Who do we want to be?

I’ll admit at the outset–I used to read YAR and comment on post back in the day, but got busy with seminary.  But, now that I’m out of school I’ve had renewed time and interest in reading again.  I don’t feel like I have much of a right to comment on the state of YAR, because I’ve not been back int the blogosphere long.  But, I’m going to comment anyway.

It’s been five years since YAR got started.  When I first started reading, there was a decent balance between men and women commenting and posting.  And there were a lot of questions about who this group was, who it included and excluded, and what this group wanted to be.

Looking at where the group is now, and using my powers of deduction, I see a lot of white, cradle Mennonite guys posting on this site.  I wonder what happened to the women.  I don’t see them posting much.

That’s leads me to my question for this group–when I look at the suggested taglines for YAR, it makes me wonder if these taglines maintain an exclusive vibe to them.  The biggest culprits are the ones that really made me laugh–“Quilting outside the lines” and “Not necessarily naked”.  I almost voted for one of them, but then I realized that this feeds right into the insider problem of the Mennonite church.

At the convention this summer, I was very aware that besides the obvious tension around sexuality, there is an ever-present anxiety about who is in and who is out.  There seemed to be an underlying tension between people of color who have adopted an Anabaptist perspective on scripture, and dyed-in-the-wool Mennonites who consider hymn-singing to be mandatory part of the tradition.

But, I wonder, here on this blog do we want to perpetuate the ongoing problem of insider-outsider issues by adopting an insider tagline?  Or do we want to live into something more radically open?  Clearly, you know how I feel about it.  What do you think?

Comments (5)

  1. Joseph P

    As an aside, I think only three different people put forth tag line suggestions, which seems to fit with my observation that fewer people are active in YAR than 3-5 years ago. Is that a true observation?

    Also, only 30 people have voted. Maybe that’s a lot of people though, considering I don’t see thirty people contributing regularly here.

    Maybe there needs to be more submissions from more people and more discussion about them (Discernment model anyone???) prior to a vote. Or maybe we just don’t need to put much stock on what the tag line is.

    I’m pleased that my personal submission escaped your criticism, Amy. However, I will suggest that “Quilting outside the lines” is a pretty good one. In my humble opinion (and at risk of opening up a tired debate), Mennonite tradition and culture need not be surgically removed from some conceived idea of objective “Mennonite” theology or practice. I think that current attempts to emphasize that being Mennonite is a choice (versus something one is born into) are very valid and are addressing real and serious problems in the church, however I think if we go too far we risk disembodying the church.

    I think of a friend of mine who was raised Presbyterian and chose to become Mennonite as an adult who once waxed on the revolutionary meaning and purpose of quilting in the context of a society that values efficiency and materialism. In other words, quilting may be a cradle Mennonite cultural practice, but its a damn good one to be proud of, and it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to see it as theologically significant.

    Furthermore, I think of a secular farmer friend of mine who met one of my non-practicing “cradle Mennonite” friends and chastised her for not helping carry on her precious tradition. He referenced numerous marginal societies and people-groups that are dying or assimilating and was disappointed at my friend for her part in succumbing America’s cultural homogenization. In other words, to some outsiders there is a value to what we now refer condescendingly to as cultural Mennonite trappings.

    “Quilting outside the lines” seems to strike the right balance between acknowledging a valuable Mennonite cultural practice and spinning it in new ways. I’ve never seen one quilter at my church quilt outside the lines, but I bet there’s some non-cradle Mennonites out there that could teach them to spice things up in that way.

    But I still think that “Resurrecting Reformation” is the superior tag line.

  2. AmyY (Post author)

    It’s not my intention to criticize any of the possible taglines, but to point out a theme–that many of them point to Cultural Mennonite-ism. ‘Cause like I said, “quilting outside the lines” is hilarious.

    In my mind, there is a difference between Anabaptism and Mennonite-ism. I have no issue with celebrating my Mennonite heritage with whoopie pies and quilts, but since this blog uses the word “Anabaptist,” I see this blog as having a theological distinction, yet one that is inclusive.

    If it was “Young Mennonite Radicals” (which sounds pretty funny to me), I’d probably object a little less, but even then I’d have issues with the supposition that Mennonites=quilts. We are far more diverse than that.

    Somehow there needs to be a distinction made between the denominational Mennonites and the cultural/ethnic Mennonites. I’ve been trying to come up with a word to distinguish the “born and breds” from those who choose this crazy denomination. I haven’t been very successful, but I’ll stumble along for a while until I come up with something. We just assume that everyone who joins the denomination wants to quilt or likes shoe fly pie.

  3. Greggernaut

    Tangent: the terminology of born vs. become

    In academic circles, those of us who came back to school later were called non-traditional. Looking at this group, I think many of us would claim that label.

    The terminology used when I was hanging out with the Quakers was “convinced” vs. “birthright.” My sense of our faith is that most Anabaptists would be uncomfortable with referring to people raised in Anabaptist families as birthright Anabaptists.

    Shouldn’t we all be convinced?

    Glad to see we are laughing together. Anyone else celebrate Holy Humor Sunday this year?

  4. Pingback: Grieving and Honoring 5 years of Young Anabaptist Radicals » Young Anabaptist Radicals

  5. Joseph P

    Amy, thanks, I see your point about Anabaptism versus Mennonitism and about wanting to be clear about the particular intent of this blog. I guess that in practice I’ve experienced this to be more of a Mennonite blog, but I see now how that was not really the original vision.

    My sense is that YAR may need to do some extensive re-visioning and re-organizing. If there were five original “administrators” or “organizers” of the blog and only TimN is left, maybe there should be a new group of five.

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