Exclusion

Bible Reflection – 5/22/07

I have put together the following reflection and prayer on the beauty of diversity in our world (please don’t cringe, I know the term “diversity” gets misused often as “let’s point out all the different stereotypes of different ethnic groups!”). The following passage from Mark reminds us that there isn’t just one way (one denomination, dare i say, “one religion”?) of looking at everything in the world.

Mark 9:38-41

38″Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39″Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

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Do We Look Like Jesus?

So many times we find a way to take the easy road out. It is easier to fight against something than to love someone. I am just as guilty as the next person. What do I mean? I mean sometimes we it’s easier to protest and petition than to take the time to love and care for those whom we are petitioning against.

Instead of trying to hold power over people by fighting against gay marriage, maybe we should come under and beside homosexuals and love and serve them. Show them their unmeasurable worth in God’s eyes. Allow God to transform hearts and minds. That’s what he does. Instead of telling homeless guys to “get a job” (or at least thinking it), maybe we should pull up a chair and spend time with them. We can find ways to get them work and a safe, warm and dry place to stay. Maybe even restore some dignity in the name of Jesus.

See, it is a lot easier to protest and petition than it is to love. It is alot cleaner. No one is saying we can’t believe in a cause or vote for what you believe, but have we tried to reach out to those people we rail so hard against? I know we say we love them and it isn’t about attacking them, but let’s put ourselves in their shoes. Jesus didn’t fight and protest against the tax collectors, prostitutes, outsiders and sinners. He embraced them. He served them. He showed them their unmeasurable worth. Do we look like Jesus?
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Complexity of Divisive Topics in Church

Thanks Katie for your post “’the homosexual lifestyle’ – a rhetoric of bigotry”. It is a perspective that needs to be heard and continues to challenge my use of language surrounding the LGBT community. Your article prompted me to think through some of the complexities of this issue and other divisive issues that tend to polarize the church while attempting, as you wrote, to avoid harmful stereotypes. This post is hopefully less of a commentary about homosexuality, but rather an attempt to use this topic to examine how the church addresses these divisive issues. (more…)

On Schism and Unity

A point of clarification: at least if we let them tell the story, the early Anabaptists were not schismatics. According to Menno, schismatics and those who refuse Christian admonition are indeed the only ones who merit exclusion–“and that with sorrow and pain,” in order to turn them back to the Word of Christ (Complete Works, 1060–61). If there is a time for excommunication, it is only to be undertaken with an eye to unity and to reforming (never destroying!) the person or group who is excluded (p. 1049). What’s more precious to the church than her unity? A church divided can never witness to the reconciling power of Christ, or the constancy of the Father. Pilgram Marpeck likewise urges,

“If you truly contemplate these things [I have said] you will honor this great treasure of the bride (love), which is unity in the Holy Spirit, and preserve it in your midst without laziness and carelessness. For this treasure alone the Bridegroom prayed to the Father on behalf of the bride, that is, to keep the unity with one another as the Father and Son are one in Spirit and truth. This is the true and chief treasure of our most holy Bridegroom, Christ.” — Pilgram Marpeck, The Unity of the Bride of Christ

I say this, of course, in response to Eric’s recent post: get your schism on!. (more…)

get your schism on!

There’s a lot of talk about wanting to be a church open to people who disagree. On the one hand that sounds like a great idea, on the other hand where does it end? How do we define ourselves as a church? Even assuming a model with more focus on central mission than fringe cases, how do you keep your mission strong while remaining somewhat democratic and having such divergent members? How do you keep it strong after, say, 500 years of people joining the denomination for no other reason than they grew up in it? What does it mean to be a “historic peace church” once you are left with only a minority in the church claiming that all war is sin (see the recent church member profile conducted by MCUSA). Who cares what we are historically, if we’re something different now?

Here’s the point:

If we believe in a church with differing voices, and are opposed to schism, why have a Mennonite church at all? Why not just add to the diversity of a mainline protestant denomination? Why not reunite with Catholicism to create the Ultimate Diverse Universal Christian Super-Church?

OR

If we believe there are things worth splitting over, and reasons to have a distinctly Anabaptist or even more distinctly Mennonite church, what issues are worth it? Why not split over ordination of women? Why not split over beliefs about war? Why not split over acceptance and support of GLBT people? These all seem like fairly important issues to me, much more so than coat buttons or the mustache or even child baptism. You wouldn’t include white-supremacists in a civil rights organization just for the diversity of opinion, so why include militants or homophobes in a peace church?
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Sin and Oppression (part 2)

Does the Jewish tradition include the concept of sin? If they did, wasn’t it was relating to following the law (order of the religious establishment) in order to please God? So, Jesus, who in my understanding did a lot of anti-oppression work, was a big sinner, right? Sunday in church, someone mentioned again that Jesus was perfect.

Jesus disobeyed most of the ways to be a man in society, as a Rabbi he called disciples in an unconventional ways, and he behaved in ways towards women, the unclean and marginalized, in ways that got him rebuked by the keepers of the law. When I follow Jesus, I am led to do anti-oppression work. I am lead to be with the marginalized of this society, and behave differently as a woman than society has dictated. This will cause me to sin against some of the institutional laws of the religious establishment, right? For example, it could cause me to go against what my parents have told me. It could go against general church regulations against homosexuality, women preaching and teachings about reproductive rights. (more…)

Ins and Outs

It’s a concept I learned in Sociology 101.

To have a group, you’ve got to have a boundary. Something that establishes the “in” from the “out.” What is a group without a clear line of demarcation?

Our church’s lines of demarcation used to be coverings, plain coats, black cars, no TV, etc., etc. Lots of time spent on who was in and who was out, and what defined separation from the world.

It’s not a conversation we have much anymore, but one I feel like we’ve got to have if we’re going to survive as a group. Are there new ways we can define what makes us counter-cultural? Things like the way we spend our money, the way we react to violence, the way we welcome and forgive and share grace . . . but these things are much harder to measure than whether or not someone is wearing her covering. And grace and forgiveness are not the same as apathy and tolerance, but they often look alike.

So what can we offer that is different than what our prevailing culture offers? Do we care enough to do that? And how do we do it without getting wrapped up in legalism?

Just stuff I’ve been thinking about.