Jerry Jenkins

My intention in joining YAR was not to use the rest of you members as my moral sounding board for difficult questions that I am dealing with in my life, but this is what two of my three posts have turned out to be. I’ll try to make my next post more heady and intellectual, but I think you should enjoy the predicament that I will lay out here.

As my first biographical entry said, I am a youth pastor in a Mennonite church. Being a staff member I get to sit in on the elders (the power-players of the church) meetings and occasionally throw my two cents into the discussion. In our last meeting, we had a decision to make, that was somewhat exciting and completely uncomfortable. This is what we had to work with: There is a member of our church (who happens to be my dad) that owns a large Christian giftware manufacturing business that distributes product nationally and globally. Every March this man has a “Dealer’s Conference” where he invites every retailer who sells his product to come and see the manufacturing plant, buy more of his product, see the local Amish population, and overall does his best to express his gratitude and keep his customers happy. A big part of this conference is bringing in a big name speaker to inspire those who come to the conference and the speech is given in our church. This year, the speaker coming to give the inspirational message is Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind series.

This is the decision that the elders and pastoral staff of the church had to make. Do we allow, and in so doing endorse, Jerry Jenkins to give a message from our church. Or do we say no, and in so doing, send the message that we Mennonites are theologically superior and we will close our doors to a fellow brother in Christ. We want to do neither. Want to have Jenkins come, but let everyone know that we don’t endorse the Left Behind series. We also want him to not come, and not send the message that we are too good for all the people that enjoyed the Left Behind series. Both of the latter two options, I think, are impossible.

I am a graduate of Bluffton University, where people like Jerry Jenkins are easy to bash on. In some religion classes we would role our eyes and make less than uplifting remarks about the people we thought were distorting the true gospel of Jesus Christ. “Those dispensationalists….” we would retort with some theological arrogance, and finish that sentence with comments along the lines of, “too violent,” “don’t know what they are talking about,” or “look how many times they’ve been wrong in their predictions.”

It was becuase of this background, the my very first reaction, which I told my dad, was that there is no way we can let Jenkins into our church. But when I began to think about and process this more, I began to soften up a bit. What am I implying by saying that Jenkins cannot come to our church? Don’t we want to be inclusive, or are we inclusive to people that agree to agree with us?

I do not want to defend Jenkins, or the theology he (and Lahaye) has popularized, but this unique opportunity has made me think more about my own theological bearing. Have we as Mennonites, or just me in particular, come to the point where I can’t learn or dialogue with people of a different theological way of thinking?

Comments (36)

  1. Amy

    I attend Germantown Mennonite Church in Philadelphia. Ten years ago, we were removed from the Mennonite church because of our stance on GLBT folks. Last fall, we had one of the leaders who kicked us out come and preach. It ruffled a few feathers amongst our congregants, and his sermon wasn’t very good, but our church and former conference reached out to each other, and that has been very valuable.

    Maybe there is a way that you can invite Mr. Jenkins, while letting him know that you agree on many things, but just not the last days stuff.

  2. Amy Marie

    I have to say, I tried to read the first of the Left Behind series once and it wasn’t the theology that led me not to finish it, but the terrible writing. But, I can see Amy’s point about reaching out. If having Jenkins in the congregation can truly be a starting point for conversation about eschatology and the return of Jesus then I think it could be okay. If this is really not the church’s stance, I would suggest inviting others who are familiar with the field and with Jenkins’ work there as well as a knowledgeable facilitator.

    But, Tom, I have some questions. Is Jenkins’ theology something your dad agrees with, or is this what he thinks his customers want to hear to ‘make them happy’? And if it’s not something he believes himself, why is does he want to invite Jenkins? And is this truly a church sponsored event or is it a rental by your dad for his sales convention? If that’s the case, then isn’t it his call and the distinction can be made clear? Or is this a joint venture between the church and your dad’s business/something the business sponsors but the church picks the speaker? (I confess almost as much concern with a church becoming a place of business as I have with Jenkins’ theology – what was that Jesus said about his father’s house – even if it is ‘Christian gift ware.’)

    All the best in sorting out this conundrum. Sorry for having more questions than suggestions.

  3. Joseph

    Tom, I think that your church should go ahead and allow Jenkins to speak. I don’t think that having him speak in your church is the same as “endorsing” his theology and to pointedly reject him only demonstrates a lack of faith that truth will win out in the end.

    Here’s a story that informs my opinion on this. When I was a student at Bethel College, my “nonviolence theory” class visited an evangelical mega-church in Wichita and spoke for a couple of hours with several of their pastors. This was in the early days of the Iraq war, so much of our conversation revolved around that, and our opinions on the morality of war from a Christian standpoint differed markedly from theirs. Months later we discovered, in a roundabout way, that after our visit to their church those pastors had been warning their college-eligible constituents to stay away from Bethel College, that at Bethel they have faulty theology.

    My point here is that those pastors were trying to promote their theology by hiding their youth from different perspectives. I lost all respect for them after that. I had no problem with them on account of our theological disagreements, but their actions demonstrated to me that their theological position must be so lacking in Truth that it could only be preserved by taking the young, independent, God-created minds of their church and protecting them in isolation from the likes of me and my peers.

    Truth must always be exposed to scrutiny and, above all, freedom.

    So just be wary that if you reject Jenkins he may very well think about your church the same things that my class thought about the Wichita mega-church.

  4. tomdunn (Post author)

    Thanks all for the responses. Amy Marie, you raise some good questions, and I will attempt to answer them.

    1–Is Jenkins’ theology something your dad agrees with–I can’t completely answer for this, but I don’t think there really is a black and white answer. I think my dad was mostly unfamiliar with the books (he never reads any type of non-fiction) so I don’t think he would know enough to disagree.

    2–or is this what he thinks his customers want to hear to ‘make them happy’– Yes, it is for the sake of his dealers. He worked through an agent, and I’m pretty sure my dad just said something along the lines of, “get me the best you can get.” i.e., the biggest name in Christian retail.

    3–And if it’s not something he believes himself, why is does he want to invite Jenkins?–See attempted answer in first question.

    4–And is this truly a church sponsored event or is it a rental by your dad for his sales convention?–It is a rental. This is a three day event, and the speach is the only event to be held at the church. This is not “truly church sponsored.”

    5–If that’s the case, then isn’t it his call and the distinction can be made clear?–We would love for this to be made clear, but really isn’t possible I don’t think. How would you market this? “Jerry Jenkins to speak at Kidron Mennoite Church*….

    *Kidron Mennoite Church does not fully agree with everthing Mr. Jenkins has written.”

    6–Or is this a joint venture between the church and your dad’s business/something the business sponsors but the church picks the speaker? No, church had no say, but we are requesting more input for next years speaker…

    7–(I confess almost as much concern with a church becoming a place of business as I have with Jenkins’ theology – what was that Jesus said about his father’s house – even if it is ‘Christian gift ware.’)–A valid concern. I don’t agree or disagree, but as you know ther are many, many layers here.

  5. TimN

    Tom, thanks for sharing about this question. Amy, Amy Marie and Joseph have offered some thoughtful responses. I agree with them that having Jenkins preach is a real opportunity to put our enemy loving theology into practice. Too often, we peace folks prefer to think of our enemies as those in far off places and forget that we are also called to treat those we disagree closer to home with love as well. I believe that opportunities for interaction with those in the religious right are sacred moments that provide opportunity for transformation and learning on both sides. That said, the reality can fall a bit short. CPTer Art Gish’s conversation with Rush Limbaugh is a reminder that our adversary won’t always listen, even if we are polite and as respectful as possible.

    I pray that your visit with Jenkins will be an opportunity for transformation and learning and I look forward to hearing your report!

  6. Katie

    I know this is nit picking but your father not reading non-fiction would still make it possible to be familiar with plenty of Jenkins books. The series he is best known for (Left Behind series) is most definitely fiction. He has published both fiction and non-fiction. Ok, I’m done with the nit picking.

  7. tomdunn (Post author)

    Thanks for reading what I wrote carefully, because what I said didn’t make sense. My dad does not read fiction, he only reads non-fiction. Now, your next question problem is, “does it matter what he reads, he should know the basic premis of the books that his speaker has written.” Its true, he probably should, but I can’t really hold that against him. Like him, I don’t read fiction and would not have know much about the Left Behind series had it not been from a forum presentation a college.

    As an update, it is now offcial that Jenkins will be coming to our church. It is kinda energizing, because of all the discusion it has stimulated, both here on YAR and in the real world. Lets see how God can work out all things for the good…

  8. Skylark

    How interesting! As I’m going to say in an intro post I’ll make after this comment, it’s because of this entry that I found YAR.

    See, I’m a reporter for the newspaper that covers the county Kidron Mennonite is in, and Kidron is on my beat. Which is how I know Thomas. :-) I saw a billboard announcing “Jerry Jenkins coming to Kidron Mennonite Church,” and I knew I needed to find out more about that because it’s not every day a nationally-known person comes and speaks here. Mind you, I’m not crazy about Left Behind theology myself (I read the first five books and saw the first movie), but I couldn’t ignore it news-wise.

    First, I checked Kidron Mennonite’s website, thinking there’d be a calendar of events. No dice. I put “Jerry Jenkins Kidron Mennonite” in a Google search. This YAR page was the first hit. Now I know a whole lot more about the thought processes behind the event, and it’s really interesting.

    I like what I see on YAR. It reminds me of BikeMovement and the December young adult retreat at a local Mennonite camp and the young adult group I’m a part of here… and it’s all resonates with me as a young adult Christian Mennonite who enjoys thinking and talking about her beliefs and how to live it out.

  9. petedunn

    This is my first blog entry ever. I’m a 60 year old grandfather who also happens to be the father of a Mennonite Youth Pastor by the name of Tom Dunn. My name is Peter Dunn. I’ve read with interest the comments of my son, Thomas Dunn, and the responses of other bloggers to the Jerry Jenkins issues on this blog site.

    I’m an old battle axe with not just of a dab of the fighting Scots-Irish in me. I love mixing it up with humor being my primary weapon. This brouhaha about our bringing Jerry Jenkins into one of our Mennonite meccas is fascinating to observe – I’ll weight in later. Right now I’m at work and feel guilty drawing a salary while posting on YAR. My apologies for not qualifying as “young” – what’s with the age discrimination. You puppies don’t think us old guys can’t still bring it? Cheers.

  10. petedunn

    The following are some follow up thoughts to my initial post:

    1. This is the 7th year that we have conducted an annual Dealer Conference. The primary goal is to help grow our business by offering to our dealer base an educational and inspirational event where they commingle with their peers and with our employees. To make the conference a draw for our dealers we have been bringing in nationally recognized Christian authors, given the fact that 75% of our dealers are owners of Christian Bookstores.

    2. Anyone familiar with promotion will recognize that to draw people to an event such as this you must give the customer something that stirs them — not what stirs us, the supplier.

    3. Very few of our customers tend to be Mennonite.

    4. To my knowledge “nationally recognized Mennonite author” is an oxymoron. The biggest name I know of is Myron Augsburger. He is probably recognized by less than 5% of our customers. As much as I enjoy and respect him, he is unknown to my customer base.

    5. Last year we invited Bruce Wilkinson, the author of the Prayer of Jabez. Close to 800 people from the conference and community turned out to hear him. It was a great opportunity for our church, and for our pastor, to articulate the Mennonite faith to many people who were unfamiliar with it. We bring in top level musicians to precede the speaker. We like to think that we put on an inspirational and professional event. There is no charge to the church, and no collection is taken. The Sheriff’s department is brought in for parking and crowd control.

    6. Bringing in Jerry Jenkins for 2007 was not a calculated move to blindside the church. In fact, we were naive enough to assume that he would be appreciated in the same way Bruce Wilkenson was.

    7. Our son Tom, the youth pastor, was the first to alert us to the fact that we might have a problem. His being a recent graduate of one of our church colleges, he is attuned to what goes down, and what doesn’t, in our denomination. Obviously, Mr. Jerry Jenkins doesn’t “go down”.

    8. Upon learning of this potential conflict, we immediately went to the leaders of the church to have Jerry Jenkins sanctioned as a speaker.

    9. He was sanctioned, but not without reservations, and not without bringing a certain tension into the previously harmonious relationship between our business and our church.

    10. We were informed that the pastoral staff would not be involved in the program, and that we would need to find our own emcee, which we have done.

    11. My wife was gently approached by a well-intended member of the church just last week wondering if perhaps Peter couldn’t possibly find a replacement for Mr. Jerry Jenkins. I happened to run into her just yesterday in church, and cordially invited her to the Tuesday evening program on March 20. She thought she would come to “analyze”.

    12. Personally I feel this brouhaha is a tempest in a teapot and Mennos who feel they have a lock on kosher theology need to get a life. Jerry Jenkins spent 13 months working with Billy Graham on a publication which I believe was a biography on the Reverend Billy Graham. That says a lot about Jerry Jenkins to me. However, Mennos would tend to overlook these kinds of involvements and concentrate on parts of Jerry Jenkins’ theology that they have issues with.

    13. I regret that in attempting to do something that we felt as a company would uplift the church has instead brought dissention and confusion into the church.

    14. We have not made a definite decision about 2008 (we will be bringing in Dr. Joseph Stowell, the former president of Moody Bible Institute), but it appears to me that the confusion that we have caused over Jerry Jenkins will continue each time we bring in a speaker. Also, each time we use the sanctuary of our church there is the perception that in one way or another our business may be benefiting from it. We are thinking that we need to take these Tuesday evening programs which are designed exclusively for the community, into a more neutral venue.

    15. It was our goal all along to develop a strong partnership with the church, where we as a business could find a unique way to help strengthen the position of our church in the community. I have been attending this church since 1972, my wife has been attending since 1947, we were married in this church, all four of our children were baptized in this church. We have not been exactly spectators, either, in the life of the church.

    16. This has been a frustrating, but learning experience, for our business. Good intentions do not always translate into good results. There was never any malicious intent on the part of our business to bring stress into the life of our congregation. What we may have felt was something that was of value to the church was perceived by many to be a deterrent.

  11. curt

    Ok… I am wondering how to say what I want to say, because there are real people here and I do not have any real life relationship… to speak of… with any of you and so the potential to be misunderstood is weighing on me…

    But here goes… if it is possible to step back and forget about Jerry Jenkins for a moment…I think this thread is rich in potential for learning more about a core impulse I have sensed within the generation that has created this blog.

    I have seen some very theologically driven responses in this post…theology that demonstrates a deep desire to have faith be more than an argument between black and white issues. There has been caring responses to Tim who is doing something deeply Anabaptist, seeking the discernment of his faith community.

    What struck me in your response Pete is that you did not display this same vulnerability toward what is also your faith community. You didn’t ask anyone what we thought, but rather defended your decision. You DO sound like a fun guy and after reading your first post I thought “I think I would like this guy”… I guess what I am asking is if I am just “reading” you wrongly because all I am getting is words and I don’t get to sit across from you and truly “hear” you.

    I have been inspired in my own faith from folks on this site and many other young adults in the Mennonite church who I have listen to as they try to discern together and with others what a relevant church will look like in the future. I think they are touching the heart of faith when they respond to an impulse that says love, conversation, discernment, and countercultural community are important. I hope you heard that in their words to Tom. They care about the church and that is why they want the chance to shape the decisions of each other and even those of their elders.

  12. Darrell Gascho

    I too have been touched by so many young adults who want a relevant church and want to be engaged in conversation around this. I appreciate your response Curt and Pete I hope you feel that others on this site wish to be in loving conversation with you. I would add one additional question. What does it mean to be a Mennonite buisness person? I think too often those in buisness have been ignored by the church until the church needs money. But even more importantly what does it mean for all areas of our lives to be Mennonite? Like in how we drive for example…just think about it. This is all I have time to write for now. Thank you all again for engaging in these conversations.

  13. petedunn

    1. OK — I’m started to warm up to this process, or to put it another way — I’m jazzed about this forum. Give me a time or two to figure out how best to communicate — I’ll get it. I may be old, but I’m not senectuous — when I get Alzheimer’s I’ll be the first to tell you. But I am an old battle axe and a curmudgeon to boot, and enjoy verbal sparring in a good spirited manner as much as the next guy.

    2. I love the candor from Curt and Gasho. You don’t have to be “touchy feely” with me. If you think I sound defensive, then tell me. I would ask the rest of you if you felt I sounded defensive? I thought I sounded frustrated, perturbed, and possibly even angry — but my goal was to be objective — not defensive — (guess that sounds defensive!).

    3. One of the books (I generally read about five at a time) I’m currently reading is “Naked Conversations” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. The title refers to the transparency that is not only required, but inevitable, to those who blog — masking, dissembling, smoke-blowing — it doesn’t work in a blog.

    4. Some of you may wonder if this Jerry Jenkins issue has placed a strain in my relationship with Tom — not in the least. We raised Tom to have a mind of his own — not to be a clone of his old man (I just regret that he’s missing out…)

    5. Like I said earlier — I relish mixing it up — regardless of the generation. The verse from Proverbs that talks about “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (notice how I gender neutered that — just to show you I can “bring it” when I need to) — so a blog of this nature can cut to the chase, and help each of us sharpen our personal perspective.

    6. Curt — I appreciate your sensitivity to the feelings of others on the blog. It was not my intention to come across as indifferent to how the YARers felt about these issues. I simply felt a need to lay out in black and white the immediate history behind the issues that Tom was addressing.

    7. Curt — I welcome your and all fellow YARers opinions on my entry #10 under Jerry Jenkins above.

    8. Gasho — I welcomed your question about how the church relates to business people, especially successful ones. The ones that fail are embraced with compassion and mercy, mixed in with a little schedenfreud. Those that succeed can sometimes be perceived as threatening. I have a number of business associates that over the years have complained about how they feel rebuffed, especially when they feel that there are organizational issues that they could address, but because of the “plebian” nature in which they make a living (we’re either one level above attorneys or one level below – regardless we’re referred to as bottom dwellers), their opinions are generally not sought out, and at best treated with cynicism. There was a great article on this recently in a MEDA publication (Mennonite Economic Development Association) written by a successful business person in Pennsylvania who feels that he is constantly pushing a rope when it comes to his making significant contributions to the life of the church — but Gasho, you are correct when it comes to money — we are on everyone’s call list.

    9. Another quick and superficial riff on my take on current Menno theology, keeping in mind that I am a grafted Menno, i.e., I married into the Mennonite church, I am not an ancestral Menno, I am what I refer to as a NGIM (non-genetically imprinted Menno). I find it paradoxical how quick we, as a denomination, are to take condemning positions on war in the national arena, but if we were to take war away from inside the church itself, many folks would not know where to redirect their new found energy.

    10. OK — I said earlier I felt guilty blogging on company time — which is exactly what I am doing, and I don’t want to jeopardize my employment so for now — Cheers — may the wind be always at your back, and Tom, I’m not referring to any of the above.

  14. Pingback: Keeping the Conversation Going on YAR » Young Anabaptist Radicals

  15. curt

    “I thought I sounded frustrated, perturbed, and possibly even angry — but my goal was to be objective — not defensive ”

    I would be interested in hearing just what has angered or frustrated you concerning this event. Do you understand why this event caused Tom to post here in the first place? What do you think we should do in the church regarding our disagreements? I think this younger generation has seen so much fighting (and splitting)about theological stuff that they are almost like children of divorce, they LONG for people to make peace and LIVE into the idea of our theological ideals, but at the same time they are more concerned than they should be about actually stepping into a place of commitment themselves because the generation before them has taught them that its all just one big fight about being RIGHT.

    How do you read your son’s generation? Do you like what you see?

  16. petedunn

    “How do you read your son’s generation? Do you like what you see?”

    Curt – I’d rather ride a bucking horse than a dead one; I’d rather pull someone down off than ceiling than pick them up off the floor.

    I’d rather relate to a generation with strong ideological opinions, whether misguided or otherwise, than deal with apathy.

    I would venture to say the intergenerational problem is more with my generation than with Tom’s; it appears that as people age they tend to be less inclusive, their listening abilities dissipate, they become controlling and brokers of the power they have worked so hard to attain, they are more easily threatened – and as you put it, your generation becomes the one “divorced theologically” from the preceding one – and generally over issues as petty as Jerry Jenkins. Respected Mennonite church leaders refer to “Jerry Jenkins and his Left Behind NOTORIETY” — unbelievable.

    Our generation is one step closer to dementia than yours — but you’ll catch up.

    We make eschatology a hill that we will die on? Give me a break!

    I’ve heard it said that for the most part college professors take their personal liberal ideology and feel obligated to impart their elevated revelations to the hoi polloi that we parents send up for an education – Mennonite colleges being no exception. If I have issues with Tom it would be partly what I would call the “brain washing” that occurs in our Mennonite Colleges — but it all comes out in the wash — water seeks its own level — the truth comes out — just like in blogging!!


    Admin’s note: To make it easier to follow the discussion, responses to the final paragraph of this comment have been moved to a new post entitled Brainwashing and Mennonite Colleges

  17. eric


    From my (unaware, young, brainwashed) perspective, anyone who sees a need to “deprogram” their kid from anything is more likely a perpetrator of brainwashing than any college ever can or will be. So much for children having minds of their own – it’s obviously up to the college and the parents to fight over who will control the child’s mind.

    You learn things from role models and peers anywhere you go – sometimes things your community or parents may not approve of – but to call that (even in quotations) “brainwashing” is fairly simplistic and closed-minded in itself. My music tastes adjust some based on the friends I spend most time with. They aren’t brainwashing me, and I don’t need to be deprogrammed from it. I hardly agree with the theology taught at most Christian colleges, but I would never call it “brainwashing” or imply that the poor victim students went in healthy and came out needing to be “deprogrammed”. Your argument uses exactly the sort of closed-minded and dismissive logic that you are complaining about.

    Back to the original conversation, however, the theology of Jerry Jenkins only served to bring out some much more interesting questions about the place of business meetings in the church. After hearing you argue that you need to bring in the most well known Christian voices no matter what they happen to be saying, I’m even more convinced that it’s a question we need to be asking. It’s obvious to me that what you refer to as business common sense falls squarely outside the mission of the church which should be more interested in “the least of these”, the content of a message, and hearing new voices – anything but reinforcing the status quo with “whoever is at the top”. I’d rather not have “everyone is doing it” become a central tenet of church decision making.

    I don’t agree with Jerry Jenkins on much. I also don’t think anyone should be censoring him. But I do think the church might be better off without you bringing in top Christian voices because that’s what your constituents want every year.

  18. petedunn

    Eric: “Your argument uses exactly the sort of closed-minded and dismissive logic that you are complaining about.” – maybe so, but if you read my previous entry, you’ll see that due to my age I’m entitled to such pig headedness.

    Regardless, I’m not so pig headed that I won’t question the wisdom of mixing business and church, even if my primary objectives were to be magnanimous. As a business we attempt to stay under the radar and make this a church event, but end up causing just as much, if not more of a ruckus than if we would have said — “please attend our event so we can profit from your attending”. It would appear the battle we as a company have unintentionally joined with our church is one that neither side will win. So rather than turn this into a flame war, let me ask you and your colleagues (if I truly felt you were brain washed would I ask for your opinion?), what should we do in the future?

    1. Obviously going back to KMC and attempting this in 2008 would seem fool hardy, regardless of the author — at least that is they way I would see it.
    2. Would going to a mega church in Wooster that would welcome a non Mennonite nationally recognized speaker be acceptable? We would certainly pack out their sanctuary.
    3. Would going to non-religious institution and leasing the facilities be an even more desirable option?
    4. What would option #4 look like?

    I welcome your responses.

  19. Skylark

    Whew. I am exhausted. As y’all probably picked up from my earlier post, I’m the newspaper reporter covering this event. My preview story appeared in today’s paper, and I will be the first to tell you it is not what it should be.

    Only Peter Dunn was willing to go on the record with me. Tom asked to stay out of it, and Herman Myers (another pastor at KMC) wouldn’t say anything beyond a short, crypic Letter to the Editor that ran in Saturday’s paper. Unfortunately, this may give the impression that KMC’s leadership cannot engage people who believe differently than them, which Tom has indicated on YAR isn’t so. I never intend to make people look bad. Unfortunately, I don’t control what the story is. I can’t make people talk. Given the info I had, I tried to present both sides with respect and fairness. I haven’t heard from the church yet.

    I believe in representing both sides (or more if they exist) in all my stories. I was incredibly disappointed not to be able to share some of the intelligent and thoughtful comments Tom shared on YAR. See, the way I look at it, people’s words belong to them, especially when they are not public officials. Tom wrote what he did for the YAR audience, not for my newspaper’s audience. It would have been disrespectful of me to insist on using his words he posted on here.

    There is another pastor at KMC, Terry. I could have contacted him to try to get him to talk–and I know he’s an insightful person–but by the time I got off the phone with Herman and finished collecting the last pieces of information I needed for my Christian Peace Witness stories, it was late. It was later than is socially acceptable to call people at home unless it’s pre-planned. That doesn’t give me much excuse not to try to track him down on Sunday afternoon when I was writing the story other than this: except in rare cases, intelligent pastors do not write Letters to the Editor without first consulting their co-pastors (ie Terry) about presenting a united front. The chances of Terry being willing to talk on-the-record when his co-pastor and youth pastor wouldn’t were slim. Not to mention Herman had already taken the spokesperson role by attaching his name to the letter.

    I’m hopeful Herman and Terry will be at the event tomorrow. (Peter told me a little bit ago Tom won’t be because of a prior commitment.) With all this controversy, I’d think it silly of Terry and Herman not to show up. If nothing else, I would like to talk with them off-the-record to find out if they’re on the same page as Tom.

    It’s tough. I don’t envy anyone in this situation.

    Regular people have a high stake in the news. That’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I just wish more people understood how the news works. I encounter this frequently in business stories: owners are super-sensitive with all information on the fear their businesses will come out looking bad. Understandably so, because this is their livelihood and reputation at stake. The vast majority of business stories my newspaper runs are essentially positive pieces talking about new, interesting developments in local businesses. We’d only run something negative if we had a really good reason to do it, and we would expressly ask the company’s contacts for their side of the story.

    Well, I’m not sure how I got off on that tangent. Tune in next time to hear me go off about the lack of public at public meetings… ;-)

  20. Skylark

    Well, would those who were at the Jerry Jenkins thang last night like to comment? He hardly talked about the Left Behind books at all, and I don’t think he mentioned anything about its theology. Now, one of the artists before him sang, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by Larry Norman.

    I suspect Pete Dunn and I were the only YARers there. However, I did run into a couple of people who said, “You’re Skylark?! I read you in the newspaper AND I read you on that blog, YAR.” That was definitely weird. I had no idea this blog is that popular with Kidron people over 50. Young Anabaptist Radicals, we have an audience.

    Even weirder was meeting Pete Dunn for the first time, having never seen a picture of him, and knowing instantly as soon as he walked in the room who he was. I’m not ordinarily the sort of person who has a sixth sense about that.

  21. eric

    In response to Pete, as requested:

    The issue of whether or not you make money directly off the event is fairly unimportant to me. It would be silly to claim it is not done with profit in mind. Sure, it is a form of giving back to your customers, which is good business sense: it keeps your customers happy and loyal and coming back for more. Which you profit from as a business.

    There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been doing some work towards starting a business of my own, and will absolutely hope to profit from it (after being able to eat and pay rent from it).

    But as a business you have a different mission, a different bottom line, and a different set of concerns than a church does. In a case like this, the church should be interested in events with strong content and theology, while you are only interested in the profile of the speaker, and the number of customers you can reach. It’s a different set of priorities, and I don’t see any reason the church should host an event that so poorly fits it’s mission.

    Mennonite has nothing to do with it – except in the sense that Mennonite churches may be more concerned about these issues than other churches are. I’m all for non-Mennonite speakers, and dissenting voices in our church events, but not because they are high profile or will bring in a larger customer base. That’s not what the church is for.

    I could go into other concerns I have with explicitly Christian business to start with, or my own feelings about Christian merch, but suffice it to say I think the mix could be dangerous in both directions.

    I think option number four (for me) is the same as three, but also includes thinking about the message you want to send. For me that would be as much a priority as the profile, so you try to find both. It wont be Mennonite, but as I said, that’s not the point. You argue for diverse voices, but then bring in the most popular white guy? There are plenty of high profile speakers out there who are women or minorities. Not AS high profile? Do something worth doing. Change the playing field. You’ll manage.

    If you want your faith to be part of your business, then take a risk for it. And I’d suggest there are major problems if you want to sell Jesus merch without letting your faith speak to your business practices. Yes, you’ll be different. “Foolish” even. Sounds like true Christianity to me.

    Whatever you do, don’t claim a free pass to ignore your faith whenever profit is on the line. That’s a poor excuse for any decision.

  22. Skylark

    Eric, I know your comment wasn’t directed towards me, but I’m going to respond anyway. I picked up on a different nuance of the purpose of the “Spring Celebration” in my conversations with Pete Dunn. I appreciate your skepticism. Likewise, I know sometimes people say things to make themselves look good (especially when people’s businesses are involved).

    Allow me to quote from my preview story of the event:

    “Every year, the business invites its retail customers to a thank-you week of speakers and workshops, explained owner Peter Dunn, 60. This is the seventh annual dealers’ conference.
    Because most of the customers are owners of Christian bookstores, P. Graham Dunn tries to bring in speakers who have written books these stores carry, Dunn continued.
    Over time, he realized the local community might find the speakers interesting as well. Since his business brought into the area guests who might not otherwise come to Wayne County, the question became “Why not?” he said.
    This became known as the “Spring Celebration.””

    If it is exactly as Pete Dunn portrayed, a service to the community with no ulterior sales motives, then that seems legitimate. And why wouldn’t the church like to host that? Your repeated use of the word “customers” caused me to question if you think most of the people there on Tuesday were the dealers and people who have or will buy P. Graham Dunn products. The attendees I spoke with for comments were regular people who live in other parts of the county. Certainly it could be argued the business uses this for advertising itself, which brings me to my next paragraph.

    I was not there last year or the previous years when Kidron Mennonite was the venue for the event. I don’t know how much this controvery forced P. Graham Dunn to play a more visible role in the event because the church objected to the speaker. I’d be interested in viewing videotapes of previous years’ “Spring Celebration” to find out if the business’ role was downplayed.

    It’s a lot of sticky issues. I hope I’ve communicated that I’m not blindly defending one side or another.

  23. Pingback: Brainwashing and Mennonite Colleges » Young Anabaptist Radicals

  24. petedunn

    Eric raises some very good questions on issues that I have been struggling with my entire adult life – the issues of business and ethics, the relationship of profitable business to one’s faith, the interconnectedness of business with church, and with one’s faith. Here is a quote I lifted out of Eric’s recent blog: “I could go into other concerns I have with explicitly Christian business to start with, or my own feelings about Christian merch, but suffice it to say I think the mix could be dangerous in both directions.” Eric is right — the mix is volatile, but the challenges are not insuperable. I believe in the book of Acts it was Simon who wanted the anointing so that he could generate more net revenues, and from that we have inherited the word “simony” — using faith issues to line one’s pockets.

    Having said that, I would ask — where would Christendom and Mennoism be today without “Christian merch” that was supplied by a company that generated a profit? Would the church like to take on the responsibility of publishing Bibles, inspirational music, inspirational gifts, inspirational bumper stickers, and inspirational chewing gum? Would the church like to provide us with the Living Bible that was made available through Tyndale Publishing? Thomas Nelson is the largest publisher of Bibles in the world with a mission to reach the lost — but if they didn’t make a profit in doing so, would the church step in to this gap?

    Have any of you followed the odyssey of the Mennonite Publishing House in Scotdale, PA? Did you see the hole they dug for themselves when good business principles were not applied to their day to day operations, and where generating a profit was considered unethical? As I understand it, thanks in large part to their fiscal irresponsibility the Mennonite Church was coerced into selling off our chain of profitable bookstores, Provident, to Berean (an organization totally outside of the Mennonite Church), and now we no longer have a retail channel to sell books and educational material that resonates with our faith. So much for the church producing “church merch”. I’ve now heard that Provident no longer sells our Mennonite curriculum, so that has been lost to our members, and to non-Menno consumers that shopped those stores.

    I am intimately familiar with this chain, having first sold to Marilyn Heisy, who was the buyer back in 1974 when we started producing “christian merch” in the girls home in NYC that my wife and I were asked to found by the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. I am also intimately familiar with the Berean organization as well — the owner is a very close personal friend of mine who attended our recent banquet to listen to Jerry Jenkins — and if there is an organization outside of our church that I would approve purchasing the Provident chain of stores, it would be Berean.

    I personally like the way the Goods in Intercourse, PA (Good Books) have combined ministry with business. As I understand it, they have had to learn that if one places ideology before business principles, one won’t be around too long to absorb the criticism for being successful — but they figured it out, and are doing an excellent job providing challenging and inspirational “christian merch” to the church and unchurched alike.

    Getting back to the “volatile mix” — where do we draw the line on business and ministry and Simony?….i.e., should we be paying our pastors or should they be tent makers? Should we be building brick and mortar churches that consume millions of dollars, along with paved parking lots, air conditioning, organs and steeples, or should we be meeting in homes like the Amish? If we got back to the early church model, think of the millions of tithe dollars that would then go to those in need? But on the contrary — we have so bought into the mega church concept that we are now in the process of attempting to raise $9,800,000 (I’m not kidding folks — read the Mennonite Weekly Review) to build a headquarters for Mennonite Mission Network, and this was approved with a unanimous vote of 10 members of Mennonite USA board? Where did we lose our way?

    Getting back to our family business — our mission statement is summarized in three words — Lift Him Up (John 12:32). Let me ask you — if we combined questionable ethics with our business would we be doing that? If we did not generate healthy profits to perpetuate our mission statement, would we be doing that? Profit is not a four letter word. Neither is success. But for some reason or other, if a business like ours is perceived as generating a profit folks come out of the wood work to take shots as us for doing so.

    That’s where having a little Scots-Irish (it’s not Scotch-Irish ….that’s an alcoholic drink) comes in handy. Mix that in with a little of the stubborn Swiss Mennoism, and you’ve really got a volatile mix. We can take it, and dish it out with the best of them. We are somewhat analogous to Moses who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and in the process developed the hide of a rhino — Deuteronomy 34:7 says that when the Lord took Moses up to the top of Pisgah to look into the promised land, the KJV says (this is the translation the apostle Paul used so it is also the one I prefer) his “eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” — or as paraphrased in a watered down translation it says “his seed was not dry” — and thus we are still able to “bring it”.

  25. petedunn

    I hate to make rash promises — but I’m hoping this will be my final entry on the Jerry Jenkins issue.

    It’s Saturday morning and I’m decompressing off of perhaps the most stimulating week in the history of our company. In the process of being written up in the Daily Record two times by the incomparable Skylark, having one of my pastors take me to task with a letter to the editor, pulling off our annual Dealer Conference with the entertaining Jerry Jenkins, no less, we signed papers to initiate the process of moving our entire business off the family farm to a track of land inside the village of Dalton. Thanks Al Gore for that. We’re all about “green” – planted 2000 trees a couple of years ago, and my sons and I intend to plant thousands more over the years to come.

    So with endorphins running freely in my Scots-Irish blood, enhanced with a triple shot Starbucks soy latte, allow me to take a riff or two on the Jenkins issue.

    The thing that amazes me the most is how this issue provided the flash point that caused normally dormant concerns to surface, and at times in an almost uncontrolled manner.
    I don’t know about the church you attend — but our church manages to coexist with a number of healthy tensions without addressing those tensions. I refer to it as two ships passing each other in the dark. We cordially greet each other, contain little or no hard feelings towards the other, but we all appear to have figured out which ship each parishioner rides on and we let sleeping dogs lie — until Jerry Jenkins comes along. It appears as though Mr. Jenkins caused these two ships to momentarily collide — and no one was too happy about it. Things were said that shouldn’t have been said; e-mails were written and sent that should never have seen the light of day. People were aggrieved on both ships — but now that Mr. Jenkins has left town — both ships are assiduously working at repairing the damage to their ship — but not working at getting everyone into the same ship – heaven forbid.

    Now let me ask you — does your home church function this way? Is it naïve to assume that one ship could carry us all? Is it possible to harmoniously coexist when there are such divergent opinions within the church? Are the differences that we struggle with today similar to the differences that our forefathers struggled with, or is the polarization that we now experience within the church a reflection of the polarization that exists in society?

    I haven’t spent time on very many blog sites — and thus the gullible nature of my two cents worth — but the couple of sites that my friends have directed me too appear to be even more polarizing and contentious than the Jon Stewarts(albeit Jon combines a deprecating and alluring humor, the Ann Coulters, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world. Is the church incapable of not mimicking society at large and thus we come off as divisive as the political parties that strive to control our country? Has our church become “brain washed” through its immersion in the secular society of 2007 — but the effects are so insidious that we are not aware of it? I was talking to a fellow church member a couple of years back. This person was busily parroting Rush Limbaugh but I don’t even think he was aware of it until I asked him if he listened to Rush, and his response was “every day”. What John, Ann, and Rush do for shtick we tend to assimilate as truth — they sit on the sidelines laughing at the disingenuous listeners that hang on their every word while building mansions in Palm Beach off the advertising revenues their entertainment generates.

    Back to Jerry — we are already working at our Dealer Conference for 2008. I don’t know if I mentioned that our keynote speaker will be the Dr. Joseph Stoll, the former president of Moody Bible Institute. I’ve had two people mention that Joni Erickson Tada would be an excellent choice — so we will be looking into that for a future speaker. Dr. Ravi Zachariah has also been mentioned. I’m open to suggestions from my fellow YARers (I just malaproped twice in those preceding two words — personally I like the sound of OAR better than YAR) as to speakers that they think we should bring in.

    Having said that, I must respectfully disagree with those of you that feel it is impolitic or even unethical for me to bring in a speaker that my customers want versus a speaker that I want — my faith is large enough to embrace the ideology of the Joseph Stolls, the Jerry Jenkins, the Joni Erickson Tadas. I even happen to believe that they will be with me in heaven — such heresy. For those of you whose pacifism trumps redemption, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see them in glory — but I’m not of the opinion that pacifism is the key to unlocking the pearly gates.

    We have already taken steps to keep the 2008 Dealer Conference not only out of our church, but out of any church. That is a volatile mix that I will choose to avoid in the future. We have asked the board of a private Mennonite school in our community to consider hosting our event in their gym to 2008 — but I’m expecting that given the makeup of their board, I’ll be running into a buzz saw there as well. This is the same school that years ago would bring in exceptional evangelical speakers such as Allan Alford and L. E. Maxwell who did not embrace a pacifist stand, but were capable of challenging the students and faculty to a genuine faith. Why would our schools not consider doing that today? What is the connection between that and the fact that all of the Mennonite churches in our community in the past 42 years have seen a steady decline in their enrollment, while the back bone of most of the evangelical churches in our community is comprised of former Mennonites?

    My wife and I leave on a two week mission trip with our church on Tuesday, after which I will be going to the country of my birth (not Scotland – China!!) for three weeks, so I’ll probably be out of touch for a while.

    In the meantime here’s a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt that will inspire us all:

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    “Citizenship in a Republic,”
    Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

  26. Skylark

    *blink* No foolin’… I got curious about the millions for the MMN building, so I dug around and found this on the Mennonite Church USA’s website: It’s not just MMN that’ll be in the new building. The MCUSA execs will be there, and the story says other Menno orgs may be there, too. The breakdown of the cost is interesting: “Of that $9.8 million, $6 million will be for capital costs, including land, construction and furnishings; $2.8 million will create an endowment to pay for building operation and maintenance; and $500,000 will cover fundraising costs.”

    For comparison purposes, I thought I’d look into how much money was spent on other building projects for related organizations. I’m guessing that material and labor costs are similar in Ohio and Indiana.

    –In 2000, the Cathedral of Life opened a senior citizen home near Canton. The price tag? $9 million.
    –In 2000, the nondenominational congregation House of the Lord built a $4 million building in Akron. The church averaged 3,000 people a Sunday, and the building was far more than a meeting room.
    –In 2001, First Friends Church in Canton moved into its new $7 million digs. To this day, some people still call the building the “55th Street airport” because it can seem to go on for forever.
    Since I don’t have all night, I wasn’t able to quickly find any dollar amounts on expansions in other areas or in other denominations. Here are some secular examples of groups local to me:
    –Wooster Community Hospital opened a new wing in 2006, which cost $19.1 million. The goal? Providing each patient with private rooms.
    –The Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross hopes to raise $1.6 million to build its new headquarters.

    Spending a lot of money on a building is common in the U.S. No doubt about that. I had a lengthy conversation last night with someone who had just returned from helping modify a church building in the Philippines. (This part is all according to him.) There, they don’t erect these massive structures with gyms and miles of parking spaces. Church too full? Double the size of the sanctuary and hinge the back walls of the building so they can swing out and allow more people to hear and see worship services. Granted, the weather’s warmer there, so that’s more practical. I wonder how many people in the U.S. would be turned off by a church lacking air conditioning. Most people express shock and horror that I’ve never lived in a house that DID have air conditioning.

    Switching to business practices, no, I have not followed news of the Mennonite Publishing House. I knew the local Provident store was likely to close, and the chain had been sold to Berean. How sad to hear MPH ran itself into the ground. I’ll read up on that soon.

    Regarding where the Church would be without the “church merch,” I can’t say. Some things we’re probably better off without. I think it was P. Graham Dunn’s CFO who said this week that as long as LeAnna Dunn is involved in the company, PGD will never make a plaque proclaiming “God loves blondes.” But certainly some would look at specific PGD products and wonder “Why?” What’s inspiring to one person is kitschy, cheesy and lame to another. Some would be offended by a shirt one of my friends wore, which said only “Christian T-shirt.” I thought it was hilarious and asked if he had ever worn it to the Alive Christian Music Festival.

    Since we don’t have some kind of universal standard of what is acceptable that all companies must embrace, what’s to be done with those who go too far? Should we scorn the people who make “God loves blondes” merch? Is it similar to the argument that in order to have a free press, publications like the National Enquirer have to be allowed to exist?

    I was thinking about the whole “Christian merch” thing most of today because I met some women from my church in Berlin, Ohio, to browse the shops and eat lunch. I didn’t plan it, and ordinarily it’s not my idea of fun. However, in the spirit of creating opportunities for vulnerability with women more mature than I in the faith, I went. I also didn’t want to avoid going because of the level of discomfort I have with “touristy Christian shoppes.” If I refuse to go, I thought, am I saying I’m better than them? That wouldn’t help open up honest discussions with the six other women who went. That doesn’t mean I liked everything I saw or I’m ready to rubber-stamp whatever “Christian” product a person can dream up.

  27. eric

    I do not think good business practice and ideal Christian behavior are necessarily at odds. I do not think guilt about profit fits either category. I think that it fits the “menno guilts I don’t care much for” category. I never meant to argue against profit, just to say it should not be the purpose of the church.

    I am also disturbed by the idea that open-mindedness should include an open-minded attitude to hate rhetoric. I don’t much need to condemn anyone to hell for anything, but I certainly wouldn’t bring a Nazi speaker to church just because they have something to say (at least, not without providing a counter-point from the church). Please read the “Left Behind” series. It is full of hate rhetoric and holy violence. That doesn’t need to be censored, but it certainly doesn’t need to be given equal respect by the church or by me.

    And I really I don’t care much for heaven talk. Jenkins and Ghandi and Pol Pot might all be in heaven. There might not be a heaven. That’s not exactly how I decide what to do on a daily basis. I still think Pol Pot killed a lot of people and I don’t approve of the ideology that lead him to do it. I still think Jenkin’s ideology is scary in it’s similarities to fascism, and I don’t approve of fascism.

    As for the church – there are many reasons to leave the Mennonite church. There are many problems with the Mennonite church. I have left the Mennonite church. It was not because the church was closed to hate rhetoric. People leave organizations for any number of reasons and that seems perfectly reasonable to me, and not nearly as scary as people make it out. The church should not be all things to all people. I don’t judge the success of a church by the number of members in the pew, but by the way a church embodies the Good News of the gospels. Mega-churches are bigger, but I’ve been in house-churches that I much prefer. The mission of the church should not change based on it’s growth or dwindling.

    I also find it hard to view contention as a negative. I think avoiding polarizing issues has been a problem in the Mennonite church that leads to issues we would agree on. We let sleeping dogs lie, when we really ought to wake them up and do some contending. Thanks to John and Ann for avoiding that pit-fall. I still prefer John, who avoids hate rhetoric all together. It’s a fairly simple metric I use, but it works. Pacifism is not the metric, but it obviously ties in.

    Also, thanks to Jesus for more than his fair share of polarization and contention. It’s a hard act for anyone to follow, seeing as the results can be deadly, and the debate around it can last for millenia.

  28. Skylark

    Eric, I think you missed the part where I said Jerry Jenkins didn’t talk about Left Behind theology when he spoke at KMC. He only mentioned the books by name twice. His message was rather ecumenical.

    Should we bar a person from speaking about other topics because we disagree with one part of his theology? I sure hope not! If so, no guest speakers could ever be allowed because we’ll never agree on everything.

  29. carl

    Skylark, I think it’s a little more complicated than that. Jerry Jenkins is a well-known name for one reason and one reason only: the Left Behind books. Anyone who sees an announcement that “Jerry Jenkins is speaking at KMC” will immediately think of the Left Behind books and associate that message with KMC, whether they even go to hear his actual talk or not.

    Do I think we should only have guest speakers if we scour their background and make sure we agree with everything they’ve ever said? No, of course not. But if someone had written a high-profile book that, say, denied the Holocaust, was well known only because of that book, and had never publicly repented of that position, should they be invited to speak in my church? I would say, absolutely not.

  30. Lora

    Peter, I’m sure if Jerry Jenkins and I sat down together, we could find common ground and interests. I once attended Jerry Falwell’s church in Lynchburg; I found him to be charismatic and likeable, and he preached a solid sermon (and since I am my father’s daughter, you know that’s high praise). I don’t think anyone here would say that just because we disagree with someone means they’re not going to heaven, but at the same time, I don’t want Jerry Jenkins or Jerry Falwell being the face of Christianity presented to the world. Mennonites have a distinct theology and a lot to offer the world (Christian or not) — or at least we used to, before we started to get sucked in by worldly goods and radio orthodxy…

  31. Skylark

    Carl, I suppose this is something on which we probably will not agree. Perhaps my education and experience has predisposed me to support open airing of views that “should not” be heard.

    Arguably a church might not be the best place to allow controversial speakers to promulgate their views. However, there could be great benefit in hearing the words of someone as insidious as a KKK member. See, I grew up hearing pretty much one side of many controversial views. I rarely had the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of people what they thought, and so I developed a caricature in my mind of those views based off their opponants’ statements. It’s much better to decide what I think about a person’s views after I’ve heard it from their lips, rather than looking only at the “straw man” the opponants may construct. The definition of “evolution” that Answers in Genesis gives is quite different than the definition I’ve heard from intelligent people who believe evolution has a place in science. That’s one of many examples I could give.

    Have you heard of the “marketplace of ideas”? Many of the founding statesmen of the U.S. believed if people had the right to say what they wanted, and all the ideas were out there, people would be able to discern what was true and what was false. They didn’t want to coddle people or spoon-feed only the nice bits to the public. I have my doubts about whether the majority can discern or even cares. Still, I wouldn’t want to take away from the thoughtful, rational thinkers the ability to learn and decide knowledgably. It’s where we get free press and free speech.

    I guess it comes down to treating people as intelligent adults or gullible children.

  32. eric

    I think Carl is addressing exactly what I was getting at in my other post.

    Skylark, I think your concept of the marketplace of ideas is all well and good – just as your freedom to act as you please is – until you get violent. Even a marketplace needs rules.

    Language can be violent. Hate rhetoric is violent.

    Sure, I can listen to a KKK member all day and learn something about the way they think, but I’m not the one they’re hating on. When is it my responsibility to make them stop treating other people like dirt? If I don’t, I’m allowing violence to happen. If you see a mob lynching someone do you stand back to learn about the situation? I think we are as responsible to get in the way of verbal violence as physical violence. I was taught that as a mediator. The fact that it is a more subtle violence makes it all the more important to recognize and confront. Therefor, just as I will not tolerate a lynch mob, I will not tolerate hate rhetoric. There is a limit to my tolerance.

    Being of the white non-gay non-female persuasion makes it all the more my responsibility to confront racism, sexism and homophobia. As Carl said on another post, “if you’re not swimming upstream, I guarantee you’re being carried downstream.”

    Intelligent adults or not has nothing to do with it, and is fairly insulting to anyone who has been on the other end of hate violence. Intelligent adults can be abused as well as anyone can. I’m not treating a rape victim like a gullible child if I try to stop the rape from happening. I am aiding the rapist if I do nothing.

    I didn’t miss the part about what Jenkins did or didn’t say. It’s hardly relevant after the fact, when the conversation is about whether to invite him in the first place. You don’t know what he’s going to say, but you do know that he is famous for unabashedly espousing hate and violence.

    I can see a few specific instances where you might create space for dialogue with Jenkins or the KKK in the church, but having them as the key note for an event is not one of those.

  33. Skylark

    Eric, OK, I think I get it now.

    I was talking about “people talking about their ideas” which is fairly nebulous and passive. This is something I tend to encounter.

    Meanwhile, you were talking about “people acting out their ideas in extreme ways.” I have rarely-if ever-encountered this. This is probably a lack of experience on my part, and it seems yours is much different.

    And, I think I get your point about hate speech being violent. I’ve never been trained as a mediator, so I lack in that area.

    With regard to Jenkins’ books being “unabashedly espousing hate and violence,” I’m skeptical. I meant to respond to this earlier but ended up going a different direction in a previous comment. I read the first five Left Behind books and watched the first Left Behind movie. Granted, it’s been a few years, so my memory isn’t the clearest. What do you mean by hate? Hate towards whom? The hate I remember was directed toward the Antichrist figure and the others who had become “unredeemable” according to the chronology of the dispensationalist theolgoy. (Those who had taken the Mark of the Beast.) The main characters did not hate the character Harriet, who at one point was close with and slept with Nikolai, the Antichrist. Harriet wasn’t unredeemable. They loved, cared for and protected her.

    If I agreed with the dispensationalist view of end times with the specific series of events as the books describe, that hate would be fine. Perhaps not the plotting to kill the Antichrist. I would agree that’s inexcusable. But the attitudes the main characters had toward the “unredeemables” seems pretty similar to the way most of us would view demons and evil spirits. Or perhaps the way you advocate standing up to oppressors, rapists and others who inflict violence on the innocents.

    If those “end times” events don’t happen, no big deal. There’d be no object of that hatred. Maybe the readers would still hate the fictional character of the Antichrist. So? When I watched the Terminator movies, I felt a certain disgust toward the machines in the flash-forwards to the year 2030 (or whatever year it was.) Maybe you would call that hatred. I don’t carry that “hatred” into my everyday life to inflict on someone non-fictitious.

    Have you seen Left Behind readers expending their emotions on hapless victims? I’ve heard rumors the books affected the way some readers viewed the U.S.’s foreign policy toward Israel, but maybe you have more information on that. Perhaps you could also cite portions of the books that would help me see where you’re coming from on this.

  34. Ladonna Tent

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  35. TimN

    Yes, that’s right Ladonna. I’ve had the same problem with my Jumparoo. It simply will not contrast! I’ll have to check out this Jungle Jumperoo. I’ve been looking for a bigger bounce area to halt my critters. I really do need my dexterity enriched more regularly.

    How long will it be before these spammers are given the recognition they deserve in surrealist circles? They are taking the English language into new shiny new terrioty.

  36. Tim Baer

    LOL! Thanks for not deleting this one, it made my day.

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