Monthly Archive: July 2017

Hope in the face of apocalypse: A review of Inhabit movie

This review was originally posted two years ago on radicaldiscipleship.net

8 years ago, I showed “What a Way to Go” to my family. I hope they would, as the movie tag line says, come to grips “with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Population Overshoot and the demise of the American lifestyle.”

Halfway through the movie my sister walked out. It wasn’t so much that she was opposed to the message of the movie. She just couldn’t take how relentlessly depressing it was.

I suspect all of us in the radical discipleship movement have been there at one time or another. We go through some form of the transformation that Tommy is documenting in his post-evangelical series. In one way or another we begin to grasp that catastrophic path our civilization is on. Which begs the question: How do we get others to recognize it to?

Broadly speaking, this is a question of pedagogy, or how people learn. Watching an accurate, though deeply demoralizing documentary was not the way to go for my sister. Messages of doom just aren’t that effective at winning converts.

The producers of the new documentary Inhabit clearly understand this. As one person interviewed in the film puts it, focusing on catastrophe has limited change potential. Their documentary is a lush, alluring opposite to “What a Way to Go”in many ways except one: the message is the same: ultimately industrial agriculture will destroy us all and we need an alternative.

From there the two films diverge dramatically: Inhabit opens by focusing on the hopeful, human-centered framework of regeneration: putting positive things back into the land. “We can actually be healing forces,” says permaculturalist Ben Falk.

“What could it be like if humans could make this place sing with life?” asks Lisa Fernandes, director of the The Resilience Hub. “That gets me really fired up.”

For those who studied permaculture, the vocabulary of guilds, polyculture and function stacking will be familiar. The innovation here is in the framing. It’s a film I could imagine showing my conservative relatives who are farming on land that has been in the family for four generations.

However, it’s not just the earthy vocabulary that this film teaches. It also teases out foundational contrasts: permaculture orchestrates relationships between plants and animals rather than trying to control them all in the way that industrial agriculture often does.

Yet it’s also a pragmatic film. There’s a scene a little way into the movie that might be jarring for purists. Falk is building a swale in his land. He explains in detail how this “structural adjustment” shapes the landscape in a healthier way. Then we watch him carving up the earth with big yellow backhoe. Falk says that he’s decided we should use the oil while it’s cheap to build up ecological wealth in the landscape “until the ice comes back.” It’s a phrase that captures well the long view that the practitioners in this film have.

For those of us who were part of the 2011-2012 World & World mentoring program (http://www.wordandworld.org/2011-ndash-2012-mentoring-program.html), there will be some familiar scenes. The film visits the center for Environment Transformation which hosted one of the retreats for Word and World. It was inspiring for me to see some of the same scenes I photographed that weekend many years on in their transformation. Like this burnt out factory. We hear from Louis Sanchez, a farmer from the neighborhood who is involved in the Center.

The power of the film doesn’t stop with the interviews. The soundtrack, by Aled Roberts is effervescent. You can listens to samples of it here. It effortlessly melds with the visuals. As photographer I continuously in awe of the golden hour lighting and beautifully short depth of field. Every other scene looks like a Pre-Raphaelite portrait.

The film also implicitly critiques some of the problems in the culture of permaculture. Emmett Brennan, Assistant Director & Producer of the film, was at the screening I attended here in the Ojai valley. He emphasized that permaculture has often invisiblized the contributions of women and people of color in the movement. It’s clear that the film makers intentionally reached outside the circle of famous white men who are often most visible in the permaculture movement.

The film is available to stream on-line here. But don’t watch it buy yourself. Get a group together and talk about it afterwards. Ask the question: what can we learn from this film as we think about how we evangelize for radical discipleship?

“We did it in Detroit”: Working for racial justice in Mennonite Church USA is not done

Mennonite Pastor Kelly Bates Oglesby

This interview, originally published two years ago, was the eighth interview in my ongoing Anabaptist Camp Follower series in which I interview people who have been drawn to Anabaptism and Mennonites. Kelly Bates Oglesby is pastor at Park View Mennonite Church in Kokomo, Ind. Our interview happened before the massacre of nine Black Christians in Charleston on June 17. That act makes her words all the more important.

Can you share about your journey with Mennonite Church USA and becoming pastor at Parkview Mennonite Church?

As a requirement of my seminary study I needed to complete an internship in a faith community that was dissimilar from my own. As I perused the available openings I was drawn to one at First Mennonite Church in Indianapolis. The Mennonite setting was certainly dissimilar from my Free Will Baptist tradition even though both are Anabaptist in grounding.

Until I came to seminary and met Dr. Wilma Bailey, I had no personal interactions with Black Mennonites. My discussions with her and observations of her had piqued my interest. I submitted my application to First Mennonite Church and completed the process to become an intern. Unlike some learning sites, FMC wanted me to learn about the congregation and conference. Moreover, they allowed me to experience and experiment with ministry development.

During my initial year, I met weekly with the lead pastor to discuss theology and polity. Regular small group interactions helped me to learn to know the congregation. As part of my student work I initiated a project each semester to broaden the ecumenical witness of the congregation.

At the end of my first year, I was invited to complete my second internship year with the congregation. This was thrilling and concerning: I realized I was beginning to feel at home.

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Wrestling with the Evasiveness of the Evana Network

This blog post was originally published two years ago soon after the launch of the Evana Network

On April 13, 2015 the Evana Network officially announced its new name and its first staff person, John Troyer, in The Mennonite.

For those who haven’t been following things, the Evana Network may simply be a network of churches inside and outside Mennonite Church USA that is not a denomination, according to Mennonite World Review, or it may be a “conservative alternative to the Mennonite Church USA,” according to Christianity Today.

Open Book Communications, which Evana hired to help with its branding, originally described it as “a new denominational home for Mennonites and Anabaptists” that sought to “position [itself] in the denominational landscape around them” (see archive of page on Wayback machine).

After I shared the page in the Mennonerds Facebook group, Troyer asked Open Book to change the language in its page to language that emphasized community building more than branding.

The ambiguity is intentional.

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Transitioning Young Anabaptist Radicals to personal blog

The last few years here at Young Anabaptist Radicals have been fairly quiet apart from two anniversary posts, in part because I made a decision to stop cross-posting my blog posts from my blog for The Mennonite here after the YAR blog was hacked in the spring of 2015. I’ve since transitioned the site to a new host where I have stronger security support.

After a two year break with minimal posts from the broader YAR community, I’ve decided to transition this blog to mainly a space to post pieces I’ve written elsewhere. If people are interested in guest blogging occasionally, they are welcome to reach out, but clearly the time of this being a team blog have ended and so I am repurposing this space.

I will continue to curate a wide variety of blog posts on the Young Anabaptist Radicals Facebook page which has continued to be active over the past few years.

– Tim Nafziger