric, that was Eric describing Reba Place, not me. I must say however, that I’ve gotten a similar idea of Reba Place as far as lgbt stuff goes from others more familiar with it. I’ll have to make an effort to visit sometime when I’m in town to see for myself. Peace, Katie.

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