Monthly Archive: January 2010

bear with me here

Hey folksies. My names Charles. I’ve been lurking on and off here for quite awhile and finally got around to joining this excellent community of quality folk. And thus I have to introduce myself.

But let’s preface some of the particulars of where I come from and where I’m going with a much more fun sense of who I am.  I’m a very vocal, people oriented person. I love good conversation and do most of my best thinking vocally while in dialogue with others. Which unfortunately means I’m not a very good writer (hello, text ridden blog world), so part of what excites me about YAR here is a chance to engage in dialogue with intelligent people in a new medium, I think I’ll find that stretching. I like to laugh, I like to smile and I’ll hug just about anyone (though  I’m now getting better at recognizing appropriate hug settings :P). I enjoy good beer, fine wine, nerdy boardgames and plenty of other geeky activities (especially those involving other people).

I’m a Mennonite and was raised as such. I spent about six years in the Mennonite education system graduating from Goshen with a degree in Bible/Religion. And I’m going back in the fall for an MDiv from AMBS. I just can’t escape. (more…)

Anawim Theology and Avatar

Anawim theology is the biblical theology of God’s salvation of the poor and outcast. It is strongly linked to anabaptist theology. “Anawim” is a Hebrew term that means “the poor seeking the Lord for deliverance”, is used in the Psalms extensively and is referred to in the Magnificat and the Beatitudes. If you are interested in reading a popular theology of it you can read the book Unexpected News: Reading The Bible Through Third World Eyes or check out this website:

But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about Avatar.

I understand that some feel that there is some racism in Avatar, and I can see their point, but it would be deeply embedded and certainly not obvious to the masses throughout the world watching it. However, I believe that part of the reason that Avatar is so popular is because of the open Anawim-like theology involved. There is a general morality throughout the world that the underdog should be supported and that God is on the side of the oppressed. Avatar not only supports this, but has a pretty strong morality/spirituality. As I sat and watched it a couple times, I wrote the following principles down that I think describes Avatar’s basic support of Anawim theology:

There is a empire, ruling the world, and its focus is to increase the wealth of a limited few, even if that hurts others. Everyone within the empire is a part of this system of greed, even if they superficially attempt to oppose it. (more…)

James Brenneman, J. Lawrence Burkholder and a new Mennonite theology of “loyal opposition” for Goshen College

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
– Francis Scott Key, Start Spangled Banner, 1814

Happy 4th of July! The American Flag in Fireworks by Beverly & Pack, flicrk user walkadog

Last week my alma mater, Goshen College, announced that it would begin playing the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events. Their press release frames the decision as an exciting new theological and socio-political adventure for the college. Make sure to read the press release especially the quotes from GC president James Breneman and the GC Presidential Council.

I should say up front that this issue is fairly new to me. I wasn’t much of an athlete, so the playing of the national anthem was not an issue for me growing up. For a thoughtful perspective on GC’s decision from someone who has thought about this all their life, read a Open Letter to GC from Britt Kaufmann, longtime Mennonite athlete, coach and GC alum.

I’m mainly interested in this decision because of the way it was rolled out as part of a broader vision emerging from GC President James Brenneman. See his recent sermon Brenneman calls for new ‘school of thought’ at Goshen of positive engagement in the world.


Anabaptist Rosary

As a note: This is also posted at The Wandering Road

So I’ve recently run across the Catholic Rosary.  While I’m drawn to it’s structure and it’s ability to help people pray, as a good Anabaptist, I take issue with some of it’s theology.  So here is my initial thoughts and proposal for an Anabaptist Rosary.

First- An orientation to the actual Rosary.

How to pray the Rosary
1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say the “Apostles Creed.”
2. Say the “Our Father.”
3. Say three “Hail Marys.”
4. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
5. Announce the First Mystery; then say
the “Our Father.”
6. Say ten “Hail Marys,” while meditating on the Mystery.
7. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
8. Announce the Second Mystery: then say the “Our Father.” Repeat 6 and 7 and continue with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Mysteries in the same manner.
9. Say the ‘Hail, Holy Queen’ on the medal after the five decades are completed.
As a general rule, depending on the season, the Joyful Mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday; the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday; the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday; and the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday. (more…)

Listening to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and James Cone

Crossposted from my blog for The Mennonite.

Last evening I sat around our living room with 22 other Living Water Community Church folks and had a frank conversation about racism. The conversation was passionate and open. It ranged from personal stories to talk of definitions of racism and even touched on the practical. It was a new conversation to have with so many people in our congregation. My hope is that our sharing together will the start of a serious process that will include our whole church and not just a one Sunday event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As most of you well know, the vision of Martin Luther King was not simply dreams of black and white children playing together. It was not just about sitting down and being friends. Some of us have heard of his radical critique of the triple evils of poverty, racism and war. But in Malcolm & Martin & America: a Dream or a Nightmare?, James Cone goes far beyond the quotes and the sound bites to look at the grain of King’s life and shows how his life path and vision was and is inextricably linked with that of Malcolm X.

I highly recommend Malcolm & Martin & America for Christian who recognizes that the problem of racism in the United States did not go away with the election of Barack Obama. It is a surprisingly readable history that tells the story of both men in the context of the history of black nationalism and integration struggles. I’m not qualified to write an overall review of the book, but I will share a few quotes from the book that stood out for me along with a few of my own thoughts.


Blessing of the Animals

Your justice is like the unending mountains,
your judgments like the great deep;
human and beast the Lord preserves!

Psalm 36:5-6

Today is the annual Blessing of the Animals. This holiday has taken on many forms and is incorporated throughout many traditions, but it was started by St. Francis of Assisi, who had a deep connection with the wild and with non-human animals. For those unfamiliar, St. Francis was the son of a wealthy Catholic family in Assisi. He was sent to war, yet quit and returned home early with a drastically different outlook on life. He refused to kill and began questioning everything. He spent time living in the wild with the animals and swore that they taught him things. He publicly renounced all material possessions. The rest of his life would be dominated by feral, simplistic solidarity with the peasants and animals- the human and non-human ‘beasts’ of Assisi.

There is not a lot of space for ritual within our culture, and since most religious traditions are products of our culture, there doesn’t seem to be lot of room for ritual within our churches either. Catholics and Episcopals still celebrate the Blessing of the Animals, yet the Protestant denial of the material has led most Christian churches to stay away from valuing the ‘things of this world.’ Most Protestant churches, especially evangelical ones, tend to be stripped of statues, art, candles, incense, or anything else material. ‘Scripture only’ and ‘faith alone’ doctrines have led to a rejection of anything that might aid the process of spiritual development for fear that it would do the opposite and become an idol or a replacement for that which only God can be. Yet this radicalism has led to a spiritual philosophy void of meaning, where the advice of pastors become, “Just leave it to God,” or “Just read your bible.” Ritual was central to the Jewish tradition. Jesus did not challenge ritual, but the attempt of the religious authorities to strip ritual of it’s proper meaning. When he turned the water into wine, he was doing something very profound. The water at a Jewish wedding was most likely used to wash, which was not primarily a sanitary concern, but a purity ritual. It’s my belief that Jesus intentionally took the water away and turned it into wine to challenge the religious leader’s idea of purity. He turned it instead into a wine, which is a drink commonly shared with friends and families during celebrations, bringing life and spirit to the occasion. (more…)

Invitation from Mennonite Publishing Network to help revision resources for 20 and 30-somethings

This is a invitation to the YAR community from Byron Rempel-Burkholder, and editor at Faith and Life Resources/Mennonite Publishing Network. Feel free to contact Byron directly or leave your response in a comment.

We at Mennonite Publishing Network need your help in creating resources that nurture spirituality among 20- and 30-somethings. Our traditional existing medium is Rejoice! magazine, which offers daily meditations on Bible texts, along with denominational prayer requests. Rejoice! is relatively successful among middle and older adults, but it is attracting only a small segment of younger adults to its readership. (more…)

Can you help out a YAR community member in need?

Jason Barr's house burning

I returned to work to work today to find an email about the complete destruction of my friend Jason Barr’s home over the holidays. Jason and his wife Gretchen didn’t have insurance, so their depending on good old Anabaptist mutual aid to recover from a loss of just about everything they owned in the fire (that’s their apartment burning in the photo above). If you can give them a few dollars to help them rent a new place and replace their stuff, it would be much appreciated:

Please give to support Jason and Gretchen

For those of you who don’t know Jason personally, he has been involved in Anabaptist circles for a number of years thinking and sharing about Christ-archy. (more…)

Spiritual Practices for the New Decade

There is a fair amount of change on the horizon for me as a YAR. I seek to face the changes with a soundness in mind, body, and soul. When I look back at the times when I was the healthiest and times I was the unhealthiest………I see that one factor is whether or not I was doing one or more spiritual practices.

Do you have any spiritual practices (sometimes called spiritual disciplines or spiritual exercises) that you hope to pursue this next year or the next decade?

I’m thinking about the ones that I hope to do this year (or at least for the next little while) and my challenge is also to “not pick too many”.