Author Archive: Nathan

A Poorly Written, Thinly Veiled Allegorical Short Story

In the year 2032, China, the new democratic world superpower, invaded America. The United States had been hauled before the U.N. security council because of its proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, but, like so many other “rogue states” before it, it remained defiant. The U.N. attempted to send in weapons inspectors to check on the progress of U.S. weapons programs, but had been rebuffed.

Every diplomatic avenue taken and failed, then, China concluded that invasion was the last resort for eliminating the threat America posed to the world– after all, it proliferated nuclear weapons, had supported nasty dictators, and had a nasty track record of invading sovereign states without U.N. permission.


Supporting the Troops

So, should we support the troops? This seems to be an eternal issue, displayed as it is on bumper stickers and on the news.

At the outset, I should note that as a Christian pacifist, I believe heeding Christ’s call and caring for the world’s citizenry should be a higher concern than supporting American troops. Still, this seems to be an important issue these days, so here are my thoughts on the issue:

The Troops as Individuals

We need to start, for the time being, by dividing the issue of “supporting the troops” from that of “supporting the mission.” See, the troops are individuals, and as such they deserve our love and support. I have a number of military friends, some of whom have been to Iraq. In fact, I just talked to one yesterday. I give love and friendship to these people, as they are children of God who are loved by Him. I do not agree with their occupation, but agreement is not a prerequisite for friendship.


Patriotic Correctness

We have all heard of political correctness, which requires euphemistic language when talking about women, minorities, or people with disabilities. While I can understand why people believe in political correctness and I believe it is sometimes justified, I tend to have a problem with it. It’s just that, often, I’d rather deal with real issues than dance around things with politically correct language. Maybe it’s better to offend if we’re being honest, although I’m sure someone could debunk me on that.

However, today I am not going to focus on this issue. Rather, I wanted to piggy-back on a subject Carl began: the character of America. Specifically, I will talk about patriotic correctness.

This, in a nutshell, is political correctness that is used in the defense of our nation. Instead of prohibiting offensive language about (for instance) handicapped people or women, it prohibits talk that questions the preeminence of America. It forces us to talk euphemistically when talking about our nation’s faults or mistakes. There are numerous examples:


What is Patriotism?

Recently, Glenn Beck said on his radio talk show that the Democrats want America to lose in Iraq. Why? Because they want to prove President Bush wrong, Beck said. He then added that while some question only the judgment of those on the left, he questions their very patriotism.

This shouldn’t be surprising to those of us who listen to right-wing talk radio. Nevertheless, Beck’s comments got me thinking: what is patriotism? Is it true that people who strongly disapprove of their country’s policies are unpatriotic traitors, or is patriotism a little more complicated than that?

Well, let’s unpack this a bit. According to Beck and many others like him, to be patriotic is, at very least, to support your nation in its foreign policy endeavors, even if major mistakes have been made. After all, according to this line of thinking, defeat and embarrassment are two of the worst evils a nation can suffer, so victory must be fought for at all costs. It would seem, then, that the true patriot should want power, prosperity, and prestige for his or her nation. (more…)

Our Scapegoating Nature

Jesus came, in part, to stop scapegoating. He used his harshest words on religious leaders of his day, who used their status to come down on other people. The Parisees, for instance, blamed the poor and the “sinners” (whomever they deemed as such) for the Roman occupation, while they claimed to be pure. Jesus’ death, furthermore, was the ultimate rejection of scapegoating: rather than let one group be blamed for it, the Bible clearly indicates that we all bear guilt for Jesus’ suffering and death– every last one of us. No one is left out, so there we cannot say, “it was the Romans!” or “it was the Jews!”

But even though Jesus and the subsequent apostles put a stake through the heart of scapegoating, it has taken Christians far longer to catch on. We still do it. Whatever the problem, you can be sure that one Christian group or another (or one secular group or another, for that matter) will find someone else to blame. I do this sometimes, and so do all of us. But we need to begin looking past our scapegoating nature and look first at the “log” that is in our own eye. (more…)

A Different Approach to Apologetics

With apologies to popular apologetics today, I have never found them as helpful as they claim to be. From what I have seen, they attempt through proofs and logic to prove that Christianity is the best and most reasonable religion, and that the Bible is the only and most perfect holy book. There is a place for all of this, of course; having logical reason to see the Bible as true is essential to helping the Christian witness. But insofar as the discipline of apologetics have presented Christianity as a religion, I have not found it satisfying.

Recently, though, I have been reading an interpretation of René Girard’s theories by Gil Bailie, and suddenly it made so much more sense. Bailie gives a Christian apologetic by presenting the gospel of Christ as the thing that came from Heaven to destroy religion, not simply another religion. Here is a rough summary of some of Bailie’s argument: (more…)

Mimesis in Violence

One thing I have been studying recently is the nature of violence to be mimetic, which refers to the human propensity to immitate others, espeically if we’re in a society permeated by certain types of actions or beliefs.

With regards to violence in our society, mimesis works most commonly by making violence contagious. The belief in violence and force is immitated from the halls of Congress to the street corner, from the abortion clinic to the execution chamber. It spreads like a disease up and down, infecting every echelon of society. The result is that people in our culture grow up socialized to believe in the effectiveness of violence, as well as having faith in individualism, greed, and upward mobility– even if it means stepping on others in the process.

For instance, we have politicians who advocate war against adversaries in so many circumstances. Force, for them, is a primary way of getting things done. But then those same politicians grope for answers when dealing with the murder rate or the prevalence of school shootings. The usual suspects are mentioned: Marilyn Manson, violent video games, the like. It seems to rarely, if ever, occur to these national leaders that maybe their own actions have something to do with it all.

That is a central reason why, I believe, our society has such a problem with violence on so many levels. We immitate it without even trying to. We believe in it wholeheartedly. So if we ever want to lower our murder or abortion rate, we must take a holistic look at our violence problem in this society; we cannot tackle one problem as if it were isolated.

Luckily for those of us who are Christians, there is something else that purports to be contagious: the Kingdom of God and its ethics. Jesus spoke of His Kingdom as yeast or as a mustard seed, which both start small but subtly permeate everything. So we need not fear the violence in our society, and realize that Jesus has something that is much more powerful. All we need is faith to believe it will work.

The Union Project

For a few months, I’ve heard a smattering of chatter about something in Pittsburgh called The Union Project. It’s a neat group of young people, many of them Mennonite (and some are alumni of Goshen College), who have purchased an old church building in a once-great, now-going downhill neighbhorhood. Their work promoting geographical and spiritual community in their neighborhood is refreshing. Among their projects are a cafe, which employs students from a local high school’s culinary arts program, a stained-glass business, and office and meeting places for local organizations. These include a church called The Open Door, which seems to be part of the “emerging church” conversation.

The Union Project promotes art exhibitions as fundraisers and partners with the city of Pittsburgh in community redevelopment. They are also located one block away from MennoCorps’ Pittsburgh unit, which is called Pulse. And those of us who have participated in BikeMovement might be interested to know that a local bike shop in their neighborhood sponsors a bicycle team. And some of you may know Brad Yoder, a locally-based “singer-songmaker” who lives in their neighborhood and first came to Pittsburgh through Pulse.

How do we live out our peace witness?

It seems that a few posts have dealt with our Anabaptist identity, specifically regarding peacemaking. So I want in.

I know of a Mennonite church that’s had a lot of problems in the past decade. They’ve split in ’99, fired their pastor in ’02, and now their next pastor is resigning because he feels he can’t contend with the warring factions in the church.

Now, clearly, they have some militant members who see “winning” as the ultimate goal. They seem to want the church to be modeled after them. That’s a problem that’s reared its head every time the church has split or lost its pastor.

But more concerning is the people who believe in peacemaking, yet have expressed their belief by turning a blind eye to the problems, hoping they’ll go away. That is not peace; it is denial. And it’s sad to see our peace witness lived out in such a way. Jesus taught a “third way” of overcoming hostility, not fight or flight but attacking the problem (not the person) head-on. He taught that we shouldn’t use violence, but we should work to expose evil, even when it resides inside of ourselves.

So I want to be part of a new vision for peace. Too often I’ve been one to stand by quietly, fearful of stirring the waters. So I want to change that. Our new vision needs to shun militancy and passivism. We don’t want to destroy our church to win, nor should we sweep problems under the rug. We need the “third way” of peacemaking within our Mennonite churches, so we can tell the world with confidence that peacemaking works.

Why is Iraq in Such Trouble?

Hi, I’m a young anabaptist named Nate. Some of you on this site know me. Anyway, I thought I’d post something on an issue I believe is of great importance: What’s wrong in Iraq?

Conservatives blame liberals for being “soft” on terrorism. Liberals blame the neocons. And everybody in America seems to ultimately blame the insurgents and “terrorists” who “hate freedom and the democratic process.”

But as usual, things are not that simple. Not nearly. There are several factors that most middle east scholars and experts foresaw. Let me enumerate some of them, since I believe it is imperative for us to understand world events so we can make a difference: (more…)