Anabaptism

Here we go…

Note:  This is a repost from my personal blog at http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/.  Since there are a number of post-modern/post-Christendom Anabaptist radicals hanging out here, I thought y’all would enjoy participating in the conversation.

Remember this post?

http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/2008/09/post-anabaptism.html

And this one?

http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/2009/01/daunting-challeng.html

It’s been a little over a year since I set that challenge before myself.  Well, guess what.  I’m starting this now.

See, I’m working on my MLI for the Mennonite Church Leadership Database and one of the questions in that database is my reactions and responses to the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.  Since I’m going to be spending the time looking at that in detail for that purpose, I thought I would blog about my reactions as well.

If I can swing it, tomorrow I’ll be hitting Article 1 on God.  If y’all wanna follow along with me, you can read the articles as I go.  I’ll be sticking to the order in the document.

Before that, though, you might want to review the Introduction.  There’s a lot of information there about the importance of Confessions but also points out that the commentary published along with the Articles are important in understanding the articles as they were written.  Instead of looking at the commentary as “opinion” commentary (as some commentaries on Scripture are), these commentaries should be viewed the same way the book of Romans would be if Paul had written it as a blog article and interacted with commentary.  (more…)

Young Church of the Brethren Radicals

Things are picking up over at Feetwashing and Four Square, our sister blog started by Nick Miller Kauffman (nicolas here on YAR). I’d particularly commend to you the recent post Anabaptist Fierce by Katie Shaw Thompson. Here’s an excerpt on the relationship between some theories of nonviolence and white privilege:

Bob cited a weak (or rather antithetical) version of non-violent theory he often hears from seminarians as symptomatic of the problem. Concerning Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount commandment to “love your enemies” these seminarians want to claim that we have no enemies, which as Bob cited is not really nonviolent theory at all.

Only someone at the top of the food chain, with all kinds of privilege, could claim that we have no enemies. (more…)

The messy meaning of Easter

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Over the years, I’ve been a semi-regular reader of Revolution in Jesusland (now archived at http://zackexley.com/), a blog by Zack Exley. Zack was a secular progressive activist who discovered the church a few years ago and was blown away by what he describes as "the fourth great awakening", that is, the church discovering and acting on God’s heart for justice. The blog was an attempt to tell the story of this movement to secular progressives.

When I visited the blog again today after a long absence, I was introduced to his new baby daughter Esther and this powerful passage:

… one side effect of Esther’s arrival was that I had to take over some of Elizabeth’s responsibilities to friends in need. She was eight months pregnant but calls kept coming in from refugee families needing help with medical, legal, financial and paperwork emergencies. So I finally crossed the line that I had been resisting for 20 years: I started getting wrapped up in the messy details of other people’s hard lives — as opposed to "organizing" them, or advocating for "policy" to help them.

Finally getting my hands dirty in various hopeless situations stunned me into silence. What it actually did was give me TOO MUCH to say, and left me tongue tied.

For the past 20 years, I witnessed and condemned systemic injustice. I thrived on the drama of “organizing” against it. But I carefully avoided ever getting my hands dirty in the messy business of merely surviving in the face of it.

For me, the temptation to focus on the systemic injustice and to miss the personal is very real. (more…)

Bodies Matter: a footwashing protest

For Holy Thursday a bunch of gathered at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Cary, North Carolina, and held a footwashing worship service—we told them we wanted to wash the feet of the people detained inside. If you haven’t heard about these ICE detention centers, that means the federal government is good at what it does: Obama is turning out to be just as good as Bush in keeping secrets from U.S. citizens. ICE sets up field offices in unmarked buildings, tucked away in business parks throughout suburbia. Once citizens find out about a particular site, ICE closes up shop and moves to another unmarked building, tucked away in one of the other many business parks in a different suburb. The detention center in Cary we visited is next door to the offices of Oxford University Press, the publisher of many of the books on my shelves. (For more information on ICE detention centers, read this article from The Nation: America’s Secret ICE Castles).

Here’s some local media coverage of our worship service and protest: “Protesters hold demonstration,” and “Taking the Cross to the streets.”

And here’s an excerpt from the short sermon I preached at the detention center as a Cary police officer kept telling me to stop preaching and leave the premises:

This chair here will remain empty as a sign of all the bodies that the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have hidden from us, the bodies that law enforcement agents have torn from our communities and our families in the middle of the night, the bodies that they have ripped away from our churches. By refusing to let us wash the feet of the people hidden in their detention centers, the federal government has dismembered the body of Christ, they have torn apart the church, they have pierced and severed the body of Jesus.

For the rest of the sermon, follow this link to my church website: “Bodies Matter, part 1

Kairos and Lent in the “Holy Land”

Crossposted from Ekklesia, UK by ST with permission of Tim Siedel

Experiencing the Lenten season in Palestine is unique. It carries with it incredible feelings of closeness and concreteness as one visits sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem — the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. Yet, those feelings of closeness are easily swallowed up by a sense of separation and forsakenness as one considers the current situation.

In the recently released Kairos Palestine Document, Palestinian Christians take this situation as their starting point in challenging theological interpretations of those “who use the Bible to threaten our existence as Christian and Muslim Palestinians,” trying to “attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the infringement of our rights.”

Though Easter and its celebration of resurrection and new life defines Christianity, in a place like Palestine the season of Lent always seems more appropriate. (more…)

Why I left YAR, and why I’m not likely to come back regularly

Looks like Folknotions paved the way for me on this one. I’d pretty much forgotten about YAR until yesterday TimN sent me a new incoming comment on a post I’d put up well over two years ago.

Like Folknotions, I didn’t leave YAR because I thought YAR was a bad place or because anyone had angered me. Rather…

1. I’m not Mennonite anymore, even though Anabaptism still influences my thinking and theology.

I started attending a Mennonite church with my family when I was 12. I left that church a little over a year ago, at 25, because of some undesirable circumstances that culminated and made clear to me in an instant that it wasn’t the church for me anymore. I haven’t set foot in that building for anything church-y since, and have had only limited contact with its members since. (My family still goes there, though, and I have lots of contact with them.)

When I left initially, I took a few weeks off from faith communities. I decided to check out a United Church of Christ congregation in the small town where I was living at the time. My dad’s side of the family is all UCC, so I felt a little more comfortable checking out a UCC church than the Methodist church next door, to which I had no pre-existing connection. I felt a need to participate in a faith community, but my finances had become such that I needed a church to which I could walk. Since I was planning on moving from that small town, I knew from the start that this congregation would be a transitional church for me.

It was a relatively “safe” place for me to be at that time in my life. I had broken off an engagement to someone I loved very much, and he was still making me miserable through stalking me and some other measures. In contrast to the Mennonite church I’d left, where there was an insanely high percentage of twentysomethings, this UCC church was highly concentrated with people above 70 years of age. It had the “new and different” appeal to me of being a fairly liturgical church and following a more formalized pattern of rituals than the Mennonite congregation. I know it’s backwards to most people for anyone to “discover” liturgy as something “new and different,” but I guess you’ll get that when every church you’ve regularly attended your entire life has eschewed any connection to the lectionary. (more…)

How would you translate Menno’s TEF?

As part of the conversation that often occurred in response to Mennonites in Northern Ghana, who were asking me “what does it mean to be Mennonite?” I would quote a snippet from Menno’s document. (I mean, only sometimes, when they asked specifically about Simons, because “church founders” are a BIG deal there). But the language was such that I always found myself changing the words. These folks loved Jesus, and they weren’t necessarily asking me about what Jesus had to say about discipleship and prayer, but they wanted to know what Menno had to say. They had only relative familiarity with British English and most are distanced from the written word. I wonder if I translated the following accurately? I wonder if it matters? How would you translate/summarize this part of Menno Simon’s Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539)

“True evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lie dormant, but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto the flesh and blood; it destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; it seeks and serves and fears God; (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: http://www.nowheretolayhishead.org/teachings.html

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.

(more…)

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…)

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”.

Book Review: The Holy Spirit by Ivan Satyarata

The Holy Spirit: Lord and Life-Giver
Ivan Satyavrata
InterVaristy Press
April 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3307-8
IVP
Amazon

It’s a bit of a low blow to poorly review a literary/artistic work when you are charging it with not being what you expected it to be.  For example, when I was 8, my art teacher asked us to draw and color…I think it was a landscape. Now I have never really been a great artist, mostly because I’ve been colorblind since birth (though I did have a brief phase during my adolescence in which I won a prize from a local art gallery for my pencil and black ink rendering of some shadowy, comic book-esque superhero). So when it came time for me to draw a landscape, and I spent the time grabbing any color I felt like and making scribbles all over the place, when our work was done my teacher kicked me out of class, called my mother, and had a conference that afternoon. She told my mother that my work was unbecoming of an eight-year old. My mother blinked at her and said “what’s becoming of an eight year old in art class?”

The story is not directly equivalent, but the meaning shines through ( I hope): it’s not fair for me to set expectations for Satyavrata’s book- that he had no intent of keeping – and then criticize him for not doing so. However, the marketing of this book has made it particularly difficult not to. (more…)

“New Monkery”

My father is doing research on the history of Anabaptist in Augsburg, Germany, the town the Confessio Augustana was proclaimed in 1530, in which the new Lutheran church proclaimed its faith and also some condemning of Anabaptists. The dialogue between Lutherans and Mennonites is still suffering from this. During World Conference Assembly in Asunción this year Ishmael Noko said “[the Lutheran church] is like a scorpion, we still have this poison [the articles about condemning Anabaptists] we just didn’t use it for a long time, but it’s still there” Recently the Lutheran World Federation officially apologized.

But that’s actually not what I wanted to write about. Augsburg was also a major Anabaptist center in the 16th century. That’s why the local reformator Urbanus Rhegius wrote a pamphlet “against the new baptist order” in which he claims that the Anabaptists are actually just a “new monkery”, an argument made in many writings against the Anabaptists. The claim is that they only make the same things as the monastic orders did, just with families.

I don’t know too much about the New Monasticism movement, I read Shane’s first book, but I guess the name wasn’t knowingly a reminiscence on the Anabaptists.

Anabaptist Geek Comic strip of the Year: Parade of ever fancier toys

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted a cartoon on YAR before, but today’s xkcd 3 panel brought together a rare combination of critique in the spirit of Anabaptism and geek cynicism (not to be confused with Diogenes).

Anabaptist Droid comic

Translation

For those non-geeks among you, the Droid is Motorola’s latest cell phone response to Apple’s I-phone. App is slang for applications that run on those two phones. Oh, and Diogenes was a Greek who founded the Cynic school of philosophy. He lived in a tub.

In Other News

Maple City Health Care Clinic wins the Anabaptist clinic of the year award. From the NPR story:

Last fall, when the unemployment rate in Elkhart County, Indiana, topped 10 percent, clinic workers began noticing that patients weren’t showing up for appointments. Turns out they couldn’t even come up with a few bucks for an office visit.

So James Gingrich, the clinic’s medical director, decided to tap his patients’ skills and resources instead. The clinic began offering $10 an hour toward health care if a patient volunteered at another non-profit organization.

Lord of the Rings and Star Wars geek honey pot