“As a church have we forgotten how to go to the lengths of cutting open a roof and lowering our disabled friend in through the ceiling just so they could meet Jesus?”
– Julie Clawson, from “Americans with Disabilities and the Church”, a July 2010 entry on her blog, One Hand Clapping
In church circles we often plaster phrases like “everyone is welcome” and “come as you are” across lawn marquees and in Sunday morning bulletins. But how often do we back that language up with authentic, Christlike inclusion?
More specifically, what are some ways we fail to remove barriers and obstacles to worship for our brothers and sisters who bring disabilities (or different culturalÂ genderÂ experiences, role, or sexual orientation) with them into the sanctuary on Sunday morning?
December 5, 2010
disabilities, Exclusion, Mental health, Privilege, Tolerance, Uncategorized
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This week on Thursday, people around the world wore purple in response to a spate of suicides has raised the profile of bullying dramatically. Specifically, bullying of gay and lesbian adolescents and teens. Watching this video of Google employees got me thinking about my own experiences of bullying as I grew up.
For the first 8 years of my education, I attended New Danville Mennonite School, a small Mennonite elementary school in Lancaster county. Almost as early as I can remember during my time there, I was picked on.
It started on the bus ride to school, which included two bus trips. The first one went from my home to Penn Manor, the local public high school. Most of the other riders were going to public elementary or high schools. The second bus took us from Penn Manor to New Danville and so only had kids going to New Danville. It was on the second bus, of mostly Mennonites, where I faced regular bullying and harassment through my early grade school years.
Often one or two kids would egg each other on and so the tradition was passed down from brother to brother and cousin to cousin. Some of the names they called me still hurt enough that I won’t repeat them here. I remember the bus drivers one or two ineffective attempts to stop the harassment. But it was impossible for them to maintain any discipline while safely driving a bus full of kids over Lancaster’s winding hills.
Starting in fifth grade, the bullying became more physical. It seems I was a good way for boys coming into their adolescence to try out their new-found strength. I remember Todd* in particular because he was the popular boy in the class. It was as if he was experimenting to see how much pain he could inflict, where hitting me under the desk in class or kicking me in the back while we walked down the hall.
October 25, 2010
Exclusion, LGBTQ, Peace & Peacemaking
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I don’t know whether in the States you have noticed the debate about the Swiss people’s decision last Sunday (29th of November) to amend their constitution to forbid minarets. Here in Germany and the rest of Europe fascists and right-leaners are celebrating and want plebiscites on these issues as well(check out their posters!). Swiss politicians are shocked as no one would have anticipated such a result and are now checking if they can squirm out of it, by saying that basic liberties cannot be changed, not even by the will of the people. Analysis shows that the most votes for the ban came from the rural areas where there are almost no Muslims, and most votes against the ban came from the cities where there is a relatively high Muslim population, still not high. In all of Switzerland there are four mosques…
To me, this shows a fundamental flaw in democracy as good as it maybe: Democracy does not mean the rule of people, it means rule of the majority and if the majority should decide not to tolerate the minority -like the case with Switzerland – so be it. Ok, in order to correct this there are things like independent judges and not directly elected secretaries, but that is exactly what the SVP, the “Swiss People’s Party”, wants to change next. Democracy is not an absolute value.
But how is the Anabaptist view on this, is there one at all? In the beginning, Anabaptists didn’t gather in fancy churches, they met in houses or caves in the forest to prevent being sent to prison. The only time one would find them in the usual churches was to storm the pulpit and preach the gospel. When Anabaptists were allowed to settle in Southern Germany after the 30 years war they weren’t allowed to build church towers.
The bells in church towers have often been melted in times of war to make swords and guns, a reversion of Micah 4,1-4 so to say.
During the campaigning for the ban on minarets the initiators always claimed not to be anti-Islamic, but that they were only against radical Islamists and that Islam didn’t need minarets, therefore aÂ minaret was a political extremist statement and it’s ban would not interfere with the right to religious freedom.
Let’s look at Christianity then, I did find one story in my Bible, where people wanted to build a tower. But after God “came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building” Gen.11,5 he didn’t like it too much and confused their languages.
In the New Testament there is not a single reference of towers… So, are towers needed in Christianity? Shouldn’t the Swiss people perhaps also ban church towers?
Or maybe Swiss Mennonites and Mennonites in general should build “mennorates” in solidarity with the Swiss Muslims?
December 6, 2009
Bias, Bigotry, Current Events, Exclusion, Hate, History, Interfaith, Polemics, Politics, Tolerance, Uncategorized
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At the urging of others, I am making my first YAR appearance.
I am part of a group of constituents pushing MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) to address patterns of institutional racism.Â Members of the group include Tim Barr, Calenthia Dowdy, Brenda Zook Friesen, Karissa Ortman Loewen, Conrad Moore, Yvonne Platts, Tobin Miller Shearer, Regina Shands Stoltzfus. We are especially concerned about how MCC relates to staff.Â There has been a decades-long pattern of staff of color leaving MCC on bad terms, a pattern which has intensified in the last few years. Â Many people in this group have been in conversation with leaders in MCC about this issue for decades, and they feel that it is time to take a new approach.
At this time, we are calling for people to sign our letter to MCC leaders and to withhold half of their normal contributions to MCC until MCC makes significant steps toward real change in addressing internal racism.Â (see our blog & petition).
Here are three steps that we believe would move MCC forward in its journey toward inter-cultural health:
1)Â Â Â MCC follows through on its current intention to undergo an independent anti-racism audit of both existing and proposed structures of the entire institution;
It is hard for any institution (or individual) to see themselves clearly.Â People within the organization are sometimes not in a position to be fully honest about their experiences as it affects their work environment and could even feel threatening to their position. (more…)
October 1, 2009
antiracism, culture, Exclusion, MCC, Race
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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.
November 11, 2008
Bigotry, Community, Current Events, Exclusion, Gender, Group Identity, LGBTQ, liberation theology, Politics, Spiritual Life, Tolerance
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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…)
October 29, 2008
activism, Anabaptism, Awesome Stuff, Change, Church, Civilization, communication, culture, Current Events, Education, Ethics, Exclusion, Faith, Gender, Group Identity, Interpretation, LGBTQ, liberation theology, Love, New Monasticism, Reviews, Sex, Sexism, Spiritual Life, Theology, Tradition, Young Folks
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I’ll be the first to admit it’s a strange feeling to log onto www.time.com and read a story involving someone I know.
It’s even stranger to get to the end, do a little more searching for what is being said about this person elsewhere online, and come out feeling quite conflicted about the whole thing.
For those who are reading this post before going back and reading the links, I should clarify what I mean by “know.” I am currently spending five months doing volunteer work at the Stansberry Children’s Home and Daycare in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and one of the people on the board of directors of Stansberry is Ron Larsen, a US-born cattle rancher who is fighting with the government to keep the thousands of acres of ranch. I can’t say I know him well, but I have met him a couple of times and engaged in run-of-the-mill chit-chat about who we both are and what we’re doing in Bolivia. (more…)
May 4, 2008
Bias, City, Consumerism, Corporations, Current Events, Economics, Education, Exclusion, Group Identity, Indigenous, International Relations, Media, Politics, poverty, Power, Privilege, Wealth
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I was surprised to see that there was little discussion about the Jeremiah Wright controversy on this blog; perhaps because it is being discussed in every other forum available.
At any rate, if nothing else, the whole charade has produced a number of interesting responses; I was particularly struck by the series that NPR did on black liberation theology. I think it was a thoughtful way to approach the Jeremiah Wright scandal: they asked the question “where is he coming from?”, and set out to find the answer. If you are interested, I have linked below a number of radio pieces on black liberation theology, particularly interesting is the interview with James Cone, a founding thinker in the black liberation theology movement.
Black Liberation Theology, in its Founder’s Words
The Roots of Black Liberation Theology***
Religious Scholars Discuss Liberation Theology
Understanding Rev. Jeremiah Wright
And here is a great video of a Catholic priest who was stopped on the street by a Fox News team to question him about why he was having Rev. Wright speak at his parish. This priest then goes on to basically own the Fox News reporter and give one of the better interviews I’ve ever seen on Fox News.
Fox News Owned by Catholic Priest (more…)
April 24, 2008
Current Events, Exclusion, History, LGBTQ, liberation theology, Politics, poverty, Power, Privilege, Race, The Bible, Theology, Urban Ministry
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Last Thursday, I had a conversation with a professor and a fellow student that gave me a window on the Mennonite narratives on heterosexual privilege. We had discussed Obama’s speech and white privilege in class. After class, I asked about heterosexual privilege. My prof and classmate both responded that a concept of heterosexual privilege “trivialized racism” since the sufferings of African-American are so embedded in our culture (I guess with the implication that the sufferings of LGBTers aren’t). My prof even claimed that the bans against single-sex marriage and other anti-sodomy laws were not persecution, but just limited the “freedom” of LGBTers.
This was a quick conversation in passing, so I didn’t really have my wits about me to respond. These are both caring, intelligent people who care deeply about social justice issues. Yet, for some reason, they don’t consider queers a persecuted group. I realize that I also don’t know yet enough about the history of this issue to be really comfortable about a response. However, after more reflection and conversation, I do have a couple of responses / observations —
- I don’t think that my colleague’s response is really about “trivializing racism.” It’s about not defining the queer experience as a social justice issue. As soon as LGBT is defined as a social justice issue, then the Mennonite Church is on the wrong side of the issue. As long as we can keep this just about Scripture and not how Scripture has been used to persecute or block access to institutions, then the Mennonites can have it both ways — we can advocate for social justice and keep the gays out.
March 31, 2008
Bias, Bigotry, culture, Education, Exclusion, Fair, Group Identity, History, Language, LGBTQ, Nonviolence, Power, Privilege, Race, Sexism
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For many years now, high profile Christian leaders have been saying that homosexuality is destroying the church. It turns out that it may be their homophobia that is isolating the church and undermining opportunities for connecting with a new generation of non-Christians.
According to a new study by the Barna Group (an evangelical market research firm), perceptions of Christians among young non-Christians has nose-dived over the last decade. According to an article on Alternet reporting on the study:
Ten years ago, “the vast majority” of non-Christians [under 30] had generally favorable views of Christianity. Now, that number stands at just 16%. When asked specifically about Evangelicals, the number are even worse: only 3% of non-Christian Millennials have positive associations with Evangelicals.
These changes didn’t come out of the blue. The study found that the strongest negative trait associated with the church among non-Christians was “anti-homosexual” at 91%. A close second and third were judgmental (87%) and hypocritical (85%). According to the the summary of the study, as quoted on Alternet:
Non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else.
October 12, 2007
Change, Church, Current Events, Exclusion, LGBTQ, Young Folks
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It is almost impossbile for a minority culture group to express their opinion so that it might be heard.
As the racially and sexually segregated can attest, it is an uphill battle. Sometimes a minority cultural group has to insist upon expressing themselves, at which point they might be called “uppity” or a witch with a captial B. But they persevere, because they recognize that their opinion counts and that they are an important participant in the process of communication and decison-making.
However, just as most women and blacks a half a century ago had learned that it is a more peaceful life to just keep quiet and stay in one’s place, so most of the lower class has realized this as well. And there is more at stake for the lower class than the racially and sexually oppressed, because almost without exception they are physically and mentally weakened by their poverty, which makes expressing a differing opinion almost impossible. If they do express an opinion, half the time they are ignored, assuming they are having a “mental breakdown”. Of course, sometimes they are having a mental breakdown, and sometimes they are just being socially inappropriate (as determined by the ruling class) but it is still humiliating to be ignored. It is stressful to share a rejected point of view. It pushes ones buttons to speak what you think to be clearly true and to be treated as if your point of view just doesn’t matter. (more…)
August 11, 2007
Change, Community, Exclusion, Power, Privilege, Wealth
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One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).
The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).
July 18, 2007
Exclusion, Excommunication, Group Identity, Interpretation, LGBTQ, Mennonite Church USA, Power, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition
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I recently received a pentagram necklace as a well-intended gift from someone who thought it was a Star of David. We both had a good laugh when I told her my first association with it was a pagan/Wiccan/Satanist symbol.
Now, I’m not one of those reactionist people who gets wild-eyed at the mere mention of such belief systems, and I’m not freaked out to see such symbols. I did a little bit of reading online and discovered some Christians in the Middle Ages used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, and five aspects of good health. That’s certainly not how I think of pentagrams, nor probably most who would see it if I wore it.
If I choose not to wear this necklace, I want it to be for an actual, thought-out reason, not just “it’s evil.” It’s a nice necklace. I have no lack of jewelry, though, so I could give it away and never notice its absence. But I tend not to wear religious symbols of any kind unless there’s a specific reason I’m doing it. (Crucifixes are part of my RenFaire costume, for example.)
Thoughts? I realize this is a periferal issue to what we usually talk about on YAR. But, it could bring up how we view pagans, Wiccans and Satanists. That might be a good reason to wear it: it may prompt thoughtful discussion with people I meet. Or then again, it could just prompt eyerolls and disdainful comments.
July 14, 2007
Art, Exclusion, Faith, Group Identity, History, Interpretation, Tradition
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Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…
I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.
The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)
May 30, 2007
Art, Contemplation, Exclusion, Fun, Gender, Group Identity, Language, LGBTQ, Music, Sexism, Tradition
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I woke up way too early this morning from a strange dream, as I knew I would when I went to bed at 1. Whenever I go to bed in a distressed emotional state (thankfully this doesn’t happen too often) I sleep my physical tiredness off in a couple hours and then wake up right before the light starts to come, toss and turn for a while. I decided to get up and do something useful. My original idea was of something useful was studying for this huge test I have to take in about a week… but then I thought I’d elicit some words from you all instead. Still useful, right?
The dream was pretty funny, actually. I found myself forced to sit in a kind of revival-style worship service, surrounded by male friends from my hometown, kids my own age. I realized that we were all gay (in my dream), and that this was a service to try to convert us (to holiness and heterosexuality, I guess) The service built to a kind of altar call. A line of young men (who I recognized as older boys from my hometown) were marched in to surround us “sinners” and all assumed a kneeling position of prayer – they were to serve as beacons of virility and heterosexuality and virtue while we responded to the call. Defiantly, I got up and tried to make my way to their line and assume their same posture, to show that they had no exclusive claim on prayer or virtue. One of them got angry and pointed me back to my seat. (more…)
May 23, 2007
Bigotry, Exclusion, LGBTQ, Nonviolence
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