Current Events

Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)

A Platform for MCUSA

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (more…)

Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

US gun manufacturers fuel Mexican drug cartels

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

It’s rare I pick up the newspaper in the morning and read an article about the war on drugs that leaves me feeling encouraged. In fact, I don’t think its every happened before. But this morning, I read about hearings in congress that are identifying the role of the US government in fueling the growth of massive drug cartels just across the border in Mexico.

If you’ve been reading the news on the drug trade from Mexico over the last couple years (if not see the wikipedia article), you’ll have heard about the increasingly powerful and violent cartels that have infiltrated the Mexican police and who regularly carry out kidnappings and assassinations. Reading this news its often easy to put the blame solely on the shoulders of corrupt Mexican government officials or lack of legitimate economic opportunity in Mexico. But it’s not that simple.
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A bicycle pilgrimage

Hey! These folks are riding from Harrisonburg, VA to the Asuncion, Paraguay for the Global Youth Summit of Mennonite World Conference. Check them out!

http://americas.bikemovement.org/

As anyone who has been on a bike for an extended amount of time for their primary form of transportation knows, it is a life-altering experience. Godspeed to Lars and Jon and Love to all whom they will visit. I am in the process of encouraging the youth group from my church to bike to the Mennonite Youth Convention in Columbus, Ohio June 30-July 6. I hope it works out…it will definitely be life-altering. Besides saving money and petroleum, getting some fresh air and exercise, biking together is a great self-esteem and group-building opportunity. It generates an equality among races and genders through the creation of a camaraderie and shared intense, rewarding experience.

But there is some resistance. Sometimes I get so excited about something I can’t embrace alternatives. Pray for me as I discern how much to push and where to step-back….And DO visit bikemovement America’s website.

Inauguration Thoughts: The State is Still the State

Yesterday was truly a big day in U.S. history. The inauguration of the first African-American President is truly a turning point for our nation, especially given our abysmal history on race. Moreover, it was encouraging to hear Senator Dianne Feinstein’s reflections on the nonviolence of Martin Luther King, President Obama’s message that we need not choose “between our safety and ideals” and his call to diplomacy and international aid over sheer violent force and military power, and Reverend Joseph Lowery’s prayer that one day we will “beat our tanks into tractors.”

Nevertheless, I had a difficult time getting too emotional or excited over this change of guard. For, while yesterday was historical from the perspective of the United States, it was a pretty small speck when history is viewed rightly. As John Howard Yoder tirelessly argued, the locus of history is not with the state but with God’s work through his church. The state is merely the context in which the real drama of history can unfold.

So, while the words and symbolism of the inauguration may be moving, the sobering fact is that the state is still the state. Yes, Obama seems more intent than Bush on using diplomatic tactics to secure peace, but his message to our “enemy” was still virtually the same: “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

Not much room there for Jesus’s message to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and turn the other cheek. But this is as should be expected, because the state is still the state.

Ironically, with this change of guard many of us ‘open-minded, progressive’ Christians will begin to forget that the state is still the state. We will start to put our faith in the ideals of the state and our hope in its progress. As blogger Halden recently argued, now more than ever is it imperative (though difficult) to be resolute in our anti-empire polemics. It was far too easy to maintain a prophetic witness to the state when those in charge overtly sanctioned military aggression, torture, and seemingly unbridled increase of personal power. But when those in power seem to share many of our ideals, the temptation will be to give them a pass when they deem military violence necessary in this or that situation. And it will be difficult for us to make the unfashionable charge that those in power sanction the unjust extermination of the least of those among us. Indeed, to increase the irony still further, it may be the conservative Christians who begin to recognize with more clarity the separation between church and state (as many of my students, for example, ponder whether or not Obama is the anti-Christ!). They will now be the ones to speak prophetically, though their witness will be narrow and tainted by their continual use of political means to grasp for power. (more…)

Amish for Homeland Security

I haven’t read Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President yet, but I borrowed the title of this post from one of the chapters.  This post actually has little to do with the Amish or homeland security, but I wanted to point out two interesting items shared with me by a friend from church.

The first is a blog entry by Greg Boyd (who is mentioned in a previous YAR post) entitled, A Word to My Mennonite Friends: “Cherish Your Treasure!”. Just let’s not let it go to our heads.

The second is a segment from American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith (R) called Evangelical Politics: 3 Generations which features Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this segment and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Shock for an eye, awe for a tooth: so much for lex talionis in Gaza

Smoke rises after an Israel air strike in Gaza Strip, December ...
After spending an hour reading the news about Gaza, there’s a lot of different blog posts I could write. I could write about the numbness and despair I feel as I watch the video camera meandering through the corpses of Palestinians. I could tell the stories I heard from Israelis and Palestinians when I went with a CPT delegation to Palestine in 2003. I could call on Hamas and Israel to give up on the myth of effective violence.

Instead, I’m going to lower my ambitions. I don’t think the Israeli government (or the leadership of Hamas) is going to reconsider their use of violence anytime soon. So what if we measure them by standard of lex talionis or an eye for an eye? This is a controlled system for retribution found in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In traditional societies, escalating revenge led to vendettas and feuds that could quickly dominated the social landscape.

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“We are the agents of our own change” – Arthur Mutambara

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

This week Zimbabwe has wrestled its way back into the news with reports of over 600 dead of Cholera and as many as 60,000 cases feared in coming weeks. Inflation is so high that at restaurants you pay before the meal because the food will cost more when you finish. Unpaid soldiers are looting and rioting in the streets.

On Monday I was part of a gathering to hear from Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), one of two opposition parties currently in negotiation with the Zanu PF, the governing party. On September 15, the two parties signed a power sharing agreement that, if ratified, will make Robert Mugabe president, Morgan Tsvangirai (leader of the larger MDC faction) prime minister and Mutambara deputy prime minister.

Mutambara sees the power sharing agreement as the only path forward for Zimbabwe. In a country deeply traumatized by the violence before the June 27 election, a coalition government, Mutambara said, would offer the stability for a national healing process, a return to economic stability and could oversee the process for fair elections.

"We cannot wish away Mugabe," Mutambara said. "He has the presidency in his hands and the power that goes with it." The economic crisis alone is not enough to topple Mugabe and the country is far too traumatized for an uprising, violent or otherwise.  It very painful to imagine an election, let alone a free and fair one. In any election held now, traumatized voters would re-elect Mugabe.

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The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

Proposition Hate

Tuesday was quite the night. Like Celeste, I found my way to Grant Park (coveted tickets for the official campaign event in hand) and joined the crowd of a hundred thousand gathered to scream, cry, hug, and jump our way into a new spirit of hopefulness that is solidifying around us.

Besides Obama’s victory, there was another vote that meant a lot to me on Tuesday, and left a lingering bittersweetness to the otherwise perfect night: Proposition 8 amended the California constitution to define legal marriage as exclusive to opposite-sex couples, overturning the decision of the Supreme Court and ending the right of California same-sex couples to the legal protections of marriage for the near future.

Initial reaction: rage. I found someone who expressed this very very well:

Ultimately, though, rage against injustice must energize something else, something life-affirming.

(more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Voices in the Night: What keeps *you* awake?

(Hi friends. Tis been awhile.)

Lately, I have been thinking about the Biblical stories that star God’s voice. (You know, humans actually hearing God in the middle of the night and assuming it’s someone else.) I wish I could say God’s voice is what’s waking me up at 4 in the morning. Mostly, I fear that the news and election are the real voices echoing in my head. I admit, I still hold a bit of angst about getting involved politically, just as my ancestors did. It’s hard to come to terms with wanting to be an activist, an Anabaptist, and still realizing that we’re most likely never going to have a president who does not want to be the world’s superpower in both “peace” (military might) and prosperity at the sacrifice of other nations. It’s harder still to watch my heart harden around other Christians who do not share my views on how we should work on the “mighty ache” in the world, those who view “the other” candidate as more Christian. Yikes… But let’s be honest–mirroring Shane Claiborne’s views–if Jesus was running for president, neither of the candidates would vote for his platform! It’s so radical, so embracing of the weak and misguided, that we’d nervously laugh him off the platform. All this election talk and anxiety has made me realize something else: Most friends and family know where I stand politically; my t-shirts, posters, and discussions make it clear. But am I just as vocal or transparent about my support of a Christ-led life in the presence of those who don’t know me well? And how can I do this without becoming what I so “lovingly” now refer to as “a crazy Christian”?

When and where do you hear God’s voice, and what is keeping you up at night? Plant your suggestions here.

And in the meantime, here’s an excellent radio source for listening to diverse issues of faith, ethics, and the human heart not found on NPR or Fox called SPEAKING OF FAITH: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/

Three Interesting Articles on the Subject of Whiteness

I have found a few interesting articles that have come out from person of color perspectives on aspects of Christian “progressivism” or “monasticism”.

Here’s one by Chanequa Walker-Barnes on New Monasticism and White Privelege

Here’s one by Anthony Smith at Emergent Village on the tendency for “not voting” in progressive circles
Here are responses by Brian McClaren and David Fitch.

Then there’s this piece by Tim Wise on how white privelege is manifesting itself in the US presidential election.