Anabaptism

Anabaptism and Liberation Theology

I am currently doing a final research paper for my English course, and I decided to write about Liberation Theology. In my paper, I am covering the main liberation theologies — Latin American and African American — and I am writing about some of the more contemporary developments of it. While doing my research on Liberation Theology, and while reading about the early Anabaptists, I felt the desire to write a small article for YAR on the subject.

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Principles of Anabaptism

As you all know from an earlier post that I made, I am a recently converted Anabaptist. I still do not have a church yet, but I am searching. For now, I see myself as an Anabaptist seeker or an “Anarcho-Anabaptist”. Despite my lack of a specific Anabaptist tradition, there is still the larger tradition of Anabaptism that I most certainly identify with. Of course, there is a lot of diversity within that tradition — liberals, conservatives, radicals, and even fundamentalists. All of the branches of Christianity seem to be also present in Anabaptist Christianity. Even with all these different shades of interpretation, there are some common principles that make one an Anabaptist.

Two examples of Anabaptist principles were shared by Kurt Willems for Patheos, and I wanted to share them here as well. I think that these two lists make a perfect summary of Anabaptist Christianity, and can help those who find this site understand our stance. In fact, there was recently a comment on this site that said the Young Anabaptist Radicals was “anti-Anabaptist”. It was a very strange comment, and seemed to limit Anabaptism to a very small category of beliefs. So, sharing these principles may help people understand just how broad the tradition we claim is, while also giving them an introduction to it.

Core Convictions of the Anabaptist Network

1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him. (more…)

Violence Begets Violence

“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” — Matthew 26:52 (KJV)

‎”Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… ” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.” — Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.

I was originally going to write today about something to do with Liberation Theology. I am currently doing a research paper on the subject, and I figured that it would be worth writing about here. In fact, Thomas Muntzer is seen as both a founder of Anabaptism and a forerunner of Liberation Theology. So, it seemed like a good idea for something here for the Young Anabaptist Radicals. God, however, did not want me to write about that subject today.

When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do — I went onto my social networking sites to see if there was anything new. Well, there was, and it was not something that I am happy about. Israel reignited its military campaign against Gaza in its so-called “Operation Pillar of Defense”. Israel, backed by the United States government, has continued its senseless bombings of Palestinians.

As with any international issue, social networking and news sites blew up with this news of the latest military strikes in the region. There were many who say that the Israelis are justified in their actions. They say that they are more civilized than those terrorists in Gaza. On the other hand, there are those who say that Palestine is oppressed, that we should support groups like Hamas. I, however, find myself strangely in the middle. (more…)

Greetings From a New Anabaptist

It was only recently that I have come to identify with Anabaptist Christianity, and it has only been within the last few days that I have come in contact with Young Anabaptist Radicals. Nevertheless, I have been graciously invited to share my story with you, and introduce myself.

My religious journey really started out like most Americans. I was raised in a home that was culturally Christian. We occasionally went to church (typically Christmas or Easter), were baptized at a young age, attended Sunday school every so often, and were read stories from the Bible. My family was the standard Mainline Protestant American family. Despite my early experiences with Christianity, I never did actually believe in it. Really, I was more of an agnostic on most days, and an atheist on some. I spent most of my early childhood like this.

Despite my secularism, I did eventually develop an admiration for the Buddha, and before I knew it, I was reciting the Three Refuges, reading Buddhist literature, and identifying as a Buddhist. Then, due to by brother’s influence, I developed a small interest in Christianity. I got my first Bible, and I began attending church with my brother. Unfortunately, it was an Evangelical Free megachurch that had an unholy mix of the Prosperity Gospel and Fundamentalism. It is needless to say that I did not last long in that church, but it did have an effect on me. I associated it with Christianity and returned to Buddhism.

This would all change when I came across a book by my favorite Buddhist scholar and activist — Thich Nhat Hanh. His book Living Buddha, Living Christ completely changed my understanding of Christianity. It introduced me to St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, Elaine Pagels, and numerous others. For the first time in my life, I was introduced to some good theology. Not a theology of greed or hate, but one of social justice and love. So with this book, I developed an interest in Christianity again.

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The Femonite: A new gathering space for Anabaptist Feminists

Charletta and the gate #2Over a year ago, I wrote about grieving the loss of women’s voices here on Young Anabaptist Radicals, a problem that has plagued this space since almost the beginning. In the last 7 months, I’ve been delighted to watch Anabaptist women (including a few former YAR contributers) coming together over at The Femonite, a blog started by Hannah Heinzekehr last spring. The blog has brought together a wonderful range of feminist voices, both men and women from across the Mennonite church.

In her introductory post, Why Femonite?, Hannah talks about her identity as a Mennonite "… I have found myself, again and again, drawn back into Mennonite and Anabaptist theology and communities, because of its continual focus on the narrative and life of Jesus, and not just his death."

Hannah’s introduction to the sexism "in earnest" came working in Mennonite institutions. Unfortunately, this fits with the stories I’ve heard from many of my Mennonite female peers working in church institutions. Hannah also names the hope she feels in so many people and communities who are finding Anabaptism for the first time and identifying with the story. This paradox captures the struggle of our generation: how do we embrace the incredible richness and potential of our faith tradition while challenging institutions shot through with oppressive patterns?

Even though this blog is only 7 months old, it’s already opened an important space to wrestle with this question. I’d like to share with you a few of the excellent posts that have been written there over the past month. In some cases I’ve added my own commentary while in others I’ve simply summarized the post. (more…)

The Spirit’s Work in Mission: Prophesying about many peoples

Since we’ve been covering Anabaptist Mission Project events here on YAR, here is info about upcoming event:

The Spirit’s Work in Mission: Prophesying about many peoples, July 30-July 1

Anabaptist Missional Project, a group of young leaders in the Mennonite Church, hosts its second annual gathering June 30-July 1, at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, PA. Leonard Dow, Madeline Maldonado and David Maldonado will lead conversations that focus on the Spirit’s work in the growing diversity of MCUSA. Proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ brings diversity. Now what will we do? More details and registration are here.

See YAR coverage of their first annual gathering last year.

Save Buddhism from Christian Missionaries: A Manifesto

Love, compassion, joy, and equanimity are some of the hallmarks of the teachings of Jesus. But those concepts didn’t originate with Jesus.

He found them tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the Torah. Almost every saying in the Sermon on the Mount is a commentary on passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. The genius of Jesus was the way in which he put his own “spin” on the Scriptures, highlighting and elevating the positive aspects of God’s personality, while ignoring and rejecting the negative aspects.

The ideals of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity weren’t the unique property of the Judaic tradition, however. They could also be found earlier, and further east, in what is now India, Nepal, Bhutan. In the Fifth Century before Jesus, a man named Gotoma developed a body of teachings based on what are called “The Four Immeasurables”: (more…)

A Report on #Occupy Empire: Anabaptism and God’s Mission

It’s difficult to know where to begin reporting on the #Occupy Empire mini conference that took place at Eastern Mennonite Seminary back in April. Though the conference was short, there was nothing “mini” about the content lined up by the conference planners, Brian Gumm and Aaron Kauffman. Thus what I offer here is a reflection on the themes that stood out to me. Others might have noticed different threads woven throughout the weekend, or simply have been alert and listening carefully during those moments when I distracted by refilling my coffee mug. I won’t pretend to hit on every single presenter and every important theme that was brought up. This is simply what challenged me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference.
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Final Judgment: A Parable

On the great day of judgment, all of humanity was gathered in a celestial banquet hall. It was a huge space, with a massive round table in the middle. The table was so big that it accommodated what seemed to be hundreds of thousands of people, probably more. As one looked to the left or the right, there were people as far as the eye could see. Yet somehow, by some supernatural optical phenomenon, one had no trouble seeing clearly everyone seated directly across the table. In a position of prominence was the Almighty herself, who interestingly had an appearance not unlike the way God was portrayed in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” yet whose Voice was unmistakably feminine. After a while, some grumbling was to be heard, as people began to take notice of who was present. Finally, a lone voice cried out, a voice with a thick Brooklyn accent, saying, “Hey God, I’m happy to be here, of course, but I see my old neighbor Moshe sitting over there and I know that rotten sonofabitch rascal ought to be in the other place. What gives?” (more…)

Time is short … until 1700 years shall have been completed!

My young, my very young anabaptist radical friends,

you’re all much too young to remember this, so let me – as an ancient of days – tell you about something that is much older than you. …

No actually, I don’t want to talk about the past, but rather about how a past event is being overcome by the present and future! This October it will have been (note the future perfect tense!), yes this October the 28th of 2012 it will have been 1700 years since Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge bearing on his standard the sign of the cross. He raised the severed head of his enemy on a spit as a sign that the “Christian god” had shown him favour.

This occasion is a sad day for many followers of Jesus who regret that our church leadership decided to accept the offer of the Emperor to endorse his military victory and accept the generous sinecures of the state. They laid down the cross and took up the sword. The unholy alliance between Constantine and the bishops of the Roman empire is the most significant (human) event of church history. As a consequence, the Church aided in the violent aggression against Jews and Muslims, against Africans and other peoples, against so-called witches and heretics. The medieval church believed that pope and emperor were entrusted with the two swords of Christ (Luke 22:38). Unfortunately, the repercussions persist to this day. (more…)

Mennonite justification for removing prayer from public schools

Some people find it odd that I am both a pastor and against having mandatory prayer in the public school system. After all, didn’t Jesus say things like, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation,” and “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory”? Aren’t we called to boldly proclaim the Gospel in every area of our life?

The short answer is “yes.” Unfortunately, that’s an answer to the wrong question. The real question for me as a pastor does not have to do with religious freedom but rather with religious coercion. In other words, the question is not, “Can I freely share my faith,” but rather, “Can I force others to share my faith?” As I said, the answer to the first question is “yes,” but the answer to the second is “no.” More importantly, considering that our schools and teachers are representatives of the federal government, the second question is not simply, “Can I force others to share my faith,” but rather, “Can the government force others to share my faith?”

In fact, these two questions are tied together, and the answer cannot be “yes” to both of them. If we live in a society where the answer to the second question is, “Yes, we can force others to have or express a particular faith,” then it is also true that, “No, we do not truly have the freedom to express our faith as we see fit.” (more…)

Bruderville 2020: An urban anabaptist odyssey

Picture this:

As the new millennium dawns, anabaptists do a new thing in the city: Build a communal neighborhood populated by tens of thousands of simple-living sectarians.

The project is initiated by the Bruderhof and some Old Order Amish, partly for practical reasons: (1) the Amish and Bruderhof population explosions, making it necessary to continually branch out and establish new settlements; and (2) the shortage of affordable farmland, making it difficult to maintain a rural way of life.

More importantly, the initiative stems from a “quickening” amongst these plain people, who realize they’ve lost their ancestral impulse for going into the marketplaces & street corners, inviting others to become co-workers in God’s kingdom. They also realize geographical isolation no longer protects them against worldly influences. So they branch out to the Bronx, where they can influence the world instead.

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An In-Between Place

Last Friday, the city of Philadelphia handed out eviction notices to Occupy Philadelphia, notifying the residents that they had to leave by Sunday at 5pm, or they would be removed.

While, I haven’t been a part of this movement, I’ve been observing them from the edges.  And, when I heard about the eviction, I was anxious.  I saw the UC Davis footage, I read stories about violent evictions in other cities—I was worried about Occupy Philadelphia.

The Interfaith Clergy group called on Philadelphia pastors to go to City Hall on Sunday night, to stand as a witness and reminder that we are called to the way of peace.  So, my colleague and I headed downtown.

It was obvious that we were clergy—some people would walk by us, and thank us for coming, but mostly we were relegated to the edges of the event.  We were marginalized, and that was ok.  We were observers, not participants.

When the Eagles football game let out, we saw more movement around the Occupy Philadelphia encampment.  Disappointed sports fans were coming up from the subway, and streaming into the square.  Many were intoxicated.  A few were very angry with the Occupiers.

One group of young men concerned me right away.  I heard them making plans to pick a fight with the protestors, to get themselves on the news.  They were convinced that they would be hometown heroes.

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A study in Tweaking: Steve Jobs, Vincent Harding and Mennonites

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This month Malcom Gladwell had an article in the New Yorker looking at the legacy of Steve Jobs. His central thesis is that Jobs’ gift was not originality, but rather tweaking: the ability to take the inventions of others and refine and improve them dramatically. Gladwell points out that the iPod came out 5 years after the first digital music players and the iPhone more than a decade after the first smart phones hit the market.

Gladwell is building on the work of economists Ralf Meisenzahl and Joel Mokyr who used this lens to look at the industrial revolution in Britain. For example, they point out the importance of the many engineers who improved on Samuel Crompton’s original invention of the spinning mule. These “tweakers” dramatically improving its productivity through minor changes.

Likewise, Gladwell says, “Jobs’ sensibility was editorial, not inventive. His gift lay in taking what was in front of him—the tablet with stylus—and ruthlessly refining it.” Gladwell makes his point with many episodes from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. Job’s particular way of tweaking made him very difficult to get along with, even as he was dying of cancer:

At one point, the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated… Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. . . . He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex.

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Jesus sayings from the Sermon on the Mount (the Marginal Mennonite version)

(Revised November 2011)

The Sermon on the Mount is defined as the 40+ sayings of Jesus found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. About half of those sayings are considered by scholars to be non-authentic (meaning they were likely created by the early church rather than originating with Jesus). Non-authentic sayings are not included here. Most Sermon sayings have parallels in other gospels (Mark, Luke & Thomas). Sometimes the parallels are in simpler form, and thus probably closer to what Jesus actually said. Listed below are 21 of the most authentic Sermon sayings, along with Torah passages that Jesus probably had in mind when formulating them. Similar sayings from other traditions are offered as well.

Luke 6:20: “Congratulations, you poor! God’s kingdom belongs to you.”

Compare to:

Matthew 5:3: “Congratulations to the poor in spirit! Heaven’s domain belongs to them.”

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