Monthly Archive: July 2007

Bad News for Arms Dealers

Campaigning against the arms trade has always been a David and Goliath battle with a few small underfunded non-profit organizations against a massive, wealthy industry in which multi-billion dollar deals are routine. Good news usually comes after years of quiet, mostly thankless work.

All that is to say that I was extremely happy to read about the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation this week. DESO is (or was) a uniquely British government department whose sole purpose is to promote the sale of British weapons abroad using whatever “legal” means available to them.

During my time in the UK I spent a good deal of my time working with SPEAK, a Christian student campaigning network who was working to close DESO. In 2004 we spent a few hours on the coldest day of the year praying in a trench outside DESO headquarters and bringing them baskets filled with daffodils. As with many public witnesses, it was a whole lot of work and shivering that felt like a drop in a vast, empty bucket. (more…)

Kill the Indian, Save the Man

As it happens, I didn’t manage to keep writing throughout the week at San Jose. For that, I am sorry. I do want to share one little bit I found interesting during one of the presentations at the conference. One of the items that the delegate body voted on was a resolution (pdf) in support of bill in the US Congress to “acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States.” Part of the presentation before this vote included some words from Steve Cheramie Risingsun, a Chitimacha Indian who leads Native Mennonite congregations in Louisiana and Alabama. You can read more about it at the Mennonite Weekly Review article.

The thing that I found particularly interesting about this was a comment made by Risingsun. He was talking about the various ways white colonizers mistreated Native Americans, tried to take away their culture, and were generally pretty nasty. He said that there was a phrase that was often used by these white folks: “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”


Science and Religion

So, I’ve done a bit of responding to other posts on here, and I thought it was about time I made my first post, on a subject I have a lot of personal interest in. A quick search for keywords such as evolution, creationism, and intelligent design shows that there has not been much discussion (actually, any, as far as I can see) of these subjects on this blog. This does not entirely surprise me, because, in my experience, there is very little discussion amongst the Anabaptist Churches in general on issues having to do with the relationship between science and faith. Conservative Anabaptists (just can’t get away from that term!), for their part, often fall in line with other conservative Christians, in being suspicious of evolution (or “evolutionism”) and embracing a literalistic interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Either that, or they don’t make an issue about it at all, one way or the other, and prefer not to discuss it. Liberal Anabaptists, for their part, tend to accept the truth of evolution because they have a liberal enough interpretation of Scripture that it presents no exegetical problem for them to do so, and because they associate creationism with ignorant warmongering racist homophobic fundamentalists. The fact that Jerry Falwell endorsed creationism is good enough reason for many progressive Christians to automatically reject it.

Of course, anti-evolutionism has not always had attached to it the social and economic conservatism we associate with it today. Indeed, in economic terms at least, Darwinism lends itself quite well to a conservative worldview–in fact, it was largely the work of economist Thomas Malthus that first inspired Darwin’s idea of natural selection. And, in fact, it was this association of scientific Darwinism with Social Darwinism that many socially progressive Christians of ages past objected to, and so became anti-evolutionist. William Jennings Bryan, three time Democratic presidential candidate, was a socialist and peace advocate who famously opposed evolution because of what he saw as its social implications. In a stump speech that he gave in revival tents around the country, he referred to Darwinism as propagating a “law of hate” that stood in stark contrast to the “law of love” that Christ taught. (more…)

Re-joining the Roman Catholic Church

Several times in the past months on YAR, I’ve noticed people mention in passing we could re-join the Roman Catholic Church* if we don’t like the idea of dividing over differences of belief and/or practice. I haven’t heard this idea anywhere else, but maybe I’m not listening hard enough. Is this an option many YARs or other Mennonites consider to be a valid and even attractive option?

Someone mentioned common objections Anabaptists have against the RCC, namely heirarchy and gender issues. I know Catholics who quit tithing to the RCC when the priest-sex-abuse scandal broke because they don’t want their tithes to become part of a payout. Then you’ve got infant baptism, obligatory First Communion, war, lgbtq, transubstantiation and the list goes on.

What is attractive about the RCC? I think I might “get” part of it, having visited many Catholic cathedrals, monestaries and schools, and having read Cloister Walk, but other aspects of “what it might mean to be Catholic” turn me off. Each congregation will vary, of course. There’s just something freaky to me about the idea of one human non-God person (the Pope) making declarations that all living people in that church are supposed to follow. Do any Catholics still believe the Pope is error-free anymore? I’m sorry if that seems flippant or dismissive, but it’s a real question. But then, sometimes we Anabaptists live like we believe a committee is error-free, so maybe it’s no different. (more…)

Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).


An interview with an Emerging Church leader drawn to Anabaptism

This interview is a repost from my blog on the Mennonite of an interview with Jarrod McKenna, a leader in the Emerging Church movement in Australia and founder of Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community, an organization that runs trainings on nonviolence and ecology in Australian schools, churches and prisons. I’ve previously referenced an article Jarrod has written on Emerging Peace Church Movement & the “Open Anabaptist Impulse”. Jarrod won the Donald Groom Peace Fellowship, a national Australian peace award. The Original intention was to do an interview with him for this blog and so, though I published it on the Mennonite site first, I think YAR is its true home. Enjoy! If you have your own questions for Jarrod, feel free to leave them in a comment and perhaps he’ll come by and answer them himself.

Tim: Where did you first come across the Anabaptist story?

Jarrod McKenna: The timing of my intro to Anabaptism was nothing short of God’s grace. It was a hugely significant time in my life though I was only 13 years old. Just before school started for my first year of high school, I made the very serious decision to follow Jesus. Up to that point I had gone through school not having the easiest time because of my dyslexia and ADD. I dealt with it by being the funny kid and when that didn’t work, beating kids up. I got good at both and was popular because of it. Yet the emptiness I felt would keep me up at night, looking up at the stars from my bedroom window and saying “God, if you’re there, I need you”. While some people have dramatic conversion experiences mine didn’t happen in a flash. But slowly my eyes opened to the Holy Spirit’s gentle work in my life. Night after night as the stars ministered to me I began to be sensitive to God’s love for me, and that love meant I could change, and follow Jesus. (more…)

The Nature of Truth

In the Church of the Brethren, we have to talk a lot about how to reconcile our beliefs with those of our brothers and sisters who don’t feel the same way. Members of our denomination (my understanding is that Mennonites face the same questions) cover the political spectrum end to end, with varying stances on all the good “moral questions:” abortion, same-sex marriage, non-resistance, the military, salvation… the list goes on. And so we are faced with the sticky task of recognizing the validity of our brother’s faith while still affirming our own as true and right.

Hokay, so. Here’s the question. Is there one truth in the middle of the theological dartboard that we’re all throwing at, some getting closer than others? Or is there wiggle room? Is it possible that when I say homosexuality is A-OK and my dad has a problem with it, we’re both somehow equally right thanks to the logic-defying power of God? If I’m a Christian and my roommate is a Pagan, are we just on different roads heading in the same general direction? (more…)

Practical question for a radical: Yea or nay on pentagrams?

I recently received a pentagram necklace as a well-intended gift from someone who thought it was a Star of David. We both had a good laugh when I told her my first association with it was a pagan/Wiccan/Satanist symbol.

Now, I’m not one of those reactionist people who gets wild-eyed at the mere mention of such belief systems, and I’m not freaked out to see such symbols. I did a little bit of reading online and discovered some Christians in the Middle Ages used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, and five aspects of good health. That’s certainly not how I think of pentagrams, nor probably most who would see it if I wore it.

If I choose not to wear this necklace, I want it to be for an actual, thought-out reason, not just “it’s evil.” It’s a nice necklace. I have no lack of jewelry, though, so I could give it away and never notice its absence. But I tend not to wear religious symbols of any kind unless there’s a specific reason I’m doing it. (Crucifixes are part of my RenFaire costume, for example.)

Thoughts? I realize this is a periferal issue to what we usually talk about on YAR. But, it could bring up how we view pagans, Wiccans and Satanists. That might be a good reason to wear it: it may prompt thoughtful discussion with people I meet. Or then again, it could just prompt eyerolls and disdainful comments.

a note on dogma

Well a note of introduction first since I’m new to this blog. I work for MCC, grew up in North Philadelphia, and live in Lancaster. I suppose I count as a Mennonite- chose to be one a few years ago, and constantly in a flux of being in love with the church and embarrassed by it. I guess thats true of what I think of myself too for that matter. Thanks for allowing me to write on the blog- its good to be here.

I’ve been thinking a bit about Anabaptist dogma and the death of imagination. Deep in the blood of Anabaptism is a concern for discipleship, or obedience. This discipleship has changed forms I think over the years, but culturally we are an obedient people- obedient to something. It’s a blessing I suppose in many ways. We as a church have fought hard to work for the kingdom on this earth as it is in heaven. Discipleship values the material and the contemporary. Its an affirmation that what is here, the world, is good but broken and in need of restoration. Its this very discipleship that enables us to be radical in the face of war, capitalism, oppression, and nationalism. It’s a good thing.

What’s troubling about discipleship is that it has turned the Anabaptist church into an economical people. I think we see this in a variety of ways. In my short time in the Mennonite Church I’ve come across many people who are all too convinced they are destroying the environment and causing wars every time we so much as breath. (more…)

Creating Room for Imagination to Breathe in the Church

Young adults were given 90 minutes of discernment time with delegates at the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly in Abbotsford this year. As the session flew by, the breadth of our responses quickly narrowed, mostly in response to some very insightful questions from the delegate floor. As one of 5 young adult panelists, the challenge for me was to focus my answers to represent voices I’ve heard again and again from young adults in the Mennonite church. Given the width of the questions, focusing answers on key thoughts was not easy.

If I were to sum things up, I would say the focus became, “Why is the present heart of the Mennonite church in today’s culture being labelled an issue of young adults and the future of the church?” (more…)

Democratic candidates will debate lgbtq issues

I don’t know if I should be bringing politics into this already-heated blog that’s taking on lgbtq, extra-marital sex, and abortion issues, but hey — why not? So here it is.

According to the New York Times, the Human Rights Campaign — an lgbtq rights advocacy organization — and Logo — a cable tv network geared toward the lgbtq community — will host a one-hour Democratic presidential candidate debate focused on gay rights issues on August 9. What impressed me most of all about this is that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all agreed to attend already.

Here’s the official press release from the HRC, and here’s the NY Times article.

Liberal and Conservative Christians

While at the conference in San Jose, I encountered a great deal of conversation about “liberal” and “conservative” Christians, discussion which treated these as polar opposites and if you fall behind one particular view that is “liberal” than whoops! everything you think is liberal. I went to a workshop entitled “Sticks and Stones: A conversation about our conversations” presented by Dale Schrag who took a cue from Gregory Boyd on the polarizing debate happening within congregations throughout America and the devastating effects of the “Moral Majority” and the “Religious Right”. The politicizing of the church – something which is evident in MCUSA too, with a lot of focus on political issues – has ripped it apart, to the point where political allegiances are dictating what church you go to and what gospel you hear (or, should I say, choose to hear).

Does anyone else find the terms “liberal” and “conservative” problematic as they are used in a Christian context? I smell CNN and Fox News all over that distinction.
A few rhetorical questions:
Are you a “liberal” Christian just because you strategize ways to assist the poor? Are you “conservative if you don’t? Are you “conservative” because you place such an emphasis on scripture? Are you “liberal” because you don’t?