Monthly Archive: December 2009

Levi Miller, peace and justice and the Mennonite chattering class

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Dried Love in the Mist seedpods

For the last few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Levi Miller’s column on "peacenjustice". My first reaction was one of anger and frustration. No wonder the Mennonite church has had such a hard time integrating peace and justice into our whole denomination! The director of our publishing house mocks it as a buzzword and sees it as a product of "cultural chatterers." Miller seems to see shalom (the bible’s word for peace and justice) as a little more then a worn out fad. It was much loved by the Sandinistas and Sojourners in the ’70s, but it is time to grow up and move on.

Over the weeks, I wrote several paragraphs expounding on my outrage at an old white guy maligning a theology of liberation that challenges the unjust status quo. (more…)

Book Review: The Holy Spirit by Ivan Satyarata

The Holy Spirit: Lord and Life-Giver
Ivan Satyavrata
InterVaristy Press
April 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3307-8

It’s a bit of a low blow to poorly review a literary/artistic work when you are charging it with not being what you expected it to be.  For example, when I was 8, my art teacher asked us to draw and color…I think it was a landscape. Now I have never really been a great artist, mostly because I’ve been colorblind since birth (though I did have a brief phase during my adolescence in which I won a prize from a local art gallery for my pencil and black ink rendering of some shadowy, comic book-esque superhero). So when it came time for me to draw a landscape, and I spent the time grabbing any color I felt like and making scribbles all over the place, when our work was done my teacher kicked me out of class, called my mother, and had a conference that afternoon. She told my mother that my work was unbecoming of an eight-year old. My mother blinked at her and said “what’s becoming of an eight year old in art class?”

The story is not directly equivalent, but the meaning shines through ( I hope): it’s not fair for me to set expectations for Satyavrata’s book- that he had no intent of keeping – and then criticize him for not doing so. However, the marketing of this book has made it particularly difficult not to. (more…)

“New Monkery”

My father is doing research on the history of Anabaptist in Augsburg, Germany, the town the Confessio Augustana was proclaimed in 1530, in which the new Lutheran church proclaimed its faith and also some condemning of Anabaptists. The dialogue between Lutherans and Mennonites is still suffering from this. During World Conference Assembly in Asunción this year Ishmael Noko said “[the Lutheran church] is like a scorpion, we still have this poison [the articles about condemning Anabaptists] we just didn’t use it for a long time, but it’s still there” Recently the Lutheran World Federation officially apologized.

But that’s actually not what I wanted to write about. Augsburg was also a major Anabaptist center in the 16th century. That’s why the local reformator Urbanus Rhegius wrote a pamphlet “against the new baptist order” in which he claims that the Anabaptists are actually just a “new monkery”, an argument made in many writings against the Anabaptists. The claim is that they only make the same things as the monastic orders did, just with families.

I don’t know too much about the New Monasticism movement, I read Shane’s first book, but I guess the name wasn’t knowingly a reminiscence on the Anabaptists.

Minarets, church towers and Babel

British anti-minaret posterSwiss anti-minaret posterI don’t know whether in the States you have noticed the debate about the Swiss people’s decision last Sunday (29th of November) to amend their constitution to forbid minarets. Here in Germany and the rest of Europe fascists and right-leaners are celebrating and want plebiscites on these issues as well(check out their posters!). Swiss politicians are shocked as no one would have anticipated such a result and are now checking if they can squirm out of it, by saying that basic liberties cannot be changed, not even by the will of the people. Analysis shows that the most votes for the ban came from the rural areas where there are almost no Muslims, and most votes against the ban came from the cities where there is a relatively high Muslim population, still not high. In all of Switzerland there are four mosques…

To me, this shows a fundamental flaw in democracy as good as it maybe: Democracy does not mean the rule of people, it means rule of the majority and if the majority should decide not to tolerate the minority -like the case with Switzerland – so be it. Ok, in order to correct this there are things like independent judges and not directly elected secretaries, but that is exactly what the SVP, the “Swiss People’s Party”, wants to change next. Democracy is not an absolute value.

But how is the Anabaptist view on this, is there one at all? In the beginning, Anabaptists didn’t gather in fancy churches, they met in houses or caves in the forest to prevent being sent to prison. The only time one would find them in the usual churches was to storm the pulpit and preach the gospel. When Anabaptists were allowed to settle in Southern Germany after the 30 years war they weren’t allowed to build church towers.

The bells in church towers have often been melted in times of war to make swords and guns, a reversion of Micah 4,1-4 so to say.

During the campaigning for the ban on minarets the initiators always claimed not to be anti-Islamic, but that they were only against radical Islamists and that Islam didn’t need minarets, therefore a  minaret was a political extremist statement and it’s ban would not interfere with the right to religious freedom.

Let’s look at Christianity then, I did find one story in my Bible, where people wanted to build a tower. But after God “came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building” Gen.11,5 he didn’t like it too much and confused their languages.

In the New Testament there is not a single reference of towers… So, are towers needed in Christianity? Shouldn’t the Swiss people perhaps also ban church towers?

Or maybe Swiss Mennonites and Mennonites in general should build “mennorates” in solidarity with the Swiss Muslims?

Introducing Ben_jammin

Greetings, my fellow YARs!

As I am the newest and probably youngest contributor to this community blog, I thought before posting stuff here I should introduce myself.

I am seventeen (thus I think I have proven to be young) and I am a Kraut, as American G.I.s came to call Germans, when they occupied Germany after liberating us from fascism, although I rarely eat kraut at all. I was born into a Mennonite intentional community in a small town, which is why I always somehow found it funny when people are so amazed by community living – for me that’s everyday life.

The Anabaptist tradition has been passed along to me by my parents and still I think I can still call myself radical, because I chose it myself in my baptism and everyday life.

My hobbies are rather nerdy: reading, playing chess, Pen&Paper games (I am still working on an Anabaptist P&P set in the 16th century…) and peace.

What more is there to say: Oh yes, the military just sent me a letter, that my examination will be next summer and that I would have very good career options if I became a sergeant (in Germany we have a draft).

Hello, I am glad to be here.

Prayer Warriors

Please, I am wondering if anyone knows of a less militarized way of labeling a group of people who commit to praying for an event or process. I am gathering a group of people to give SERIOUS prayer support to the process of pastoral transition at church. Traditionally, the term “prayer warrior” has been used. I like the sense of commitment, power, authority, determination, and passion that this label carries, but it is just too violent. Warriors kill and train to dominate and decimate their enemies. We are pacifists and so need a better term…one that connotes all these qualities above but isn’t war-like. (more…)